Napa cabbage kimchi

Tongbaechu-kimchi 통배추김치

Hello everybody!
Today I’m going to show you how to make classic, spicy, traditional napa cabbage kimchi called tongbaechu-kimchi, a.k.a. baechu-kimchi or pogi-kimchi. But this dish is so common and iconic among Koreans that we simply call it “kimchi.” When people talk about kimchi, this is the dish they’re referring to, despite the fact that there are many kinds of kimchi in Korean cuisine, and many made with napa cabbage, too.

Over the years I’ve posted recipes for a few of them, but I’ve never made an in-depth video for making tongbaechu-kimchi! I’ve made a video for mak-kimchi (easy kimchi), which is very similar but is easier because you to chop up the cabbage first, and I’ve made an ultra simple yangbaechu-kimchi (emergency kimchi). Many years ago I even posted a recipe showing how to make baechu-kimchi with kkakdugi in one batch. But until now, I’ve never posted the most classic and traditional napa cabbage kimchi.


This kimchi uses the whole cabbage leaf, which makes it more labor-intensive than the other ones on my website, because you’ll need to take time to spread the spicy paste leaf by leaf. It’s more work, but this is the traditional style and if you can make this kind of kimchi well, you can consider yourself good at Korean cooking.

As I mention in the video, my mom used to make kimchi from 200 heads of cabbage! This was kimjang kimchi, made with her friends at the beginning of winter, and meant to last until the spring. 3 to 4 of her friends would come over and help her chop vegetables and most importantly, spread the paste on the leaves. This always needs to be done by hand. They would bring their own rubber gloves, and spend the day talking and laughing, and always had pollock stew or beef radish soup for lunch. They had a lot of fun!

At the end of the day they would take some kimchi home with them, but my mom would get all the rest, which lasted my whole family through the winter. And when my mom’s friends needed to make their winter kimchi, my mom brought her gloves over to their houses and helped them, like they did for her.

In the video I also show you how to ferment it in a traditional onggi. Using an onggi is not mandatory, but for those of you who have one already, this is how you use it! If you don’t have one, just use a BPA-free plastic container, or a glass container.

I answer many other frequently asked questions about kinchi-making in this video:

I hope you enjoy the recipe, and if you love kimchi, I encourage you to make your own kimchi at home. It’s delicious, easy, and a fun thing to do!

kimchi_onggi (포기김치)


Makes about 8 pounds (3.6 kg) of Kimchi
For salting cabbage:

  • 6 pounds (about 2.7 kg) napa cabbage
  • ½ cup Kosher salt (2.5 ounces: 72 grams)


For making porridge:

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons sweet rice flour (glutinous rice flour)
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar (brown or white sugar)


  • 2 cups radish matchsticks
  • 1 cup carrot matchsticks
  • 7 to 8 green onions, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped Asian chives (buchu), optional (substitute with 3 green onions, chopped)
  • 1 cup water dropwort (minari), optional

Seasonings and spices:


Prepare and salt the cabbage:

  1. If the cabbage cores stick out too much, trim them off.
  2. To split a cabbage in half without shredding the densely packed leaves inside, first cut a short slit in the base of the cabbage, enough to get a grip on either half, and then gently pull the halves apart so the cabbage splits open. kimchi_cut cabbage
  3. Cut a slit through the core of each half, 2 inches above the stem. You want the cabbage leaves to be loose but still attached to the core.napa cabbage_cut (배추)
  4. Dunk the halves in a large basin of water to get them wet. Sprinkle the salt between the leaves by lifting up every leaf and getting salt in there. Use more salt closer to the stems, where the leaves are thicker.Salting cabbage cabbage_salting (배추 소금절이기)
  5. Let the cabbages rest for 2 hours. Turn over every 30 minutes, so they get well salted. From time to time you can ladle some of the salty water from the bottom of the basin over top of the cabbages if you want to.kimchi_cabbage salting (배추소금절이기) kimchi_cabbage salting (배추소금절이기)
  6. After 2 hours, wash the cabbage halves a few times under cold running water. Giving them a good washing, to remove the salt and any dirt. As you wash, split the halves into quarters along the slits you cut into earlier. Cut off the cores, and put them in a strainer over a basin so they can drain well.

kimchi-cabbage wash (배추씻기)

While the cabbage is salting for 2 hours, and in between the times you’re turning it over, you can make the porridge:

  1. Combine the water and the sweet rice flour in a small pot. Mix well with a wooden spoon and let it cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes until it starts to bubble. Add the sugar and cook 1 more minute, stirring. Remove from the heat and let it cool off completely.
  2. Pour cooled porridge into a large mixing bowl. Add garlic, ginger, onion, fish sauce, fermented salted shrimp, and hot pepper flakes. Mix well with the wooden spoon until the mixture turns into a thin paste.salted fermented shrimp (saeujeot: 새우젓)kimchi_seasoningskimchi_paste (김치양념)kimchi paste
  3. Add the radish, carrot, and green onion, plus the Asian chives (or more green onions) and the water dropwort if you’re using them. Mix well.Kimchi making (김치)kimchi paste (김치속) kimchi paste

Make kimchi:

  1. Spread some kimchi paste on each cabbage leaf. When every leaf in a quarter is covered with paste, wrap it around itself into a small packet, and put into your jar, plastic container, or onggi.
  2. Eat right away, or let it sit for a few days to ferment.

kimchi makingwhole-cabbage-kimchifresh-kimchi (포기김치)

On fermentation:

  1. The kimchi will start fermenting a day or two at room temperature, depending on the temperature and humidity of your room. The warmer and more humid it is, the faster the kimchi will ferment. Once it starts to ferment it will smell and taste sour, and pressing on the top of the kimchi with a spoon will release bubbles from beneath.
  2. Once it starts to fermented, store in the refrigerator to use as needed. This slows down the fermentation process, which will make the kimchi more and more sour as time goes on.

fermented kimchi (포기김치)



  1. jellyka qc, Canada joined 5/19 & has 2 comments

    Hello Maangchi!

    I’m super excited to try out your kimchi recipe! However I live in a small canadian town where asian ingredients are very hard to find.

    I was able to find this vietnamese shrimp paste, it looks very different from saeujeot, but do you think it could be a fine substitution ?

    Thank you !!

    See full size image

    • icetorch COnnecticut joined 7/13 & has 2 comments

      Vietnamese fermented shrimp paste is a very different product from Korean salted fermented shrimp (Saeujeot). Try looking in the refrigerated section of the asian grocery store. If you can’t find it still, then you can skip it. Seaujeot adds a very nice element to kimchi, but you can very well skip it. Just add a little bit more fish sauce.

  2. sanne Munich joined 8/14 & has 200 comments

    Just skip the rice porridge. Except for bachelor kimchi I never use it.

    If you scroll down any of Maangchi’s recipe pages, you’ll find a conversion table.
    1 (American) cup equals about 240 ml.

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 11,670 comments

      Hi sanne,
      Thank you for the reply. I will figure out why your reply didn’t go to the question. But I’m sure Mayonayys will read your comment.

      • sanne Munich joined 8/14 & has 200 comments

        Maybe I made a mistake and hit the wrong reply-button –
        after all, we had a wonderful but strenuous weekend: Samulnori workshop from Good Friday to Easter Sunday, from 9 am to 6 pm; the teacher (a friend of ours, a professional Samulnori-player from Busan) stayed with us and we provided the (Korean!) food both at our home and the workshop and instruments. Car-trips to and from the studio every day too of course.
        He’s back home now; I’ll ask him for the food photos he made.

        Mak kimchi, kkakdugi (both vegan), bbqed mackerel, whitefish (for Good Friday), chicken-mu, andong jjim-dak (Saturday), gochujang-marinated pork with kimchi (Easter Sunday), salads, raw vegetables and greens to go with it, zucchini, shiitake and eggplants in soy-sauce, rice,…
        And hoe for dinner on Good Friday at our place for our guest and us.

  3. Mayonayys Natchitoches, LA joined 4/19 & has 2 comments

    Hi Maangchi!
    After years of making your recipes, we’re finally going to be able to make good and proper Kimchi!
    But I have questions.
    We don’t have the privilege of living near an Asian grocery store. In fact, the closest is about 5 hours away!
    I cannot find sweet rice flour anywhere. I would order online, but we are planning to make very soon and can’t wait for shipping.

    Also, about how much does this make in cups? I’m trying to figure out how large of a container we will need.
    Thanks in advance!

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 11,670 comments

      You can use plain all purpose wheat flour instead of glutinous rice flour (sweet rice flour) to make kimchi paste. I don’t remember what size of the container I used when I made this video though.

      • Mayonayys Natchitoches, LA joined 4/19 & has 2 comments

        Thank you Maangchi! We made it that time using brown rice flour, it turned out very well :) Better than the store bought ones I have tried, we ate it all up very quickly, so had to make more!
        I ordered Mochiko rice flour online and we made a second batch, this time larger than the first batch we made. But something must have gone wrong and it is very sweet. It didn’t seem that sweet when we tasted it when making, but after fermenting, I used it in Kimchi Fried Rice a few times, tasted good then too. Finally I ate some plain the other day and it was so sweet I really couldn’t make myself eat it.
        I’m new to fermentation, so I’m not sure if that could have had something to do with the increased sweetness or if maybe I just messed something up in the recipe.

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