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 napa cabbage (3 to 4 heads of medium napa cabbage)
  • ½ cup Kosher salt


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. Tinh Canada joined 12/11
    Posted August 19th, 2017 at 5:28 pm | # |

    Hi, Maangchi.
    I’ve added kimchi to my meals, using your recipe. Right now I’m making zucchini kimchi using pretty much the same technique as for nappa cabbage.
    Do you know if kimchi can be made with green tomatoes? I will have an abundance of them in a few weeks. Thanks so much and for your wonderful recipes.

  2. hattiexu93 Canada joined 8/17
    Posted August 16th, 2017 at 1:33 pm | # |

    Hi Maangchi! Today I was listening to a new podcast called The Sporkful. One of their recent episodes featured this recipe of yours! The story was about some Korean people adopted by American parents trying to find their cultural roots, and you helped them try to make Korean food as authentically as possible. Maybe you have heard about this? The link is below if you haven’t! I was very excited to hear you being mentioned.

  3. Nancyt Houston joined 8/17
    Posted August 6th, 2017 at 6:36 am | # |

    Hello Maangchi,
    Which pepper flakes brand is mild? I don’t see the label at H Mart. I appreciate if you can post a picture of the mild pepper flakes. Thank you Maangchi.

  4. K Anne Philippines joined 8/17
    Posted August 5th, 2017 at 3:24 am | # |

    Hi, Maangchi! :))

    I have tried some of your recipes and found all of them are great! I learned how to cook through your Youtube channel. Thanks to you, Maangchi!

    I have three questions about this Napa Kimchi because I am planning to make some for my family. My aunt loves Kimchi! Also, I am planning to sell Kimchi packs because Kimchi is really popular because of Korean dramas. Haha. And many are craving for it especially in our area.

    Here are my questions Maanchi. I hope you’d find time to answer these!

    1. Can I use iodized salt in salting my napa cabbages instead of Kosher salt?
    2. Can I use ordinary radish instead of Korean radish? There are no Korean grocery stores here in our area, Maangchi. Some of the grocery stores I visited only sell processed items like doenjang, gochugaru, black bean paste. I am referring to ordinary radish just like the size of a carrot.
    3. Can I use chili powder instead of hot pepper flakes? Will it affect the taste of my kimchi paste?

    Please answer, Maangchi. I’ll wait! :)))

  5. daniro belgium joined 8/17
    Posted August 3rd, 2017 at 2:21 pm | # |

    Hi Maangchi!
    I followed the recipe but somehow my kimchi came out very sour! Where could I have gone wrong? :( The taste of the paste is good, but the cabbage is very sour.

  6. Sugarprincess Sinsheim-Hoffenheim, Germany joined 7/17
    Posted July 31st, 2017 at 4:50 pm | # |

    Dear Maangchi-ssi!
    Finished making this kimchi just two days ago – so delicious and beautiful we could not wait to try it… and it’s been so good! This week we are going to visit my mother and I’ll be cooking korean food for her one whole week long – of course using your amazing recipes!
    I think she’ll love it!

    And here are some photgraphs of our kimchi experiment.
    Best wishes and many greetings from Germany. Yushka and family.

    See full size image

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted August 7th, 2017 at 11:38 am | # |

      Wow, I’m so impressed by your kimchi photo! “I’ll be cooking korean food for her one whole week long” Good luck and let me know how your mother likes your cooking!

  7. Old Salt Maryland, USA joined 7/17
    Posted July 23rd, 2017 at 2:20 pm | # |

    This is a great recipe and so tasty.
    Since I only use 1 cup of pepper flakes, should I use a little more rice flour? My porridge seemed a little watery rather than a thin paste.

  8. FluffMachine Canada, Quebec joined 7/17
    Posted July 17th, 2017 at 5:49 pm | # |

    I made this two days ago and I’m eating it now with rice ! I decided to cut it into bite sizes as I do not have much counter space in my apartment. I made it for my boyfriend and myself, who loooove korean cooking.

    Your recipes are delicious, Maangchi. They’re simple and I love that I can reuse the same ingredients. I’m now in love with sesame oil!

    One question for you Maangchi:
    – Can I add more sugar to the porridge to make the kimchi a little sweeter or it will taste weird? Should I add more carrots and raddish instead?

    Some tips for other readers:
    – Two cups of red pepper flakes is very spicy! My boyfriend and I love spicy food and it is very spicy, even for us. Eat with rice or reduce the amount of flakes you add, like Maangchi said.
    – Try not to substitute too many ingredients, as it’s easy to mess up.
    – Fermented shrimp can also be called Cencaluk in some places.
    – Have a BIG bowl ready for the cabbage. It will reduce in size when you salt it so it’s easier to manipulate but be sure to have a big container.
    – Daikon raddish does work as a good substitute for the korean raddish.

    Have a nice day!

    See full size image

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted July 20th, 2017 at 1:51 pm | # |

      Your kimchi looks amazing! Yes, you can add more sugar to the rice porridge to make the kimchi sweeter.

  9. Chuckbob34 Ohio joined 7/17
    Posted July 16th, 2017 at 4:20 pm | # |

    Water drop wort is listed as a poisonous plant with neurotoxic poperties. Is there a safer substitute?

  10. Jinkimbap Greece joined 9/16
    Posted July 14th, 2017 at 4:48 am | # |

    Hello maangchi!!
    I have a quick question for you.
    Since none of the Asian stores here sell hot pepper flakes, I had to go to the spices shop and ask for that. And this is what they gave me. Is it okay if I use this? The reason why I’m asking this is because I don’t want to waste it, it was pretty expensive T_T
    Thank you for your awesome recipes!!

    See full size image

    • sanne Munich joined 8/14
      Posted July 14th, 2017 at 8:41 am | # |

      O my.

      You should just have gone to a Turkish store and ask for “pul biber” – and reduce the amount of salt you use.

      What you’ve got looks OK, but it’s not the best quality – good gochugaru is seedless.

      Bye, Sanne.

      • Jinkimbap Greece joined 9/16
        Posted July 14th, 2017 at 10:12 am | # |

        The shop I bought this spice from was supposed to be selling oriental spices ( and the best one of my area) and when I told them I wanted something as similar as gochugaru they gave me this :( I guess I got fooled XD should I even bother making kimchi with it? I don’t know, I am pretty disappointed now hahaha

        • sanne Munich joined 8/14
          Posted July 14th, 2017 at 1:31 pm | # |

          I’m sorry I gave you that feeling!
          Of course it’s OK to make kimchi with it, but you may have to be extra careful because of the seeds – they add a lot of spicyness!
          Just IMHO, you would have been better off with pul biber because transport costs a lot, too.
          Gochugaru isn’t cheap – and maybe I was fooled by the picture about the quality.

          How much was it anyway? And which brand?

          Bye, Sanne.

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted July 14th, 2017 at 2:29 pm | # |

      Thank you, sanne for your kind reply. I’m always impressed by your nice advice for my other readers. : )
      Jinkimbap, As long as the shop owner recommend you get these flakes, I would do some experiment with them. First mix the pepper flakes and some water (1: 1 ratio) and let them sit for 30 minutes. Then put them into your food processor and grind until smooth. Then add other ingredients to make kimchi. Let us know how your kimchi turns out.
      Cheers! oh, check this out, please.

      • sanne Munich joined 8/14
        Posted July 14th, 2017 at 5:54 pm | # |

        Hi Maangchi,

        I learn a lot from you and recommend your site to anyone who’s interested in Korean food – which is everybody who tasted what I’ve prepared. ;-)
        Therefore I try to help where I can. Your nice remark really made me blush! :-)

        Bye, Sanne.

      • Jinkimbap Greece joined 9/16
        Posted July 14th, 2017 at 6:38 pm | # |

        No no Sanne, dont be sorry! You were kind enough to reply to me with an advice and thank you for that!! :) Its not really a brand, but the shop is called elixir and its located in Athens (it is a popular old shop that sells oriental spices). I paid 5 euros for 300 grams, which might not sound expensive to you , but it is for a greek income hehe

        Thank you Maangchi! I will totally try that and let you know how it turned out :)) You’re the sweetest ♥️Also i have already checked the shop on your website and I did go there, but i couldnt find any, maybe they ran out of gochugaru. I found other stuff though thanks to your website!!

  11. CalifornianInBarcelona Barcelona, Spain joined 10/16
    Posted July 6th, 2017 at 4:53 pm | # |

    I made KimChi in the winter and Spring here in Barcelona. I usually let it ferment 7 days because I like it a little sour. In the summer, however, I left it to ferment for 7 days and it came out much much stronger. Still very yummy and delicious! Thank you for your recipes!

  12. RuthC Colombia, South America joined 6/17
    Posted June 28th, 2017 at 9:56 pm | # |

    Hi maangchi, i speak spanish, sorry for my english
    I have two question?
    This is gochugaru? (image)
    Should the kimchi be crispy or soft?

    See full size image

  13. ann88 India joined 6/17
    Posted June 22nd, 2017 at 12:09 pm | # |

    Hey Maangchi!
    I have just finished making my kimchi (veg version). My kimchi is less salty right now immediately after making it I tasted it like u with rice and toasted sesame seeds. What do I do? Will it get saltier after fermentation?

    (when i was making it, it was too salty as i put it in salt for 5 hours instead of 2 hours. So, I washed it lots n lots really well and drained well by squeezing. Now it is less salty. I have used soy sauce and shitake mushroom broth instead of fish sauce. I also used local chilli powder from the spice markets in India!)

    Will send u pics here.

    See full size image

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted June 22nd, 2017 at 12:29 pm | # |

      You can add salt anytime if your kimchi turns out too bland. Sprinkle some salt on your kimchi and mix it gently.

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