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 side 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 recipe), which is very similar but is easier because you to chop up the cabbage into bite size pieces 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. (I also have a vegan kimchi version of this recipe, too!)

For me, this kimchi recipe has the traditional flavor I am looking for. It 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.

To make this kimchi we need to first soak the cabbage in a salty brine to soften the leaves (some people swear by sea salt but I always use Kosher salt in all my Korean dishes). Then lactobacillus bacteria can do their work and convert sugar into lactic acid, which preserves the cabbage and changes the flavor over time. But you don’t have to wait for the kimchi to ferment before you enjoy it, you can eat it right away and keep eating it as it ferments and eventually goes sour. Then it’s perfect for dishes like kimchi-jjigae and kimchi stir fried rice.

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 kimchi-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 (or brown or white sugar)


  • 2 cups Korean radish matchsticks (or daikon radish)
  • 1 cup carrot matchsticks
  • 7 to 8 green onions (scallions), 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 with your knife over your cutting board.
  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 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, give them a final rinse, 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. In a large bowl, 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. If you’re using a sealed jar with a lid, be sure to open it once a while, let it breathe, and press down on the top of the kimchi.
  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)

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  1. sarah.bp jakarta joined 7/14 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi,
    I do love all your recipe in here and i have tried to make nappa cabbage kimchi. And i love fresh kimchi too. But my question is after several days store in my refigerator, my kimchi stated to taste bitter. Is it always taste like that when you store it for long time?

  2. tamy23 Brasil joined 3/14 & has 4 comments

    Maangchi I can’t find salted shrimp where I live T-T What do you suggest as a replacement?

  3. CiscoTX Houston, TX joined 7/14 & has 4 comments

    Maaaaangchiiii!!! Yesterday was my first kimchi making day. :) my little kimchis are resting now and getting their beauty sleep! My husband has high blood pressure, so we’re excited to eat kimchi that has less salt and preservatives than the store-bought.

    We love your vids!

    Howdy, from Texas :)

  4. monamoon California joined 7/14 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi :) I made this delicious kimchi last weekend and it came out sooo good! I used dried fish strips (wild salmon). I put the fish strips between the cabbage leaves. They became tender and soft. So delicious! I can’t stop craving this kimchi…Thank you for this wonderful and healthy recipe!! Lots of love from California! ~Mona

  5. Uaintgotnothinonthis Tacoma, wa joined 7/14 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi!

    I made this today and used paste instead of flakes… You think it will still turn out good?

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,045 comments

      How do you like your kimchi? I have never used hot pepper paste in my kimchi but some of my readers let me know their kimchi made with hot pepper paste turned out good. I think hot pepper flakes are still better than hot pepper paste.

  6. xxximandax Singapore joined 7/14 & has 1 comment

    Hi maangchi! I’ve have store bought kimchi with has alr been cooled. I wanted more kimchi juice to make kimchi soup. So can I leave it in room temperature again to let it ferment? Thank you! Your ans would really help me

  7. ecofan14 Dallas, Texas joined 7/14 & has 1 comment

    Hello Maangchi! I’ve been following your website for sometime and love your recipes and great energy! Your pajeon was delicious, and I also use your toasted seaweed recipe quite often now. I had kimchi once with a friend and it was delicious but (being a teenager) I never had it again since my friend moved away and my immediate family dislikes most Asian cuisine. I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to make this dish myself with this delicious sounding recipe, and I plan to make it this week with my aunt while she’s in town. I’m so excited, and I again wish to thank you for your amazing recipes! I plan to be eating plenty of kimchi this summer! :)

  8. Gail Dolly McAlpin, FL joined 6/14 & has 1 comment

    I am 71 and have never tasted kimchi but while reading about it I was overwhelmed by the most amazing craving. I have researched the recipes online and watched the videos and have assembled 5 recipes, but this is the one I will be using. In order to get most of the ingredients I will have to make a 100-mile round trip to Gainesville, FL, because I live in the middle of a very rural, agricultural county (but it doesn’t sell Napa cabbages!) in North Central Florida. I have several friends who LOVE kimchi and I have promised to make enough to share with them. I think kimchi is the true sharing dish one could make and I can’t wait to taste it. Then I am going to make some pork rolls. Thank you so very much for not only your recipes but the wonderful videos. I feel as if I am right there with you enjoying the little “tastes” (I caught you!) and it makes my mouth water. So, many thanks once again.

  9. yoongiseok Malaysia joined 7/14 & has 1 comment

    Can you give a recipe for a smaller portion of kimchi ? Cos I live alone and it would take me ages to finish that 6 pound of kimchi n I don’t have much space to keep that much kimchi either. Maybe for 2 head of napa cabbage how much of ingredient I would need to make the paste (seasoning, spices, porridge). Thank you.

  10. Sushi Switzerland joined 6/14 & has 1 comment

    I made it, tried it and loved it so much! Thank you very much. However, I’m now smelling like kimchi because when I opened the jar, it “exploded” like opening a champagne bottle. This was due to the fermenting process.

  11. Jasper Philippines joined 5/11 & has 26 comments

    Hello Maangchi. Does anyone ever use mussels for their kimchi?

  12. Anna_Park San Jose, California joined 6/14 & has 2 comments

    Maangchi, i was wondering about my napa cabbage. So i salted each layer like you said, and i rinsed it about 5-6 times. But when i tasted a piece of the cabbage, it tasted salty. I was wondering if that was normal? Or is there a problem with the amount of salt, and i should rinse it more?

  13. Jason-NC NC joined 6/14 & has 2 comments

    I’ve made a bunch of your recipes in the past but my favorite (and my family’s) is by far kimchi. When I was in the Air Force, my supervisor’s Korean wife use to bring kimchi in for us every day for lunch. Now I get to make it myself. I make a fresh batch each month and we eat it with everything…from breakfast to dinner and as a snack during the day. Thank you so much for sharing your cooking skills with us.

  14. D California joined 6/09 & has 43 comments

    Hi Maangchi, what is the refrigerated shelf life of kimchi? Thanks!

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,045 comments

      You can store kimchi in the refrigerator for months and months because kimchi never goes bad but ferment. As time passes, the kimchi will get more sour in the refrigerator because fermentation continues. I make kimchi usually every other month. Fresh kimchi will start fermenting in 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

  15. kimminji London joined 6/14 & has 1 comment

    Instead of using napa cabbage, could I use the ordinary cabbage instead?

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