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 (or 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. CathAsh Madrid, Spain joined 10/18 & has 2 comments

    First time making kimchi.
    Thank you very much for your recipe Maangchi!
    I’ll make more recipes soon. ♥

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  2. Adelina colorado joined 10/18 & has 5 comments

    You are my favorite Korean cook, Maangchi! Have been your fan for a looong time!
    Here is my kimchi I made!
    I am vegetarian, and avoided the fish sauce, It came out delicious!

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  3. cottony paradise joined 5/17 & has 7 comments

    when salting the cabbage a lot of water comes out, do I throw it away or just add all into the kimchi?

  4. VeganLegation Europe joined 6/17 & has 17 comments

    Thank you very much Maangchi for the recipe! We use natural liquid seasoning instead of fish sauce and soy sauce instead of the fermented shrimps. Fantastic kimchi – we love it!

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  5. stephnmax joined 7/15 & has 6 comments

    Hey guys,

    What do you guys think the most important tool needed to make kimchi? I think it’s your hands but I want to hear it from you guys. Thanks!

  6. Ashley-018 sterling Va joined 10/18 & has 1 comment

    first time making kimchi

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  7. Hadster NYC joined 10/18 & has 1 comment

    Good morning Maangchi, I hope you’re doing well.

    Long ago and far away, I worked with a Korean girl. We were shop girls together. She would bring in her grandmother’s kimchi, and it was so good! She told me how her grandmother would make it in huge buckets. My friend would bring in a slow cooker and make soup for everyone, and many times she added some home made kimchi…. Happy memories! Since then, I’ve wanted to learn how to make traditional kimchi, and now I know how!

    Question – I am Jewish and keep a kosher home, so I am unable to use shrimp. I was wondering if I could use anchovies or anchovy paste instead. I can find kosher fish sauce, but I need to figure out what to do about the shrimps.

    Thank you!

    • EoghannP Europe joined 10/18 & has 1 comment

      Hello, Hadster:

      I am a home-cook who makes his own kimchi from time to time, and, I have to say, Maangchi‘s recipe is one of the best that I have ever seen. I love the fact that, for example, you can either eat it freshly made or wait a few days – if you can wait that long! I am using Maangchi‘s receipt today myself.

      Now, on to your question about the fish element of kimchi and, whilst a lot of kimchi recipes do contain some sort of fish element (often in the form of shrimp or oysters, neither of which is suitable for someone observing the Jewish dietary laws), a lot of recipes do not contain any fish whatsoever. Obviously, if you’re making the kimchi for a vegan (or a vegetarian who does not eat fish), you’ll leave out the fish element, as well. What the fish element brings to the finished product is a slight, salty-savory undertone (what the Japanese call ‘umami’), but it is not a dominant flavor in the kimchi, so it’s not the end of the world if you don’t want to add any fish element to the dish.

      If you do want to add a fish element to the dish, definitely consider adding a fillet or two of tinned anchovies to the ingredients that make up the spicy paste that you use to coat the cabbage (I’m looking at a tin of them in my pantry right now and they don’t contain anything that, to my knowledge, would render them non-kosher – it’s just the anchovies themselves, sunflower oil and salt). I’ve also consulted a couple of lists published by Orthodox organizations and they accept anchovies as a kosher fish.

      No doubt you’ll want to check the kosher status of anchovies for yourself (rather than relying on a stranger via the internet), but, in any event, if you want to keep the fish element of the dish but don’t want to break your dietary laws, anchovies might be the way to go for you.

      Good luck in the kitchen!


  8. Lphan United States joined 10/18 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangi! Hope you are doing well (: I was wondering if I could use the fermented shrimp sauce AND raw oysters or should I stick to using just one or the other?

  9. EllieBelly3124 California joined 10/18 & has 1 comment

    Maangchi, your recipes are so amazing. My husband and I met while we were stationed in Korea and I love being able to make all of our favorite Korean meals here in America. Thank you! Your kimchi is a must-have in our house!

  10. philtsen Russia joined 4/18 & has 2 comments

    Will try out my onggi)

    Thank you for your great recipes!

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  11. Monique M. Florida joined 2/15 & has 6 comments

    My kimchi. It’s super yummy. I gave a jar to my sister in law, along with your kimchi guk recipe. I made it for her once before and she loved it. So she asked me for the recipe this time. Also I’m giving a jar to my dad. He loves my homemade kimchi. Your recipe is my favorite that I’ve made. I will certainly be making more when this batch runs out.

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    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,021 comments

      Your kimchi looks well-fermented! That means that you can make kimchi soup, kimchi stew, and so many other side dishes! It sounds like your whole family got involved with Korean food these days. : )
      Continued good luck with your Korean cooking!

      • Monique M. Florida joined 2/15 & has 6 comments

        Yes! I got a few family members into Korean food. My dad and I do a Korean cooking night once in a while. We have made several of your recipes. Japchae, cheese buldak, korean potato salad, oi muchim. I have also made your bok choy doenjang muchim, doenjang jjigae, gaji namul, eomuk bokkeum, kalguksu, jjajangbap, kimchijeon, and hotteok. There are still many of your recipes on my list to try as well. (:

  12. Happy Jack Burton massachusetts, us joined 9/18 & has 5 comments

    Ooo what a great recipe! I always make a little extra paste so i can add other veggies down the road! Extra peppers or cucumbers or carrots? Into the onggi they go so they can dancing around for a bit!

  13. jedrzej.krolicki Warsaw, Poland joined 9/18 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi and everyone!
    I was wandering, my kimchi has over a year now and it sits in a fridge all the time. How would I know if it’s gone bad?

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,021 comments

      Check out the top of your kimchi. If it’s brown or has any white fungus, just remove that part. As long as the kimchi underneath is red, you can eat it. The top might be oxidized but the kimchi underneath is fine.

  14. Chocu55 Germany joined 9/18 & has 11 comments

    Love it ♡♡ my boyfriend was shocked. He asked “how did you make it not even korean girls can make it so good xD

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  15. Kerri Richmond, Va joined 7/18 & has 3 comments

    My daughter and I made this recipe a couple of months ago. It’s was so fun to do this together. The recipe was great! We used the shrimp paste and fish sauce. We’ve shared some with neighbors and they also have loved it.

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