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)

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  1. Tfair46 Atlanta, Ga USA joined 5/20 & has 3 comments

    Hello Maangchi, thank you soooo much for making your wondeful recipes available. I watch many Korean Dramas and always wanted to try to make the food I see. Now I can thanks to you. I made kimchi for the first time with your recipe and it came out amazing. My family LOVES it. I have one question. I still have some left over Korean Radish. How do I safely store it in the fridge so that I can use it for another recipe.

  2. janinn Philippines joined 5/20 & has 2 comments

    Hi Maangchi, i love your recipes! :) I made kimchi with your recipe and everyone in my family loved it! I also made Kimchi stew with it. I am planning to make again, but i don’t have radish :( Can i make it without the radish? what difference does it make?

    Thank you

  3. uyanga308 Ulaanbaatar joined 1/15 & has 3 comments

    Hi Maangchi,

    I have been following your recipes for a while now. Love all the neverfail recipes. Can you please tell me if I can substitute minari for something else? I love minari in my kimchi as it adds different taste and texture so i would love to add it but there is minari in my country

  4. mabellth Australia joined 6/13 & has 3 comments

    Hi Maangchi, I am a follower of yours for quite some time now. I need your help by telling me how to made my own chilli flakes(gochugaru) for kimchi use. Due to the lockdown of Covid-19, I can’t get it from the store.

  5. Alujin Washington joined 4/20 & has 2 comments

    Hi Maangchi!

    I’ve made your kimchi jjigae and japchae for my family and they were blown away at how delicious it was. Thank you for sharing your recipes!

    I want to try and make kimchi using your recipe. I do not have Korean fermented salted shrimp but I do have Filipino fermented salted shrimp. Would that be an okay substitute? Thank you!!

  6. Isolated Saint Louis joined 5/20 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangci,

    Love this recipe! You make this look so easy! The matchsticks, especially.

    This kimchi is very good fresh, but I like it even more on the sour end of the spectrum. My fermentation lasts several days for the sour jar; last time I did seven days. The fresh goes straight to the refrigerator.

    Not content to just go traditional, I tried galanga instead of ginger. It adds a floral dimension and some sweetness that balances the acidity that develops.

    The last time that I did this recipe, I used distilled water instead of tap water, since I’ve read that the chlorination of tap water will kill the beneficial bacteria on the cabbage. I honestly couldn’t tell the difference.

  7. Inches Chicago joined 6/16 & has 63 comments

    I was watching documentaries from Arirang on Youtube about Kimchi. They said before red peppers came to Korea in 1592 they used a Cockscomb blossoms to make it red and sichuan peppers (sancho) for spicy. I’d LOVE to try sichuan pepper kimchi from “old” Korea.

    Have you ever made this?? I want to learn how ^_^

    • Inches Chicago joined 6/16 & has 63 comments

      Oh, I don’t know if the documentary is accurate or not:

      This paper says that gochu was documented 2000 years ago.

      Either way, Sichuan (choncho maybe?) pepper kimchi sounds exciting!

      • I would not trust this paper. The authors make a number of claims that are not logically sound. For example, they claim, without any genetic proof, that it would take billions of years to cultivate a less spicy pepper from the Mexican and Central American peppers, so therefore there’s no way that Korean peppers come from those. Aji Amarillo is a Peruvian pepper, not Mexican. Not to mention that Mexico has many different pepper varieties, many of which are less spicy than any used to make gochugaru or gochujang. Also there are many first-hand accounts from Korean documents that revord the trading of hot peppers from Portuguese traders.

    • Hiiii, i tried your recipe and I dont how but I failed it.. either way I’m so bad at cooking or I missed something….. by the way if I use the nuoc nam for the fish sauce is this okay? If i cant use it can you please tell me where I can find it online ? (I’m from france) thanks in advance

  8. SeaSalt UK joined 4/20 & has 1 comment

    I made my own kimchi following this recipe thank you!
    I maybe made it a little bit too spicy but it’s okay to have just a little.

    I couldn’t find Korean radish so I just replaced it with more carrots.

    See full size image

  9. zxyaea Manila,Philippines joined 4/20 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi,
    i always watch your cooking videos, but sad to say I never tried any of your recipes. But now, I want to start trying it, first with kimchi since I love kimchi… I just want to ask if I can use ordinary rock salt instead of Kosher salt for the kimchi? Thank you…

  10. BerfinK London joined 4/20 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi, I’ve been following your YouTube channel and now with this lockdown I wanted to try making kimchi at home. I just realised in your recipe you said to use 2 tablespoons of rice flour but I misread that too 1 cup would that be a problem? And I opened the container today and it made a pop sound and it didn’t taste bad but I think the sauce I made was too thick, so I don’t know what to do with it.

  11. alimama ny joined 9/11 & has 2 comments

    hi what’s the difference between this making whole cabbagr or cut up kimchi besides it being easier to eat?

  12. carenyrastorza Philipppines joined 4/20 & has 2 comments

    Hi! I ran out of cabbage to ferment but I already made the porridge mixture(including carrots, daikon, spices, etc). May I just keep it in the ref first until the time I get to buy cabbage? How long may I keep the kimchi porridge mixture in the ref?

  13. delaflota Germany joined 3/20 & has 1 comment

    I’d like to try out your recipe an therefor I need to know how much in ml is a cup you mention in your recipe.

  14. Tenacious B Suffolk, United Kingdom joined 3/20 & has 1 comment

    Having looked for a recipe for Kimchi online, I found your video on YouTube. I made a batch, though I didn’t have all the ingredients, and it was very nice. THEN, I saw your website and saw there was a Korean store about 25 miles from my house. So, I went there (and spent a small fortune!), but got everything I needed. Large Napa, radish, paste, flakes, they even had saeujeot! I was so happy!
    Anyway, I made another larger batch of Kimchi and it tastes absolutely wonderful with all the ingredients! The only thing I did differently was to cut the Napa into smaller manageable chunks.
    I was so pleased, I bought your new book!
    Now I can’t wait to try the recipes, including the Kim hi pancake!
    Thanks for your wonderful recipes.

    See full size image

  15. shey singapore joined 3/20 & has 1 comment

    Hi maangchi..been a follower on youtube and have tried a lot of yur dishes ..yesterday i have tried to make kimchi and left it for fermentation..hmm maybe about 20 hrs now..and was wonderin if its been done alrdy so i tried to test for bubbles and yeah there was but when i tasted the liquid it doesnt taste sour i wrapped it again and covered the lid and left it at room temp i doing it correctly? when should i start putting it in the fridge and get the sourness done..thank you

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 12,047 comments

      “i tasted the liquid it doesnt taste sour i wrapped it again and covered the lid and left it at room temp again” Great! Yes, wait a little longer until it tastes a little sour and transfer the kimchi to the fridge. Good luck!

    • Shmnnn Romania joined 5/20 & has 1 comment

      Hi Maangchi,
      I hope everything is well with you and your loved ones.
      I finally got to do/try kimchi thanks to you!

      After carefully reading all the variations of kimchi, and gathering the ingredients available in general stores around here( Romania), today was finally tge day to seta milestone for me and my family: the making of the kimchi.

      Some alternative ingredients i had to consider ( it is quarantine):
      I used smoked hering instead of fermented shrimps, and paprika instead of hot pepper flakes, and instead of rice flour for the brine, i used corn flour.
      I just finished wrapping and packing the kimchi. The result: 1 big caserolle and almost 1 full jar.

      I will leave it to marinate overnight as it’ll sure be too little left once everyone gets a taste.

      See full size image

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