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. Mauiomi Maui, Hi joined 4/21 & has 3 comments

    You’ve ruined me…after preparing this kimchee, I cannot do store bought ever again. Your video and recipe made this very approachable and easy and I had fresh kimchee in no time. Now I just wish my husband can learn to eat a spicier kimchee.

  2. gasley Philippines joined 8/19 & has 2 comments

    Hi Maangchi,

    Made this today, though I think the cabbage is a bit salty, probably not washed it thorougly. Will my kimchi go bad? What can I do to take out the salty taste? Thank you

  3. AyPeeElTee Chicago joined 4/21 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi, I have a question about making the porridge: Is it okay to replace the sugar with stevia? And thank you sincerely for sharing your passions and culture with us! I’ve been using your recipes to help me on my weight loss life change and to not become diabetic (I just swap out the noodles and rice for spaghetti squash and riced cauliflower.) I love Korean food, without your recipes and teaching how to shop and cook Korean food I wouldnt have made the progress that I’ve made. I am very thankful to you.

  4. ssy Malaysia joined 3/21 & has 1 comment

    Hi, Maangchi, your kimchi recipe is great ! but the problem i facing is i just made it 2 days before and it starts fermenting but i found that it was bland. What can i add in during the fermenting process as i heard that bland kimchi will easily go bad.

  5. Jeffry Kuala Lumpur. joined 2/21 & has 1 comment

    If I don’t have fermented salted shrimp, can I use salted shrimp sauce to make the traditional kimchi recipe?

  6. SweetT Conway, AR. USA joined 9/20 & has 2 comments

    First I want to say that I think you are fabulous! Thank you so much for all that you share with us! I have made many of your recipes. They are so easy to follow because you really take the time to TEACH us how to cook Korean. I really want to make this kimchi the way that you do but I cannot find the salted brined shrimp. They didn’t even have it at my Asian food market. What is the best thing to substitute for this ingredient?

  7. Oya Libya joined 11/20 & has 2 comments

    Dear maangchiI want to ask you about kimchi,when fermented is this meaning some ingredient turn to alcohol, because I am muslium and I can eat alcoholic food, and I really like you cooking video.
    thank you 

  8. sweet specs Singapore joined 10/20 & has 2 comments

    Dear Maangchi,

    Thank you so much for this recipe. I have been buying supermarket kimchi because I always thought making kimchi was difficult. But I finally tried it today (just one cabbage for a start) and I couldn’t believe how easy it was! Will be making more!!

    See full size image

  9. Nayko france joined 10/18 & has 34 comments

    My first bite of kimchi was from the one I made thanks to Maangchi’s recipe and since then you can always find home-made kimchi in my fridge. For the first time I bought kimchi in a Korean grocery store (I ran out of home-made kimchi only 2 weeks ago so I decided to try this store bought jar , waiting for the kimjang time and the large batch of kimchi resulting).
    Well, I’m proud to say that the home-made kimchi I’ve learned to make here is definitly better than the store bought kimchi, so much more flavorful, savory, it tastes rich …
    Thank you Maangchi!

  10. Novice2018 USA joined 8/20 & has 1 comment

    What about white kimchi. I have a langauge partner that says in Korea there is white kimchi without pepper flakes. He likes it better. Is the recipe the same, just minus the flakes?

  11. Louis.Leyser Ville Platte, Louisiana joined 8/20 & has 3 comments
  12. Louis.Leyser Ville Platte, Louisiana joined 8/20 & has 3 comments

    I had so much fun making this kimchi. Thank you so much for everything that you do! ❤️❤️❤️

    See full size image

  13. LA90069 Los Angeles joined 6/19 & has 1 comment

    This recipe is perfect. The only issue I have is that I always tend to run out of the seasoned paste before I’ve finished with the cabbage. I guess I put too much between all the leaves.

  14. jaedortmundbvb Dortmund Germany joined 2/12 & has 2 comments

    I tried many different recipes for years but this is by far the yummiest and best Kimchi I’ve ever made! I made a batch and shared it with friends. They ALL said that it is the best Kimchi – better than their moms! So so so happy that I found this and will keep making Kimchi this way! Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe and sharing it with us! Greetings from Germany!

  15. PatPat Hong Kong joined 7/20 & has 1 comment

    This recipe is great! I will never buy supermarket kimchi anymore :)

    See full size image

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