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. SthIslander Riwaka - NZ joined 12/22 & has 1 comment

    Love your kimchi recipes, yum yum and your video presence is great. I prefer to watch and then work with the recipes. My friends also commented that it is the best kimchi they have tried, so well done to you.

  2. Midnight United States joined 7/13 & has 17 comments

    I’m sorry for all the comments. How many heads of cabbage do you think should I use to make enough Kimchi for 1 year for 1 or 2 people(enough to share with friends but it’s just me eating it at home)?

    Napa cabbage is on the expensive side, so I’d like to buy like 10 heads and just make Kimchi when it gets to be on sale

  3. Midnight United States joined 7/13 & has 17 comments

    Hi Maanghi, I’m currently reading your Cookbook “Maangchi’s Big Book of Korean Cooking” and I read your tip about using clams.. I’m sorry if I’m giving away the secret of the cookbook :(. But I was wondering, can I use frozen clams? Or should the be fresh? I’m in the midwest, like right in the middle of the continent so I’m not sure how fresh I can get. Thank you so much for all your work! I love the book!

  4. Mirrra Moscow joined 12/22 & has 4 comments

    Hi, Maangchi. Hi, everyone!
    It was my first attempt in making kimchi.
    And I think I might have made a mistake.

    First of, after 36 hours my kimchi produced a looooot of juice. Is it okay?
    It doesn’t have sourness yet, should I wait more time? It also lack in saltiness.
    I think that my mistake was not to use enough salt in the soaking process. If it so, can I add more salt now?

    See full size image

  5. Angie0206 Chicago joined 12/22 & has 2 comments

    Thank you so much for the recipe. I did it today for the first time. My kids and I love Korean Kimchi. I decided to make it instead of driving about 40mts to the store that has kimchi. Wow!!! It looks amazing waiting for the fermentation process even though after 1 hour I tried it and wow amazing! Thank you!!!

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  6. felina_ Calgary joined 11/22 & has 1 comment

    This is my first time making kimchi and I’m so excited to try it in the next few days. How often is opening once in a while when placed in a sealed jar? Thanks for your recipe!!

    See full size image

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 485 comments

      Congratulations! Your kimchi looks fantastic! When kimchi starts fermenting, it releases its gases and sometimes creates bubbles that give the taste of sourness. So you will need to open the lid to release the gases. Otherwise, the pressure caused by the gases will increase and eventually the kimchi may explode especially the container is an airtight container. Koreans eat kimchi everyday, so we always have to open the lid of the kimchi, After taking some kimchi, be sure to press down the top of the kimchi with a spoon to let the top part be submerged in the kimchi brine and prevent it from being exposed to air so that it won’t get mold. Open your kimchi lid regularly maybe every other day? And press down on the top even though you don’t eat it often. Your kimchi wants your care. : )

  7. JerriMorris USA joined 10/22 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi! Thank you for this recipe and video. I’ve always wanted to make my grandma’s recipe for kimchi, but was always intimidated and not sure where to start. Your recipe is very similar, so it really helped me to be able to follow along and have some more precise measurements to go off of. Mine came out a bit saltier than I expected, but I’m very happy with my first try! Making kimchi is a lot of work, but it really is worth it to feel closer to family that you don’t get to see often :^)

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  8. Chester United States joined 9/22 & has 1 comment

    Hi ! I just made a small kimchi from your beautiful recipe!
    Somehow the top of kimchi color looks yellowish than usual. I left 3days room temperature.
    Is this ok to eat ? I never had this problem from my homemade kimchi experiences .

    Please let me know what you think :)

    See full size image

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 485 comments

      Oh, the top of the kimchi was oxidized. Just remove the brown part. You still can eat it as long as the kimchi underneath is red.
      Press down on the top of the kimchi with a large wooden spoon whenever you take some so that the kimchi is submerged in the brine.

  9. oceank1 Minnesota joined 9/22 & has 1 comment

    I cannot wait to try your recipe. I really want to purchase a E-Jen Premium Kimchi, Sauerkraut Container Probiotic Fermentation with Inner Vacuum Lid, I just don’t know what size I need for this recipe? Also, can this be made Gluten Free? If so, can you suggest products to use?

  10. Micah_Torrance United States joined 9/22 & has 1 comment

    I’ve got my third batch in my fermentation crock. I just can’t make enough of it! My only substitution is using Thai fermented shrimp paste which I love for its enchanting fragrance.

    Thank you for the recipe! It’s a keeper.

  11. nforkgma United States joined 6/22 & has 2 comments

    I live very rurally and none of the grocery stores around here carry many Asian supplies. I have been unable to find any fermented salted shrimp (saeujeot) online. I did find a salted shrimp sauce on Amazon. Can I use the same amount of this to substitute for the saeujeot?

  12. taimiskitchen Finland joined 8/22 & has 1 comment

    Wow this was so so good! Can’t wait to try the kimchi in your other recipes later on. Thank you for the recipe!

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  13. StellaStar San Francisco, CA joined 8/22 & has 4 comments

    I made the Tongbaechu: one mild, and one spicy (different Gochugaru brands). Soooo delicious!

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  14. Leaf T Australia joined 11/17 & has 5 comments

    Hi. Can someone tell me if there’s a way to search comments? I want to make it again and remember posting photos and suggestions that helped me get a great result with Maangchi’s recipe. Thanks again Maangchi!

    • BrianF Los Angeles joined 7/22 & has 1 comment

      For most web pages or word processors, you can use the keyboard shortcut Command+F on a Mac, or Control+F on Windows for finding the information that you need. Notably, Control+F is the keyboard shortcut for searching within a web page. Then type the word you’re searching for.

  15. Leslie208 United States joined 7/22 & has 2 comments

    Love this recipe. I think I made a mistake though in using this in place of fish sauce. Did I ruin it? Is it safe?

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