Vegan Kimchi

I realize that it is kimchi, not sauerkraut, that is the gateway ferment for a lot of Filipino households! 

This kimchi recipe is one of the first fermentation recipes I made. I love kimchi and, turning vegan, I knew I needed to start making my own, given traditional kimchi uses anchovies. We also discovered that some kimchi contains MSG, which we avoid, while others have citric acid. 

I would teach this recipe in fermentation classes before the pandemic, and this has also been shared with vegan and non-vegan friends who wanted to make their own kimchi during the pandemic. The results are always consistent, and I’m happy to be able to share this with more people!

Give your vegan kimchi a depth of flavor

There are a lot of easy vegan kimchi recipes online but I find that some of them can be too watery or too mild. This recipe has an extra step because it uses rice porridge, and I am always pleased with the final kimchi: there’s depth of flavor and the juice is rich and substantial for other recipes I want to make using kimchi like fried rice, vegan cheese sauce, or pancakes. The rice porridge also makes the fermentation active. 

I like making a big batch of the kimchi porridge in this recipe and freezing it in tubs so I can skip this step the next time I make kimchi. Sometimes I share these extra tubs of kimchi porridge to friends and family to encourage them to make their own kimchi, and to my great pleasure this strategy worked! 

  • 250-grams Chinese cabbage (napa cabbage or wombok)
  • 1 radish, peeled and sliced into thin wedges
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced into thin wedges
  • 1 Tbsp salt (non-iodized)
  • 1 bulb garlic 
  • 2-inch ginger
  • 2 medium red onions
  • ¼ cup soy sauce or vegan fish sauce (use tamari or coconut aminos to make it gluten free)
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped 
  • ¾ cup to 1 cup Korean pepper flakes/gochugaru
  • 1 cup basic porridge (glutinous rice flour technique, recipe here

1. Split cabbage in half and wash it. Shake off excess water. Trim off the base and cut the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Using half of the salt, salt the leaves. Set aside. 

2. Peel and slice the carrot and radish. Cut into thin wedges, mix in a bowl, and salt using the remainder of the salt. Set aside.

3. When the vegetables have released moisture and softened, rinse and drain them well. Mix everything into a bowl.

4. Make your kimchi paste. First, blitz garlic, ginger, and onion into a paste using a food processor. You can also use a mortar and pestle.

5. Into the bowl or pot with the glutinous rice porridge, add the soy sauce, Korean pepper flakes, and the ginger-garlic-onion. Mix well. 

6. Using your clean hands, mix the vegetables and the paste. Freeze any leftover kimchi paste for future use. 

7. Pack the leaves into a jar, leaving an inch of headroom. Press everything down to minimize air pockets. Place the trimmed cabbage base to weigh down the leaves when you seal the jar.

8. Let this ferment on the countertop for 3 to 5 days,  where it will get bubbly and active. Place a saucer under the jar to catch the kimchi juice.

9. Release the gas at least once a day by loosening the lid then tightening it again. 

10. Your kimchi is ready when it smells sour/fermented and the bubbles have started to calm down after a few days of lively activity. Taste using a clean spoon and refrigerate as soon as you like the level of sourness.

Want to include kimchi in your dishes? You can add it to mac and cheese, have it in a refreshing kimchi sotanghon salad, or to add a twist to the usual avo toast.

You can find more tips on how to have a successful home ferment, here.

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15 thoughts on “Vegan Kimchi

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    1. Hi Maymay! Our local chilies can be a little too strong especially given the amount needed for the kimchi paste. I suggest you use siling haba/green chilies (yung pangsigang), which is not too spicy. Use about 6 to 10 (or more) depending on your tolerance for heat. Chop those into small pieces and mix with your porridge. The kimchi will not be red but I have tried this and my workmates at Good Food love this version too. – Mabi

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