Kimchi: Korean Spicy Pickled Cabbage

Kimchi is an asian cabbage dish that is incredibly healthy.  As I mentioned in my last WIN-ning Wednesday post about fermented food, Kimchi is a great source of vitamin C, iron, calcium and B vitamins.  Because traditionally prepared Kimchi is a “fermented food” it’s a super rich probiotic food.

It was a pleasant surprise to see a recent article in Dr. Mercola’s e-newsletter about the health benefits of fermented food.  It’s a really thorough and detailed review of the probiotic content and other nutritional highlights of fermented food.  You can read it here: This Food Contains 100 Times More Probiotics Than A Supplement.

Fermentation, or pickling, the Nappa cabbage used in kimchi is made possible by a naturally occurring “friendly” Lactobacillus bacteria on makes the surface of the nappa cabbage it’s home.  Once the ingredients are added to the cabbage, allowing the kimchi to sit for a couple of days in a cool place outside the fridge will ferment it and help the naturally occuring population of Lactobacillus on the Nappa to flourish and increase over time.

Kimchi has seemingly endless variations in the way it’s prepared.  There are “quick” (like 15 min.) Kimchi recipes, which may taste good, but do not have the probiotic yield that traditionally prepared kimchi does because it hasn’t gone through the fermentation process.  The recipe below is just one traditional variation.  Many recipes call for Korean red chilli pepper (aka gochujang) , but I was able to use regular red pepper flakes and it turned out great!

Here’s how it went down…


10 cups water

1 large head of Nappa cabbage (or 2 small heads), washed and cut into 2 inch squares

1 cup sea salt

1 tablespoon finely chopped, or microplaned, garlic

1 tablespoon finely chopped, or microplaned, ginger

1/4 cup red pepper flakes (for those wanting less heat do 1/8 cup red pepper flakes + 1/8 cup paprika)

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons fish sauce (*optional… alternative could be soy sauce)

3 green onions, chopped into 1 inch lengths

My Name Is Brine

In a large ceramic bowl, or stainless steel pot, mix salt into water.  Add cabbage to salt water and weigh down with plates to submerge all the leaves.  Soak cabbage for 5-6 hours.

The Main Squeeze

Remove cabbage and rinse well with cold water.  Squeeze out excess liquid.

Fix The Temperature

In a large bowl mix together the garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, honey and fish sauce.  Mix ingredients together to make a beautifully crimson paste.

Kimchi is meant to be spicy.  Lessen the red pepper flakes if wanting to reduce the heat intensity.

Here Comes The Heat

Add the cabbage, green onions and coat with seasoning mixture.  *Note… use two forks, or what ever utensil you feel would work best, to work the seasoning over the leaves and mix the ingredients together.  Using hands may cause a pleasant, but intense, burning sensation on the skin.

Ferment, Baby, Ferment

Pack the kimchi into a large airtight jar with a lid.  ***Make sure the jar is sterilized before using.  Do this by boiling the jar and lid in a pot of water for 5-10 minutes.***  Leave a little room at the top of the jar… the kimchi will expand as it ferments.  Let ferment in a cool place, like a cold cellar, for 2-3 days before refrigerating.

Delish Kimchi Dish!

And… tada… A delicious pickled cabbage dish with this great kick of spicy heat.  Enjoy!



  1. myartmind · February 4, 2014

    if I have sea salt coarse can I use a cup of that?

    • Dr. Laura Imola, BSc, ND (Licensed) · February 5, 2014

      Hi There! Yes, coarse sea salt can certainly be used also. 🙂

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