Vegan Kimchi

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This homemade vegan kimchi is fun to make and packed with spicy flavor! The perfect side for all your favorite Korean dishes.

Word to the wise: be careful when ordering kimchi at a restaurant or buying it at the supermarket! Not all kimchi is vegan. In fact, conventional kimchi is often made with ingredients like fish sauce and shrimp paste, so it’s not even vegetarian.

I always check the ingredients and/or ask, but unfortunately, sometimes vegan kimchi just isn’t available.

That’s why I started making my own. I LOVE kimchi, and I like to have some on hand when a craving hits. Plus, homemade kimchi tends to be tastier than a lot of what’s available at the store.

Jump to:
  • What is Kimchi?
  • Ingredients You’ll Need
  • How It’s Made
  • Shelf-Life & Storage
  • How to Serve Vegan Kimchi
  • Vegan Kimchi

What is Kimchi?

Kimchi is a staple in Korean cuisine. It’s made from fermented vegetables, with the primary ingredient being napa cabbage. Kimchi also includes a handful of aromatics as well as Korean red chili powder, which give it it’s characteristic spicy flavor.

Kimchi can be served as a condiment, side dish, or incorporated into a recipe (see a few examples at the bottom of this post!). It’s loaded with flavor and gut-friendly probiotics (i.e. good bacteria).

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • Salt.
  • Napa cabbage. Napa is a Chinese variety of cabbage that’s available at most supermarkets and Asian markets.
  • Gochugaru. This variety of Korean red pepper flakes is essential, and it’s the primary ingredient that will give flavor to our vegan kimchi. Look for it in an Asian market or online.
  • Garlic.
  • Ginger.
  • Pear. Just about any variety of pear will work. You could even use an apple!
  • Gochujang. This is a type of Korean red chili paste that you can get in an Asian market.
  • Miso paste. Red or white miso paste can be used (the image above shows red). Most supermarkets carry it, but since you’re making a trip to the Asian market anyway, you might as well pick it up there!
  • Daikon radish. Daikon is a Japanese variety of radish that you can find in Asian markets.
  • Scallions. Also known as green onion.

How It’s Made

The following is a detailed photo tutorial on how to make this dish. Scroll all the way down if you’d like to skip right to the recipe!

  • Prep and salt your cabbage first. Cut or tear the head into bite-sized pieces. l like to cut mine in quarters, then roughly chop each quarter.
  • Dissolve ½ cup of salt in 3 quarts of water. The best way to do this is to heat one quart of water, dissolve the salt in that by stirring, then add 2 quarts of cold water. Check the temperature by hand. It’s important that your water isn’t hot when you add the cabbage.
  • Place the water and cabbage into a large pot, such as a stock pot. Submerge the cabbage as best you can. I like to place a large dinner plate over the cabbage to push it down. You can add up to 1 additional quart of water if it’s needed in order to submerge all of the cabbage.
  • Let your cabbage soak in the salt water for 8 to 16 hours. I like to leave mine overnight.
  • Once your kimchi has finished salting, drain it into a colander and rise it well to remove any excess salt.
  • Let the cabbage sit in the colander for a while to drain. 30 minutes or so is sufficient if you’re under time constraints, but I like to let mine sit for a couple of hours.
  • Make the kimchi paste while your cabbage drains. Place the gochugaru, garlic, ginger, half of a pear (peeled and cored), gochujang and miso paste into a food processor or blender and blend the ingredients to a paste. You can add some water to help this along if needed, but try not to add too much.

Tip: A smaller blending device is the way to go when making your paste. I’m using a large Vitamix and had to do quite a bit of scraping and adding water. You could also grind the solid ingredients using a mortar and pestle, then stir them together with the other ingredients by hand.

  • Place your napa cabbage and paste into a large bowl, and add thinly sliced daikon radish and chopped green onion. Stir everything up well. You can use your hands if needed, but wear gloves so you don’t burn your skin.

Tip: Avoid using metal tools, as metal can interfere with the fermentation process, with the exception being stainless steel.

  • Pack your kimchi into one or more containers. Push the kimchi down so the solids are beneath a layer of liquid. I like to use glass mason jars, but plastic can be used as long as it’s BPA-free.
  • Make sure to leave a bit of headspace, i.e. room at the top of your container. Your kimchi will start to creep up as bubbles form underneath it during fermentation.
  • Use as many containers as you need to. I’m using a half gallon mason jar, and it was a tight squeeze. I probably could have packed some into an additional, smaller jar!
  • Close your containers, but not too tightly! The kimchi will release gas as it ferments and you don’t want too much pressure to build up.
  • Burp your kimchi containers by opening and reclosing them at least once a day. Two or three times may be necessary in warmer conditions. Be diligent about this. I’ve taken several kimchi showers after not staying on top of things.
  • Allow your vegan kimchi to ferment at room temperature for anywhere from 3 to 21 days. The exact amount of time needed will depend on the temperature in your kitchen. Fermentation will proceed quicker under warmer conditions. It’ll also depend on how sour you like your kimchi.
  • Once your kimchi has finished fermenting you can serve it, cook with it, or stick it in the fridge for later.

Shelf-Life & Storage

Store your homemade vegan kimchi in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will keep for 3 to 6 months. Kimchi will continue to ferment in the fridge, just at a slower pace, so you may notice that it gets more sour and bubbly as it ages.

How to Serve Vegan Kimchi

You can serve your kimchi as a side dish with just about any Korean meal! Try vegan bulgogi or bibimbap! Or incorporate it into one of these recipes:

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