Spicy And Savory Vegetarian Kimchi

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Kimchi, a fermented staple in Korean cuisine, is a spicy and flavorful side dish made with Napa cabbage. The vibrant red color and invigorating taste come from chili flakes, while the complex flavors develop through a fermentation process. This vegetarian version captures the essence of kimchi without the use of seafood, making it a delicious and accessible option for everyone.


Vegetarian and vegan kimchi (Chaesik-kimchi: 채식김치)
Vegetarian and vegan kimchi (Chaesik-kimchi: 채식김치)

1 large Napa cabbage (about 5-6 pounds)

  • ½ cup coarse sea salt
  • 4 cups water
  • ¼ cup glutinous rice flour
  • 2 cups water, additional
  • ½ cup Korean chili flakes (gochugaru)
  • ¼ cup chopped garlic
  • ¼ cup chopped ginger
  • 1 tablespoon grated Korean pear (optional)
  • 6 scallions, chopped
  • ¼ cup radish, julienned (optional)
  • ¼ cup carrot, julienned (optional)

  • Instructions:

    1. Prepare the Napa Cabbage: Cut the cabbage into quarters lengthwise, then remove the core. Cut each quarter into 2-3 inch wide pieces. Place the cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle generously with the coarse sea salt. Toss the cabbage with the salt to coat evenly. Cover the bowl and let it sit at room temperature for 6-8 hours, or until the cabbage becomes wilted and releases its juices.

    2. Rinse and Drain: Rinse the cabbage thoroughly under cold running water to remove the excess salt. Drain the cabbage in a colander for at least 30 minutes, pressing occasionally to remove any remaining water.

    3. Make the Rice Flour Slurry: In a medium bowl, whisk together the glutinous rice flour and 2 cups of water until smooth. Set the slurry aside.

    4. Prepare the Kimchi Paste: In a large bowl, combine the chili flakes, garlic, ginger, Korean pear (if using), and scallions. Pour in the rice flour slurry and mix well to form a thick paste.

    5. Assemble the Kimchi: Wear gloves for this step (optional, but recommended for those sensitive to chili flakes). Add the drained cabbage to the kimchi paste and toss thoroughly until all the cabbage pieces are evenly coated.

    6. Transfer to Jar: Pack the coated cabbage into a clean, airtight jar. Press down to remove any air pockets and ensure the cabbage is submerged in the kimchi paste. Leave about 2 inches of headspace at the top of the jar.

    7. Fermentation: Secure the lid on the jar tightly (but not air-lock tight) and store it at room temperature for 1-2 days. You may see bubbles forming on the surface, which is a sign of fermentation.

    8. Refrigerate and Enjoy: After 1-2 days, transfer the jar to the refrigerator. The kimchi will continue to ferment in the cold, developing its flavor further. Kimchi is typically enjoyed after at least a few days of refrigeration, but it can be stored for several weeks or even months.

    Nutrition Facts (per serving, approximately):

    Calories: 20-30 (depending on vegetables used)

  • Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 5g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Protein: 1g
  • Sodium: High (due to the salting process)

  • Note: These are approximate values and may vary depending on the specific ingredients and serving size.


    This vegetarian kimchi recipe offers a delightful and adaptable base for your homemade kimchi. Feel free to adjust the amount of chili flakes to your desired spice level, and experiment with additional vegetables like carrots, radishes, or green onions for a more colorful and textural variation. Kimchi is incredibly versatile and can be enjoyed on its own, as a side dish, or incorporated into various recipes like fried rice, kimchi pancakes (kimchi jeon), or stews (kimchi jjigae). So grab a head of Napa cabbage and get fermenting – a delicious and healthy treat awaits!

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1. Can I use regular flour instead of glutinous rice flour?

    While regular all-purpose flour can be used in a pinch, glutinous rice flour provides a stickier texture that helps the kimchi paste adhere better to the cabbage.

    2. My kimchi isn’t fermenting. What could be wrong?

    There are a few reasons why your kimchi might not be fermenting. Make sure the cabbage was salted thoroughly and rinsed well. The temperature might be too cold; ideally, kimchi ferments best at room temperature between 60-70°F (15-21°C). Additionally, ensure the jar is airtight but not completely sealed.

    3. How long will kimchi last?