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Vegetarian Kim Chi Recipe

Posted on 01 March 2017 by Leonie Satori

This recipe for spicy Korean Kim Chi is incredibly easy to prepare and equally delicious to eat. This is a vegan version of a traditional kim chi recipe and can be used as a base for creating other variations of this nutritious fermented food.

I first tried Korean Kim Chi years ago when my brother was dating a lovely Japanese woman. Together, they dedicated their entire lower section of their fridge to her expert kim chi jars, no doubt to feed their (and their visitors') taste for this delicious food. She had a knack for making all things pickled, but even after her careful instruction, I was not able to replicate her recipes at home. 

I had all but given up  on my skills as a home Kim Chi maker until I can across the base recipe for this, now refined kim chi.

Why fermented foods?

Many traditional cultures include fermented foods as part of their diet. Yoghurt, sauerkraut, pickles, buttermilk, kombucha, kefir, tempeh, lassi and of course Korean kim chi are examples of fermented foods that contain a range of natural cultures that support the immune system and digestion. In a nutshell, fermented foods provide the body with essential microbacteria to encourage a healthy balance of flora in our gut.

Traditionally fermented foods are considered to be natural probiotic foods, literally meaning pro-life foods. To read a little more about probiotics, have a look at our article: Probiotic v's Prebiotic What Are the Differences?

Vegan Kim Chi Recipe Ingredients

To make your own spicy vegetarian kim chi:


225g of radish
150g of carrot
500g of cabbage
1 tablespoon natural salt
4 cups of water

for the seasoning:

2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2-3 cm piece of ginger, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Korean red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon hot water

You will also need: one large bowl, a plate that will fit into the bowl, a small condiment bowl, something heavy, a pair of gloves, a sharp knife, a chopping board, maybe a v-slicer, a large glass jar, a colander and some patience.

To prepare

Start by cleaning and washing your vegetables and chop or julienne to your required size. Place your vegetables in a large bowl and cover with the mixture of natural salt and water. Make sure the brine is thoroughly combined with the vegetables and then place a heavy weight inside the bowl to weigh down the vegetables. I use an up-turned plate with a bottle filled with water to make sure that the vegetables are completely immersed in the brine. Allow this mixture to sit for 4-5 hours.

Next, you need to drain the vegetables, rinse thoroughly in clean water and squeeze out any remaining liquid. Pour your vegetables back into your cleaned and dried bowl.

Vegan Kim Chi Recipe

In a small bowl, combine the seasoning ingredients, and then add these to your vegetables. I usually wear a pair of gloves while I thoroughly massage the seasoning into the vegetables. 

Once you have all of the ingredients mixed through, begin to pack your kim chi into your sterilised large glass jar. Pack your jars firmly, but not tight and secure with a lid. You will need to leave your jar of kim chi to ferment at room temperature for 2-3 days, I usually place the jar on a plate to catch any drips. In the warmer weather your kim chi may be ready in just one day. You will be able to notice when your kim chi is 'done' by it's distinctive sweet fermented smell. Once your kim chi is ready, keep in the fridge to prevent further fermenting. It will last for several weeks in the fridge, or until you gobble it all up.

Variations on the Vegetarian Kim Chi Recipe

I have made kim chi several times using this recipe and find that it is slightly different each time. Temperature and fermentation time will influence the sourness of this food as will the way that you prepare your vegetables, finely chopped vegetables will produce a more juicy kim chi. If you want a more authentic and juicier kim chi, Napa cabbage, roughly chopped will make a totally different kim chi. You can experiment with different vegetables, add different radishes or include some finely chopped chives to vary the recipe and have a bit of fun with fermenting. This traditionally based kim chi recipe uses Korean red pepper flakes, which are available in oriental food stores, however, my research shows that this is quite similar to regular red pepper flakes, you may just need to adjust the amount to suit your taste.

Introducing Fermented Foods Into The Diet

Some fermented foods can take a little getting used to, and this vegetarian kim chi can be quite flavoursome. Begin introducing fermented foods in small amounts as wind and bloating can be an after-effect of overindulgence. Traditional kim chi is included with many Korean dishes to enhance flavour and digestion, include it with rice, vegetables, and meats. I also like to include kim chi with salads or on top of open sandwiches or crackers (think pesto, hummous, cucumber, green leafies, sprouts and kim chi).

If you are really interested in making your own fermented foods at home, we have a couple of excellent books to whet your appetite: Fermented Vegetables by Kirsten and Christopher Shockey gives a good introduction to making pickles, chutneys, relishes and krauts at home. The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz is an excellent reference book for those with more of an appetite for fermentation, a veritable tome on all things fermented.



Leonie Satori Herbalist Naturopath Lismore

About the Author

Leonie is a Naturopath & Medical Herbalist with a passion for good food, healthy living and of course, herbal medicine. When she is not consulting in her Naturopathic clinic in Lismore or blogging about nutrition, Ayurvedic Medicine or natural health, she is studying yoga, growing her own herbs and vegetables or quietly walking in the natural bush land in Northern Rivers NSW.

Contact our health centre in Lismore to book an appointment with Leonie in our naturopathic clinic.


The content of this website and any provided materials, research, or communications are for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional health advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your qualified health practitioner with any questions you may have regarding your health condition.

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