Vegan Fermented Kimchi
We love the taste of kimchi because it's so rich and the flavor is different from the other ferments we regularly eat. Plus, there's a lot of nutritious components to our kimchi recipe like radishes, ginger and kelp! The wonderful part is that you can change up the recipe however you'd like to make it hotter, more garlicky or more umami.
Kimchi is a traditional Korean food that goes WAY back. Thousands of years back. There are SO many variations, all unique. Most of the variations share the common elements of cabbage, ginger, and gochugaru pepper. Essentially, kimchi is like a spicy and more flavorful version of sauerkraut. A lot of traditional kimchi usually contains some sort of salted fish product, but we chose to leave that out. Instead we included kelp in our recipe to lend the briny flavor without the fishiness (also yay for keeping it vegan!) We hope you enjoy our original variation of kimchi!
The brine method: It is explained in detail in the instructional steps below. Basically, we chop and then weigh the ingredients, then add 2.5% of that weight in salt. Then we add a 2.5% salt water solution to the mix if needed. Read the science behind why salt concentration matters.
If you're going to master fermentation you'll need to use weight measurements for your fermentation ingredients. That means you need a kitchen scale. In order to select for the best probiotic bacteria (the ones that are actually beneficial and not pathogens) in your ferments, you must weigh salt to create a specific salt concentration. Weighing salt is the only way to create a salt concentration that will select for only probiotic microbes to thrive. This is the scale we use in our home kitchen to weigh salt.
- Wide Mouth Mason Jar
- Fermentation Weight
- Mason Jar lid or Fermentation Airlock Lid
- Metal mason jar screw band or Rust Free Plastic Screw Band
- Our Fermentation Salt
- Mixing Bowl
- Large jar or pitcher for mixing salt water brine
If you're new to fermentation, we offer fermentation supply starter kits on our shop page that includes everything you need to start fermenting some veggies at home, you just need to have a scale and fresh veggies.
- One or two heads of cabbage (Savoy cabbage is what we used for this recipe)
- Cultured Guru Fermentation Salt
- 6 green onions chopped
- 1 cup of shredded carrots
- 2 cups of shredded radishes
- 1/4 cup of Gochugaru pepper
- 2 Tablespoons of minced Ginger
- 2 Tablespoons of black sesame seeds
- 1 Tablespoons of kelp granules
- OR you can use 2 tablespoons of our Kimchi Spice Mix in place of the Gochogaru pepper, ginger, sesame seeds, and kelp.
- Remove the outermost leaves from the cabbage and lightly rinse it off. Don't remove too many leaves, just about the four outermost leaves. Be sure to wash and save one large outer leaf for later. Next, chop the cabbage in to small pieces.
- Once the cabbage is all chopped up, place a large mixing bowl on your kitchen scale, set it to weigh in grams and tare off the weight of the bowl. (Taring/Zeroing the scale with a container on it subtracts the weight of the container, allowing you to weigh only what is added to the container). Add the chopped cabbage, green onions, shredded carrots, shredded radishes, ginger, garlic, gochugaru, sesame seeds, and kelp granules to the bowl on the scale and record the weight. Note: We are about to do some math... but do not fear we have a step by step method to walk you through it. Doing this math will yield better kimchi results, because it will allow you to add the exact amount of salt that will make the good bacteria happiest
- Multiply the weight of your kimchi mixture in grams by 2.5% (example: if my cabbage and carrots weigh 2,270 grams.... 2,270 grams x 0.025 = 56.75 grams). This is the amount, in grams, of salt you will add to the chopped produce mixture.
- Place a small separate bowl on your scale and tare it. weigh out your Fermentation Salt in grams.
- Add the salt to your mixing bowl of kimchi and thoroughly mix in with your gloved hands. (hint: gochugaru will stain your hands orange)
- You should be able to feel water being drawn out of the cabbage as you mix in the salt. This is the brine beginning to form! The longer you mix it in the bowl the better.
- Once you have mixed in the salt throughly, it is time to add the mixture into a clean jar. We use a one gallon glass jar, which is great for larger fermentation batches. Before you add in vegetable pieces, you need to dump all the liquid from the bowl into the jar. Then tightly pack in the vegetable pieces, removing air pockets and leaving room for a fermentation weight. place the fermentation weight on top of the cabbage mixture. You want the liquid brine to fully submerge the vegetable matter and fermentation weight when it's packed in the jar. Put the lid on your jar, and place the jar at a moderate temperature away form direct sunlight.
- If there is not enough brine after tampering everything, you may add a small amount of 2.5% salt water solution to cover the cabbage (it MUST be a 2.5% solution). A 2.5% salt water solution is made by weighing one quart of water in grams, then multiplying the weight of the water by 0.025. The number you get is the amount of salt in grams you add to the water. This water can be saved in the refrigerator for multiple uses.
- During the first few days of fermentation carbon dioxide and bubbles will be produced. During this time you will need to burp the jar. To burp the jar, just remove the lid to let the gas out and check to make sure everything is still submerged below the brine. You must make sure that your fermentation weight and cabbage pieces are staying submerged BELOW the brine. You may have to press everything down with a spoon/tamper a few times.
- If you lose brine during the first few days (which is common in very full jars when bubbles are produced) see step #9 to make some salt solution to replace the lost brine.
- The kimchi needs to ferment at least 3 1/2 weeks, so that all the stages of bacterial succession can occur. 3 1/2 weeks also allows enough time for the final stage Lactobacillus bacteria to produce enough lactic acid. Once the fermentation is complete, store in the fridge for up to a year. Visit our Science of Fermentation blog to read more about the stages of fermentation!
We tracked our kimchi throughout the fermentation process. By checking the progress of microbial stages under the microscope we have provided you with this handy timeline! If you follow our recipe and directions, your timeline of kimchi fermentation should approximately match ours!
24 - 48 hours: All contents in the jar should be submerged beneath the brine. At this time there are still Gram negative bacteria and possible pathogens present.
48 - 72 hours: After 48 hours you should start to see lots of bubbles being produced. This is when the ferment enters stage two of vegetable fermentation. This is when you will need to burp the jar. Leuconostoc bacteria begin to thrive and Gram negative organisms die off.
3 - 10 days: The bubbles in the brine will decrease, as the ferment leaves stage two and enters stage three. The ferment will become cloudy and start to develop a pleasant sour smell. Lactobacillus species are most abundant during this time period.
10 - 21 days: Lactobacillus make up majority or all of the microbial population. They produce copious amounts of lactic acid, and make the ferment smell even more pleasantly sour. This is the time in which the vegetable mixture becomes Kimchi and is preserved. This is when you want to smell and taste test.
21 - 28 days: Wait for the kimchi to smell and taste as you like, and refrigerate when you find the smell and taste most pleasant! We like ours best when we refrigerate at about 25 days.
Peace, Love and Probiotics,