This post was supposed to be brownies. Allow me to explain…
Maybe I should start by saying that this week is John’s birthday (!!!) and last year around this time, I posted raw brownies – his most despised food on Earth.
Not as in, ‘No, thanks. I’ll pass on the brownie,’ but ‘If you don’t get that brownie away from me, I might get sick.’
This year, I thought I’d post something that he actually liked: Kimchi. While in Korea, we enjoyed eating copious amounts of kimchi as it was served in a wide variety of dishes- one of our favorites being Bibimbap.
What is Kimchi?
Kimchi is a fermented, salty, spicy Korean condiment made from cabbage and a variety of seasonings. While traditional kimchi recipes call for fish sauce, we have officially created this delicious vegan version that you will love!
Health Benefits of Kimchi
Because it’s fermented, kimchi provides plenty of microorganisms that promote a healthy gut, can help reduce inflammation, and even improve digestion (just to name a few).
How Is This Recipe Different?
Kimchi is a little complicated if you make it in anywhere close to the traditional way. At minimum, it’s a bit time intensive (depending on how long you ferment).
But I did my best to keep this recipe simple, requiring just 10 basic ingredients that you should have easy access to.
I included more photos than normal to demonstrate the step-by-step process, which hopefully helps when you tackle this recipe yourself!
If you like kimchi, you have to try this vegan version that really is quite easy to master even though it takes longer than most (read: all) of my recipes.
Adjusting The Spiciness
How spicy do you like your kimchi? That will determine how much red chili flake you put in your sauce.
You can likely find more “authentic” Korean red chili flakes at a Korean or Asian market or on Amazon, but I just went with standard red pepper flakes you can get at most grocery stores and it turned out great!
We’re spice-lovers, so I added an entire 1/2 cup (YES 1/2 cup) to my sauce, but feel free to scale it back if you walk on the milder side.
How to Make Kimchi
It starts with making sure all of your equipment and your hands are clean. This will help prevent introduction of bad bacteria that could disrupt the fermentation process.
Then, the cabbage (I prefer napa or savoy) is quartered, rinsed, dried, and its core removed.
Then comes the primary hands-on part of this recipe in which you salt the cabbage to soften and draw out moisture and flip every 30 minutes for a couple hours while you prep the other ingredients. It’s quite a therapeutic process, which can happen in the background while you do other things.
The spices are mixed together in a food processor, adjusting to personal flavor/spiciness preference.
It’s mixed with carrots and cabbage and set aside to marinate.
The cabbage is then rinsed and dried and coated with the carrot, cabbage, and sauce mixture. Once thoroughly coated, it’s added to sterilized containers and the fermentation process begins!
One warning though? It makes whatever space it’s fermenting in smell like kimchi. You have been warned.
I hope you guys LOVE this kimchi! It’s:
How to Use Kimchi
If you’re like us, you can find an excuse to put kimchi on anything. Think: Breakfast scrambles, brown rice and sautéed veggie bowls (Bibimbap), or stir-fries. Or even eat it by the spoonful for a spicy food-based probiotic boost!
If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment it, rate it, and be sure to tag a picture #minimalistbaker on Instagram! We’d love to see your kimchi in action. Cheers, friends!
Easy Vegan Kimchi
- 1 head napa or savoy cabbage (outermost leaves removed // well rinsed)
- 1 Tbsp sea salt (plus more as needed)
VEGAN FISH SAUCE (from Vegan Miam)
- 2 Tbsp tamari (or soy sauce if not gluten-free)
- 2 Tbsp coconut sugar (plus more to taste)
- 1/4 cup pineapple juice (from a can)
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 3 Tbsp fresh ginger (peeled and chopped)
- 1 head garlic (1 head yields ~1/3 cup cloves)
- 1 small white onion (or sub 1/2 large per 1 small)
- 1/2 cup Korean red chili flake* (or ground // more or less to taste)
- 2 whole carrots (finely chopped or grated into matchsticks)
- 6 green onions (roughly chopped)
- Make sure that you are using clean surfaces and utensils and are washing your hands throughout the process of preparing your kimchi in order to prevent introducing bad bacteria and disrupting the fermentation process. The photos provide step-by-step instructions, so if you get lost, refer back to those.
- Start by quartering your well-rinsed and dried cabbage (savoy or napa) and carefully removing the bottom core (hard white section) with a sharp knife. Discard.
- Next place your cabbage in a large mixing bowl and begin packing a generous amount of sea salt in between each of the leaves. Do so by lifting each individual leaf and sprinkling with sea salt. Repeat until all leaves have been salted. Then press down and let rest for 30 minutes. This softens and breaks down the cabbage, drawing out moisture, priming it to be coated in the sauce.
- While your cabbage rests, prepare your vegan fish sauce by adding all ingredients to a small mixing bowl and whisking to combine. Set aside.
- Next, prepare your chili sauce by adding fresh ginger, garlic, onion and red chili flake to a food processor or blender. I started with 1/2 cup chili flake and found it to be quite spicy (as I prefer). So if you desire less heat, start at 3-4 Tbsp and work your way up (amounts as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size). Taste and adjust flavor as needed.
- Add vegan fish sauce to this mixture and pulse to combine. Set aside.
- At this time, your cabbage should be ready to flip. Wash your hands and turn each section of cabbage over so it’s facing the opposite direction. Then pack down with hands to compress. You’ll repeat this process 3 more times (for a total of 4 times), waiting 30 minutes in between, and washing hands before touching cabbage.
- In the meantime, add your chopped carrots and green onion (optional) to a medium mixing bowl, along with the sauce. Stir to combine, then cover and set aside.
- While waiting, this is a good time to sterilize your storage containers. Bring a pot of water to a boil and place your containers (I used 1 large mason jar, and 1 small glass container // as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size), in a clean sink and pour the boiling water over top. Let containers cool slightly, then dry with a clean towel and set aside.
- Once you have flipped your cabbage 4 times (it should be tender and shrunken down quite a bit), it’s time to rinse. In very cold water, rinse each section of cabbage to remove excess salt, then place on 2-3 absorbent clean towels and pat dry. Also separate the cabbage leaves at this time, so they’re easier to work with.
- Rinse and dry the mixing bowl the cabbage was in, then return the dried cabbage to the bowl. Get your sauce with carrots and green onions and begin coating each leaf with the sauce. If you have gloves (disposable or rubber), use them at this time as the sauce can irritate sensitive hands (I didn’t, but thought it was worth mentioning).
- Be generous when coating, but also keep in mind you need enough sauce to coat all of the cabbage. Once the cabbage is thoroughly coated with sauce, wash hands and get your sterilized storage container(s).
- With clean hands, begin placing the coated cabbage leaves in the container, packing down to ensure there is as little air as possible between leaves. Continue until all cabbage is packed in, then press down very firmly to remove air. Top with clean, sterilized lid, and set in a cool dark place (such as a cabinet, not the refrigerator) to ferment.
- How long to ferment is up to you. The resource I used suggested 36 hours minimum, then transfer to the refrigerator for 1 week to ferment longer. I fermented mine for about 48 hours, but next time I think I’ll do 1 week for softer cabbage and a more intense fermented flavor.
- The longer you ferment the kimchi, the tangier and intense the flavor will be, and the more tender the cabbage will become. From what I’ve read, I wouldn’t ferment for more than 21 days.
- Each day it ferments, open up and press down with a clean utensil, such as a spoon, to press out air bubbles and ensure the kimchi is immersed in liquid. A good sign of proper fermentation is seeing little bubbles in the sauce when you press down.
- A good indicator of when it’s done fermenting is the smell. If it smells pleasant to the nose and tangy, like the kimchi you’re used to trying, it’s probably ready to transfer to the refrigerator.
- Kimchi will keep in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 weeks, and even months. You’ll know it’s gone bad if mold has formed or the smell is sour or unpleasant.
*If you can’t find Korean chili flakes you can use red pepper flakes.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated with 1 tsp sea salt (since some gets washed off) and without optional ingredients.
*I learned everything I know about kimchi from eating copious amounts of kimchi in Korea, and studying this helpful resource from Maangchi – an oasis for Korean cooking.