Korean Spicy Pickled Cabbage (Baechu Kimchi)

Korean Spicy Pickled Cabbage

The Spruce

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Soak and Ferment: 78 hrs
Total: 78 hrs 30 mins
Servings: 12 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
29 Calories
1g Fat
6g Carbs
1g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 29
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 1%
Saturated Fat 0g 1%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 5204mg 226%
Total Carbohydrate 6g 2%
Dietary Fiber 2g 7%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 2mg 10%
Calcium 38mg 3%
Iron 1mg 7%
Potassium 144mg 3%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This pickled and fermented Napa cabbage, called baechu kimchi, is the most popular and recognizable form of kimchi. A Korean staple, kimchi is a popular dish made of vegetables (often cabbage) and seasonings such as garlic, chili peppers, ginger, and fish sauce. This recipe features napa cabbage and also includes a bit of sugar and some scallions.

When making baechu kimchi, you need to set aside a few hours for the cabbage to soak and a couple of days for the mixture to ferment. Otherwise, the process is pretty simple: The liquid is squeezed from the cabbage, the seasonings are combined, and then the cabbage is tossed in to coat and mix well. The kimchi is packed tightly into an airtight container and left to ferment for two to three days and then is ready to serve or be refrigerated.

Baechu kimchi is not only good as a side dish to almost every Korean meal, but it is also the foundation for many soups, stews, stir-fries, and rice dishes.


  • 10 cups water

  • 1 cup coarse salt, or kosher or sea salt

  • 2 Napa cabbages, washed and cut into 2-inch squares

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

  • 1 tablespoon chopped ginger

  • 1/2 cup kochukaru, Korean red pepper powder

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 5 scallions, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

  • Fish sauce, to taste, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Korean Spicy Pickled Cabbage Ingredients
     The Spruce
  2. In a large nonreactive bowl or pot, add the water and mix in the salt.

    Salted water for kimchi
     The Spruce
  3. Add the cabbage and, if necessary, weigh it down with a large plate so the leaves are all submerged. Soak the cabbage for 5 to 6 hours.

    Cabbage soaked in salt water for kimchi
     The Spruce
  4. Remove the cabbage and rinse in cold water, squeezing out the excess liquid. Set aside.

    Rinse cabbage for kimchi
     The Spruce
  5. In a large bowl, mix the garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, sugar, and scallions.

    Herbs and seasonings for kimchi
     The Spruce
  6. Add the cabbage and toss to coat with the seasoning mixture.

    Kimchi mixture
     The Spruce
  7. Pack the seasoned cabbage into a large airtight jar with a lid. Let the kimchi ferment in a cool place for 2 to 3 days before serving or putting it in the refrigerator.

    Homemade spicy kimchi
     The Spruce
  8. Enjoy.

Recipe Variation

There are countless ways to make kimchi, but traditional recipes usually include fish sauce, brined tiny shrimp, or fresh oysters. Try 2 to 3 tablespoons of fish sauce or 2 tablespoons of chopped brined shrimp if you'd like to experiment. Just make sure not to over-salt the kimchi. Because every fish sauce and brined shrimp has a different amount of salt, use them sparingly if you've never made kimchi before.