Learn how to make authentic Vegan Kimchi thats as delicious as the traditional version using this easy method! Full of gut-healthy probiotics, this recipe is fish free, gluten free and covers everything you need to know about kimchi!
After posting a picture of this vegan kimchi on my instagram story, I got a lot of messages regarding kimchi being vegan and requests for this recipe so here it finally is! I also go over the most common questions I got regarding kimchi down below.
Kimchi has taken off and become highly popular in the last decade– I remember growing up only eating it at home but now I can find kimchi at restaurants and even take out spots.
What is Kimchi?
For those of you that are not familiar with kimchi, it’s basically fermented cabbage– kind of like sauerkraut where its sour and salty. The main difference though is that kimchi is spicy and enhanced with Korean flavours such as garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes. Even within the realm of Kimchi, there are so many different variations, types of ingredients and preparation methods used. Many Korean dishes use kimchi to flavour their soups, stews and stir fries, but it’s most commonly enjoyed as a side with meals.
People often assume kimchi is VERY hot and spicy but really, it should be just enough to compliment a side of rice or be used to add flavour to your favourite dishes.
What I also love about this fermented asian superfood is that it’s packed with nutritional value and health benefits. It covers nutrients like vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, iron and riboflavin. It’s full of probiotics, can help strengthen your immune system and aid in digestion. There has also been some talk about helping lower cholesterol and regular blood sugar.
You can buy Kimchi at the store but be sure to check the ingredients as most kimchi is NOT vegan! Some Vegan Kimchi brands I have heard amazing reviews about is Mother in Law Kimchi and Gold Mine Organic Kimchi (this one is not as spicy).
Curious about how exactly kimchi is made and the fermentation process? Well, it’s basically made by lacto-fermentation– which is the same process that sauerkraut and dill pickle undergo.
First, the vegetables have to be brined to draw out water and remove any bacteria that may disrupt the fermenting process. Then, the Lactobacillus bacteria that remains converts the sugars from the vegetables into lactic acid. This is what preserves the vegetables and gives them that acidic-sour, tangy flavour. Lastly, (to make it actually kimchi) it’s marinaded in a spicy umami ‘sauce’… and there you have it– kimchi!
So now that we have all the basics about kimchi covered, let’s get to making it!
What’s in Vegan Kimchi?
- Napa Cabbage (Chinese Cabbage): this variety of cabbage is ideal for kimchi. It’s kind of oval shaped with frilly yellow-green leaves. It’s slightly sweeter and softer than other cabbages.
- Course Sea Salt (Pickling Salt): we need this to brine the cabbage. Use kosher, pickling or a course salt without iodine.
Next to make the Kimchi Seasoning Paste, you will need:
- Sweet Rice Flour + Kombu Dashi: this thickens the paste. You can also use water instead of dashi but the dashi gives it additional umami flavour (kind of like fish sauce).
- Fuji Apple: you can also use asian pear or persimmon!
- Vegan fish sauce: can be substituted with soy sauce and miso paste for umami and saltiness.
- Ginger, Garlic + Scallions: for flavour.
- Korean Red Pepper Flakes: the star ingredient that ties the kimchi together!
In addition, you can also add other vegetables. Carrots and Korean radish (or daikon) are commonly used in kimchi.
So now that we’ve gathered our ingredients…
How to Make Vegan Kimchi (Easy Method)
Prepare and Salt the Cabbage
- Slice the cabbage in half (1).
- Then slice each half into quarters (2).
- Chop the quarters into 1 inch pieces (3).
- Add the cabbage into a LARGE mixing bowl as you work and massage the course sea salt in (4 + 5).
- You should notice the cabbage wilting and releasing some water as you do this. Cover the bowl and let it sit for at least 1 hour. You’ll know the cabbage is ready when you’re able to bend the pieces without is snapping.
- Once the cabbage is wilted and the water is drawn, rinse the cabbage and drain well (6).
Make Kimchi Paste
- Make Porridge Paste: Add the water and sweet rice flour into a sauce pan over medium heat and stir until dissolved. Once it thickens, remove from the heat and let it cool completely (7).
- Make Spicy Kimchi Paste: Add all the kimchi paste ingredients into a food processor along with the cooled porridge and blend until a paste forms (8).
Putting it All Together
- Slice carrots and daikon into thin match stick sized pieces. Cut the tops of the green onions into 1 inch pieces (9).
- Add the drained cabbage back into the large bowl along with the carrots, daikon and green parts of the scallions. Put on some gloves (if its your fist time, please do this) massage in the kimchi seasoning paste until everything is well covered (10).
- Transfer the kimchi into a air tight container and use your hands to pack down it down (11). The cabbage and vegetables should be submerged in the juices.
- Close the lid and leave it out at room temperature in a cool dark place for 2 days. DO NOT open the lid for the first 48 hours.
- After 2 days, give it a taste. If you want it to ferment more let it sit for another 24 hours. As it ferments, the flavour will get stronger, more tangy and sour.
- Once the kimchi ferments into your desired flavour, store in the fridge .
Tips to Making Vegan Kimchi
- Use Clean Equipment: this will prevent any bad bacteria that may come in contact with kimchi and disrupt the fermentation process.
- PACK Down the Kimchi: this helps reduce air exposure and encourage the brine formation. The fermenting microorganisms will release carbon dioxide, creating fizzling and bubbling (this is suppose to happen).
- Wear Gloves: especially if its your first time, I HIGHLY recommend using gloves. Even after you wash your hands, if you touch your face or eyes it will burn.
Is Kimchi Not Vegan? How Do you make kimchi without fish sauce?
Typically, you will see kimchi is made including fish or fish sauce. Depending on the recipe, there may also be other non-vegan ingredients included such as shrimp or squid.
When is the best time of year to make kimchi?
It is easier to control the growth, flavour and fermentation of kimchi during the colder seasons because of the cooler temperature but you can make it in the warmer months. I recommend storing the kimchi in the basement or somewhere where it is cooler, though. I look make sure the area is atleast below 15 degrees.
How can I fix kimchi thats too spicy or salty after fermenting?
Add extra thin slices or carrots or daikon which should help dilute the spicy or salty flavours. Do this AFTER fermentation process is over (when you have already stored the kimchi in the fridge).
How to Make Small Batch Kimchi
This recipe actually yields a much smaller batch than most recipes online (makes around 3 cups). You can double, or even triple this recipe if you want a larger amount.
How to Best Store Kimchi
Keep kimchi refrigerated and secure the lid tightly. When consuming, always use clean utensils and do not go in with utensils that you have already put in your mouth as this may introduce other bacteria and cause spoilage.
The kimchi bubbles or pops open when opening the jar, is it safe to eat?
Yes! Bubbling and pressure inside the jar is a by-product of the fermentation process due to the CO2 that builds up inside the jar.
How long does fermented kimchi keep for? When does kimchi go bad and how can I tell?
Kimchi can actually keep well in the fridge for several months. I’ve kept a huge batch of kimchi for over 4 months! Just keep an eye out for surface mold or ant strange sour (like milk has gone bad sour) smell or flavour. It will (and should) acidic but not sour.
How to Serve Kimchi
Fresh, ripe kimchi is great served:
- With a side of rice
- Kimchi Pancakes (Kimchijeon)
- Buddha Bowls
Kimchi that has been sitting for longer and is more pungent is great for:
- Kimchi Soups (Kimchi Jiage)
- Vegan Kimchi Fried Rice
- Kimchi Stirfries
I hope this guide to making your own vegan kimchi at home is helpful and you try this recipe out!
If you recreate this easy vegan kimchi recipe let me know how you liked it by leaving a comment and rating below or by tagging me on Instagram @Okonomikitchen, I love seeing all of your tasty recreations!Print
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