Napa Cabbage Kimchi

I suppose it would have made the most sense for me to post this at the beginning of my time in Korea, especially since I used cabbage kimchi for the kimchi fried rice.  Unfortunately, it took me a long time to create a recipe I thought was blog-worthy.  I tried a bunch that were either too salty, too boring, or too fermented.  I can find better kimchi than that around here in the refrigerator section of the drug store.

I’m hardly a kimchi expert- I’d never had even tried the stuff until a couple years ago.  But I like my kimchi to taste fresh while still having the requisite funk.  I finally found one that fit the bill- and it doesn’t require much fermentation time.  You just soak some chopped cabbage in salt water for a couple hours, drain, mix in a kimchi paste and let sit for another couple hours.  That’s it.  Easy.

The fish sauce and oyster sauce help give this kimchi it’s depth of flavor.  Many kimchi recipes don’t use them, but I found they made the kimchi so much more interesting than the recipes that relied on salt only.  Most fish sauces are gluten-free, but finding gluten-free oyster sauce can be more challenging.  Below is the kind that I’ve used for the past couple years in case you’d like a visual to help look at your grocery store.


Napa Cabbage Kimchi


* 1 medium to large Napa Cabbage, halved, cored and cut into 1-2-inch strips
* 1 cup water
* 3 Tablespoons kosher or sea salt
* 1/4 cup Korean coarse red pepper flakes
* 2 Tablespoons water
* 1 Tablespoon garlic paste
* 1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
* 2 teaspoons sugar
* 2 teaspoons gluten-free oyster sauce
* 2 Tablespoons fish sauce
* 4 green onions, chopped into 1-inch pieces


Dissolve the salt into 1 cup of water. Place the cabbage in a large bowl or container and pour the salt water over it. Toss quickly and then let sit, without any additional stirring, for 2 hours.

While the cabbage is soaking, make the kimchi paste by combining the red pepper flakes, 2 Tablespoons of water, garlic paste, ginger, sugar, oyster sauce, fish sauce, and green onions.

Drain the cabbage in a colander or in a piece of cheesecloth and give the cabbage a quick rinse under cold water. Gently squeeze out any excess liquid. Place the cabbage in a large bowl or jar and stir the kimchi paste into the cabbage. Mix thoroughly to ensure that each piece of cabbage is coated. Let sit at room temperature for 2-3 hours. Cover and refrigerate.

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2 Responses to “Napa Cabbage Kimchi”

  1. #
    Anonymous — May 11, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    I really want to try this recipe but i can't find korean chili flakes. Where do you get them or can I substitute regular red pepper flakes?


    • CATE — May 12th, 2012 @ 6:34 am

      I bought mine at a Korean supermarket, but it's actually so common out here that you can even buy it at just about every drugstore or supermarket.

      You're probably best off just trying to buy it online if you don't have a good Asian market near you… just search for “Korean chili flakes” or Korean hot pepper powder”. Amazon has at least a couple options.

      Cayenne or crushed red pepper is much hotter and you definitely wouldn't be able to do a 1-to-1 substitution. If you'd still like to try it with regular red pepper you might want to do a google search for “Korean Chili flakes substitute kimchi” (or something like that). It seems like there's lots of pages with that same discussions and you might be able to find some response from somebody who had a good result from the substitution and a recommended ratio.

      Good luck!


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