Mom’s Kimchi Recipe | Korean Food 김치

Mom’s Kimchi Recipe | Korean Food 김치

While my mom was in town this month, she taught me how to make her kimchi recipe. I’ve been feeling an urgency to learn the basics, because I never know when I’ll have the chance again. I can always go off of recipes online, but it can never match the same nostalgic taste of a Korean home cooked meal growing up.

How Do You Make Kimchi

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Last Updated: March 19, 2020

Mom's Authentic Kimchi Recipe

A friend of ours recently documented her grandmother’s life story on video, and it made me wish I had done that for my grandma before her Alzheimer’s set in. It’s been really hard to shake the fact that life is so temporary.

All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off.”

I used to be impatient about life and be anxious about what’s coming next, but now I feel like everything is passing by so fast. I regret not sitting down with my grandmother to hear her stories. Not just stories of her being a grandmother,  but ones as a mother, as a wife, and as a child. I often forget that she once was like me, too.

It also seems that with each passing generation that is raised in the States, we lose more of the stories, we lose more of our culture, and we lose our family recipes.

I’m what they call a 1.5 generation, but probably closer to second generation since I moved to the U.S. when I was two and a half. I hardly speak Korean anymore and don’t cook much Korean food. Making my mom’s kimchi was a bucket list item that I’ve been putting off for a long time, but this month we decided to make it happen!

Kimchi Ingredients

Pro Tip: Use gloves to keep your hands from getting stained.

How to Make Kimchi Ingredients

Directions for Making Kimchi

  1. Dissolve salt in 1 and 1/2 cups of water.
  2. Chop up napa cabbage and soak in salt water for 3-4 hours or until soft. (Can take up to 6 hrs.)
  3. To make the paste, add the sweet rice flour and one cup of water to a pot.
  4. Put over medium heat and continue to stir until thickened (about 5 mins).
  5. Transfer paste to a large bowl and add the korean chili pepper flakes, fish sauce, and sugar.
  6. Mix well and let the paste cool.
  7. Add green onions, onions, garlic, and ginger to the paste and mix.
  8. Once the cabbage is soft, remove from salt water and rinse thoroughly (we rinsed 3x).
  9. Massage paste into the cabbage and store in a jar.
  10. Serve immediately if you like fresh kimchi. If you like it more fermented, wait until it fits your tastes.

If you need to see a more detailed process through photos here they are:

Step 2. This is the chopped napa cabbage

Mom's Authentic Kimchi Recipe.

Soak the napa cabbage until it’s soft and limp like this

Mom's Authentic Kimchi Recipe.

Step 4. This is what the rice flour paste looks after you stir it over heat

Mom's Authentic Kimchi Recipe.

Step 7. all the ingredients are mixed into the paste

Tried and True Recipes: Mom's Recipe for Kimchi 김치.

Step 9. You massage the paste into the kimchi.

Mom's Korean Kimchi Recipe.
Mom's Korean Kimchi Recipe.
Mom's Authentic Korean Kimchi Recipe

Chef's Notes

  • If you don’t like your kimchi really spicy, put less hot chili pepper flakes. I put double the amount my mom puts in (1 cup). She likes her food milder while nothing tastes too spicy for me.
  • Depending on the size of the napa cabbage, you might not need to use all the paste. If you have extra paste, you can make cucumber kimchi or try mixing it into other veggies.
  • Whenever you take out any kimchi, press down the remaining kimchi and submerge in the liquid or the kimchi will become very bitter and change flavor.

Do you like how I put them in mason jars? It’s my korean heritage combined with twelve years of living in the South. ;)

Let me know if there was anything confusing about the recipe, and I can try to clarify. If you end up making it, let me know how you like it! Do you have any family favorite recipes that you’ve learned lately or want to learn?

Kimchi is definitely an acquired taste. One that Jacob has not acquired yet. haha

Have you tried kimchi before? What did you think? Have you tried making kimchi before? Would love to hear what you think if you try this kimchi recipe.

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Esther + Jacob

Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, which is one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found both near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.

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This Post Has 52 Comments

  1. Hello – Korean red chili flakes, or powder? Thanks

    1. hi michael. it doesn’t matter. i prefer flakes but as long as they are made from korean chilis they will taste the same whether it’s a fine powder or bigger flakes.

  2. I very rarely leave comments but I had to let you know that I LOVE this recipe. I’ve been wanting to make kimchi for ages, mostly because I’m a big sucky baby about spice, and one of my favorite things about kimchi is the flavor rather than the heat. I’ve tested a LOT of store-bought stuff that I just wasn’t happy with. Two weeks ago I made your recipe (and yes, put it all in a large glass mason jar!), and it’s almost gone. I had to share it with other people, and THEY are now going crazy over how good it was and are making it. I really like the step with the glutinous flour, for some reason that just makes sense to me and was what made me choose your recipe. I doubt that I’ll ever use another one! The only things I changed were to drop the gochugaru down to 1/4 cup (see, wuss here), and I also added some matchstick-cut daikon. My favorite way to serve it so far has been with BBQ Pork Scrambled Eggs lol. I also had some with potstickers. Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. Awesome Kim chi. I added carrots & snake beans.
    We love it. I shall make second once I finish.
    Good bacteria help the gut.
    Thxu for this recipe.

  4. I´ve tried this recipe today the first time. I’ve put the Kimchi in glasses with hinged lid. There is still a lot of air on the top. How should i fill this gap?

    1. Hi Sinisa, you don’t need to fill the air gap with anything. Just make sure all the cabbage is submerged in the liquid.

  5. I am definitely going to have to try making kimchi. I have a Korean foreign exchange student here this year and she eats kimchi with every meal. I’m not a fan of it, but do love some of the Korean dishes we make together. Bibimbap is going to be something we will eat frequently after she goes home in the spring.

  6. Hi! Can you make this in bulk and seal the jars?

    1. Hi Linda. That all depends on where you live, but all korean grocery stores will carry it, most asian grocery stores, and these days I’ve seen a few of american chain grocery stores carry it too. Oh, and I would also check the farmer’s markets if none of those work for you.

  7. Can I leave the rice flour out? Or can I sub a different type of starch?

    1. Hi Debbie! You can substitute it with reg wheat flour but I think you still need some sort of starch in there.

    2. Rice flour is sweet and gives to a good authentic flavor even if you cut back on I don’t suggest taking it out completely. I do suggest chopping your onion and garlic along with the ginger and pulverizing it in a good blender or food processor. Then add it to the porridge and fish sauce with the red pepper flake as it helps with the fermentation process. leave it in a cool dry room for a day or two then refrigerate for as long as you want. I keep it in the fridge foe 6-8 months sometimes when I make multiple jars and it tastes just fine.

      1. Agreed! I haven’t tried to substitute out the rice flour, and I’m sure it’s doable but it will probably alter the flavor.

  8. My mouth is watering with just the thought of making your Kimchi recipe. Like you mine is going to be spicy. I remember going into a Korean restaurant about 20 years ago and ordering some spicy Kim Chi and the server said are you sure. Guess they haven’t had to many caucasian customers ordering. Love it ever since and started making It myself recently. EASY to make.

  9. Thank you for posting this, it’s so detailed and helpful with the pictures. We have had 2 Korean college students live with us the past 5 years. Their mom ships kimchee from Busan and it’s amazing. I can’t wait to try this recipe.

    1. You’re so welcome. Can’t wait to hear how it turns out. :)

  10. I just made this kimchi today and it was perfect. Thank you for posting your recipe..:)

  11. When you listed the ingredients you said to use 1/2 cup of red chili powder, then latter on you said you doubled the amount because you like it spicy, as do I.. Did you double it and ended up with 1/2 cup or did you double it and ended up with 1 cup? I’m going to be using you’re recipe when I make this so I don’t want to ruin it by making it to spicy to enjoy. Thanks so much!

    Candace

    1. Oops! Thanks for pointing this out, Candace. I can see how this can be confusing, and I’ll have to add it into the notes. 1/2 cup is for it to be milder (I added 1 cup), but if you’re worried about it being too spicy, you can go even less than 1/2. A lot of Korean food goes by tasting as you make it, and you can always make adjustments as you go.

  12. Hello. Thank you for sharing this recipe. I love kimchi and I can’t wait to make this at home. Oh btw, some put sesami oil, will it ruin the taste?

  13. Hello. Thanks for sharing this recipe! I love kimchi and I can’t wait to make this one! Oh btw, some put sesami oil, will it ruin the taste?

    1. No, I don’t think it will ruin the taste. I feel like people put sesame oil in a majority of korean recipes! haha If you want to try it, I would add a little bit to start, taste it, and add more if you like it.

  14. Can you use Korean chili powder instead of the chili flakes?

    1. I think they’re the same thing as long as it’s made from the Korean chilis. One just might be finer or coarser than the other.

  15. While this is fermenting, is a lid kept on the jar? Keeping it at room temperature, while this help speed the fermenting? Thanks a bunch! Looking forward to it!

    1. I would keep the lid on the jar. I’m sure taking the lid off would speed up the fermenting even more, but I’ve always had the lid on and left it on the counter until I liked the taste and then refrigerate it. Yes, keeping it at room temperature would speed up the fermenting. Let me know how it turns out!

  16. Hi Esther, just wandering how can i increase the liquid in kimchi in order that all veggies submerge? If i don’t have a jar, is it ok to use stainless bowl instead?
    Thanks for answering.

    1. Hi Renneth. You can increase the water and amount of salt to get it all submerged since you will be taking it out of the solution later. You’re using a stainless bowl with a lid? I think it depends on how long you want to keep your kimchi. If it’s not as air tight, I don’t think it will last as long, but kimchi lasts for a long time if you keep it refrigerated. Let me know what you decide to do. I’d love to hear if it worked well in the bowl.

    2. Might be too late, but according to most information on fermentation and pickling,metal is reactive, and not recommended. Glass is preferred. .

      1. Thanks, Beth! We always use glass too and never had much experience with metal.

      2. Can I use Korean Hot Pepper Paste instead of the dry spice?

        1. You can use the hot pepper paste if you intend to eat it right away, but it’s recommended to use the dry spice if you want to keep it for a long time.

  17. Do you leave it in the counter or fridge?
    How long can it last?
    thank youu

    1. Depends on how sour you like your kimchi. I don’t like mine as fresh, so I might leave it out on the counter for a few days before putting it in the fridge. I’ve kept kimchi for several months in the fridge and it was fine. It doesn’t spoil but the taste changes and gets more sour as the time goes on. When it’s too sour, we usually make it into kimchi stew.

  18. Esther, I love that you were able to have your mom teach you the art of kimchi :) I am Korean but since I was adopted I don’t know how to make anything…though lots of well meaning Korean grandmas always offer to teach me. Can’t wait to try this!

    1. Oh! I had no idea you were korean. :) You’ll have to tell me how it turns out!! I guess even though I was raised by korean parents.. I never really had to learn much of anything. :P I am actually back home for a week or two so hopefully I will learn a lot more from her. Usually if I want korean food I eat out, but now that Las Vegas doesn’t have good korean food.. looks like I have to learn after all!

  19. What is the sweet rice flour

  20. Can you use regular green cabbage?

    1. I don’t think the results will be the same. It will be too soft / soggy.

  21. I made this last night and it is sooooo good. Straight out of the jar it’s good. Can’t wait to taste it as it ferments with time. Thanks so much for the helpful photos! I probably would not have made it, not being even close to Korean, without them.

    1. That’s so good to hear!! :) I usually like mine more fermented so I’m still waiting.

  22. I can so relate to wanting to document your heritage. 6 months after my grandfather passed, I saw a video (interview with family photos) that a friend did with her grandmother and it really made me sad that I didn’t think of doing that before my Papa passed. I’m already fretting some of the details of his stories and it’s only been 4 years…

    My grandmother also has Alzheimer’s. I tried interviewing her on video, but she comes in and out of the present so much that it just didn’t work out. Alzheimer’s can be such a cruel disease.

    Love the kimchi recipe! For some reason, I always thought it was much more complicated to make. I’ll have to try it for my Korean in-laws :)

    1. You should! :) Same here.. I never made it because it always seemed so complicated. And then there’s that period where you put it in the ground.. I just didn’t know what’s still applicable. haha but it helped having my mom there to teach me.

      Even if my grandma has alzheimer’s i’m still trying to take a lot of photos and get clips of her voice just so I remember it. I haven’t taken video yet, but I know I want to. Even if she doesn’t have all her memories, I would still like to document her mannerisms, her voice.. I would hate to forget what her voice sounds like.

  23. Yum! I miss really good kimchi and Korean restaurants. I tried making it once when we first moved out here to New Mexico, but I found some random recipe online that was only so-so. Sherwin doesn’t eat it either :( I will have to try this recipe next!

    1. that used to make me so sad.. because eating together is something that is so important to me. now, that i think about it.. i don’t think this issue has ever been resolved. haha let me know how it turns out! i hope it matches your tastes well. :) i know everyone has a diff taste they go for.

    1. I made two, so you can have one of them! :) Jacob doesn’t eat kimchi.. so it’s pretty rare that we finish them. Isn’t that sad?

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