Serious Heat: Homemade Kimchee

Photograph from Adactio on Flickr

While many people subscribe to the mantra of, "why make it when you can buy it," we think many Serious Eaters are like us in the Chile Pepper office. Why buy it when you can make it at home? Hot sauce, black pepper ice cream, jalapeño-spiked vodka and ginger beer--we've tried numerous projects with a pretty good success rate. Then, I decided to add kimchee to the list, encouraged by a man who left me a lengthy, passionate voicemail message about this kimchee recipe from a 2005 Chile Pepper issue he had lost. He raved on and on about it that I was so intrigued to try it.

Kimchee is fermented vegetables, most often cabbage, but there are varieties made with radishes, cucumbers, scallions and the minty, earthy perilla. The seasonings can include different combos of garlic, ginger, onion, dried and fresh peppers, fish sauce, brined baby shrimp and oysters. There's a kimchee for every season and region in Korea, depending on what veggies and products are fresh and available.

The difference in this kimchee recipe from others is that instead of Korean pepper flakes, Sriracha is used, and applesauce is added for sweetness to counteract the tang of the fermented cabbage. Lillian Cho, our Chile Pepper editorial assistant and Korean expert (who wowed us with a fantastic rendition of bulgogi), deemed the kimchee as "surprisingly tasting pretty good." Ahhhh. Just what a cook strives for! She uses kimchee sautéed with fried rice, tossed into stew or fried into kimchee pancakes (similar to scallion pancakes). What do you eat with kimchee?


Reprinted from the February 2005 issue of Chile Pepper, we doubled the amount of Sriracha just because we like to have our mouths set on fire.

- Yield: 1 quart-
Zest Factor: Medium to Hot

Ingredients for Day 1

1 large head Chinese cabbage (or substitute Napa cabbage)
6 tablespoons salt

Ingredients for Day 2

4 scallions, including tops
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoons Sriracha (or substitute another garlic chili sauce)
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tablespoon salt

Serious Heat: Homemade Kimchee

About This Recipe

This recipe appears in: This Week In Recipes


  1. 1

    Cut cabbage into 1-inch square pieces. Place in a bowl, and sprinkle with salt. Add water to cover, and mix well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let stand in a cool place overnight.

  2. 2

    The next day, drain the cabbage and rinse quickly under cold running water. Cut the scallions into 1-inch lengths, then cut lengthwise into thin slices. In a bowl, combine the scallions with the rinsed cabbage, garlic, chili sauce, ginger, sugar, applesauce, salt and enough water to cover. Mix well, and place in a quart jar with a lid. Close the jar, and let stand for a few days in a cool place.

  3. 3

    Taste mixture every day, and when it has a good balance of flavor and acidity, place in the refrigerator (four to five days worked for us). The kimchee will keep for two weeks.


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