Classic Cabbage Kimchi

Hugh Acheson isn’t shy about kimchi—or about sharing his kimchi recipe. Canadian by birth but a Southerner by choice, the chef considers kimchi an integral part of his Atlanta kitchens, where this recipe is stirred into rice grits as a spicy foundation for crisped pork belly. When asked about the collision of cultures on a plate, Acheson explains his kimchi is “an ode to the modern proliferation of Asian cultures in the South.” We’re with Hugh. Although we’re not so certain we’re still with him when he waxes poetic about the aroma of kimchi in the making. “My kitchen at home is very scented with fermenting kimchi,” he writes in his blog. “My wife, she doesn’t really get into the smell, but I find it strangely calming.” Feel the same fondness for kimchi? Let us know in a comment below.–Renee Schettler Rossi

LC Really? Kimchi? Note

Kimchi? Really? From a Canadian who transplanted himself to the South and learned an authentic Korean recipe? Shrug. Tasting is believing. And believe we do, both in chef Hugh Acheson and his kimchi recipe. We also believe in the versatility of kimchi. Witness the below ways we prefer to take our kimchi…

stir it into some steamed white rice (and, even better, plop a fried egg atop the rice and dribble with sesame oil)
tuck it into grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, even tacos
mix it into Thanksgiving stuffing or dressing
plop it atop burgers, pulled pork sandwiches, or hot dogs
fry with day-old rice and leftover veggies and meat (try Spam, if you dare)
toss it with popcorn
use it to stuff dumplings or pierogis
scramble it with eggs or tuck it in an omelet
stir it into butter
purée it and add it to a Bloody Mary or michelada (yowza!)

Classic Cabbage Kimchi

  • Quick Glance
  • 45 M
  • 3 H, 30 M
  • Makes 2 to 3 quarts
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  • 2 large heads Napa cabbage (about 5 pounds)
  • 4 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup minced garlic
  • 1/3 cup minced ginger
  • 1/4 cup hot smoked paprika (pimentón)
  • 1/4 cup Korean chile powder (often labeled kochukaru or or gochugaru or Korean red pepper powder)
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 1 lime)
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup salted, fermented shrimp, finely chopped (sometimes labeled “brined shrimp,” these tiny, sea monkey-like shellfish are found in jars at Asian markets)
  • 2 bunches scallions, white and green parts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces


  • 1. Rinse the cabbages and then quarter the heads lengthwise. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon salt over the quarters, place them in a large pot or bucket, and set aside for 1 hour.
  • 2. Rinse the cabbage under cold running water, and pat it dry. Cut the cabbage into 1-inch pieces, add them to a large bowl, and toss with the remaining 3 tablespoons salt. Let sit for 2 hours. The salt will draw out moisture from the cabbage.
  • 3. Drain off the accumulated liquid and lightly rinse the cabbage. In a large bowl, combine the cabbage with all the remaining ingredients and toss well.
  • 4. Transfer the mixture to a large crock, cover it with a lid, and store it in a cool, dark place for 3 days to ferment and mature.
  • 5. Once the kimchi is tasting all kinds of yummy, transfer it to jars (we like quart-size jars), cap them, and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. (If, that is, you can make it last that long. If you’re in need of inspiration as to how to use kimchi, see the LC Note above the recipe. Also, kindly bear in mind that the kimchi will get funkier and stinkier as time goes on—and yes, that means it will be more inclined to transfer its smell to other items in the fridge with each day.)


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Recipe Testers Reviews

This is a simple, easy-to-follow kimchi recipe that's near perfection. After 4 days in the crock, the resulting kimchi hits almost all the right notes for salty, sweet, sour, and spicy. It was just a little too hot. To get the ingredients, I went to an Asian market a couple of towns over to make sure I had the proper ingredients. I bought 2 large Napa cabbage heads that weighed 9 pounds total. I found the brine shrimp easily enough but had some difficulty locating the kochukaru. The gentleman in the store pointed me to the shelf of chile pastes and powders. I had to ask again to find what I was looking for and had to rely on the store personnel, as all the labels were written in various Asian languages. Despite the language barrier, I left with what I was assured was correct. The end result was 9 pint jars of hot and spicy kimchi that 95% of my tasters liked as is. Three said it could use more salt. The biggest test was letting our Korean friend Bing try it. Her immediate reaction was that we had been sold the wrong chile. This would explain why it was as hot as it was. Other than the level of heat, she said it very very good. The balance of salty, sweet, and sour were perfect, a difficult thing to do, and the only off note was the level of heat. She offered to show me where to get the proper chiles, so we could make it perfect. Once the proper chili powder had been acquired, I once again purchased 2 large heads of Napa cabbage and proceeded as instructed. It was not weighted down, as this was a quick ferment and weighing it down would not allow the cabbage at the bottom of the crock to ferment properly. This time the large heads of cabbage only weighed 7 pounds, 10 ounces, and they weren't as dense as the ones from the previous batch. Fermented shrimp can be a little tricky to find; however, any Asian market that caters to Korean shoppers carries dried shrimp. While slightly larger in size than fermented shrimp, they are more widely available and will blitz to powder well in a small chopper or mortar and pestle. Reviews were again very good. This batch was deemed practically perfect. Several of my tasters said that it was the closest homemade kimchi to what they had eaten in restaurants or purchased in jars. All my tasters loved the slow, gentle, lingering heat of the Korean chile powder. A couple tasters said they'd have liked it a little sweeter.

Batch #1 was brighter in color, crunchy, very hot at first with the heat quickly dissipating, and the cabbage was clearly visible in the jar. The tastes of sweet, salty, and sour were perfectly balanced, with only the hot note being slightly different from a traditional kimchi. This was due to using the wrong chile. Batch #2 was softer in texture, not in a bad way, however the first batch definitely had more crunch to it. Also this batch was decidedly redder in color, and the cabbage sort of blended more with the juices in the jar. This could be because of the lesser weight of the cabbage the second time or could be due to the effect of the chile powder used or both. We noticed that this batch also had a good balance of salty, sweet, and heat with a little more tang on the sour note. It did have the appropriate “funkiness” of the traditional stuff. Final results were six 1/2 pint jars of kimchi. As a final note, I would suggest that it is worth the effort to source out the traditional Korean chile powder and dried shrimp, as this is what will make or break your kimchi.

There's nothing subtle about kimchi. It's easy to make, although it was one of those dishes that required stops at 3 different markets. When I asked for "brined shrimp" at my local Asian market, they had no idea what I was talking about. I researched different kimchi recipes, and they generally call for either fish sauce, shrimp paste, anchovies, etc. I decided to use shrimp paste, which was easy to find, and was just shrimp and salt and very funky. The first salting of the cabbage made it silky. The second drew a LOT of water from the cabbage resulting in the loss of a lot of volume. While the cabbage was shrinking, I put cloves of peeled garlic and chunks of ginger in the food processor and finely chopped them. I then added the rest of the ingredients and whizzed it together. It was quite salty from the shrimp paste; I could have done with a lot less. I also was very skeptical of using smoked paprika, which I find has an overpowering flavor. The Korean red pepper powder is the classic flavor. I didn't get why one would add the smoked paprika, especially since that became the overarching flavor, and it actually wasn't that hot. I don't think I'd use the paprika again, but I'll certainly make this recipe again, maybe adding some daikon. Anyway, I packed most of the kimchi into a bean pot (the pot I use for Boston baked beans) and put the rest in a plastic container in the fridge. Both fermented nicely, although I think the refrigerated one is a little less, shall we say, funky. It just depends on how you like it.

Kimchi is one of those things I always have in the fridge. I love it, even as a snack with just a little white rice. Luckily finding the ingredients here was pretty easy as we have a large Korean population. What really intrigued me was how little the end amount was compared to when I started. I was afraid I was going to have too much kimchi, but ended up with a little over 2 quarts. The taste wasn't quite the same as store-bought kimchi, but it was still extremely tasty nevertheless. One thing I actually liked better than store-bought was the fact that the cabbage was crunchier.


  1. I only just tried kimchi (I know, I KNOW), but immediately fell in love with it and have developed a pretty serious kimchi habit. It’s been on my list of things to try making next, it’s like you read my mind!

    1. We try, Christina! Happy to be of service. We’re always seeking more ways to serve it and would love to know how you like your kimchi…straight out of the jar with a spoon or on white rice or tucked within a grilled cheese or with roast pork or…?

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