Authentic Napa Cabbage (Baechu) Kimchi (Paleo, Whole30, Keto)
Spicy, tangy, and so good for your gut, this authentic Korean kimchi is made with only whole food ingredients. This is my favorite kimchi to make and eat, and I created this recipe so that it is sugar and grain-free to fit Paleo, Whole30, and keto lifestyles. I promise you will absolutely love this easy napa cabbage kimchi.
My mother was born in Seoul, South Korea, and immigrated to the US in 1972 when she was 15 years old. She is the second youngest of six, and her mother, my halmeoni (할머니), from whom I got my middle name, made the best kimchi ever. This recipe tastes just like halmeoni’s kimchi without the added sugar and rice flour, which I promise you won’t miss. This family recipe was passed from my halmeoni to my mom, and now I am so happy to share it with you!
Why Kimchi is So Good For You!
Kimchi is a staple in the Korean diet and culture and being half-Korean, I grew up eating this amazing dish with everything from fried rice to kalbi. Aside from being a spicy, flavorful accompaniment to your meal, kimchi has a lot of nutritional and health benefits!
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): Converts carbohydrates to adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which supports energy production .
- Vitamins: B3 (niacin): Supports healthy blood fat levels and blood sugars.
- Vitamin B6: is essential in creating neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which play a role in emotional health and sleep .
- Vitamin B9 (folate): Essential vitamin that supports healthy metabolism, and is key in breaking down homocysteine, and amino acid that is harmful in high concentrations .
- Vitamin C: (ascorbic acid): A powerful antioxidant that supports healthy immune function, and the absorption of non-heme iron.
- Vitamin K: Fat soluble vitamin that supports the body’s ability to form blood clots and is converted to vitamin K2 in the gut and supports healthy bones .
- Iron: The iron in kimchi, like all plant sources of iron is non-heme iron. Iron is necessary in the production of hemoglobin, supports the endocrine system, and is necessary in growth and development .
Sulforaphane is a compound found in cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and arugula that has been shown to have many health benefits. Studies have shown that this powerful compound is stored in cruciferous vegetables in an inactive form known as glucoraphanin. Glucoraphanin is then activated by chopping, cutting, or chewing the food releasing an enzyme, myrosinase, to produce sulforaphane. Sulforaphane is known to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties to support health and wellness.
There are more benefits to including kimchi to a whole food diet as the fiber they contain supports a healthy and optimized digestive tract! It contains both soluble and insoluble fiber:
- Insoluble fiber: Works to keep things moving along and helps with toxin and waste elimination.
- Soluble fiber : Soluble fiber works to support a healthy microbiome and supports healthy blood sugar regulation.
So what happens when you eat fermented foods that are filled with good microbes (probiotics)? The microbiome in your gut contains over 100 trillion bacteria and other microorganisms such as yeast  and this symbiotic community plays a vital role in health, immune function, food sensitivities, inflammation and more.
Eating fermented foods such as yogurt, pickles, kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut are beneficial to your microbiome as they introduce and help to maintain a population of “good” microbes as well as inhibit the overgrowth of “bad” microbes, including yeast like candida.
The bacteria, lactobacillus, is responsible for the lacto-fermentation process that kimchi undergoes during the fermentation process. It breaks down the sugars in the cabbage into lactic acid, which gives kimchi its delicious zippy tang!
So grab some organic napa cabbage and let’s make some kimchi!
Authentic Napa Cabbage (Baechu) Kimchi Ingredients
Makes approximately 50-64 ounces
Makes 3-4 cups
3-5 Cloves of Garlic, peeled
2” Piece of Fresh Ginger, peeled
1 Korean/Asian or Bosc Pear, peeled
½ Red Bell Pepper
½ cup Cool Filtered Water
¼-½ cup Gochugaru Flakes
1 Tbsp Coarse Real Salt
2 tsp Salted Shrimp*
2 tsp Fish Sauce
*You can find this in most Korean or Asian markets, if you can’t find it, replace with more fish sauce
1 Large Head of Napa Cabbage, 2” pieces
2 cups Cool Filtered Water
1/3 cup Coarse Real Salt
1 bunch Green Onions, julienned
1 Korean Radish, julienned (opt)
1 Large Carrot, shredded (opt)
1-2 Spicy Peppers*, thinly sliced (opt)
*Korean red pepper, Thai chili, jalapeño, serrano, habanero
How to Make Authentic Napa Cabbage (Baechu) Kimchi
1. Start with the kimchi ingredients and in a small bowl dissolve the salt into water, set aside.
2. Rinse and clean the cabbage under cool water. I separate the leaves from the stem and cut the leaves into 2” pieces, transfer to a large bowl.
3. Pour the salt water solution over the cabbage and toss to evenly mix. Gently press the cabbage into the salt water and let it sit for 30-minutes.
4. Flip cabbage over so the bottom cabbage is on top and the top is now in the salt water solution. Press down and let sit for 30-minutes.
5. Repeat step #4 for 4-6 hours until the thick ends of the leaves have softened and become limber. You should be able to get a nice bend when gently folded with your finger.
6. Drain the cabbage into a colander and rinse with cool water. Let it sit for about 30-minutes to allow as much excess water to drain off.
7. While you wait for the cabbage to drain, make the kimchi sauce. Peel the garlic, ginger, and pear (cut from stem) and add them to a blender with the water, bell pepper, salt, salted shrimp, and fish sauce. Blend on high until puréed. Transfer to the large bowl you used to soak the cabbage and stir in the gochugaru flakes.
8. To the kimchi sauce, add the shredded carrot, julienned green onion and Korean radish, and sliced peppers. Add the napa cabbage and mix very well coating each piece (you may want to use a glove for this).
9. Transfer to a large jar with a lid, pressing the kimchi down as your fill. Leave a 2″-3″ space from the top of the jar to allow for room as fermentation occurs and water is released from the kimchi.
10. Leave on the counter for 2-3 days until fermentation bubbles can be seen (at least 1x a day I like to press the kimchi down into the juices so the top ferments well.
11. Enjoy and store your kimchi in the refrigerator!
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Q: How long does kimchi last?
A: Well, if it lasts long enough, kimchi can be stored in the refrigerator up to 3-months. The flavors become more sour and the kimchi softens, which makes it perfect for kimchi pancakes or kimchi jjigae (soup).
Q: Why am I not getting bubbles in my kimchi?
A: There are a few reasons why you may not be getting bubbles in your kimchi during fermentation:
You haven’t allowed it enough time for the lacto-fermentation process to produce CO2 from the lactobacillus bacteria.
Your jar is not sealed properly, make sure that the lid is on tight.
The temperature is too cool and the fermentation process has slowed down.
There wasn’t enough salt during the initial salting process or sufficient salt was not added to the kimchi sauce.
Q: What are the white bubbles on top of my kimchi?
A: Typically, that is kham yeast and can be rinsed off.
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I am a holistic nutritionist with an auto-immune disorder, a love of cooking, and a passion for holistic health.
Sharing what I make and eat with all of you…in hopes that you find inspiration here to fuel your body and feel your best with nutrient dense whole foods and clean eating.