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I Eat Plants: Local Vegan Kimchi Recipe

The outdoor farmers’ market season is drawing to a close, but you have one or two more weeks to access some of them, like Pleasantville [1] and Rye [2]. The selection of food is also getting smaller, but there are some veggies that are still available!

A few months ago, I got inspired to start working on some fermenting projects. I’d always thought that I would have to wait until I had a house with a basement to make things like kimchi and sauerkraut, but that turns out to not be the case. While I might want that if I were going to be fermenting on a large scale, a little counter space for a few days and then a spot in the fridge is all you need for smaller projects.

So why would a vegetable dish need to be specified as a vegan recipe, you might ask? Kimchi is traditionally made using shrimp paste (or fish sauce), so it’s not vegan by definition. I don’t know that it’s all that hard to find vegan versions, but if you’re buying it, you’ll have to read the label. And if you’re searching for recipes, you’ll have to be careful- most recipes do include our fishy friends.

So what to do about the fish sauce? Miso is an excellent substitute. I was worried that the bacteria in the miso would compete with the bacteria in the kimchi, but I found that it worked just fine. I’d try to make sure that you buy a brand that doesn’t have any weird preservatives in it. I used plain old white soybean miso, but I’m sure any variety would be just fine. You’re just replacing that umami flavor that our water-dwelling friends would impart. Speaking of which, I suppose you could also try seaweed in its place.

Kimchi makes for some awesome veggies added to pretty much anything you’d watch spicy/sour/fermented vegetables. It’s also a raw food! I like to add it on top of various tofu/noodle dishes.

A note about the Korean chili powder [3], or Gochutgaru. I went to the H-Mart [4] in White Plains- there was a section of aisle just dedicated to this stuff. I picked up one of the smaller bags, but you have options to buy it in ginormous quantities. You can just use hot chili peppers to your liking, or cayenne, but if you’re using cayenne, use a much smaller quantity (the Korean chili powder is fairly mild). I’m saying 2-4 Tbs in the recipe of Korean Chili Powder, but I found 2 to be too mild. Three hit the spot for me in my next batch.

I would highly suggest using a proper fermentation jar for making this- I have some ideas for this on my own blog [5], but you can use a sealed container- just make sure to “burp” it at least 2-3 times per day while it’s fermenting on the counter.

You should have no trouble finding veggies for this at any of the farmers’ markets this time of year. You’ll find these types of veggies all year long. Napa, carrots, scallions and daikon should all be available, and you can be creative, too- add what you like! As long as there’s plenty of napa and salt, there should be no problem with the fermentation process!

I Eat Plants: Local Vegan Kimchi

I Eat Plants:  Local Vegan Kimchi


  • 2 small or one medium head Napa cabbage (don't get a gigantic one), shredded into bite-sized or a bit larger than bite-sized pieces (save one of the outer leaves intact, as well)
  • 6-8 scallions; green parts snipped into bite-sized pieces, and white parts reserved
  • 8 ounces daikon, peeled and cut into julienned strips
  • 3-4 small(ish) carrots, peeled and sliced (or 1 big one)
  • (you can add small amounts of pretty much any cut-up vegetable you like here as well, but if it has a thick skin, peel it)
  • 1/4 cup Kosher salt (this salt must be pure salt, do not use salt with iodine or preservatives or anti-caking agents)
  • 8 cups water
  • 1.5-2 inches peeled ginger, grated or minced
  • 4-6 cloves or garlic (or a small head of spring garlic)
  • 1 Tbs miso (do not add more; it's okay to add a a little less, or even to leave this out- you don't want to be adding too much more saltiness)
  • 2-4 Tbs Korean Chili Powder


  1. Add the cabbage, green parts of scallions, daikon and carrots (or other veggies) to a large bowl.
  2. In another bowl, add the Kosher salt to the water and dissolve; then pour over the veggies. Put an upside-down plate or a pot lid over the veggies to keep them submerged. Let sit for 8 hours.
  3. Drain and reserve brine. Return veggies to bowl.
  4. Add the ginger, garlic, miso, scallion whites, and chili powder to a blender or food processor, with enough of the brine to process (about a 1/4-1/2 cup. Start with less!).
  5. Get your hands dirty: pour the paste into the veggies, and mix it in well. All of the veggies should be coated with with the paste, and look a pretty red color. You can add a little more brine if needed.
  6. Pack the veggies into the fermentation jar well. Pour enough of the reserved brine into the jar to make sure that everything is under the brine. Use the reserved cabbage leaf to put flat on top of the veggies to help hold everything under the brine. Cover the jar and put on the airlock.
  7. Leave at room temp for about four days. Taste. If it's not sour enough, leave it out longer, tasting every day until it's right (or very close to right).
  8. Transfer using a clean, dry, utensil to a vessel you can keep covered in the fridge (no air lock). It will continue to get a little bit sour in the fridge, but not at nearly as fast a rate as on the counter. Alternately, if you have a root cellar or other cool place to keep this, you can keep it there.
  9. It's ready to eat at this point! To keep things hygenic, I find it's best to use a clean pair of tongs to get the kimchi out of the jar, especially if you think you might have it around for a while.
http://food.lohudblogs.com/2012/12/06/i-eat-plants-local-vegan-kimchi-recipe/ [7]

This will keep for months in the fridge. It will get more sour over time, but that’s okay!

I Eat Plants columnist Jodie Deignan went vegetarian in 2004 and fully committed to veganism in 2007. By day she’s a psychiatric nurse practitioner and by night she spends a lot of time cooking delicious vegan food for herself and her friends. She’s a bit of a picky eater, with a special distaste for mushrooms, seaweed, raw tomatoes, and eggplant, though she’s discovered along the way she’s a little more open-minded than she once thought. She blogs at The Picky Vegan [8]. Follow her on Facebook [9], Twitter [10] and Pinterest [11].