How to make Raw Vegan Kimchi

Kimchi is a fermented cabbage dish that’s native to Korea. It’s pungent, spicy and medicinal. Once you’ve made a big batch, it will keep in the fridge for weeks or even months (depending on how often you eat it!).

Eating raw vegan kimchi is one of the simplest and tastiest ways to restore the balance of good bacteria in your gut. It’s just like taking a probiotic supplement, only it’s fresh, raw and homemade. If you’re not sure why you need good bacteria in your gut, read my Raw Focus post on fermenting.

The short explanation is that the quality of bacteria in your belly is what governs almost every aspect of your health, so you want to encourage the good guys and discourage the bad guys. Fermented foods and drinks are a fantastic way of feeding good bacteria, and unfortunately in our culture we don’t eat these foods very often. We also do lots of things that harm our good bacteria, like using pharmacological medicines, drinking alcohol and generally living in a toxic world, and we encourage bad bacteria with refined sugar, processed food and a highly acidic diet.

Kimchi is your ticket out of this cycle. One of the best things you can do for your health is make up a big batch and eat it as often as possible (daily is ideal). You only need a small amount. Have it raw by itself or mix it through a raw salad. It’s also fabulous stirred through a lovely raw pad Thai.

Traditionally, kimchi often contains fish sauce, shrimp paste or soy sauce. This version is totally vegan and raw. If you’re going to be feeding this to your kids (highly recommended!), go easy on the chilli – just add one to begin with then work upwards from there to taste.

Equipment

  • One or two VERY large mixing bowls (I use my biggest stock pot)
  • Large 4-litre glass jar with lid (or several smaller jars)
  • Blender, food processor or mortar and pestle
  • Large knife
  • Chopping board

Ingredients

  • 2 large wombok (also known as Napa cabbage or Chinese cabbage), roughly chopped
  • 1 large daikon radish, grated
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1 green apple, grated
  • 1 bunch spring onions, finely sliced
  • 10cm piece of ginger, roughly sliced
  • 6 large cloves of garlic
  • 5–20 birds-eye chillies (depending on personal taste and the heat of the chillies)
  • ¼ cup sea salt

Note: Wash all vegetables well before slicing or grating.

Instructions

  1. Add the vegetables and the apple to a very large bowl.
  2. In your blender, food processor or mortar and pestle, add the ginger, garlic, chilli and salt. Blend or pound to a paste.
  3. Add the paste to the vegetables and use your hands to scrunch and massage the mix together (if you have sensitive skin or any wounds on your hands you will want to use latex gloves for this). This step is important. Not only will the cabbage decrease dramatically in volume (it will crush down to around half the original size), you will also release the moisture from the veggies, and this liquid is vital for the fermentation process. Keep squeezing and crushing for 5–10 minutes until you have a moist, well-mixed bowl of veg with lots of juice at the bottom.
  4. Leave this mix out at room temperature for 4–5 hours. Give it an extra massage every now and then.
  5. Now add the mix to your jar or jars. Fermenting jars are perfect, but any sterilised glass jar will do nicely. Squash the mix down with a tamper, potato masher or wooden spoon – aim to remove any air pockets and keep the veggies submerged in their own juices.
  6. If you’re not using a fermenting jar, pop the lid on top but do not seal it. Some gas will result from the fermenting process and it needs to be released – explosions are not uncommon during fermenting when the container has been sealed. You could also cover the top with a sheet of paper towel and a rubber band.
  7. Leave your jar out at room temperature for 2 days in hot weather or 4 days if it’s cooler. Don’t be afraid to taste your kimchi during this period. The longer you leave it, the more the flavour will develop and the more lively your probiotic content will become. Bubbles may form too – this is a good sign.
  8. When your kimchi is ready, compress it again to ensure it’s submerged in its juice. It’s important to keep doing this throughout its lifetime. The liquid will keep the vegetables preserved so it won’t rot or go mouldy. Scrape any runaway bits and pieces that end up on the sides of the jar after you’ve served yourself – push them back under the yummy juices.
  9. You can now seal your jar and pop it into the fridge. Leave a bit of breathing room at the top of the jar – gases and bubbles will continue to form. Open the jar at least once a day until you’ve used up a bit of your kimchi, even if you don’t start eating it right away (you should start asap though!).
  10. Eat and enjoy the crunchy probiotic goodness!

Top Tips for Making Raw Vegan Kimchi

  • Once fermented, your kimchi will keep in the fridge for a long time, so it’s worth making a big batch. It also improves with age.
  • Use chilli with caution if you’re serving kimchi to children. You may also wish to remove the seeds.
  • Keep the kimchi submerged in its own juices at all times.
  • Don’t seal the lid of the jar during fermentation or it may explode.
  • For best results, eat some kimchi every day!