Kimchi how-to

By TWS resident Nutritionist Quincey Cummings

Long before humans had refrigerators in their homes, fermentation was one of the few means we had to preserve fresh foods. From fermenting dairy to create yogurt, kefir, and cheese to preserving vegetable harvests in the form of sauerkraut or kimchi to last the winter months, clever humans have found ways to make food last longer. In addition to preservation, fermenting alters food to make it more digestible and nutritious (think of it as a "pre-digestion" step to bio-hack your food!). Plus, fermentation introduces beneficial bacteria (known as probiotics) critical for our digestive system to work optimally. Not only do digestion and gut health benefit from probiotics - anxiety, depression, weight management, and skin issues like acne and eczema can all improve by caring for the health of the "good guys" who live and work in our digestive tracts!

Kimchi has been a staple of Korean cuisine for over 3,000 years. The process of making traditional kimchi involves fermenting napa cabbage, gochugaru (dried Korean chili flakes), other vegetables, and seafood (generally in the form of fish sauce)

Kimchi, and other Lacto-fermented vegetables, can be kept for months in the fridge and provide you with gut-loving, flavor-boosting additions to any meal. My favorite ways to enjoy kimchi are on avocado toast or atop sushi rice!

Whatever tools or methods you use for making Lacto-ferments, the main goal is to keep the vegetable contents entirely submerged in the brine. This ensures an anaerobic environment (no oxygen) suitable for lactic acid bacteria (the good kind!) to thrive while preventing harmful bacteria and yeast from growing.

In addition to beneficial bacteria, another by-product of Lacto-fermentation is carbon dioxide gas. Don't attempt to ferment anything in a completely sealed container - it may explode. The following kits create a one-way airlock that allows carbon dioxide to escape from the container while keeping ambient oxygen out.


Kraut-Source Fermentation Kit

I like this particular kit because it's compact and easy to stow in a small galley. It fits any size of wide-mouth mason jar, which has many other uses and allows you to make any volume of kimchi you desire. It has a spring to keep the vegetable contents pressed below the brine and an airlock "moat" to keep the fermentation process sealed off from air, allowing carbon dioxide to escape. The kit is made from robust stainless steel and is plastic-free, except for the silicone seal ring.

Disclaimer: While the kimchi is fermenting, be sure to secure it well before going underway, preferably amidships and centerline if you're on a monohull. This particular ferment kit (and most others) does not completely seal the contents inside your jar, and the brine will spill over everything if the jar tips too far over. Trust me, I have learned from a painfully messy experience.

Masontops Fermentation Kit

This simple kit also takes up minimal galley space and fits any size wide-mouth mason jar. The glass weights keep food submerged in the brine, and the clever silicon lids keep oxygen out while allowing gasses to" burp" out and escape. It also comes with a great recipe book for all kinds of veggie and fruit ferments!

You can buy each piece of this kit individually from Cultures for Health

Other Supplies needed

  • 32 oz wide-mouth mason jar

  • Large mixing bowl or pot

  • Slotted spoon or tamper

And now, the recipe!

There are many recipes for kimchi! Mine is a bit unconventional in the preparation (boat life!), but the classic ingredients are there (option to make vegan)


1 large Napa cabbage (about 2lbs / 900g)

2 Tbsp. sea salt

1 cup shredded daikon radish

1 cup shredded carrot

2 stalks green onion

2-3 cloves garlic

1 Tbsp. grated ginger root

1-4 Tbsp. Korean red chili flakes (gochugaru) (depending on spice level desired)

2 tsp. Fish sauce* (optional, omit to make vegan or select one of the many vegan options on the market)

*Look for brands that have minimal ingredients. I like Red Boat fish sauce; it only has two ingredients - anchovies and salt! Beware, some brands may use MSG or artificial flavors.


  1. Get your most enormous bowl or pot ready as well as your other utensils, by washing and drying thoroughly.

  2. Cut your napa cabbage into thin slices and place it into your bowl.

  3. Add in sea salt, mix, and begin massaging the cabbage with your hands. This process may take a couple of minutes, but you'll notice the cabbage start to wilt, and it should produce a good amount of liquid. This liquid will be the brine.

  4. Add in your shredded carrots, daikon radish, green onion, garlic, ginger, gochugaru, fish sauce, and mix with a large spoon (Note - you don't want to mix with your hands once the chilies are in the mix. If your hands do come into contact with the chilis, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and avoid touching your eyes).

  5. Get your clean mason jar ready! Use a slotted spoon to transfer your kimchi mix to the jar. After a few scoops, use a tamper tool (like this) or the backside of a slotted spoon to press down the contents below the brine and squeeze out any air bubbles.

  6. Repeat this process until the kimchi is at the shoulder of the jar (just below the threads). There should be enough brine in the jar to cover the vegetables. If not, you can make a brine to top it off (1 tsp. Sea salt dissolved in 1 cup hot water. Allow to cool to room temp before adding to the kimchi jar.)

So when is it ready?

Let your kimchi ferment for 7 - 14 days on the countertop, away from direct sunlight or any extreme temperature changes (too hot, too cold)

The longer you allow the batch to ferment (beyond seven days), the spicier it gets.

How to enjoy kimchi?

Kimchi is an excellent accompaniment to many foods. Think of it as a savory flavor-booster condiment! It goes well with veggies, rice, chicken, tofu, and seafood. I like to add a spoonful of kimchi on top of avocado toast, scrambled eggs, and savory porridge bowls.

What's you're favorite way to eat kimchi? Leave us a comment below!

Quincey Cummings​

Quincey is a holistic nutritionist and co-captain aboard her Kelly Peterson 46, Esprit. She spent much of her childhood in Southeast Asia and she's had the great fortune to travel to many countries. Her culinary tastes reflect a fusion of worldly cuisines. She holds a degree in Nutrition and Human Development and is a certified Nutritionist. She delights in sharing two of her greatest passions; sailing and great food! Her desire is to inspire other cruisers to nourish themselves every day with delicious meals they can create in small, moving spaces.

Together with her partner they liveaboard and cruise the Southern California coast and the Channel Islands, with plans to venture further south and into the Trade Winds.

You can find more delicious, cruising-friendly recipes on her Galley Blog


Additional Resources - For more information on fermentation at home, brewing and fermenting gear, and freeze-dried starter cultures, check out the shop at Cultures for Health.

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