Kimchi (made with fresh peppers)

A spicy and relatively short ferment, kimchi offers a unlimited canvas on which to paint different flavor variations. Many kimchi recipes use pepper powders/mixes to slather every last morsel of the veggies. This recipe uses only fresh peppers with some fish sauce, so it may look different than a traditional preparation. But you can’t argue with the taste– ginger, garlic, fish sauce, and just the right amount of heat from the chile peppers. What’s not to love?

Recipe: Kimchi


  • 1 large head (~2 lbs./1 kg) Napa cabbage
  • 3 medium carrots
  • 1 large daikon radish
  • 2-3 scallions (green onions)
  • 6-8 cloves garlic
  • 1 5-inch/13cm “hand” of ginger
  • 6 serrano peppers
  • 2 habañero peppers
  • 1/2 cup/120 ml sea salt or kosher salt
  • 2 quarts/liters filtered water
  • Optional: 1 Tbsp./15 ml fish sauce (with no preservatives!)


  1. Brine the Veg: Add salt into water in a one-gallon (or larger) glass or ceramic container. Stir until salt dissolves.
  2. Remove the leafiest 2 or 3 outer leaves from cabbage (Reserve for another use.) Chop the cabbage into chunks (from 1/2″ to 1″ or larger!)
  3. Peel and cut stems off radish and carrots. Cut into thin slices using a mandoline, V-slicer, or knife.
  4. Add cabbage, carrots, and radish to the brine. Cover with a plastic lid or plate and weigh down (I use a glass wine bottle filled with water) so that the contents stay under the brine. Leave for 4-6 hours (overnight is okay).
  5. Drain the veggies through a colander, reserving about a cup of the brine.
  6. Prepare spice mixture: Chop the scallions into thin slices. Add to a small glass or metal mixing bowl or the mixing bowl of a food processor.
  7. Remove stem, seeds, and the white membrane (which contains the most capsaicin, the ingredient that makes peppers hot!) from the peppers. Dice the flesh as fine as you can. Add to bowl. Handling peppers: plastic or latex gloves are highly recommended! Habañeros and serranos are very hot and can burn your skin!
  8. Peel and grate ginger, and mince the garlic. Add to bowl or the bowl of a food processor.
  9. (Optional) Add fish sauce to bowl.
  10. Stir and mash contents (or pulse with food processor) together, getting as close to a paste as you can.
  11. Add 1/3 of the veggies and 1/3 of the paste to the container. Mix thoroughly with your (gloved) hand until the veggies are coated nicely with the paste.
  12. Ferment: Cover with a plastic lid or plate, and weigh down so that the contents stay under the brine. Some brine will continue to form once the veggies are pressed down.
  13. Cover with a cloth and rubber band to keep flies out.
  14. If after one day, the contents are not completely submerged, top it off with some of the reserved brine.
  15. Store in a warm spot (like the kitchen) for a week, or in a cool spot (like a cellar or, if you’re super-old-school, a hole dug in the ground) for longer until it tastes good!
  16. Transfer contents to mason jars and store in fridge (or swap with your local club members!)

Number of servings (yield): 3 pints

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10 thoughts on “Kimchi (made with fresh peppers)

  1. Lee

    this looks so good! I tried making my first kimchi earlier this fall mostly following the recipe in Nourishing Traditions and it isn’t nearly spicy enough for me. This one sounds like it is much spicier! So the peppers, scallions, ginger, garlic and fish sauce are all mushed together? and the only whole pieces of veg are the carrots, cabbage and radish?

  2. Austin Post author

    Hi Lee,
    Yes I just diced the garlic and peppers as fine as I could, added the grated ginger and scallions, and used the fish sauce to make it paste-like, but using fresh stuff won’t ever get you to the exact texture as with using powder. The larger sliced veggies are carrots, radish and cabbage, but you could use turnips, or any other kind of watery veg!
    Good luck! Let us know how it turns out.

  3. Russ

    What are the thoughts on the fish sauce? I am a vegetarian so I won’t include it, but is there a substitute that I should consider?

    • Austin Post author

      Hi Russ,
      In addition to adding flavor, we used fish sauce to help create the paste. You can certainly omit it; maybe try soy sauce instead? There are also lots of recipes if you google “vegetarian fish sauce”. Good luck and let us know how it turns out!

  4. Barb

    I have been making my own kimchi for years, with varied results, but mainly yummy! I have always used sambal olek for the chili part and it worked well, but I love the idea of using fresh chillis and I can’t wait to try your recipe. It looks awesome.

    • Austin Post author

      Thanks! I’ll look at sambal olek. Does that have any preservatives (if so that can affect the fermentation). I know there are also many kinds of premixed dried chili powders– we want to try those too!

  5. Jen

    Austin, thanks for posting this! I am so excited for people to get into making kimchi, a must at every meal in many Korean homes. The peppers, ginger, garlic have such health benefits! We’ve been making kimchi, more along the traditional flavor, but minus the fish sauce. What fish sauce do you use?—I just didn’t want to use without getting one I felt sure of, or eventually making it myself. Good job on the recipe.

    • Austin Post author

      Hi Jen,
      Thank you; we’re excited too! I used “Cock” Brand fish sauce that’s actually been in my cupboard for years! The only ingredients are “anchovy, sugar, and salt”. Be sure to avoid any that have preservatives, as this can prevent fermentation!

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