Easy Sugar Free Kimchi

Kimchi is an amazing way to add incredible flavor and a boost of probiotics to all kinds of dishes. Unfortunately, most of the pre-made kimchi you find at the store is filled with gross ingredients or, at the very least, sugar.

Luckily though, much like fermenting sauerkraut, making your own kimchi is a relatively simple and straightforward process. The best part is, you have total control over your ingredients, meaning you can leave that sugar at the curb.

This recipe is derived from Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods, 2nd Edition by Sandor Katz. If you have any interest in fermented foods, I highly recommend checking out this book. It is an incredible resource for pretty much any fermented food that you can imagine. 

If you’re under the impression that making kimchi requires crazy ingredients or burying giant clay pots in the ground for 60 years, think again. The most exotic ingredient you’ll need is gochugaru, which are Korean dried hot pepper flakes. It a key ingredient that gives kimchi it’s delectably spicy flavor.


You can find it at good Asian markets or online. I bought this bag on Amazon. It should be enough to last me for the next ten years.

The Process:

Napa cabbage
Gather about 2 pounds of napa cabbage. Core and slice it into roughly 2 inch strips.
daikon radish
Peel and slice one large daikon.
grating carrots
Also peel and grate three carrots.
mixing brine
For the brine, dissolve 4 tablespoons of sea salt in 4 cups of water.
Add the vegetables to a non reactive bowl and pour in the brine.
Cover the veggies with a plate and weigh it down with something heavy. Soak them overnight.
Pouring brine of kimchi
Drain the vegetables well, reserving the brine.
mixing kimchi
Combine the vegetables with minced garlic, minced ginger, sliced green onions, and gochugaru.
Spoon the mixture into a clean jar. Press it down as you go to release liquid and squeeze out any air bubbles.
Weigh everything down with a freezer bag filled with the reserved brine and loosely cover the jar.
fermenting kimchi
Place the jar on a plate (there might be some spillage during fermentation). Ferment at room temperature for at least 4-7 days, then store in the refrigerator.

Keys to Great Kimchi:

Keep it clean.

Things don’t need to be operating room sterile, but make sure your bowls, jars, utensils, and hands are washed well.

Keep it submerged.

To avoid mold and spoilage, all your solid vegetables need to be below the brine. Add some reserved brine to the jar if you don’t have enough to cover. 

Keep tasting it.

Fermentation involves a lot of variables, so it’s tough to predict an exact time when it will be ready. The best way to know is by tasting it.  When it has a ripe, sour flavor that tastes good to you, move it to the refrigerator. If you’re unsure, give it another day.


Easy Sugar Free Kimchi


  • 2 pounds napa cabbage cored and sliced into strips
  • 1 large daikon peeled and sliced
  • 3 carrots peeled and grated
  • 1 bunch scallions sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 inch knob of ginger peeled and minced
  • 2-3 tablespoons gochugaru
  • 4 tablespoons sea salt
  • 4 cups water


  1. Combine the cabbage, daikon, and carrot in a large, non-reactive bowl.
  2. Dissolve the salt in the water and add to the bowl. Stir to gently submerge the vegetables. Use a plate with a weight on top to hold down the vegetables and soak overnight.
  3. Drain the vegetables well, reserving the brine.
  4. Add the garlic, ginger, scallions, and gochugaru to the vegetables and mix well. Pack into a quart-size jar, pressing down to release the brine so it covers the vegetables (add reserve brine if necessary).
  5. Add a freezer bag filled with reserved brine to the jar to keep the vegetables submerged. Loosely cover to allow gas to escape.
  6. Ferment in a dark, room temperature location for at least 4-7 days, then store in the refrigerator.

Recipe Notes

Adapted from Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz