Kimchi is traditionally made with napa cabbage. However, many people have found it difficult to get napa cabbage and instead are making kimchi with regular (also called green) cabbage. If you fancy making unique, less authentic kimchi, you could also use some lesser-known cabbage varieties, such as savoy, red, pointed, or white cabbage. Even kale, bok choy or brussel sprouts (which are all close relatives of green cabbage, as they are part of the mustards family: Brassicaceae) can be incorporated into your kimchi.
For traditional kimchi, napa cabbage is irreplaceable.
Napa cabbage has a higher acid content that helps to create the tart flavor found in Korean dishes such as kimchi and sauerkraut. It’s important to pay attention to what kind of napa you’re using when making kimchi because different cultivars have varying levels of sweetness and crunchiness. In addition, some napa cabbages are more watery and less flavorful, making them a poor choice for kimchi. Kimchi made with these types of napa cabbage can be bland or unpleasantly sour. Your local Korean grocery store is the best place to score the ideal napa cabbage variety for authentic kimchi. It is sold its varietal name (such as Baechusi).
Can you make kimchi with regular cabbage?
The short answer is yes, kimchi can be made with regular cabbage. However, it does not have the same flavor and texture as kimchi made with napa cabbage because green cabbage has a different level of sweetness and acidity that makes kimchi sourer than traditional kimchi, which uses napa cabbage. Additionally, green cabbage doesn’t get quite as translucently soft when it ferments, making kimchi out of green cabbage less appetizing to look at.
How to make kimchi with regular cabbage?
To make green cabbage kimchi (in Korean, we call it Yangbaechu cabbage), use a ratio of two parts green cabbage to one part napa. Mix the cabbages together and salt as you would for traditional kimchi, adding about ¾ teaspoon salt per pound (450 grams) of vegetables after they’ve been mixed thoroughly. The kimchi will be good in about four days if kept submerged under brine and stored cold between 35-45 degrees F (two to seven Celsius). Make sure that there is enough liquid covering the kimchi at all times because it needs plenty of moisture during fermentation or else it can dry out and turn into sauerkraut instead!
Other cabbages for kimchi
- Savoy cabbage: Savoy is a good choice for kimchi because it’s generally sweeter, crunchier, and more flavorful than green cabbage, making the overall flavor profile much closer to traditional kimchi.
- Red cabbage: Red cabbage kimchi is a popular choice for kimchi because it gives the kimchi a beautiful red color. In addition, red cabbage has been shown to have twice as much vitamin A and three times more iron than green cabbage making it an especially good nutritional option! However, this type of kimchi tends to be less sour than other types but still very tasty.
- Brussel sprouts: This is probably the furthest you can get from the original kimchi recipe, and Korean readers will likely shake their heads now! When the kimchi is made with Brussel sprouts, it tends to taste sweeter and mellower.
- Pointed cabbage: Pointed cabbage has the same culinary characteristics as green cabbage in terms of flavor, sugar content, and texture. Thus, it can be used just like regular cabbage.
- White cabbage: The kimchi made with white cabbage has a lighter taste, less tartness, and is slightly more bitter than kimchi made out of green or pointed cabbage.
- Kale: Kimchi made with kale is delicious and we think it has a more interesting texture than kimchi that’s made out of green cabbage. It tastes slightly sweet, tart, and bitter, making it an option for those who like kimchi but find the traditional recipe too sour!
- Bok Choy: Bok choy kimchi is especially delicious when made with baby bok choy because it’s tender, crunchy, and has a great flavor. It tends to be slightly sweeter than kimchi made out of green cabbage.