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Make kimchi and learn about the science of fermentation with Little Passports

The Science of Fermentation: Kimchi Recipe

Clay pots for kimchi in South Korea

Kimchi is South Korea’s national dish! Below, we’ll show you how to make traditional fermented kimchi with a recipe made of vegetables (usually Napa cabbage, but made with lots of other types of veggies too) and spices.

In South Korea, people store kimchi in large clay jars underground, so it stays cool in summer and doesn’t freeze in winter. We will use the process of lacto-fermentation and learn about the science of fermentation to make kimchi.


What is Lacto-Fermentation?

Lacto-fermentation is a process where foods are submerged in salt water for a time. The process creates pickled foods! During lacto-fermentation, some bacteria survive and others don’t.  The kind that could be harmful to people don’t survive, but a special bacteria called Lactobacillus (which is found in yogurt and many other healthy foods) does survive because they can tolerate the saltiness. It’s called lacto-fermentation because it produces lactobacillus.

Lactobacillus bacteria are healthy for lots of reasons, but have been credited with anti-inflammatory properties.  They also reportedly reduce the risk of infection, and maintain the health of our digestive system. Scientists are still studying this amazing bacteria for its health benefits!


Korean Kimchi recipe ingredients

South Korean Kimchi Recipe

  • 2 1/2 pounds Napa cabbage
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • a walnut-sized knob of ginger, grated
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 bunch scallions, minced
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons crushed red chili pepper
  • 2 jalapeños or other hot peppers, minced fine
  • a glass or plastic bowl
  • 2 to 3 1-pint glass canning jars
  • plastic wrap
  • rubber bands



  1. Wash the cabbage, then chop it coarsely. Toss it in a glass bowl with the salt and let it sit overnight.
  2. Drain the water off the cabbage and rinse it very well to remove the excess salt.
  3. In a large glass or plastic bowl (don’t use metal), mix together the ginger, chili peppers, and jalapeños, and then add the well-drained cabbage. Toss the ingredients thoroughly to coat the vegetables. Save the juice that accumulates in the bottom of the bowl.
  4. Pack the mixture tightly in sterile glass jars and cover with the juice. Add water if necessary to achieve 3/4-inch headroom. Cover the tops of the jars with plastic wrap, secured with a rubber band. Keep the kimchi in the refrigerator for 3 days before eating.


Recipe Source: Exploratorium