best cabbage for kimchi

Best Cabbage for Kimchi (Complete Guide)

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

If you are wanting to make kimchi at home, then you would definitely want to be sure that you are using the right cabbage to make it!

Kimchi is packed full of flavor, and nutrients, and it is easy enough to make on your own, you just need to have the right ingredients.

What is the best cabbage for kimchi?

Most often, kimchi is made using Napa cabbage, but it can also be made using green cabbage, savoy cabbage, and red cabbage. All of these cabbages have different tastes and textures, which will obviously affect how the kimchi turns out.

Read on to find out more about the best cabbage to use for kimchi, how the type of cabbage affects the kimchi, and more useful information before you start making it at home.

What Cabbage Is Used for Kimchi?

Most commonly, Napa cabbage is used to make kimchi. Napa cabbage gives kimchi a distinctive taste and texture, and has the perfect crunch to it, as well as a sweetness level, to give kimchi that balance of flavor.

The acidity level in Napa cabbage gives the kimchi a tart flavor, but it isn’t overwhelming, and it balances well with the other ingredients used to make kimchi.

different types of cabbage

If there is no Napa cabbage to use for kimchi, then green cabbage can be used in its place, but it does have more acidity to it, so it makes a more sour kimchi compared to kimchi made with Napa cabbage. The brining process for green cabbage is also shorter, so you don’t get that same punch of flavor, but it is still a good second option.

As green cabbage is less fibrous than Napa cabbage, you can save some time when using it to make kimchi, as it does not need to be fermented for as long, which is why it is a popular choice for some families.

Is Any Type of Cabbage Okay for Kimchi?

There are some other types of cabbage that you can use to make kimchi, other than Napa cabbage, but not all cabbage can be used to make good kimchi.

Various types of cabbage have different tastes and textures, which will show in the finished product. Some are more tart, some have less flavor, and some are quite a bit softer, which will all affect how the kimchi turns out.

If you are in a pinch and can only get your hands on one type of cabbage, then you can try to make kimchi out of it, but just remember that the kimchi will not taste how it would if you had used Napa cabbage, but it should still have a similar flavor and still taste like kimchi.

The Best Cabbage for Kimchi

You can definitely experiment with using different cabbages to make kimchi, whether you use the traditional Napa cabbage, or try something else, when making it at home you can use whatever you want!

While free to use anything you want to make kimchi, there are definitely some types of cabbage that work better than others, so here are the best cabbages to use to make kimchi:

Napa Cabbage

As mentioned above, Napa cabbage is the best option to use to make kimchi, and it is the most commonly used cabbage. It has the perfect balance of sweet and tart, which helps give the kimchi that special flavor.

best cabbage for kimchi

Napa cabbage is quite fibrous, so it takes time to salt and soften, but this only means that it has more time to develop a deeper flavor too.

For traditional-tasting kimchi, Napa cabbage is the best option to use.

Green Cabbage

Green cabbage is often used as a substitute when Napa cabbage is not in season, or when it is difficult to come by. It gives a similar result to Napa cabbage when used to make kimchi, but it can give a slightly tarter flavor.

green cabbage

Many people choose to use green cabbage as it is quicker to make kimchi with. Green cabbage is not as fibrous as Napa cabbage, so it does not take too long to salt and brine, so the kimchi is ready in a shorter period of time.

Although Napa cabbage is considered the best cabbage for kimchi, green cabbage is fairly easier to come by!

Savoy Cabbage

Savoy cabbage works well in kimchi, as it is similar enough to green cabbage and can be used much the same as green cabbage to make kimchi.

savoy cabbage

While savoy cabbage is similar to green cabbage, it is actually sweeter and crunchier and makes more flavorful kimchi, which has a better texture too. It will give you a kimchi that has a flavor profile very similar to traditional kimchi, but it can be hard to find out of season.

Red Cabbage

Red cabbage is another great cabbage to use to make kimchi, as it gives the kimchi a beautiful red color! The other benefit to using red cabbage is that it is quite high in vitamin A and iron, so it makes a nutritional kimchi too.

red cabbage

The one thing to note with red cabbage is that it does not make a tart kimchi, and it will have a less tangy flavor, which is actually what some people prefer.

You can make up for the lack of tanginess by adding in some extra tart ingredients, to balance it all out a little bit more, but this would be up to your personal preference.

White Cabbage

White cabbage can be used to make kimchi, but it is really only a better option if you are looking to make a kimchi that has a lighter taste and which is less tart than traditional kimchi, and is a good option to start with if you are wary of stronger flavors.

white cabbage

You do need to be slightly selective with the white cabbage that you use to make kimchi, as some can be quite bitter, which then makes for bitter kimchi. However, it can work well to make kimchi, especially if you do not want the flavor to be too overwhelming at first.

Pointed Cabbage

Pointed cabbage is fairly similar to green cabbage when it comes to flavor, sweetness, and crunchiness, so therefore it can be used to make kimchi quite easily.

pointed cabbage

It is an especially mild and flavorful cabbage, so it is often used with stronger ingredients in cooking, which makes it a good option to use with stronger flavors to make kimchi.  The white to pale green color also makes traditional-looking kimchi too.

You likely won’t find too many kimchi recipes that use pointed cabbage, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try it out at home.

Bok Choy

Bok choy is a member of the cabbage family and is also known as Chinese cabbage. Bok choy has a really great flavor and has more sweetness to it than Napa cabbage or green cabbage.

bok choy

The crunchiness of bok choy makes it a good option for kimchi, as it retains its texture through the salting process. If you are looking for sweeter kimchi with a good crunch and less sourness, then bok choy is one to try.

You could even opt to use baby bok choy, which tends to be more crunchy and flavorful, but if you cannot find baby bok choy, then the normal bok choy would work well.


This might be a slightly controversial one, but kimchi made with kale can be delicious. After all, kale does form part of the cabbage family.


Kimchi made with kale has an interesting texture, being slightly thinner and not as crunchy as kimchi made with Napa cabbage or green cabbage.

Kale has a slightly sweet and tart flavor, with some bitterness, and it makes a kimchi that is slightly less sour than kimchi made with Napa cabbage, so it is a good option for those who want to stay away from the more bitter, traditional recipe.

Can You Use Other Vegetables to Make Kimchi?

Traditionally, cabbage, specifically Napa cabbage, is used to make kimchi, but there are some recipes out there that use some other types of vegetables too.

Other than using cabbage, kimchi can be made using radishes, beets, onions, cucumber, scallions, carrots, celery, bamboo shoots, and eggplants. Radish and cucumber kimchi is really quite popular, and the recipes are similar to kimchi made using cabbage.

You can do your own experimenting when it comes to the type of vegetable you want to use to make kimchi, but it is recommended that you use a firm, crunchy vegetable, as firmer options will hold their texture better and not become too soft or mushy.

Having said that, kimchi is a versatile recipe and you can get away with tweaking it to suit the flavors you prefer and the vegetables you are wanting to use, and there is really no reason you can’t experiment with different vegetables – just make sure to keep it to vegetables that are fine to eat raw.

It is also a great way to preserve vegetables for longer, so if you have a batch of carrots or radishes at home that you aren’t going to be able to use in time, then making kimchi will keep them for longer, and give you a great condiment to use.

Is There a Difference Between Napa Cabbage and Green Cabbage for Kimchi?

Commonly, Napa cabbage is used to make kimchi, and this is for good reason, as it is flavorful and crunchy, and it has good peppery notes to it too. This makes for a full-flavored, perfectly textured kimchi that has a great balance of flavors.

Napa cabbage is less popular in grocery stores and markets than green cabbage, which is much easier to come by.  Green cabbage is one of the most common types of cabbage around the world. It is a ball shape with tightly packed light green leaves, whereas Napa cabbage is oblong with frilly green leaves.

Green cabbage has a more delicate, softer flavor compared to Napa cabbage, which means that the kimchi will have a softer, more delicate flavor too. It will not have that peppery flavor that Napa cabbage has, which really does add a good dimension to kimchi.

The other big difference is that green cabbage has a higher water content compared to Napa cabbage, and Napa cabbage is more fibrous.

This means that green cabbage does not need to be salted for as long, and can spend less time fermenting, so you will have kimchi ready faster. However, as there is less time required for fermenting, the flavors will not be as pronounced as when using Napa cabbage.

Even though there are some differences between Napa cabbage and green cabbage, both are great to use in place of each other when making kimchi, and it really does just come down to what you can get your hands on, and the intensity of flavors you prefer!

Does Kimchi Go Bad?

One of the great benefits of kimchi is that it keeps vegetables for longer, as it brines and ferments them. It is considered a fairly stable product, but this does not mean that it cannot go off.

Kimchi can last for a long time, but one of the sure ways for kimchi to go off is through contamination, where bacteria are introduced to the kimchi, and it begins to spoil.

Any kimchi you make or use at home should be kept in a sterile container, free from any contaminants, such as using a dirty spoon to scoop out kimchi. 


Keeping the kimchi free from contaminants is really important, as the longer the kimchi is left to ferment, the stronger the flavor will be, and the more enjoyable it will be too.

Homemade kimchi, if placed in a sterile container and kept free from contaminants, can be kept for up to six months in the fridge.

Once kimchi begins to spoil it will have a strong sour smell. Kimchi does already have a tangy odor, but this will smell off and not right. There might even be mold that begins to develop, and this is a sure sign that the kimchi needs to be thrown away.

Best Cabbage for Kimchi

When it comes to making kimchi, Napa cabbage is the most traditional and popular cabbage used, but some other types of cabbage can work well too.

Green cabbage is the next most popular cabbage used to make kimchi. It might not have as strong a flavor or be as textured, but it works well, especially if you want to make kimchi quickly.

Other cabbage options include savoy cabbage, red cabbage, bok choy, and pointed cabbage. You can even make kimchi using various firm vegetables, such as cucumber, radish, beets, and carrots.

The different types of cabbage will make kimchi with different flavors and textures, so read through the above to find which cabbage would be perfect for you!

Related Questions

What Is Kimchi Made With Napa Cabbage Called?

In Korean cuisine, Napa cabbage is used to make kimchi, and kimchi made using Napa cabbage is called baechu-kimchi.

How Long Do You Soak Cabbage for Kimchi?

How long you soak cabbage in salt water for when making kimchi depends on the type of cabbage you are using, but typically it needs to be left for a minimum of 6 hours, if not overnight.

Is Savoy Cabbage the Same as Green Cabbage?

They might look slightly similar, but savoy cabbage and green cabbage are not the same thing. Savoy cabbage has a milder and sweeter flavor compared to green cabbage, and the leaves are a little more ruffled.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *