As a gut health dietitian, I often encourage my patients to include ‘living foods’ in their diets to help support overall gut health. Kimchi is a perfect example of a living food, as the fermentation process encourages the production of gut-friendly bacteria.
This easy low FODMAP kimchi recipe is packed full of umami flavour and can be prepped in under 30 minutes. The fermentation process is longer, but the actual hands-on work is so quick!
Try this flavour-packed add-on with some of our other favourite low FODMAP recipes, like this Low FODMAP Lazy Leftover Lunch. Such a great way to add a punch to simple everyday ingredients!
What is Kimchi?
Kimchi is a traditional Korean food. It is spicy, salted, and fermented cabbage that is commonly added as a flavourful side to meals like soups, Bibimbap, and various stir-fries. It is mainly composed of Napa cabbage, but typically includes additional veggies like daikon radish, onions, ginger, and more! Another key component to kimchi is Gochugaru, the Korean chilli powder that gives this dish its signature spice. Although it’s roots are long-standing in Korea, kimchi has recently gained popularity in North America and all over the world. Particularly for its potential health benefits as a fermented food.
Is Kimchi a Probiotic?
One of the benefits of eating kimchi (aside from the deliciousness) is the beneficial bacteria that it contains. However, fermented foods and probiotics are not exactly the same thing. Not all fermented foods are probiotics. The term ‘probiotics’ means that there must be specific strains of bacteria that have been proven to provide a specific health benefit.
When we make kimchi, we don’t know the exact strains or doses of bacteria that we are able to produce. Therefore, we can’t assume it will provide a specific gut health benefit (like reducing diarrhea or helping with IBS symptoms for example). But don’t despair! That doesn’t mean kimchi is NOT beneficial to the gut at all.
Some fermented foods contain compounds called ‘metabolites’. These are produced when bacteria or yeast break down the foods during the fermentation process. These metabolites include lactic acid, vitamins, and exopolysaccharides, which likely have health benefits for us. While this is all very exciting, we definitely still need more research.
All in all – kimchi is not a full blown probiotic, but it still contains bacteria and compounds that can be potentially good for long-term gut health.
Is Kimchi Low FODMAP?
Most restaurant-prepared or store bought kimchi is not low FODMAP due to the presence of garlic, onions, or shallots. It is therefore generally not recommended for people with irritable bowel syndrome. However, kimchi can definitely be adapted to be made without those things and still be SUPER flavourful. As long as the base ingredient of kimchi remains (ie. the cabbage), there is a lot we can do to make it low FODMAP!
So is cabbage low FODMAP? Yes, it absolutely is! Common green cabbage, red cabbage, and the Napa cabbage used in this recipe are all low FODMAP at servings of less than 1 cup. In fact, Napa cabbage doesn’t become ‘moderate FODMAP’ until about 6 cups!
Fermentation: How to know if kimchi is fermenting and how long does it take to ferment kimchi?
As stated above, kimchi is a fermented food product. This means that it has been produced through a controlled microbial growth process. To get the gut-healthy bacteria we desire from homemade fermented foods, it’s important to ensure fermentation is actually happening. So how can we tell?
With this particular kimchi recipe, there are a few things to look for:
- After the kimchi ferments for 3 days, you can tap the side of the jar. If you see bubbles rise, this is a sign of fermentation.
- Tangy flavour – fermented products generally have a tanginess to them. Taste the kimchi to see if you notice this.
- Lastly, fermentation can cause kimchi to expand. This is due to an increase in air bubbles. So, if you notice the contents of the jar have risen closer to the top of the jar during fermentation, this is a good sign.
How to Store Homemade Kimchi
Once it’s ready, does homemade kimchi need to be refrigerated? Not right away, but eventually it’s best to refrigerate your kimchi to make it last and to slow down the fermentation process. Refrigerating the kimchi after 3-6 days at room temperature is best for this recipe. If homemade kimchi is kept at room temperature longer than suggested, it will continue to ferment fairly quickly. Which can turn the tangy fermented taste to a sour taste (which can indicate over-fermentation). Once you open the sealed jar of kimchi, it’s definitely best to store it in the fridge. It will continue to ferment, but much slower.
You can store this kimchi for several months in the fridge. The flavour will continue to develop as it continues to ferment!
Love this low FODMAP recipe as much as we do? Our collection of low FODMAP recipes were created to help you navigate the low FODMAP diet. Many of our patients have tried implementing the low FODMAP diet on their own. However, this diet should be conducted with the support of a registered dietitian. At Ignite Nutrition we offer one-on-one nutrition counselling to help you start on the low FODMAP diet with guidance.
Easy Low FODMAP Kimchi
- 1 large mixing bowl
- 1 food processor (or high speed blender)
- 1 2-quart jar (or 2-3 smaller jars)
- 2 lbs Napa Cabbage, cored and chopped into 1 inch pieces save 2 of the whole outer leaves for later
- ¼ cup Sea salt
- 3-4 cups Water (as much as needed to submerge the cabbage)
- 1 ½ cups Daikon radish, cut into matchsticks
- ⅔ cup Carrots, cut into matchsticks
- 1 bunch Green onions, cut into 1 inch sections green parts only
- 2 Leek leaves, cut into 1 inch strips green parts only
- 2 tbsp Fresh ginger, cut into large chunks (can leave peels on)
- 4 tbsp Gochugaru flakes (can adjust spiciness to personal preference *see note)
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tsp sugar (cane sugar or maple syrup would also work)
Prepare the salted cabbage
- Pull 2 outer leaves from the cabbage and set them aside in plastic wrap or a container in the fridge. Prep the cabbage by cutting out the core and chopping the leaves into 1 inch segments. Place the chopped cabbage in a large mixing bowl.
- Add salt and toss to cover the cabbage fully. Add water to the bowl until cabbage is covered. Stir the cabbage mixture to ensure the salt dissolves. Optional: lay a plate on top of the salted cabbage to ensure that it is fully submerged.
- Let this mixture stand at room temperature for 6 hours, stirring every couple hours if possible
Prepare the Vegetable Medley
- Once the cabbage is finished, drain it, saving the brine (as this will be used later). Give the cabbage a quick rinse and remove any excess water. The cabbage should be damp but not drenched.
- Add the cabbage back to the mixing bowl and add the cut daikon, carrots, green onions, and leeks. Mix thoroughly.
Prepare the Gochugaru Paste
- In the bowl of a food processor, add ginger, gochugaru, fish sauce, and sugar. Mix well on high speed until it becomes a paste.
- Add the paste into the mixing bowl with the cabbage/vegetable mixture and mix well with tongs or your hands (I suggest using gloves, as the spice may irritate skin) until well coated.
Prepare the Kimchi for Fermentation
- Using tongs, pack the kimchi mixture into a large jar or a few smaller jars. Leave some space at the top (about 1 inch). Add the brine that was saved until the vegetables are covered. Press the veggies down a bit to ensure they are not above the brine.
- Fold a whole cabbage leaf and place it over top of the vegetables in the jar. This is meant to help keep the kimchi submerged underneath the brine. Put the lid on.
- Put the jar(s) somewhere cool and dark – not in the refrigerator, but a dark cabinet or basement work well. Leave it for 3 days.
- After 3 days, check on the kimchi to see if it is fermenting. Tap the side of the jar to see if bubbles rise to the top. If bubbles rise, you can now transfer your kimchi to the refrigerator. If the mixture looks like it has risen higher in the jar, this is also a sign of fermentation.
- Not seeing bubbles? Allow the kimchi to ferment for 1-2 more days and assess again. Sometimes it needs longer!