The Best Cabbage Varieties for Kimchi: A Complete Guide

Best Cabbage for Kimchi: A Comprehensive Guide

If you’re interested in making kimchi at home, choosing the right cabbage is essential for the best results. Kimchi, a traditional Korean fermented dish, relies heavily on the flavor and texture of the cabbage used. While Napa cabbage is the most commonly used variety for kimchi, other varieties such as green cabbage, savoy cabbage, and red cabbage can also be used. Each type of cabbage offers a unique flavor and texture, which ultimately affects the overall flavor of the kimchi.

The Cabbage Varieties Used in Kimchi

Napa cabbage

Napa cabbage is the preferred choice for making kimchi because of its distinctive flavor and texture. It strikes a perfect balance between sweetness and tartness, which contributes to the overall flavor profile of the kimchi. The fibrous nature of Napa cabbage requires salting and softening, resulting in a deeper and more complex flavor. If you’re looking for a traditional tasting kimchi, Napa cabbage is highly recommended.

Green Cabbage

If Napa cabbage is not available or in season, green cabbage can be used as an alternative. Green cabbage gives the kimchi a slightly more acidic flavor than Napa cabbage. The brining process for green cabbage is shorter, allowing for a quicker preparation time. In addition, green cabbage is less fibrous, making it a popular choice for those seeking a milder and less time-consuming kimchi-making experience.

Savoy Cabbage

Savoy cabbage is another viable option for making kimchi. It is similar to green cabbage in terms of flavor, sweetness, and crunchiness. However, savoy cabbage offers a slightly sweeter and crisper texture that enhances the overall flavor and texture of the kimchi. It is very similar to traditional kimchi and is often used as a substitute when other types of cabbage are not readily available.

Red Cabbage

Red cabbage not only adds a visually appealing element to kimchi with its bright red color, but also offers nutritional benefits. It is rich in vitamin A and iron, making it a healthy choice for kimchi. It is important to note, however, that red cabbage does not contribute to the spiciness typically associated with kimchi. If you prefer a less spicy flavor, red cabbage may be a suitable option. Other tart ingredients can be added to balance the flavor, depending on personal preference.

White Cabbage

White cabbage can be used to make kimchi, especially for those who prefer a lighter and less tart flavor. Care must be taken when choosing white cabbage, however, as some varieties can be bitter, resulting in a bitter-tasting kimchi. Still, white cabbage is a good place to start for people who are new to kimchi and prefer milder flavors.

Pointed cabbage

Pointed cabbage is similar to green cabbage in flavor, sweetness, and crispness. It is often used in cooking because of its mild and flavorful nature, making it an excellent choice for kimchi. The pale green color of pointed cabbage adds to the aesthetic appeal of traditional-looking kimchi. Although it is not as commonly used as other types of cabbage, it is still worth exploring and experimenting with when making kimchi at home.

Bok Choy

Bok choy, also known as Chinese cabbage, is a member of the cabbage family and has a distinct flavor. It is sweeter than Napa cabbage or green cabbage and retains its crispness during the salting process. Bok choy is an ideal choice for those seeking a sweeter and less sour kimchi. Baby bok choy, with its enhanced crunch and flavor, can be used as a substitute when regular bok choy is unavailable.


Although a bit unconventional, kale can be used to make delicious kimchi. A member of the cabbage family, kale has a unique texture, thinner and less crunchy than Napa cabbage or kale. It has a slightly sweet and tart flavor with a hint of bitterness. Kimchi made with kale tends to be less acidic, making it a good option for people who prefer milder flavors and want to explore alternative ingredients for kimchi.

Using Other Vegetables for Kimchi

Traditionally, kimchi is made with cabbage, specifically Napa cabbage. However, there are variations of kimchi that incorporate different vegetables. Radishes, beets, onions, cucumbers, scallions, carrots, celery, bamboo shoots, and eggplant can all be used to create unique kimchi flavors. Radish and cucumber kimchi are particularly popular and share similarities with cabbage-based kimchi. When experimenting with different vegetables, it is important to choose firm and crunchy options that retain their texture during the fermentation process.


Choosing the right cabbage for kimchi is critical to achieving the desired flavor and texture. While Napa cabbage remains the top choice for traditional kimchi, other varieties such as green cabbage, savoy cabbage, red cabbage, white cabbage, pointed cabbage, bok choy, and kale can be used to create unique and delicious variations. Each type of cabbage brings its own distinct flavor and texture to kimchi, allowing for a wide range of flavors to suit individual tastes. In addition, incorporating other vegetables into kimchi can further expand the possibilities and create exciting flavor combinations. Whether you stick with the traditional Napa cabbage or experiment with different cabbage varieties and vegetables, making kimchi at home is a rewarding culinary experience and an opportunity to explore the rich flavors of this beloved Korean dish.


What is the most common cabbage used to make kimchi?

The most common cabbage used to make kimchi is Napa cabbage. It offers a distinctive flavor and texture that strikes a balance between sweet and sour.

Can I use green cabbage instead of Napa cabbage to make kimchi?

Yes, green cabbage can be used as a substitute for Napa cabbage. However, it will add a slightly more acidic flavor to the kimchi and requires a shorter brining process.

Are there other types of cabbage that can be used in kimchi?

Yes, in addition to Napa and green cabbage, other varieties such as savoy, red, white, pointed, bok choy, and even kale can be used to create different flavors and textures in kimchi.

Does the choice of cabbage affect the overall flavor of kimchi?

Yes, different types of cabbage have different flavors and textures that will affect the overall flavor and texture of the kimchi. It’s important to choose the type of cabbage that matches your desired flavor profile.

Can I use other vegetables besides cabbage to make kimchi?

Yes, kimchi can be made with a variety of vegetables such as radishes, cucumbers, onions, carrots, and more. These vegetables can add unique flavors and textures to the kimchi, allowing for more experimentation and customization.

Can I mix different types of cabbage in one batch of kimchi?

Yes, you can mix different types of cabbage in your kimchi to create a mix of flavors and textures. This can result in a more varied and interesting kimchi experience.