Kimchi is hands down THE best probiotic food out there. I add it to my meals on a regular basis and figured it’d be a good idea to share why it’s so bloody good for you…as well as a recipe from my latest book I Quit Sugar: SIMPLICIOUS. Yeah, for free.

My Indian Kimchi
My Indian Kimchi, recipe from I Quit Sugar: Simplicious

Probiotics vs prebiotics

Before I start ranting about the health benefits of kimchi I’ll distinguish between the two ‘biotics. Folk can get them confused.

* Probiotics are live “good” bacteria that aid the digestive system by controlling the growth of “bad” bacteria. That lactobacillus acidophilus in yoghurt…that’s a probiotic.

* Prebiotics on the other hand are non-digestible food fibres that enable probiotics to stick to the bowel wall and helps stimulate their growth. Fibres found in foods that typically make us fart are prebiotics (they travel to the large intestine intact where the “good” bacteria tries to break it down, facilitating “good” bacteria growth and…gas).

The two go hand in hand.

So why are probiotics so important?

Bacteria are crucial to human health. In fact, the vast community of bacteria (also called the microbiome) outnumbers our cells by a factor of 10 to one. Having a balanced and healthy microbiome is crucial to maintain our body’s key functions and overall health. You can read more about this in my elevator guide to the microbiome.

Is kimchi the best probiotic out there?

Well, science speaks for it. In a 2011 study published in the journal, Nutrition Research, it was found that fermented kimchi had a significant positive impact on blood sugar and blood pressure and has also shown to lower cholesterol, prevent constipation, and combat colon cancer. In addition, it can help to reduce stress, relieve depression, combat osteoarthritis, reduce atherosclerosis, and fighting liver disease.

Why? Well, in addition to the live bacteria lactobacillus acidophilus, kimchi is traditionally made with other ingredients jam-packed with health-boosting vitamins and nutrients.

I make mine with daikon and carrot. Here’s why that’s super good for you:

  1. Daikon boosts the digestive enzymes we need to break down fats, complex carbohydrates and proteins.
  2. It’s also been shown to counteract the carcinogens in processed and fried foods, which is why it is traditionally served with tempura in Japan.
  3. Even better, when eaten with foods high in beta-carotene (um, like carrots!) daikon improves the body’s ability to absorb vitamin D.
  4. And, further still…when’s the best time to make this little combo I’ve put together you may ask? Funnily enough, at the end of summer when carrots and daikon are at their peak . . . and just as we’re heading into the darker months. Which is when our vitamin D levels drop. Oh, it’s all such a beautiful thing!

See how this kinda gives it an advantage over your average tub of yoghurt?

My Indian Kimchi

Makes 4-6 cups

  • 800 g–1 kg carrots, peeled
  • 1 daikon, peeled
  • 5–7 cm knob of turmeric, peeled
  • 2 large red chillies, finely chopped (or 3 teaspoons chilli flakes)
  • 2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons Himalayan pink salt OR 1 tablespoon salt and 1⁄4 cup Homemade Whey

Grate the carrots, daikon and turmeric (use the grater attachment on your blender or food processor) and place in a glass or ceramic bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients. Mix and let sit for 20 minutes to allow the salt (and whey, if using) to release the juices. If it’s not looking juicy enough, use a mallet or pestle to ‘massage’ the veggies to release the juices.

Spoon into a large jar with a lid. Press down on the veggies so the juices rise up to cover them. Put a weight on top to submerge the veggies and put the lid on loosely. Allow to sit at room temperature for 3–5 days (1–2 weeks if you don’t use whey) before sealing tightly and moving to the fridge, where it will last for up to 3 months I use salt to make kimchi because to get the best ‘fizzy’ vibe, the ferment needs to be slowed down a little. Of course, if your house is cooler than, say, 20°C, feel free to prod things and use a bit of whey and less salt.

Have you made my kimchi?  Do you actively seek out probiotics for your gut health? Don’t forget to share your creation using the hashtag #simplicious

Have your say, leave a comment.

  • Out of all the sauerkraut and kimchi’s I’ve made this is my absolute favourite and I’ve made lots of batches – it tastes delicious! I love topping it on the allergy-free buckwheat bread with misomite, heaven.

  • Naomi

    Love this kimchi reicpe so much!!! On to my second batch now!!

  • Cristina Mills

    Silly question… Can I use whey from organic strained yogurt? Also how does whey from dairy products work in fermentation? Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

    • Sophie

      Hey Cristina, check out the recipe again it says you can use 1 tablespoon salt and 1⁄4 cup Homemade Whey instead of ALL salt 😉

      • Cristina Mills

        Thanks Sophie, I’ve used just salt before, what I’m not sure is regarding whey… I’ve seen it in recipes before but I’m not sure how a yogurt “byproduct” helps fermentation. I was looking for some insight into how it works.

        • Jolijn

          Basically, the bacteria that helped the yoghurt become yoghurt, will help the fermentation of your Kimchi, too! 🙂

  • Susanna

    What are you meant t weigh the veggies down with please?

    • Chris Collins

      Yeah, I need to know too please !

  • Mel

    I’m surprised you peel your vegetables Sarah. How do you repurpose the leftover peels?

    • Sophie

      Mel! I’ve been collecting my carrot peels and frying in coconut oil with some salt so they become ‘chip’ like and the KIDS LOVE em’ 😉

  • Nae

    What about if your house is way warmer than 20 degrees? Would the fermenting time speed up a lot more? My house is generally around 30 degrees (except in the cooler months) as I live in the tropics so wondering about how long it is safe to leave out on the bench for.

    • Jessica

      Me too!

  • Lisa @ Get Cultured

    I respectfully disagree. Whilst kimchi certainly packs a punch, if I had only one fermented food to consume for the rest of my life, it would be raw dairy kefir. Raw dairy kefir contains around 30 years and bacteria, B12 and is rich in tryptophan.

  • gracious

    In the Qld heat I have to watch my fermentation pretty closely – otherwise I get a bit overwhelmed by how funky it gets! Lucky my partner still loves it.

  • Sophie

    I can’t get organic daikon at the mo. But hanging to make a batch with the carrots being a plenty. Reckon I could leave the daikon out…??

  • Beate Olbrich

    Hello, I have now read a few times that when making sauerkraut, or kimchi, one it is in the jar, -weigh it down- Now here is my very simple question, with what??? What are you guys using? Thanks ;o)

  • Jessica

    My house will be hot – about 30-33 degrees room temp. Is that a bad thing?
    Do I just ferment for a shorter period of time?
    Thanks!

  • Isabel Paiva

    Hey everyone!
    Its impossible to have fresh turmeric where i live ( i know seems impossible, but its true….sadly)
    Anyone can tell me if using dry and power turmeric, its gonna have the same result?
    Thank you

  • I love kimchi but have never made my own. It might be time to change that!

  • Whitney

    Finally trying this out from the cookbook and I’m very nervous about my first foray into fermentation. I have a lot of brine, and it covers the carrots/daikon by about an inch, but I have a few floaty bits of carrot in there that keep popping back up. Will that be ok? Also, I have one of those jars with the clip lids on a hinge – should I cover it with a towel or something? Or should I just relax and see how it goes?