Kkakdugi (Korean radish kimchi)

Korean radish is a regular in my fall garden

This happens to be my favorite type of kimchi. The crunch is really satisfying whereas regular kimchi has more of a kraut consistency. Although I like it very hot, the radish itself has a subtle natural sweetness you don’t really find in the small, red radishes (originating in Europe) we are accustomed to in the U.S. This complements any heat level you choose very nicely. You can further enhance this sweetness by adding sugar or a traditional Korean sweetener.

Where to find this type of radish? It is readily available at Asian and most international grocery stores and farmers markets. Mainstream grocery stores often sell Napa cabbage (the basis for Baechu-Kimchi, the most common type in Korea), but I don’t usually see Korean radish there. However, I do often see daikon (or similar large white radishes) at these stores, which can be used as a substitute for Korean radish. Even our typical red radishes can be used; I would suggest halving or quartering them. As mentioned, the flavor isn’t the same, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be delicious.


This recipe calls for 2 TBSP sugar but you can also leave it out if sugar is an issue for you. You can taste it as you add the seasonings, building the sweetness or heat to the right level for you before starting the ferment. It is good to note though that much of the sugar is converted to CO2 and acids during fermentation, particularly the longer you wait.


As with any of my recipes, you can play with the quantities of such secondary components as you see fit. I like to include “optional” add-ons. For example, it is customary to include a Korean fish sauce (there are many types of these “eojangs”) or salted shrimp (“saeujeot”) in a traditional kkakdugi. Though it may be blasphemy to some, I’m just as happy with kimchi without it. Plus, this makes it vegan. I’ve used organic soy sauce  like this as a substitute and to achieve some of the umami flavor, but there’s plenty of other vegan options too like coconut aminos, kelp or mushroom powder, and more.

    • For a ½ gallon jar (or 2 quarts) of kkakdugi, you need around 3.5-4 pounds of radish, cubed. Consider replacing one of those pounds with daikon (or another member of the radish family or other cube-able veggies like kohlrabi or turnip) for a variation in flavor.
    • 6-8 large cloves garlic, minced or shredded (or 2+ TBSP)
    • 1 – 1.5 tsp ginger, shredded or minced
    • 5-6 stalks of green onion, chopped in ½” segments (I like the whites cut more thinly)
    • 2 TBSP sugar
    • 1.5 TBSP non-iodized all-natural salt (such as Morton’s pickling salt or Himalayan pink salt), or salt in the amount of 2.5% the net weight of the produce
    • ¾ cup Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru) – gochugaru is not normally very spicy; to add heat see the add-ons below
    • Retained brine extracted from the cabbage: 1/2 cup (3/4 cup for a wetter/juicier kimchi)

Optional add-ons

    • 1-2 TBSP Korean (or other) fish sauce or salt shrimp (saeujeot)
    • OR around 2 TBSP organic soy sauce or other vegan umami source (e.g. liquid coconut aminos)
    • 1-2 TBSP sesame seeds, or added after as a garnish
    • To increase spicy heat level: add red chili pepper flakes or minced red jalapeno (or other red pepper of your liking). If you’re not sure, I suggest starting with 2 tsp flakes added to this recipe, or half a red minced jalapeno, including the seeds; I personally use a little more than this but it is pretty fiery!
    • Peel the radish (optional but I usually do) and cut into ¾” cubes. (Wash if kept unpeeled.)
    • Place into a non-reactive (i.e. non-metal, non-porous) bowl and add the salt and sugar, coat and mix evenly
    • Set aside for 1-2 hours or more (I usually cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge but it’s not required)
    • Drain the brine (liquid) which forms, into another bowl.
    • Add all the other ingredients and optional add-ons to the cubed radish
    • Add ½ cup of the salted radish juice retained in the other bowl. If there is less than that, use it all. (You can experiment with the ratio of the juice to the red peppers flakes. Equal proportions makes a thicker paste; using less gochugaru will make the paste more liquidy and make a milder kimchi)
    • Coat and mix everything evenly.
  • Place everything into your glass fermenting jar(s) or other fermentation device(s). You can press down firmly but I avoid crushing anything as it can soften the texture that way.

Once it is jarred, it isn’t fermented yet but if there’s any extra, it’s already tasty to eat.

Unlike most lacto-ferments, you do not need to have this ferment submerged in brine. The paste will serve the same function, and in particular the hot pepper flakes create an antibacterial atmosphere which only the healthy bacteria of fermentation will thrive in. But you’re advised to have minimal headspace (extra air) at the top of your jar.

Fermentation length is up to you. It will be enjoyably sour in as little as a few days but you will usually want at least a week to achieve some of that “sizzle” or “fizz” effect, and go longer for a more sour and intense flavor. Many people, including myself,  enjoy it fermented after five to six days, but I’m currently eating some I fermented for a month and it was even better. There are those who go longer; go for it if you have the patience and willpower!

If you are using a lid, I advise plastic instead of the metal lid which mason-style jars come with. These can be corrosive or reactive with the contents, which is generally true of metals except food-grade (or higher) stainless steel.


If using a regular lid, plastic or metal (as opposed to an airlock or other fermenting lid), make sure to “burp” it once or twice a day, which means turn it enough to hear gas escape but do not open it fully (in which air would enter the jar).

Ideally, use an airlock such as this.
Kkakdugi is interesting in that it doesn’t need a “brine” – a salt liquid – for everything to be submerged in, the way most other ferments do. It may naturally form a brine covering everything, but if it doesn’t, it will be just fine as long as it is coated in the paste!
I recently created a tutorial video showing the entire process from growing the Korean radish from seed to making the kkakdugi months later. Have a look!

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