Lemon & Napa Cabbage Fermented Salad

Recipe 25 min, plus soaking timePreparation Time 5 days to 2 weeks fermentation timeCooking Time
Lemon & Napa Cabbage Fermented Salad

Lemon & Napa Cabbage Fermented Salad

25 min, plus soaking timePreparation Time 5 days to 2 weeks fermentation time Cooking Time

About this Recipe

Inspired in part by the traditional Korean kimchi flavor trifecta of garlic, ginger, and radish, this ferment is crisp, lemony, and energizing. I call it a salad, not a condiment, because it adds a freshness to any plate. We eat it as a side to many dishes. Since the lemons are fermented peel and all, I suggest trying to source organic fruit. The lemon peels add complexity in the form of a light bitterness and floral citrus notes. The recipe calls for 2 lemons, but feel free to omit one if you want less of the peel’s assertive flavor. Substituting Meyer lemons will also mellow out the bitterness a bit. If you have never fermented vegetables before, don’t be intimidated. You got this! Fermenting the cabbage in brine for the first day also comes from Korean tradition, and helps retain a nice crisp texture. Don’t be afraid to taste your creation before fermentation begins, and then once or twice while it’s fermenting to monitor its progress. Enjoy the process.

The Benefits

This recipe is rich in vitamins A, B complex, C, and K, iron and fiber, and a delicious source of probiotics. Napa cabbage, daikon radish, ginger, lemon, and cloves work symbiotically and provide anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting benefits. Napa cabbage alone meets the recommended daily intake of vitamins A, B6, and B12, which are beneficial for glowing skin and improved iron absorption. Fermentation improves the overall availability of these nutrients by improving our gut flora.

Equipment: 1/2-gallon (64 oz) jar; a canning weight, if you have one

READ | FERMENT: The Waiting Is the Hardest Part


Makes 3 quarts (1.8 kg)
  • 1 cup (273 g) unrefined sea salt
  • 1 gallon (3.785 L) unchlorinated water
  • 1 large (about 3 lb / 1.36 kg) Napa cabbage
  • 2 bunches (about 180 g) scallions, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch (12 mm) pieces
  • 2 Tbsp (12 g) fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 6 large garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 2 lemons, deseeded, quartered lengthwise, and sliced thinly (leave the peel on)


  1. Step 1
    Combine the salt and water in a large bowl or pot and stir to dissolve. Set aside.
  2. Step 2
    To prepare the cabbage, remove the coarse outer leaves if needed; rinse a few unblemished ones and set them aside. Rinse the rest of the cabbage in cold water and trim off the root end. Starting at the root end, slice the cabbage lengthwise about halfway through; then pull or split the head completely in half.
  3. Step 3
    Submerge the cabbage halves and the reserved outer leaves in the brine. Use a plate as a weight to keep the cabbage submerged. Set aside, at room temperature, overnight for 8 to 12 hours. Place the cabbages in a colander and drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the soaking brine. Chop the cabbage into bite-size slices, or larger if you prefer. Put the cabbage into a large bowl with the reserved brine.
  4. Step 4
    Add the green onions, daikon, ginger, and garlic to the cabbage and mix thoroughly, then add the lemon slices and toss the mixture gently. Transfer the cabbage mixture, a few handfuls at a time, into one large jar, a few smaller ones, or a crock if you have one, pressing the mixture with your hands as you go. Add any liquid left in the bowl. If using a large jar fill until you’ve used the mixture. If using smaller jars leave about 2 inches of headspace in each jar, or 4 inches for a crock. Cover the top with the reserved outer leaves, and press down to bring the brine over the top of the leaves, using a fermentation weight if you have one. Loosely lid the jar so gas can escape and set on the counter out of direct sunlight, to ferment in a cool spot for 5 to 14 days.
  5. Step 5
    You will see the colors begin to change as the vegetables ferment. The cabbage will have a translucent quality and the brine will become cloudy. Feel free to taste it in a week. If it’s pickly and sour, you can stop the fermentation here by putting it into the refrigerator. If it is not sour enough for your liking, put everything back in place, and continue to ferment, continuing to “burp” the jar (let air out) and keeping the veggies submerged.
  6. Step 6
    When it is delicious and to your liking, refrigerate. It will keep, refrigerated, for a year or more.

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About the author

Kirsten Shockey

Kirsten Shockey

Fermentation expert Kirsten K. Shockey is the co-founder of Ferment Works, the award-winning author of Homebrewed Vinegar, and co-author (along with her husband Christopher) of The Big Book of Cidermaking, Fiery Ferments, Fermented Vegetables, and Miso, Tempeh, Natto & Other Tasty Ferments.
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