Pickling Naturally : Swiss Chard Kimchi

Swiss Chard Kimchi

I have been making lacto-fermented vegetables for years, not knowing they had an official name.

Simply put, lacto-fermentation is a microbial process using beneficial bacteria including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium spp. and other lactic acid bacteria (LAB) (commonly known as probiotics), which thrive in an anaerobic fermenting environment.

For thousands of years, people of different cultures (no pun intended) used natural fermentation (or lactic acid fermentation) to preserve their vegetables.  Since the beginning of industrial food production, however, these foods have almost disappeared, using vinegar (for pickling) in place of the health giving natural fermentation process.  The benefits are numerous a few being; (1,2)LACTIC ACIDLactic Acid (the primary by-product of the fermentation) supports the growth of essential intestinal flora, normalizes acid levels in the stomach, and helps the body to assimilate proteins and iron, and stimulates cell metabolism.

When our garden is producing too much of one kind of vegetable and we’ve given much of it away as well as enjoyed it fresh at the dinner table…I pickle it. We’ve done sauerkraut, cucumber pickles, mixed vegetable pickles, beets, radishes, kohlrabi/fennel, green beans, but I have never considered swiss chard.

On a recent drive to work, Jack and I were discussing how to get the most out of our massive amounts of greens.  I loathe buying grocery store veggies, I am so spoiled by our fresh garden.   Plus, as many of you know, I’m a greens-a-holic, devouring kale, chard, collard etc. in many forms, as often as possible.

In years past, I blanched and froze our greens, but I find them very unappetizing. He suggested I research making Kimchi, a spicy Korean pickle, traditionally made with Napa cabbage.  My search was fruitful.  After experimenting with a few recipes, I can confidently share this one as the best.  Great flavor, fast and easy to assemble, few and simple ingredients and can be made with any variety of greens. Bonus…it keeps for months in the fridge.  It’s so convenient to have greens to eat at-the-ready.  Thank you to Grow It Cook It Can It  for the recipe!  We love it!

Swiss Chard Kimchi1 pound cleaned swiss chard

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon coconut sugar (optional)

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more if you like it HOT)

1 tablespoon paprika

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced

2  tablespoons fresh garlic, minced

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon unrefined toasted sesame oil


Sterilize 2 quart jars, preferably wide mouth.

Roughly chop greens into 1/2″ strips.  I like to remove the vein and stem, being careful to chop the stem also that small.  That way when I reach for some it is ready to eat, no chopping necessary.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients except for the greens.

Mix together thoroughly.  Add the greens and mix well, coating greens with seasonings.

Divide the greens between 2 jars.  Loosely screw on plastic, BPA free, mason jar lids and leave unrefrigerated overnight.

The next day, give each jar a shake and return to the fridge for a week to lightly ferment.  Each day, take the jars out and give them a shake/stir so that the greens that are on top, go to the bottom and visa versa with the bottom greens. Eventually, after about 4-5 days, the greens will condense and you can combine them into one jar.

In about a week, the kimchi is ready.  They will smell delicious and you won’t be able to resist diving in!  Enjoy it on salads, as a condiment with your favorite cooked whole grain, with stir fry, on sandwiches and wraps, or with toast and eggs!

For more information on natural pickling see the excellent blog nourished kitchen/ reviving traditional foods.

Thanks for visiting!


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13 Comments on “Pickling Naturally : Swiss Chard Kimchi”

  1. Thanks for this. I just made some napa cabbage kimchi today, but didn’t have enough bokchoy so I swapped in some of the swiss chard from my garden.

    We still have a lot of swiss chard, and winter’s acoming, so I think I’ll be making a batch of this soon as well.

  2. I’m so glad I found this recipe, I have so much Swiss chard! I made a batch 3 days ago and I just tasted it. I like it, but it seems to be too much paprika for me, although it may mellow out with more fermentation. I’ll definitely make it again!

    1. Glad you like it! Wait to judge how much paprika to use the next time until it’s done fermenting. The flavors really come together after fermentation is done. It stays well refrigerated for some time. I am still enjoying ours from late August 2012! It’s still delicious. I appreciate your feedback Peggy. ag

    1. Hi Sue, Unlike my other ferments, no it doesn’t. The salt in the recipe draws the water out of the chard creating it’s own juices, but not enough to cover. The salt, spices and brief fermentation time work well together. Mine last for up to 6 months in cold storage.

  3. Does the recipe require soy sauce? And could I add ginger and tumeric as well? Thanks, i have a lot of swiss chard and kale in the garden and this may be a good recipe for meto try my hand at kimchi for my first time.

    1. Hi Shelly! There is already ginger in the recipe. I’ve never used tumeric in this recipe but it’s worth a try! Try using coconut aminos instead of soy sauce. Let me know how it goes 🙂

  4. Can I use a different oil, instead of the sesame? Don’t care for it. Everything else sounds great!

    1. Hi Melissa… the sesame oil gives it an Asian flavor but certainly experiment with a different oil. I’ve only used sesame oil so I can’t recommend another having only used sesame. Let me know what you end up using and how it turns out. Thanks Melissa!

  5. Hi Melissa,

    Are you placing the greens into the sterilized jars when the jars are hot? Straight from being sterilized?


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