The perfect fresh and vibrant cabbage slaw with a delicious soy-sesame dressing! Serve this as a side dish or a vegetarian main.
I get the impression that Chinese cuisine doesn’t love salads the way that other cuisines do. It’s something about the raw veggies and how they *debatably* taste better after a quick and hot sauté/stir fry. Well, that’s my theory anyway.
The closest intersection of Chinese food and salads in my mind is this type of cabbage slaw. Kind of like coleslaw, but not as rich or heavy. Basically, it’s the one kind of “salad” that my parents will begrudgingly consume.
I’ve gone through many renditions – rotating ingredients in and out depending on what needed to be finished. I finally nailed down the most fundamental version which is this no-fuss, well-rounded, and delicious cabbage slaw recipe!
Instead of using mayonnaise, this Asian-style slaw features a light and umami soy-sesame dressing. It uses traditional Chinese ingredients that perfectly balances acidity, umami, sweetness, and saltiness. The five basic ingredients are super common and have lots of other uses in the kitchen!
There’s room for innovation too! Try adding minced garlic/garlic powder, oyster sauce, five-spice powder, or any other variation to suit your taste.
I’ve also used this dressing for cucumber salads and noodle salads. It’s refreshing, versatile, and everything you would want a vinaigrette to be. In this slaw, the dressing rounds all of the veggies out and ties the whole dish together.
Storing Leftover Soy-Sesame Dressing
If you want to make extra, this dressing can be made ahead! After whisking everything together, keep refrigerated for up to two weeks.
Making the Cabbage Slaw
This slaw is ridiculously straightforward and so satisfying. The slaw ingredients are served in their purest form which lets you enjoy the natural flavor and texture.
Cabbage: regular, flat, savoy, napa?
I regularly use Taiwanese flat cabbage as the primary ingredient in slaws. Taiwanese cabbage is used more commonly in Asian cuisines and is readily available at Asian grocery stores. The texture is more tender and the taste is sweeter than your traditional green cabbage. It works beautifully with the rougher red cabbage in this dish.
If you don’t have flat cabbage readily accessible, green cabbage still works great in this recipe! Make sure to slice or shred the cabbage very finely.
Savoy and Napa cabbages have their own unique uses. These two are more commonly used in soups and stir-fries and have a great crunch as well. However, I wouldn’t recommend using either of these in this slaw.
This recipe also calls for red cabbage which provides lovely contrast with the rest of the ingredients. This cabbage is more sturdy and has an earthier flavor. It’s best sliced/shredded thinly and served in slaws like this one!
Other Slaw Ingredients
I used frozen edamame which is a great option if you don’t cook with edamame often. Simply blanch it in boiling water for approximately 2 minutes before draining and tossing into the slaw. If you don’t have edamame on hand, feel free to substitute with peas or snap peas!
You can thinly slice radishes into circles or cut them further into matchsticks. Radishes are great in this slaw for their peppery flavor and fun little crunch! Substitutions include watermelon radish and daikon radish.
Sliced scallions provide a milder version of the sharp flavor that is characteristic of alliums like onions and garlic. You could substitute scallions with thinly sliced red onion or minced shallot.
The twists on this simple cabbage slaw are limitless.
- Protein: shredded chicken, crispy tofu, salmon
- Crunchy veggies: carrots, corn, cucumber, bell pepper, asparagus
- Other veggies: pickled onions, kimchi
- Starches: rice noodles, soba noodles, quinoa, couscous
- Toasted nuts: walnuts, almonds, pistachios
- Other: croutons, tortilla strips
Cabbage Slaw Meal Prep
I would recommend combining everything just before serving. The slaw will hold for up to a day in the fridge, but it will definitely lose its freshness.
For meal prep, simply slice and blanch all the slaw ingredients and store in the fridge (up to one week for cabbages; up to five days for everything else). Separately, whisk together soy-sesame ingredients and store in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Asian Cabbage Slaw with Soy Dressing
- 7 oz cabbage, shredded 3 cups
- 4 oz red cabbage, shredded 2 cups
- ½ cup edamame, fresh or frozen blanched if frozen
- 2 radishes, thinly sliced
- 2 scallion, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- ¼ cup rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- ½ tsp ginger powder
- 2 tsp maple syrup
- chili flakes
- toasted sesame seeds
- In a large bowl, combine and toss together cabbage slaw ingredients.
- In a separate small bowl, combine vinaigrette ingredients, whisking until smooth.
- Toss everything together and serve within the hour.