This simple, slightly spicy Asian slaw takes just a few minutes to put together with pantry & fridge ingredients- serve with grilled meats or Asian dishes. Check out more Quick Healthy Recipes.
Along with “regular” coleslaw (cabbage and vegetables dressed with a basic vinaigrette), Bacon Caesar Slaw, Shaved Cabbage Salad with Feta, and the other slaws you can find in the recipe index, this spicy Asian slaw is in regular rotation on our menus. You probably get the idea that we enjoy slaws in many forms (though I’m going on record – and maybe out on a limb – that this does not include those over-sweet, mayo-coated coleslaws you get in delis and restaurants…yuck, it’s enough to put people off slaws forever!).
But it wasn’t always that way – for me at least. I didn’t like coleslaw growing up at all. Of course now that I think about it, it was because everyone I knew either bought or made that too-sweet, mayo based slaws – so there’s that. So it wasn’t until I started gardening – and growing cabbage – that I started exploring more ways to eat cabbage. And fell in love with vinaigrette-based cabbage salads.
Not only are slaws a delicious and refreshing change from lettuce-based salads, they also go together quickly and can be made ahead.
At it’s basic a slaw – or cabbage salad – consists of shredded cabbage coated with a dressing. You can change it up with the vegetables you add and the flavors of the dressing. They can become southwestern flavored with the addition of cumin and lime, Mediterranean-like by adding feta, or Asian like this version (be sure to check out the Thai variation, too). It’s fun to experiment and come up with new cabbage salad flavors!
Spicy Asian Slaw
I love this simple technique I learned from Cook’s Illustrated to more easily cut cabbage by hand. Even though I’ve made a lot of slaws, I’ve always struggled with chopping the cabbage. The pieces would either be too big or too small (food processor, anyone?) or I worried about cutting my finger when cutting large wedges (which I actually did once!). This cutting technique really is better:
- Quarter and core the head of cabbage as usual
- Remove the smaller inside portion from one of the quarters (you can see the small part I removed in the picture above).
- Then lay the larger outer leaves on a cutting board and push them down flat to finely slice. The smaller portion is now easier to cut as well.
I usually use mostly green cabbage, throwing in a little purple cabbage if I have it, and add sweet onions, shredded carrots and/or chopped red peppers for extra color, flavor, and nutrition. And when they all come from your garden? Well, those are the times we gardeners love, right?
The quick vinaigrette is a bit different than my basic Asian vinaigrette, mainly with the addition of soy sauce and ginger while eliminating the Dijon. The slight spice (and more flavor!) come from sriracha sauce, which is easy to adjust to your family’s taste. Adding just a bit of homemade mayonnaise makes it a bit more creamy, but it’s really optional.
Add a sprinkling of sesame seeds and your salad is ready to either serve or refrigerate for a few hours, making it a great make-ahead dish (it’s good the next day, too, but will have a bit more liquid in the bottom from the cabbage sitting overnight).
This is simple, good food. I serve this with Asian flavored chicken and noodles, or curry with rice, or Teriyaki chicken, or…you get the idea- there are a lot of meals that would benefit from an easy slaw to add more vegetables and nutrition!
Spicy Asian Slaw Recipe
- 4 cups shredded green cabbage about 1/2 head
- 2 cups shredded purple cabbage or use 6 cups all green
- 1 small onion preferably sweet, sliced thinly or chopped
- 2 large carrots grated
- 1 red bell pepper chopped
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 to 3 teaspoons sriracha sauce or other hot sauce - more or less to taste
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger or 1/2 tsp. dried
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise optional for a creamier dressing
- sesame seeds
- Shred the cabbage by hand or using the slicing blade of a food processor (you'll need to chop it a bit by hand still to take care of larger pieces).
- Combine the cabbage and remaining vegetables in a large bowl.
- Mix the dressing ingredients in a 2-cup measure, adding the hot sauce at the end and tasting to adjust to your taste. Pour over the cabbage mixture and mix well.
- Serve with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.
Omit Soy Sauce and sesame oil; add 1 Tb. fish sauce and the juice of one lime. Increase the oil to 1/3 cup. This is especially good made with Napa (Chinese) Cabbage. To make ahead:
- Prepare full recipe and hold in the refrigerator for 4-5 hours before serving.
- Prepare vegetables and dressing, storing separately in the refrigerator and mixing about 30 min. to an hour before serving for best flavor.
Note: this recipe was originally published in 2011 and has been updated with all new photos, clearer formatting and printable recipe. Enjoy!
More Favorite Slaws to Try: