This Asian slaw recipe makes the perfect crunchy and colorful side dish. A simple combination of shredded cabbage, carrots, and sliced apples tossed is a sweet and tangy sesame ginger dressing.
Are you looking to add an easy and flavorful side salad to your plate? This healthy vegetable and fruit mixture combines Asian-inspired ingredients for a twist on a classic coleslaw. It takes less than 30 minutes to prepare. Enjoy it on its own, or use it as a topping for tacos and sandwiches for a delightful crunch.
Now’s your chance to chop! Have some fun practicing knife skills to create thinly sliced apples, cabbage, and carrots. To make a bold and pungent dressing, freshly minced garlic and ginger are whisked together with soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, and rice vinegar. The coleslaw mix is tossed in the sweet and tangy dressing.
I use red cabbage and napa cabbage for the slaw base. Napa cabbage is a heartier leaf, also called Chinese cabbage. The tender leaves are soft and sweet, and the small grooves on the surface help to capture more dressing onto the greens. This means better flavor delivery.
Napa cabbage also doesn’t wilt as quickly as green cabbage when combined with the dressing. The vibrant purple color makes the slaw visually enticing and packs more phytonutrients into each serving.
Preparing the coleslaw mix
The Asian slaw base is composed of just six ingredients; green cabbage, red cabbage, shredded carrots, apples, green onions, and cilantro. Make sure to cut the cabbage into ¼-inch thick strips to keep a crunchy texture. You can hand grate the carrots, or purchase the shredded product from the grocery store to save you some time.
I like to add just a hint of extra sweetness and snap to the salad with Fuji apples. After slicing, soak them in cold water until ready to use to prevent the flesh from browning too quickly.
The tasty dressing
To make the Asian slaw dressing, make sure to finely mince the garlic and ginger. Just a small amount is going to add that warm and pungent spice, but you don’t want big chunks that will shock the taste buds. Rice vinegar enhances the dressings with mild and slightly sweet acidity. Honey is added to balance the tanginess, sugar, brown sugar, or maple syrup can also be used.
Soy sauce and toasted sesame oil add a rich umami taste to the dressing for depth. Whisking in a small amount of mayonnaise and olive oil adds body to the dressings, helping it to cling better to the vegetables and keeps the emulsion more stable. Use about half of the dressing to coat the base, then add more to your liking.
Garnishing the slaw
Make sure to sprinkle on some sesame seeds right before serving. Toasting them will warm up the oils inside and enhance their nutty flavor. I also like to add a few more sliced green onions and cilantro leaves on top for a pop of color.
Can this recipe be made in advance?
Yes! The cut vegetables can be prepared and stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days before serving. The dressing can be made 2 days before, but make sure to whisk before using to reform the emulsion. Slice the apples the same day to prevent it from turning brown in color. Wait to combine the ingredients until ready to serve, otherwise, it will become too soggy if it sits overnight.
Ways to customize this recipe
- Add sliced red bell peppers or bok choy
- Add edamame beans, sugar snap peas, or snow peas
- Add mandarin oranges or Asian pear
- Use tamari or coconut aminos instead of soy sauce to make it gluten-free
- The mayonnaise can be removed, the texture will be slightly less thick
- Peanut butter can be added to the dressing for a nutty flavor
What to serve with the slaw
When to add the dressing
To ensure a super crunchy texture of the slaw ingredients, add the dressing right before serving. If the shredded cabbage sits too long in the acidic sauce, the salad will become watery and wilt. This is due to moisture being released from the cell walls when it comes into contact with the salt from the soy sauce.
Asian Slaw with Sesame Ginger Dressing
- 4 cups (120 g) shredded napa cabbage, or green cabbage, ¼-inch thick
- 3 cups (180 g) shredded red cabbage, ¼-inch thick
- 1 cup (79 g) shredded carrots
- 1 cup (114 g) thinly sliced fuji apples, or red apples, ⅛-inch thick
- ¼ (9 g) sliced green onions, cut on a bias
- ¼ cup (3 g) cilantro leaves
- 1 teaspoon (2 g) sesame seeds, black and white
Dressing (1 cup)
- In a large bowl combine napa cabbage, red cabbage, carrots, apples, green onions and cilantro leaves.
- In a small bowl, whisk together rice vinegar, honey, mayonnaise, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and black pepper until completely combined. Gradually whisk in sesame oil and olive oil until dressing is lightly thickened. Taste and season with more salt and pepper as desired.
- Drizzle half of the dressing over the coleslaw, gently toss to combine. Add more to taste, or serve on the side. Serve within 1 hour of combining.
- Mixing Bowl
- Recipe Yield: About 8 cups
- Serving Size: 1 cup
- Make it GLUTEN-FREE: Substitute gluten-free tamari or coconut aminos for soy sauce.
- Make it PALEO: Substitute coconut aminos for soy sauce and pure maple syrup for honey.
- Make it VEGAN: Omit the mayonnaise (dressing will be less creamy) and use pure maple syrup instead of honey.
- Make the sesame seeds more fragrant: Toast them in a saute pan over medium heat until lightly browned or when you can smell the oils.