Napa Cabbage Salad

5 from 1 vote

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Tossed in a peanut ginger dressing, this napa cabbage salad has shredded carrots, scallions and cilantro. Chopped roasted peanuts and sesame seeds give it nice nutty crunch. You can serve the salad as a side dish or a main for lunch or dinner, especially if you add tofu, chicken or shrimp. The vegan dressing is creamy, bright and savory with fresh garlic, lime juice and soy sauce.

For something similar, you can also try making this Asian cabbage salad.

Napa cabbage salad with peanut dressing in a bowl.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Cabbage salads have the best crunch. My love of cabbage runs deep. As someone who has at least a salad a day, I think of myself as a lettuce expert. What cabbage delivers that many other leafy greens do not is incredible texture.

The peanut dressing is creamy and vegan. Nut butters are a great healthy way to give dressings creaminess. Here I combine peanut butter with fresh ginger, garlic, soy sauce, lime juice and oil. 

This is the kind of salad you can customize. I am not talking about going in and making a bunch of substitutions. It’s more about additions like vegetables and proteins. I love a clean-out-the-fridge kind of salad. It may seem specific with the peanut dressing, but it’s more adaptable than you might assume.

What is Napa Cabbage?

Unlike regular green cabbage and red cabbage, napa cabbage is not round. It’s actually more of an oval shape. Known as Chinese cabbage, it was first grown in Asia. The name napa actually comes from the Japanese word nappa which refers to leafy greens. (source)

Even though its leaves aren’t packed as tightly and densely as red or green cabbage, napa cabbage salads still have great texture with overall flavor that’s more mild and a little sweet. Given its origin, napa cabbage is often used in Asian dishes.

How To Cut Napa Cabbage

It isn’t difficult to cut napa cabbage. First, pull off any wilted outer leaves. Next, slice the cabbage in half lengthwise. Then cut those halves into quarters. Finally, cut the cabbage crosswise into narrow slices. That’s what gives you that shredded consistency.

The Ingredients

Ingredients including napa cabbage, carrots, scallions, cilantro, peanut butter, peanuts, soy sauce, olive oil, lime, garlic, ginger and oil.

This is what you need:

  • Napa cabbage can vary quite a bit in size. Look for a small head. The leaves should look fresh and not be wrinkled, but know that you will pull off the outermost set of leaves before you start cutting it.
  • Carrots: It’s easiest to buy a bag of shredded carrots, but you can cut the carrots yourself with a box grater or with the shredding disk on your food processor.
  • Scallions are one of the best onions for salads. They have light green onion flavor and are crisp.
  • Cilantro: Salads are even better when you add chopped fresh herbs. If you aren’t a cilantro person, you can add an extra scallion, which I think lands somewhere between onions and herbs in terms of taste.
  • Peanuts: I chop salted roasted peanuts. You can substitute with roasted almonds. If you do that, then I would use almond butter instead of peanut butter in the dressing.
  • Sesame seeds: Black, white or a mix will work in this salad.
  • Peanut ginger dressing: Peanut butter makes this vegan dressing creamy and nutty. It also has minced ginger and garlic, lime juice, oil, soy sauce and rice vinegar. The dressing is citrusy and savory.

Optional Additions

Here are a few ideas for additional ingredients that you can include:

  • Red bell peppers: Slice 1 pepper into thin strips lengthwise for more fresh crispness.
  • Avocado: Dice a ripe avocado to give the salad something creamy and make it more filling.
  • Tofu is an easy way to add protein while keeping the recipe vegan.
  • Chicken: Add shredded rotisserie chicken or diced roasted chicken. 
  • Shrimp is a great addition with the flavor combination of peanuts, ginger and lime.

How To Make This Napa Cabbage Salad Recipe

1. Combine the ingredients including cabbage, carrots, scallions, cilantro, peanuts and sesame seeds in a large salad bowl.

2. Make the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk the peanut butter, ginger, garlic, salt, pepper, lime juice, soy sauce and oil.

Ingredients for salad assembled in a bowl. Peanut ginger dressing mixed in a small bowl.

3. Drizzle the dressing into the cabbage mixture. Toss to combine everything.

Salad tossed with dressing.


Depending what you have planned, you can serve this salad as a side dish or a main dish for lunch or dinner. As mentioned, you can make it more filling by adding baked tofu, chicken or shrimp. Serve the salad with honey garlic tofu, soba noodles with mushrooms & bok choy or sesame tofu asparagus. 

Leftovers & Storage

You can save leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge up to 2 days. The cabbage will soften, but the salad will still taste good. If you know you are going to save some of the salad, only toss what you are planning to eat at that time in the dressing, which you should store in a separate jar.

Recipe Tips

The salad dressing can be made ahead of time. You can mix the dressing a couple days in advance. If is hardens in the cold of the fridge, let it sit out at room temperature until it liquefies again. You can also run the container or jar it’s in under warm water.

Use fresh lime juice. Bottled citrus juice has extra ingredients and doesn’t taste as good as juice squeezed from a lime.

Soy sauce is not gluten-free since it contains wheat. Substitute with tamari-style soy sauce with a label that says gluten-free.

Recipe FAQs

Can you use something else besides cabbage in the salad?

If you don’t make the recipe with napa cabbage, I highly recommend still sticking with cabbage such as red or green cabbage. It just makes sense with all the other flavors in the salad. You can use a bagged cabbage-carrot slaw mix if you are looking for a shortcut.

Can you make the salad in advance?

I recommend waiting to chop the cabbage and assemble the salad ingredients, so they keep the best texture. You can make the peanut dressing 2 days ahead of time. Store it in a jar in the fridge. Then let it sit out at room temperature for 15 minutes before tossing it with the salad.

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Napa Cabbage Salad

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 10 minutes
Total: 10 minutes
Servings: 4
Tossed in a peanut ginger dressing, this easy napa cabbage salad is fresh and crunchy with carrots, scallions, cilantro, roasted peanuts and sesame seeds.


For salad

  • 1 small head napa cabbage, shredded
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/3 cup chopped salted roasted peanuts
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

For dressing

  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil


  • Combine the cabbage, carrots, peppers, scallions, cilantro, peanuts and sesame seeds in a large bowl.
  • For the dressing, whisk together the peanut butter, ginger, garlic, salt, pepper, lime juice, soy sauce and oil in a small bowl.
  • Drizzle the dressing into the salad tossing to coat.


The peanuts and peanut butter can be substituted with almonds and almond butter.
The salad can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 2 days. The cabbage will soften. If you are planning to have leftovers, try to not toss that portion in the dressing. Keep the dressing in a separate jar.
Optional Additions:
  • Red bell peppers: Slice 1 pepper into thin strips lengthwise.
  • Avocado: Dice a ripe avocado.
  • Protein options: tofu, shredded rotisserie chicken or diced roasted chicken, shrimp
You can make the dressing up to 2 days in advance. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Let it sit out at room temperature for 15 minutes before tossing it into the salad.


Calories: 290kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 11g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Sodium: 403mg | Potassium: 857mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 6295IU | Vitamin C: 70mg | Calcium: 232mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Salads
Cuisine: Asian
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Hi, I'm Paige.

Welcome to Last Ingredient where you will find simple seasonal recipes with plenty of fruits and vegetables, all for the home cook.

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