Asian Coleslaw

We eat a lot of cabbage around here. Could be my father’s Minnesota German roots, but for whatever reason, coleslaw is on the menu several times a week. I recently had a lovely Asian coleslaw at a local grill, that was served with an ahi tuna burger. This is my attempt to recreate that coleslaw, and I think I’ve come pretty close (may try my hand at the burger sometime too). It’s super easy to put together; the defining ingredients are cabbage, rice vinegar, and toasted sesame oil. This version also has some peanut butter in the dressing and some twice toasted peanuts. So good! We had to stop eating it after our “test kitchen” tasting, just to save enough for dinner.

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Asian Coleslaw Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 4.

The dressing on this salad is peanut-based. If you have a food allergy to peanuts, you can substitute tahini for the peanut butter (or leave it out all together), and toasted sesame seeds for the peanuts.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
  • 6 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted (dark) sesame oil
  • 4 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar (if seasoned rice vinegar is not available, add a teaspoon or two of sugar to regular rice vinegar)
  • 4 cups thinly sliced cabbage (Napa, green, purple, or a combination)
  • 1/2 cup grated carrots
  • 1/4 cup toasted, salted, shelled, peeled peanuts

Optional

  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Thinly sliced green onions or chives

Method

1 Prepare dressing. Place peanut butter in a medium bowl. Add the vegetable oil and the toasted sesame oil and whisk until nicely smooth. Whisk in the seasoned rice vinegar and do a taste test. Depending on how you like your dressing, how salty your peanut butter is, how seasoned your rice vinegar is, you may want to add a little more vinegar, a little more sugar, or a little salt. (Makes about 3/4 cup of dressing.)

2 Toast the peanuts. Although the roasted peanuts from the store may already be cooked, you'll get even better flavor with just a little toasting. Heat a small skillet on medium high heat and add the nuts to the pan. Do not ignore or the nuts can easily burn. Stir a little with a wooden spoon until the peanuts begin to get browned in spots and you can smell the toasting aromas. Remove peanuts from pan to a dish.

3 In a large bowl, toss the sliced cabbage, grated carrots, and peanuts together, and any other optional ingredients you care to add (like a little chopped cilantro or green onions). Right before serving, mix in the dressing.

Great with fish or burgers.

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Links:
Crack Slaw, and Asian Cole Slaw from East Village Kitchen
Lime and Peanut Coleslaw Recipe from Heidi of 101 Cookbooks

23 Comments

  1. Angela

    Had a great slaw yesterday, in the Sunset Test Kitchen, using raw parsnips. Who knew? Absolutely delicious.

    Have you ever used PB2 in recipes? It’s a fun ingredient: dried peanut butter, it’s what’s leftover after peanut oil is made. Less fat, plenty of taste, and doesn’t take much shelf space. I use it for peanut sauce of various types … for Asian noodles and salads, on toast, on fruit (especially bananas), veggie dip.

  2. Stephanie

    I have a somewhat similar recipe for “Asian Coleslaw” passed down from my grandma. I might have to modify it with the addition of the peanut butter in the dressing! And ours uses toasted almonds on top, for those who want a substitute.

  3. E. Peevie

    I just made an Asian coleslaw last night for the first time ever, and then this recipe shows up in my inbox. Must be the universe trying to tell me something–probably something along the lines of “Make Asian coleslaw more often.”

    In addition to the cabbage and carrots, mine included some zucchini, yellow squash, and onion, which gave it more heft than a typical slaw. I made a peanut-based dressing also.

    Your version looks nice and simple, which makes me happy. I will try it soon.

  4. Susan

    My Mom used to make a similar dressing and drizzled it over bananas that were sliced onto a bed of salad greens. It was so good but some chopped peanuts would have been a great addition. I’ve never seen her application anywhere else since. Thanks for this, Elise.

  5. mammajama

    This is just like my old go-to recipe by Alton Brown for asian slaw. Nearly identical in fact. And very tasty.

  6. Curt

    Re the cabbage: how do you measure a cup? Is the cabbage pushed down or is it sitting loose in the measuring cup? There’s a lot of leeway there.

    It’s packed. ~Elise

  7. Katherine

    I was thinking of making this with your panko-crusted salmon (my favourite salmon recipe) this weekend. Do you think the two dishes would complement one another, or would the strong cabbage flavours overwhelm the salmon?

    I don’t think anything can overwhelm the salmon! Well at least not the cabbage. The strongest flavor coming out of that salad is the sesame. So if you think sesame will go well with the salmon, you’re all set. ~Elise

  8. Carolyn

    We eat coleslaw, particularly Asian-inspired coleslaws, almost the year ’round. My husband loves cabbage in all forms, and since I don’t care for mayo-based slaw dressings, most of ours have rice vinegar as a base. This recipe looks terrific and we’ll be sure to give it a try–particularly with the cilantro garnish. The only thing that would be missing for us is a shot of Sriracha in the dressing. Love that tang with the sweet peanut butter.

  9. Kate @ Savour Fare

    I make something very similar all the time, but I omit the peanut butter and add some fresh grated ginger. I love it because it’s a very easy and low-fat way to get some vegetables and crunch.

  10. Ellen

    So good! I ended up using green onions instead of carrots and letting it “pickle” in the dressing for an hour before using it as a topping for the Korean hamburgers Jaden did on her Today show segment – even my very picky husband loved it!

  11. sssscooter

    A terrific recipe. I used bagged coleslaw that I got from the produce section and had no real plans for. I think the toasted sesame seeds should be a permanent addition to the recipe!

  12. Judi

    I just this minute made this delicious slaw….. so tasty! The whole peanut thing really works well, here.
    Thanks for such a great recipe!

  13. Russ

    My wife is originally from Japan, her favorite coleslaw is my own invention: Shredded cabbage mixed with a little mayonnaise and soy sauce. This sounds a little like something that might work better with Chinese or Thai food. Since she likes both I will have to give this a try.

  14. T

    In Vietnam, they actually use fish sauce mixed with lime juice, water, and sugar as the dressing instead of peanut butter and sesame oil. They also add in some mint. Thought that I should post that in case someone is allergic to peanut butter. (:

    Great idea, thanks! ~Elise

  15. Hannah

    Thank you, this is just what I was looking for.I can’t wait to try it. I like that it’s nutty and not too creamy. I’m thinking of adding some sliced stem ginger in syrup; I put it in a lot of oriental dishes because it adds sweetness and spice at the same time.

  16. Saveur

    I made this and didn’t like it. I didn’t find the flavours worked well together, nor well with the cabbage. Sorry folks.

  17. Ali

    I like this one even better after the dressing has had time to soften the cabbage a little… Current favourite coleslaw recipe, thanks!

  18. Julie S

    This coleslaw is very tasty, it turned out great using crunchy peanut butter. I can’t wait to try this recipe again!

  19. Anita

    Hi Elise,

    There is a Chinese appetizer called “Pao Cai” (“Pao” is pronounced like “pow;” “Cai” is pronounced like the “ts” sound in “pots” + “eye”) It literally means “pickled vegetables” in Mandarin Chinese. The cabbage is uncooked and put into a tall crock or jar to age.

    I have made “Pao Cai” many times with cabbage, but several Chinese language cookbooks I have also suggest using string beans, carrots, turnips, and cucumbers. I’ll bet these veggies are good, too.

    There are a number of regional variations of “Pao Cai” in China and Taiwan. All are very tasty!

    Anita
    _____________
    Pao Cai (Pickled Vegetables)

    Ingredients:
    *Please note: I have cut down the hot peppers and salt for American tastes. Feel free to adjust the saltiness and heat to your liking.*

    1 large Chinese cabbage (or Napa Cabbage) cut into 1/8 inch strips

    1 small piece of fresh ginger (about an inch)–It is not necessary to peel it. Just cut into a couple of thick coins

    2-3 dried hot red peppers (you can substitute hot red pepper flakes; start with 1/2 tsp.)

    1 TBSP Sichuan (Szechwan) peppercorns (available at most large supermarket chains; look in the spice aisle)

    1/2 Cup rice vinegar

    1/2 Cup sugar

    1 TBSP kosher or pickling salt

    1 Cup water
    _________

    Fill a clean glass jar (1 gallon works best)
    with cabbage strips. Add pickling solution and stir. Cover jar and leave on the counter in the kitchen for at least 3 hours and then refrigerate. The cabbage will shrink down quite a lot in the pickling liquid during this period. Once refrigerated, the “Pao Cai” will keep for several weeks. It never lasts that long with my family!

    Serve as an appetizer to a Chinese meal.
    “Pao Cai” is typically found in small inexpensive eateries throughout China.
    It is one of a number of appetizers which are automatically put on each table at no charge to the patrons.

  20. tiffany

    I’ve done a slaw with red cabbage, carrots, sesame oil, and rice vinegar, plus sugar and salt to taste. That’s another alternative for those who can’t eat peanuts.

  21. Megan

    I just made a batch of this and it’s delicious! I could have used a little more dressing on it but other than that, perfect.

  22. Morgan

    Made this tonight and added a whole gang of other veggies to it – bell peppers, cucumbers, snow peas, etc. SO good! Served it as a side with salmon burgers and it was the perfect pair!

  23. Matt Smith

    My wife just made this with Napa cabbage – sooo good! The only complaint is that there were no leftovers. Next time we’ll have to double it! :)

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