Napa Cabbage Picnic Salad

Every year around the Fourth of July, my friends Rich and Chigiy throw a huge barbecue party for their friends, and for number two son Dashiell, a July 4th baby. Every year, the talented Chigiy (pronounced “chi-gee”) makes this terrific salad with Chinese napa cabbage, radishes, snow peas, toasted slivered almonds, and a sweet soy mayo dressing. And every year, the salad all gets eaten before most get a chance to taste it, and before I am able take a photo. This year, however, Chigiy tripled the recipe (which already serves 15) and had enough left for me to capture on a pretty plate. This is a truly great salad for large summer gatherings. Much of it can be made ahead, and then assembled when you are ready to serve. Enjoy.

Napa Cabbage Picnic Salad Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup slivered almonds
  • 8 cups (1 lb) coarsely shredded napa cabbage
  • 12 ounces snow peas, strings removed, rinsed and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/3 cups thinly sliced radishes
  • 1 1/3 cups thinly sliced green onions (including greens)
  • 1 1/3 cups lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves

Dressing ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp rice vinegar (seasoned or unseasoned)
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 clove peeled and minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 1 cup mayonnaise

Method

1 Spread almond slivers out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast in a 350°F oven for 5-10 minutes, until nicely browned. OR toast in stick-free or cast-iron skillet on medium high, stirring frequently until browned. Set aside.

2 Combine cabbage, snow peas, radishes, green onions, cilantro in a large bowl. Can make this step a day or two ahead.

3 In a separate bowl, mix together the rice vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil, ginger, and cayenne until sugar has dissolved. Whisk in the mayonnaise.

4 When ready to serve, gently combine the dressing and almonds with the cabbage mixture.

Serves 14-16.

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Recipe adapted from one in Sunset Magazine, July 2004

29 Comments

  1. Jennifer

    This looks really good. I would love to try it, but does anyone have a different idea for the dressing (for someone who is mayo-phobic)?

  2. jonathan

    Jennifer, you may want to try subbing the mayo with plain yogurt or sour cream (lowfat if you wish) to get you close to the same texture. I think I’d throw some chow mein noodles on top for a little extra crunch…

  3. finnadat

    This kinda reminds me of my default slaw that I’ve been using for years from Emeril (I know, I know, but he wasn’t so bad 10 years ago) – http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recipes/recipe/0,1977,FOOD_9936_12773,00.html. The sesame really brings up the dressing and the addition of some garlic chili adds another great layer.

  4. Elly

    I don’t think I can get Napa Cabbage in lower Alabama. Would regular cabbage work okay?

  5. anonymous

    I would not use regular cabbage. I made that mistake once. I make a similar one which is really good. The dressing is oil based. Basically it is a cup of olive oil, 1/3 cup vinegar, dash salt, 1/4 cup sugar and seasoning from 2 packs of ramen noodles (chicken flavor) and then I crush the ramen noodles on top with nappa cabbage, green onion and almonds.

  6. ann

    Thanks! I made this yesterday for a little BBQ and it was a huge hit — as you predicted. I was a bit wary, as I have a go-to asian slaw recipe which is similar, but the dressing is a mirin-and-citrus, rather than a mayo-based dressing. But I’m so glad I branched out and tried this one also! Now I have two “go-to” slaws.

    Cheers!

  7. Anonymous

    Would this recipe keep if made up ahead of time or does it get soggy? Looks so yummy.

  8. Jennifer

    Made this for Fourth of July…not a winner. Although, it looked absolutely beautiful. I used the dressing on part of the cabbage mixture just to see if it went over well….nobody went for seconds and I didn’t like it. Maybe I did something wrong? Anyway, for the rest of the cabbage mixture (no dressing on), I added broken ramen noodles and mixed a fast dressing:

    1/2 cup sugar
    1 cup vegetable oil
    6 tablespoons rice vinegar
    1 teaspoon salt

    Much better of a hit.

    The only other thing I would add, as I wrote, this salad was beautiful…but it sure took a long time to chop everything up…so be sure to do ahead.

  9. coco

    Tried this recipe and I used fat-free mayo. It’s just as good!! Roasted almond is great but roasted peanut will be good too.

  10. Lillianne

    I always toast almonds (and sesame seeds) on top of the stove. Use a no stick skillet and keep the nuts moving. Don’t even think about stepping away from the stove. They’ll burn in a minute.

    Also, I’ve made this dish before (nearly the same) and you can make it ahead of time, just don’t put the dressing on until you’re ready to serve. The dressing is better if made ahead.

  11. birdie25

    Thanks. This was delish.

  12. Rob

    Thanks so much for a great recipe! This salad was spot on. I made it yesterday and we ate the entire salad it was so delicious. My kids, ages 11 and 7 also enjoyed it.

  13. April

    I made this salad for a barbecue…the chopping was SO worth it, this salad was a huge hit. I didn’t do anything differently and will certainly make it again. Thanks!

  14. Judee

    Elly, romaine lettuce would be a better substitute for the napa cabbage. It is closer in texture and doesn’t have the strong taste of regular cabbage.

  15. Stephanie

    Sounds delicious. I am going to make it for a BBQ tomorrow. I think will add chopped crystalized ginger and mandarin orange segments too. I love those flavors in the other asian salads that I make. Thanks for the recipe.

  16. Zoe

    This was excellent! The amount of chopping is worth it (just don’t do it on a night when you’re also trying to make an involved main dish!). I used light mayo and cut down on the amount to reduce the fat a bit. Still had plenty of dressing to cover the salad. I halved the recipe and only got about four servings out of it because my husband and I liked it so much and ate such big helpings!

  17. sally

    Excellent salad that got lots of compliment. The only thing? If you mix the dressing and the cabbage too early…it gets really soggy. This cabbage doesn’t have a lot of strength. But otherwise? Loved it.

    Sally

  18. Kim

    This is by far THE BEST cabbage salad ever. The dressing is so flavorful! I’ve made it tons of times since you posted. And I just now spent a frantic ten minutes searching for the recipe since it is supposed to be tonights dinner and I could not find my printout this morning :>)

  19. Susan

    Excellent salad/slaw recipe. I used a daikon radish (milder) and only had sugar snap peas on hand (instead of snow peas). This salad has just moved into our Top 10 rotation. (I keep the mayo limited to 3/4 cup and use a mixture of Hellman’s Light and some form of soy mayo to reduce the fat – no one knows the difference because the other flavors pack a flavorful punch.)

  20. Mona

    I made this yesterday for some friends and it was a huge hit. Thanks for sharing. I didn’t really know they would react to an asian slaw but everyone, even the kids, really seemed to like it.

  21. km

    How do you cut napa cabbage? Slice, chop, or how? Do you just pull it apart like lettuce or what? Thanks!

    I think the easiest way is to slice it. ~Elise

  22. Jose

    I went to a friend’s birthday party and she had this salad out – I HAD to get the recipe, it was so good, and all the comments about this salad were very positive. It’s refreshing, crunchy, and I’m not a fan of mayo either but the dressing was creamy without being overpowering and didn’t have that “yuck” factor. Very tasty. I’m substituting ponzu sauce for the soy, and adding some chicken to make it a light refreshing yet satisfying dinner. I’ll definitely be “borrowing” this recipe for MY next get-together! I’d suggest adding some red cabbage, maybe some red onion and shredded carrot for more color and sweet crunch. I think toasting the almonds gives a nice flavor, but not really necessary. Really worth the effort.

  23. Michele Cassio

    I have made this salad, but, I do not add the peas or the radishes. Also, the dressing that I use is 1/2 cup of oil, 2-3 tbsp. of white vinegar, 2 tsps. of sugar and the packet of powder from the Mr. Noodle Vegetable soup mix. This is all whisked together and before I pour it on I take the dried noodles from the package and crumble them on top of the salad along with the roasted almonds and the green onions. It is yummy and an alternative dressing for those who don’t like mayonaisse based dressings.

  24. Melinda G.

    I just made this salad for a party over the weekend and everyone loved it, raved about it and asked to me make it again for the next gathering! I used soyanaise in place of the mayo and had to use salted/smoky almonds because it was all I had on hand. I tossed the salad with the nuts and dressing right before it was served, like you suggest and it was truly delicious. Thank yo so much Elise!

  25. Erika

    This is insanely delicious! I’m not a radish fan, normally, but we get a bunch of them from a CSA we belong to– usually at the same time that the peas are ready in my garden, and the CSA is also sending green onions and napa cabbage! It’s perfect timing and lets me use up all the things that are overflowing my fridge. I could eat the whole bowl by myself.

  26. Kathleen

    This salad rocked! I didn’t have raddishes so substituted red pepper. It was great. Kids even liked it. I also had savoy instead of napa. Loved the dressing, used it for a pasta dish the next night b/c the dressing made so much.

  27. Heidi

    Whoa! DELICIOUS! I love the dressing. My salad had all sorts of stuff in it, so not quite the same as yours…I didn’t have radishes or enough green onion. To add color I used red grapes, carrot, and red onion with the cabbage.

  28. Tracey

    Just be sure to go easy on the sesame oil – I only like a few drops – it’s soooo strong. If you just add the ingredients to the amount of your taste buds versus measurements as written here I’m sure you’ll love it! I didn’t have any radishes so I used water chesnuts instead for the crunch. Water chesnuts may be a good sub for those who don’t like the “bite” of radishes.

  29. c

    Concerning above– romaine lettuce is completely unlike napa cabbage. I would never substitute romaine in most recipes for napa, although this one looks like romaine would do just fine.. it is just a salad after all. Don’t expect the same results though. I think thinly shredded bok choy would be a better substitute.

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