Napa Cabbage Picnic Salad

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Are you looking for the perfect picnic salad to bring to a potluck?

Look no more, this is it. The napa cabbage picnic salad has been a favorite of my friends and neighbors for years. It’s one of the most requested potluck salads I’ve ever made.

My neighbor Pat first introduced it to me, followed by my friend Chigiy. The original recipe comes from Sunset magazine (July 2004) and serves a crowd.

We’ve scaled the recipe back for a regular family and friends meal, but you can easily scale it up for a large picnic.

Napa Cabbage Picnic Salad

Napa cabbage, while not as sturdy as regular cabbage, is much more resilient than lettuce, so it lends itself well to picnic salads that have to sit around for a while.

This salad has Chinese napa cabbage, radishes, snow peas, toasted slivered almonds, and a sweet sesame ginger mayo dressing.

Much of it can be made ahead, and then assembled when you are ready to serve. Enjoy!

Napa Cabbage Picnic Salad Recipe

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6

The dressing recipe makes a little more than you will likely need. So, use about 1/2 of it to start, and add more to taste when you dress the salad.

This salad recipes scales easily for a potluck or picnic.


  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds
  • 4 cups (1/2 lb) coarsely shredded napa cabbage
  • 6 ounces snow peas, sliced into half-inch slices on the diagonal
  • 2/3 cup thinly sliced radishes
  • 2/3 cup thinly sliced green onions (including greens)
  • 2/3 cup lightly packed chopped cilantro

Dressing ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp plus 1 1/2 teaspoons rice vinegar (seasoned or unseasoned)
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 clove peeled and minced garlic (about 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise


1 Toast the almond slivers 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, whisk 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.

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Recipe barely adapted from one in Sunset Magazine, July 2004

Showing 4 of 30 Comments

  • Giselle

    My husband is of Chinese descent and I love to cook Chinese food for him. I am of French descent and I grew up eating a salad at every dinner. This delicious salad is the perfect accompaniment to any Chinese meal, and it satisfies both my husband and me. Thank you for sharing this dish! I know it will be something I make over and over again!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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