This Asian Napa Cabbage Salad is refreshing and packed with flavors inspired by Vietnamese and Thai cuisines. It goes well as a side to a variety of grilled or BBQ dishes. This salad is my go-to for a quick summer night dinner and a crowd pleaser for any gathering or backyard BBQs.
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I have always eaten napa cabbage cooked growing up. It is an excellent vegetable for all types of cooking. From steam to stir fry or to add it to soup, you will find napa cabbage in various Asian dishes.
Eating napa cabbage raw as a salad is not as typical. When I first made this salad for my mom, her first reaction to it was, “Why isn’t it cooked?” I laughed out loud too! But once she tried the salad, it is one of her favorite dishes I make. I considered that an accomplishment since I can never tell if she actually enjoys any of my cooking.
Difference between Napa Cabbage and Green Cabbage
You can eat green and napa cabbage cooked or raw. But there are some differences between the two types of cabbage.
Both types of cabbage are low in calories and a great source of nutrients. But the napa cabbage packs more vitamins and minerals and a good source of folic acid and antioxidants.
Napa cabbage has a sweet and crunchy texture that is similar to bok choy and celery. Unlike green cabbage, where it is tougher to eat raw unless it is soaked in an acidic dressing, napa cabbage has a lighter texture, so it’s easier to chew.
How to cut Napa Cabbage
Cutting a napa cabbage is a bit easier than the green cabbage because of its lighter texture. But just like cutting into any other globe-shaped food, the first cut is the most difficult.
- Get a large size knife and place the napa cabbage on a large, stable cutting board.
- Cut the napa cabbage in half, starting from the head to the end of the leaves. So we are cutting it vertically from crown to end.
- Take half of the napa cabbage and lay the flat side down, so it is stable on the cutting board.
- Slice the napa cabbage horizontally, starting from the leaves’ end, and work your way up to the head of the napa cabbage.
Check out this quick video.
Ways to serve
This Asian napa cabbage salad is very versatile. You can eat it alone or serve it in a variety of ways. One of my favorite ways to serve it is as a side salad with BBQ ribs or tri-tip.
Here are a few other ways to serve it:
- Add chicken for a stand-alone meal. See notes under the recipe for adjustments.
- Serve with grilled meats.
- Wrap it in tacos.
- Add rice noodles for a noodle salad.
- Wrap in rice paper with some rice noodles for spring rolls.
Salad is probably not the most popular dish for most kids. My daughter will eat it sometimes but will completely avoid it another time. If it’s drenched in ranch dressing, I can get my son to eat some of it.
For this napa cabbage salad, they are not fans of eating the cabbage raw and will mainly pick out the carrots. So I would adjust the amount of cabbage and carrots to half and a half so that there are more carrots for my kids. If we are serving guests, I don’t adjust the recipe and let the kids add a little ranch with it on their plate.
Make adjustments based on what you know your kids will more likely eat. Have some fun with it like adding spiralized cucumbers or carrots (over the shredded). Let the kids help with the specializing and make them part of the process is a great way to get them trying the salad.
Need a spiralizer? Take a look at this one HERE
Asian Napa Cabbage Salad
- 2 dash red pepper flakes – add more to give it a kick
- 3 cloves fresh garlic – minced
- 2 tbsp honey or sugar
- 3 tbsp lime or lemon juice
- 3 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar – apple cidar vinegar works too
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp sesame oil – if you don't have it just add another tbsp of olive oil
- 1 small red or yellow onion – sliced
- 5 cups shredded napa cabbage – about half of a large one
- 3 cups shredded carrots
- 3-4 sprigs mint – roughly chopped
- ground pepper to taste
- cilantro to garnish
- Combine all ingredients for dressing in a large salad bowl. Stir dressing until sugar or honey is dissolved. Read notes for instructions to make dressing ahead of time.
- Add onions to the bowl and let it sit in the dressing for about 5 mins. The acidity of the dressing will help cut down the potency of the onions.
- Add carrots and napa cabbage to the bowl. Mix all ingredients until the dressing is distributed.
- Top the salad with mint, black pepper, and cilantro.
- Toss the salad right before serving.
Make the salad ahead of timeYou can easily prep this salad a day or hours in advance. Just follow these adjustments to avoid having a soggy salad.
- Make the dressing in a large mason jar to store. You want a big enough jar to have room to add the onions.
- Prep the carrots and napa cabbage, cover, and store in the fridge.
- When it’s time to put the salad together, add the onions to the jar with the dressing. Give it a few shakes and let it sit for 5 minutes.
- Combine the dressing and onions with carrots and napa cabbage. Mix.
- Follow the above instructions to garnish and serve.
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