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Easy Napa Cabbage Slaw Recipe

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This crunchy napa cabbage slaw recipe is the coleslaw you’ll make ALL summer long! Although, truth be told, I make it all year. It is the perfect side for summer picnics, grilled dinners, and potlucks. Crunchy napa cabbage is studded with blue cheese crumbles and tossed in an easy and flavorful vinaigrette dressing. This easy coleslaw recipe takes just 15 minutes to make and 8 easy ingredients that you probably already have. I can’t wait for you to try this one, I think it’s the best coleslaw recipe and is my go-to salad for so many meals and parties.

This healthy coleslaw recipe has been a summer staple for SO LONG. I grew up eating this salad (it’s inspired by a super old one from a newspaper clipping!) and while it’s an old one, it still manages to taste fresh, light, and modern. Serve this homemade coleslaw with burgers, pulled pork sandwiches, smoked meats, turkey sliders, Greek lamb meatballs, meatball sliders, grilled drumsticks, grilled chicken thighs, or even grilled lake trout for the ultimate summer meal. And add my Mediterranean tortellini salad on the side if you need a carb!

Bowl of napa cabbage slaw.
Photo credit: Loren Runion.

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

What Is Napa Slaw?

This coleslaw recipe without mayo is simply a vinaigrette-based coleslaw made with napa cabbage instead of traditional green cabbage. It has similar flavors to traditional coleslaw, but with some bright and fresh additions like blue cheese and an apple cider vinaigrette.

Napa cabbage is the star, and if it’s a new veggie to you, it’s kind of a cross between regular, green cabbage and lettuce, with a great crunchy texture! It’s less dense than cabbage, but still holds up to dressing well and adds great crunch to so many meals. I also use it in my 5-minute Chinese chicken salad recipe for the best texture. It is typically used in Asian salads with soy and ginger flavors.

What You’ll Love About Napa Cabbage Slaw

  • Quick and bright side
  • Always a crowd favorite
  • Pairs with almost anything
  • Takes just 15 minutes to make
  • Made with simple ingredients
  • No mayonnaise
  • Easy to prep ahead

Ingredients

  • Napa Cabbage – Napa cabbage has a longer shape than traditional cabbage and its leaves are a little bumpy. It’s not as dense as green cabbage, but still holds up to dressing nicely. It’s widely accessible, but if you can’t find it, try using savoy cabbage, it’s a little denser, but very similar.
  • Blue Cheese Crumbles – Use high-quality blue cheese for best flavor. You can buy a wedge or pre-crumbled. You can also use a similar cheese like gorgonzola.
  • White Onion – Slice the onion as thinly as you can. If raw onions are a little strong for you, soak the sliced onions in ice water for a few minutes before using them in the slaw.
  • Garlic – Use fresh garlic for best flavor.
  • Olive Oil – Use high quality olive oil for best flavor.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – This gives great flavor, but you can also use white balsamic vinegar, white vinegar, or even red wine vinegar.
  • Dijon Mustard – Dijon is a classic ingredient in vinaigrettes, don’t skip it as it gives great flavor and also acts as an emulsifier.
  • Honey– You could also use granulated sugar or even maple syrup.
  • Spices – Celery seed, sea salt, black pepper. The celery seed gives the napa cabbage slaw dressing a distinct flavor, but if you don’t have any, you can use celery salt 1/2 teaspoon of celery salt and omit the salt in the dressing. Add more salt to taste if necessary.
Ingredients to make healthy coleslaw recipe.

How to Make Napa Cabbage Coleslaw

This is an overview on how to make this vinegar based coleslaw, the detailed instructions can be found below in the recipe card.

Prep napa cabbage. Wash and thinly slice napa cabbage. Layer half of the shredded cabbage in serving bowl and top with half of the thinly sliced onions (use a mandoline for super thin slices) and half of the blue cheese crumbles. Repeat with the remaining napa, onion, and blue cheese and chill in the refrigerator.
Bowl of napa slaw before dressing.
Make coleslaw dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients until emulsified.
Bowl of napa slaw dressing

TIP: I like to make the napa salad dressing in a jar – no whisk required and perfect storage.

Assemble napa cabbage coleslaw. Drizzle the tangy dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss together about 5-10 minutes before serving if possible. Top with freshly cracked pepper if desired.
Pouring dressing over napa cabbage slaw in a bowl.

FAQs

How do you cut napa cabbage for coleslaw?

Don’t worry, it’s easy too cut napa cabbage for slaw. Wash napa cabbage, and drain water. Remove outer leaves that are damaged or brown, and slice into thin strips. Hold the middle or stem end of the napa cabbage with one hand, and use a knife to slice thinly with the other.

how to cut napa cabbage for coleslaw

Does napa cabbage taste like cabbage?

It does taste like cabbage, but I think it has a milder flavor. I would also loosely describe it as a cross between romaine lettuce and cabbage. It’s not as dense in texture.

Can you use napa cabbage raw?

Yes, you can absolutely use napa cabbage raw like we have done here for this napa cabbage slaw recipe.

Do you eat the white part of napa cabbage?

Yes, the white part is a little thicker and very crunchy, it’s a great contrast to the leafy part of napa cabbage. You will discard the root end of the cabbage.

Plate of napa slaw with grilled chicken.

Storage Instructions

Even though this is a coleslaw, in terms of storage, think more like salad! It’s best fresh as the napa cabbage will wilt.

How to prep ahead

However, if you want to prep the napa cabbage slaw recipe in advance, you can easily do so.

Layer the napa cabbage, onions, and blue cheese in a serving bowl and store in the fridge. Make dressing and store at room temperature if using it within the day. Toss together 5-10 minutes before serving.

Bowl of napa cabbage coleslaw.

What to Serve with Napa Cabbage Salad

All this napa slaw recipe needs is a main dish. Here are a few to try, but know that it pairs perfectly with smoked meats, pulled beef or pork, and just about anything grilled.

How to Feed this Healthy Coleslaw to the Whole Family

I get it, feeding kids can be tough! But following the Division of Responsibility and knowing your job and your child’s job makes it SO much more enjoyable. You’ll be able to feed your kids any meal, which will help ensure that they are eating a variety of nutritious foods – with plenty of play food sprinkled in.

I would recommend serving the healthy coleslaw in a pinch bowl (taster bowl) if it’s a new or learning-to-like it food with a small bite or two in case they decide to give it a try! My kids like this salad, but they have also been exposed to it since they were babies!

Want More?

Follow Emily on Instagram or TikTok for family dinner recipe videos and tips for feeding kids.

More Easy Veggie Sides

If you like this easy coleslaw recipe, you might also like some of these other easy veggie sides:

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Bowl of napa cabbage slaw.

Easy Napa Cabbage Slaw Recipe

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Description

Make this napa cabbage slaw recipe in just 15 minutes! This napa slaw is the perfect summer side for grilled or bbq meats, and I get asked for the recipe.


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 1 medium head of napa cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 4 oz. blue cheese crumbles
  • 1/4 white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. celery seed
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • pinch black pepper

Instructions

  1. Prep ingredients:
    Thinly slice cabbage and onion.
    Mince garlic. 
  2. Layer napa cabbage, onions, and blue cheese in serving bowl and chill until serving.
  3. Whisk together garlic, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, dijon mustard, honey, celery seed, sea salt, and pepper until emulsified. 
  4. Toss dressing with cabbage and chill for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Notes

  • Feel free to swap apple cider vinegar for a white wine or white balsamic vinegar. 
  • Make and store the napa slaw dressing in a small jar, simply add all of the ingredients, cover, and shake until emulsified. 

Keywords: napa cabbage coleslaw recipe, napa cabbage slaw, napa slaw

Food styling and photography by Loren Runion.

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Comments

  1. erwan

    i love the concept of this site. Who would of thought that nutritionist actually eat? haha. i love how you lighten everything up without compromising flavour!

  2. Becky

    Loved this! Super easy to assemble and then serve. So tasty! The perfect healthy addition to dinner that’s also easy to make.






  3. Kim

    This is very good slaw. I eyeballed the measurements and left out the blue cheese. Didn’t have Dijon so used stone ground mustard. Made it yesterday and had leftovers today and still so good that even though I had closed the browser window I came back and found it to save it. Thanks for the recipe!






  4. Mary

    delicious! i didn’t use the cheese, but i really liked the dressing…i think because i really love celery seed. i will use as a go to for napa cabbage, thanks!






    • Emily

      Oh then it’s the perfect salad dressing! And even though I’m a cheese-lover, I think I’d still like it without it!

  5. Helene

    Great recipe! Since my family likes creamy slaw I added 2 Tbs mayo and also shredded a carrot into it. Love the blue cheese twist!






  6. Cath

    Loved this simple and tasty salad and dressing! I’ve made it several times and have not ever been tired of it – it’s a family fav. <3






  7. Janet Hanson

    I got an enormous head of Napa Cabbage from my CSA. I currently have some wonderful Maytag Blue cheese and this is a tasty and satisfying salad.






  8. Darci Ament Tronick

    This is one of my all time favorite salads. Your mom actually brought it to my mom’s house after my dad passed. It was nourishing and amazing!

  9. Mel Laski

    Worked well enough and easy to make. Didn’t have any blue cheese so maybe that would have added a bit of wow. I’ld make it again.

  10. Rhona

    This is very good! I did add some
    julienned apple to the slaw at the last minute so it wouldn’t brown; and I doubled the honey to make the wonderful dressing more to my taste. I am considering adding some chopped walnuts on the side as a garnish next time.






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