Light and fresh Asian cabbage salad tossed together Chinese cabbage, aromatic herbs, crunchy peanuts and a spicy tamarind nam jim dressing. This super easy Asian slaw is perfect for barbecues and potlucks all year round.
Why You’ll Love Chinese Cabbage Salad
Fresh, easy with no cooking involved, our Asian cabbage salad recipe is the perfect accompaniment to summer barbeques, potluck gatherings and alfresco dining.
The combination of shredded raw Chinese cabbage, cucumber, carrot and loads of Asian herbs tossed together with spicy tamarind nam jim dressing creates a light and tangy Asian chopped salad.
This healthy Asian cabbage salad recipe marries well with most grilled meats or roast chicken, but I love it particularly with barbecued char siu. It helps cut through the fat, especially with the tangy tamarind nam jim dressing.
Can You Eat Raw Chinese Cabbage?
Growing up, I generally associated Chinese cabbage with stir fries, dumplings, stews, noodle soups and, of course, pickling via Korean kimchi.
Also known as wombok or napa cabbage, I never thought you could eat raw Chinese cabbage, and the last thing is to add it to a salad! When I discovered you could eat raw Chinese cabbage, it was an eye opener.
Can Chinese Cabbage Be Used in Salad?
The sweeter and milder flavour makes raw Chinese cabbage delicious in salads. I find the texture of Chinese cabbage leaves to be softer but still crisp.
It is also more porous than green round cabbage, where the leaves are thicker and firmer. And because of this, Chinese cabbage is excellent at carrying other flavours in the recipe.
We love adding wombok in our red cabbage and apple salad with crispy noodles. Chinese cabbage is a perfect match with roast duck and grapefruit in a refreshing salad.
What is Nam Jim?
To add oomph to this easy Chinese cabbage salad, I created my version of a Thai-inspired nam jim dressing.
Nam jim or nam chim, translates to dipping sauce in Thai. The basis of the sauce contains fish sauce, garlic, sugar, lime juice and chillies. You can then add your own variations to create a perfect balance of salty, sweet, spicy and sour.
For my nam jim recipe, I added tamarind puree for extra tang and fruity flavour. And a little extra finely chopped coriander roots add freshness and aroma to the overall dressing.
Any leftover dressing can be used as a Thai dipping sauce for fish cakes, spring rolls or fried chicken pieces.
Flavour/Texture: Crispy and refreshing textures with a kick of spice. I love how the different vegetables meld together and soak in the tangy tamarind nam jim dressing.
Ease: Only basic chopping skills are required for this Asian chopped salad recipe. That’s it.
Time: An easy 20 minutes is all you need to get this Asian cabbage salad together. The faster you chop, the less time is needed.
These are the ingredients you need for Chinese Cabbage Salad:
Chinese cabbage: You can find Chinese cabbage/wombok in large supermarkets and Asian grocery stores. I love the crispness of raw Chinese cabbage in salad.
Carrot: Finely shredded carrot not only adds colour but sweetness.
Cucumber: I prefer Lebanese cucumbers as they are smaller than continental cucumbers, and I don’t feel like I have to use them all up. Choose cucumbers that are firm with no soft spots.
Coriander/Mint/Spring onions: Essential to have a good mix of herbs in Asian coleslaws. Coriander mint and spring onions are my go-to, but you can substitute with basil as well.
Chilli: I used long red chilli for mild heat. You can change to bird’s eye chilli or your favourite version, depending on how much heat you like.
Roasted peanuts: Adding extra crunch and texture, I like to throw in roasted peanuts.
Fish sauce: This is the base of the tamarind nam jim dressing. I always have good quality fish sauce in the pantry. The better quality fish sauce will have less added salt as it draws flavour from dried anchovy.
Tamarind puree: Available at large supermarkets or Asian groceries, tamarind puree is more of a liquid form and less concentrated than tamarind pulp.
It is easier to use puree for this dressing as you don’t need to soak it. You can also use tamarind paste which is more concentrated so adjust accordingly.
Variations and Substitutions
Chinese cabbage substitute: If you can’t find Chinese cabbage, you can substitute it with white or red cabbage.
Tamarind alternative: If tamarind puree is unavailable, increase the lemon juice by 1-2 tablespoons and adjust according to taste. Alternatively, use our Coriander Lime dressing.
Vegan option: The only non-vegan ingredient in this Chinese cabbage salad is the fish sauce used in the dressing. You can purchase vegan fish sauce or substitute it with light soy sauce. I would add ½ teaspoon of grated ginger to punch up the flavours if you use light soy sauce.
Nut free option: Replace the toasted peanuts with pepitas or sesame seeds for a nut free version. Or you can switch the peanuts for crunchy ramen noodles or make your own crispy noodles for added texture, just like our Wombok slaw.
Make it a meal: Add barbecue char siu, sticky tofu or shredded rotisserie chicken for extra protein to make a complete meal.
Alternative salad dressing: Our peanut dressing would also work with an Asian cabbage salad combination.
Step-by-step instructions for how to make Chinese Cabbage Salad with Tamarind Nam Jim:
How To Prepare Salad
Thinly slice the Chinese cabbage leaves. You want approximately 3 cups of chopped Chinese cabbage.
Peel and cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and then again, so you have 4 long quarters. Trim seeds off because you don’t want the salad to be too wet. Then cut the cucumber diagonally about 1-1.5cm apart.
Shred carrot using a julienne peeler and thinly cut into matchsticks.
Chop spring onions (scallions) into 5 cm lengths. Then slice into long thin strips.
Cut long red chillies in half and deseed. Then slice into thin strips.
Wash coriander (cilantro) and mint leaves well and roughly chop. Save the coriander stems for tamarind nam jim dressing.
How to Make Tamarind Nam Jim Dressing
Wash coriander stems well and then finely chop.
Take a few strips of sliced red chilli and finely chop. If you prefer more spice, you can use bird’s eye chilli rather than long chillies in the dressing. This will give the tamarind nam jim a real kick.
In a small bowl, mix warm water and brown sugar together until dissolved.
Add fish sauce, lemon juice and tamarind puree into the bowl and stir until combined.
Add chopped coriander stems and chilli. Mix well.
How To Assemble Chinese Cabbage Salad
In a large mixing bowl, place shredded cabbage, carrots, cucumber, half the toasted peanuts, coriander and mint leaves.
Add tamarind nam jim dressing and toss well together.
Tumble dressed Chinese cabbage salad onto a large serving platter. Scatter sliced spring onions, red chillies and remaining toasted peanuts on the top.
How to Make This Salad Perfectly (Expert Tips)
Don’t dress the salad until ready to serve: Chinese cabbage absorbs liquid and flavours well but also means it will lose its crunch over time and become soft. I prefer to dress the salad when ready to serve.
Keep salad chilled: I prefer to have a chilled Chinese cabbage salad so keep chopped salad refrigerated until ready to serve.
Great Mains for This Salad
What to serve with Chinese Cabbage Salad? Try these delicious main dish recipes:
A refreshing slaw inspired Chinese cabbage salad is a great palette cleanser to re-set your taste buds. Perfect for delicious dishes like air fryer parmesan crusted pork chops and grilled chicken thighs.
Meanwhile this avocado burger with ground beef is simple scrumptious. The Chinese cabbage salad would give it tang and crunch.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, this Asian cabbage salad can be easily made in advance for lunch, dinner or entertaining.
All vegetables are chopped and prepped in one container. Then store roasted peanuts in an airtight container and tamarind nam jim in a mason jar.
As tamarind nam jim does contain fish sauce, I would be careful in how you transport it in case of spillage. As much as we love fish sauce, it does leave a pungent, long-lasting smell.
When choosing a good Chinese cabbage, look for unblemished white, crisp leaves and make sure you feel the weight. A good Chinese cabbage will feel heavy and firm.
Chinese cabbage stores well in the fridge for at least 2 weeks, so you can use leftovers for other recipes.
You most likely won’t use a full Chinese cabbage in this recipe. With leftover Chinese cabbage, you can simply stir fry with soy sauce or add to noodle soups.
Alternatively, try our Glass Noodle Salad or Roast Duck and Wombok Salad. You can also simply chop it up with our creamy tahini miso dressing or toss with fried ramen noodles and crunchy vegetables mixed together with our chilli soy dressing.
Native to Asia and Africa, tamarind is a fruit grown on trees in tropical climates. It comes in a small curvy pod with a brittle shell and a sticky sour pulp. The pulp is what we use in our cooking.
Tamarind has a punchy sour taste with a fruity aroma. I love how it adds tangy flavours, molasses notes, and complexity to the nam jim dressing.
We love adding tamarind in our Thai Prawn Salad with Chilli dressing or as a sticky glaze with our roasted eggplant side dish.
This is an easy Asian chopped salad that matches many different dishes. The mild sweetness of the Chinese cabbage does not overpower and carries the tamarind nam jim dressing so well.
The freshness of colourful vegetables, mixed Asian herbs, and crunchy peanuts will make this a hit with family and friends.
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Chinese Cabbage Salad with Tamarind Nam Jim
- 3 cups Chinese cabbage, chopped
- 2 carrot
- 1 cucumber
- 2 sprigs spring onion, (scallion)
- 2 red chilli, long
- ½ cup coriander, leaves, chopped, keep stems
- ½ cup mint, leaves, chopped
- ½ cup peanuts
Click on the toggle below for conversion to US Cooking Units.
- Peel off 7-8 Chinese cabbage leaves and give a good wash. Thinly slice the Chinese cabbage leaves to yield about 3 cups.
- Peel the cucumber and trim the ends. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and then again, so you have 4 long quarters. Trim seeds off and then cut the cucumber diagonally about 1-1.5cm apart.
- Cut carrots into thin matchsticks or shred using a julienne peeler.
- Wash spring onions, remove roots and then chop the spring onion into 5cm lengths. Then slice into long thin strips.
- Cut long red chillies in half and deseed. Then slice into thin strips.
- Wash coriander and mint leaves well and roughly chop. Save the coriander stems for tamarind nam jim dressing.
- Wash coriander stems well and then finely chop.
- Take a few strips of sliced red chilli and finely chop.
- In a small bowl, mix warm water and brown sugar together until dissolved.
- Add fish sauce, lemon juice and tamarind puree into the bowl and stir until combined.
- Add chopped coriander stems and chilli. Mix well.
- In a large mixing bowl, place shredded cabbage, carrots, cucumber, half the toasted peanuts, coriander and mint leaves.
- Add tamarind nam jim dressing and toss well together.
- Tumble dressed Chinese cabbage salad onto a large serving platter.
- Scatter sliced spring onions, red chillies and remaining toasted peanuts on the top.
- Replace the fish sauce with vegan fish sauce or light soy sauce if you would like a vegan version. Add ½ teaspoon of grated ginger if you use light soy sauce.
- Replace the toasted chilli peanuts with toasted pepitas for a nut free version.
- You can replace Chinese Cabbage with white or red cabbage.
- Tamarind puree can be found in most large supermarkets in the Asian section or at Asian grocery stores. If you can’t find it, can omit it in the dressing. Increase the lemon juice to balance the flavours.
- If you prefer more heat, use bird’s eye chillies in the tamarind nam jim dressing.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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