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cole slaw with wasabi dressing

One of the great things about France is that people spend a lot of time talking to each other. True, it’s not so great when you’re behind someone in line and they’re carrying on a conversation with the sales clerk at the bakery as if they have all the time on the planet, when you’re hopping up and down behind them (and there are people doing the same thing behind you) because you just want to get your baguette for dinner. But if you take the time, it’s nice the enjoy the jovial nature of the French and slow down for a bit. As someone who is normally hyperactive, it’s a lesson in patience that I’ve had to learn, which I practice on a daily basis.

cole slaw with wasabi dressing cabbage

Many visitors forget that and don’t always have great experiences because they’re in a hurry to do so much on their trip, or try to tick off the restaurants written up in the travel section of newspapers or magazines from back home. I always tell people to take a day off, and stroll a market or just sit in cafés for a while. Or find a restaurant off-the-beaten path for dinner, taking the métro into one of the outer neighborhoods.

cabbage halves

At my market, there is a great producteur where I now buy everything I can from, and we always spend a few minutes laughing (sometimes at my French), or just making conversation. A few years back, these twisted cabbages started showing up at their stand and due to their curious shape, of course, I was hooked!

sliced cabbage

They have the pleasant crunch of cabbage but are less aggressive and almost sweeter, more delicate in taste, than plain cabbage. They go by various names, from chou pointu (pointed cabbage), to cœur de bœuf (beef heart) cabbage. Since summer is here, I’m making more and more salads with shredded raw vegetables and I’d written up a recipe for wasabi vinaigrette for the Spice Islands blog, and thought I’d adapt for a spicy summer slaw.

cole slaw with wasabi dressing

It’s pretty simple to make and can be a meal in itself, especially if you add roasted pork or tofu to the mix. As the vegetables change this summer, I’ll likely try it with whatever comes along. But for now, I’m happy with this version.

roast pork cole slaw with wasabi dressing

Cole Slaw with Wasabi Dressing

Feel free use a grater, electric or otherwise, to prepare the vegetables. But I prefer doing it by hand. It’s pretty satisfying to chop everything into thin strips, especially if your knife is sharp. This dressing is a bit different from the ones you might find on a “Chinese chicken salad” – it’s a bit more balmy and earthy-tasting due to the wasabi powder. You can make the dressing a day in advance and dress the salad shortly before you plan to serve it. At the end of the recipe, I’ve made a few additional notes.

For the wasabi dressing:

  • (makes 1/2 cup, 125ml)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons wasabi powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chile powder
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup oil, (I used grapeseed oil but you can use peanut or canola)

For the cole slaw:

  • 4 cups (200g) shredded cabbage, (about 1/2 head)
  • 10 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 avocados, pitted and cubed
  • 5 cornichons, split lengthwise, then thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 bunch) fresh chives, minced
  • optional: 8 ounces (225g) Chinese roast pork or bbq tofu
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • Make the dressing by mixing together the lime juice and wasabi in a large bowl. Let stand for five minutes.
  • Stir in the remaining ingredients until well-blended.
  • Add the vegetables, avocado pieces, cornichons, and chives bowl and toss with the dressing. Then mix in the pork or tofu (if using), then the sesame seeds.
  • Taste, and add more lime juice, if desired.

Recipe Notes

-To make Chinese-style pork, I marinate pork tenderloin in prepared Char Su sauce (on Amazon) overnight then roast it in the oven just until cooked through. There’s a scratch recipe in the links below.

-If you can’t get fresh limes, lemon juice will work as well.

-Fish sauce adds a certain je ne sais quoi, and really adds something special. But feel free to leave it out if unavailable.

-Other herbs, such as fresh mint and cilantro could certainly be used along with the chives to customize the slaw.

-Swap out a handful of roasted peanuts or pumpkin seeds in place of the sesame seeds.

-Add any other raw vegetables that you like, such as shredded broccoli, cauliflower, or kohlrabi, to the mix.

-Scallions aren’t easily available in Paris, although spring onions are. In place of the red onion, you can used thinly sliced scallions or spring onions, if you wish.

-Most “wasabi” powders are blends of wasabi and horseradish (or mustard), including the powders you often find in Asian markets. Look for a brand with wasabi as the first ingredient, if possible. Various wasabi powders undoubtedly vary in strength. If unsure, use half the amount indicated then add more to the dressing, to taste.

Related Recipes and Links

BBQ Pork (Char Sui) (Rasa Malaysia)

Chicken and Mango Slaw

Fresh Wasabi (Steamy Kitchen)

How to Make French Vinaigrette

Grated Carrot Salad

Celery Remoulade



    • joanna

    Yay! I am addicted to broccoli slaw and tired of the dressing. Definitely going to try this. Thanks! :)

    • Sharon

    Sounds good – I’ll find some wasabi powder at the market this morning and try it tonight. In Germany, this cabbage is called Spitzkohl – like in French, pointed. But “spitze” describes anything as great, wonderful, the best, really cool (add your own description). It is definitely a cut above regular white cabbage, tender and tasty!

    • Chef Stephanie Petersen

    This will be well received at our house now the the weather is getting hot! Bonus as we’re just harvesting our cabbage and carrots. It will be outstanding…I can almost taste it! Thanks David! You do so inspire!

    • The Mistress of Spices

    This sounds wonderful and so perfect for the summer. Think I’ll make it for a picnic on the Pont des Arts this weekend!

    • yohanna tashi

    yes! finally something i can experiment at home.. im so tired of our boring dinner.. might make roasted oregano chicken and this coleslaw..yey! thx mr lebovitz!

    • Mariza

    In the UK that lovely cabbage is called Sweetheart Cabbage, due of course to its lovely sweet flavour. I’ve searched in North America for it but without luck. We usually serve it lightly steamed with just lemon juice and toasted, crushed pine nuts but I can just imagine how great it would be in this recipe.

    • Meg

    You may have inspired me to eat something healthy, David. No small feat.

    My market guy has something called choux nouveaux that looks kinda familiar… I’m gonna ask him if it might be the same thing!

    • Joanne

    i’m from singapore where char siu’s really famous and popular. my mom makes the absolute best homemade char siu. seriously, the best i’ve ever tasted! i could pass the recipe to you if you are interested :)

    • Kathryn

    What a lovely fresh looking salad. There’s something about thinly sliced raw vegetables that just screams ‘summer’!

    • Annabel (Mrs Redboots)

    I’d call that a sweetheart cabbage, and it’s my favourite kind – quite the most flavour of all the green cabbages, although if I’m going to eat raw cabbage I prefer a white one.

    And surely scallions and spring onions are the same thing? They are here (in the UK, I mean) – my husband, from Northern Ireland, calls them scallions and I, from southern England, call them spring onions.

    • Alanna

    This looks delicious! I recently tried a miso slaw from the San Francisco Chronicle cookbook, but found it overly sweet. (In fact, I wonder how miso would taste in place of the fish sauce here – both salty-sweet and umami… I’ll have to give it a try.) I’m generally a wimp about spiciness, but for some reason adore wasabi.

    A fabulous sushi place in my ‘hood (Ume, in SF) carries freshly grated Japanese wasabi. So pricey, but so worth it to know how floral, clean and complex the real stuff tastes.

    Thanks for an inspiring post – I can’t wait to make this soon!

    • Claire

    I’m sitting rugged up with a doona and wishing it was summer cause this looks mouthwateringly delicious – I adore cabbage – but like Mrs Redboots above, was sure that spring onions and scallions were the same thing..? Now I’m intrigued!

    • Dragana

    Hi! Where I live, I think it’s possible to find everythoing from the recipe, but I’m not sure about toasted sesame oil. Can I use plain sesame oil instead? Thanks!

    • Susan

    I have lately been salting the shredded cabbage and letting it sweat out it’s moisture before rinsing and drying it to use in slaw. It seems to remove some bitterness and help it stay crisp longer once the dressing is mixed in. I read this technique in older cookbooks and it really does seem to do something for it, at least it does when using the typical mayo dressings. Would this be something desirable to do in this recipe, or does the dressing allow for the sweating of the cabbage?

    • Susan

    Great article about taking your time to enjoy the small moments. People do forget to slow down when in a great city such as yours!!!
    I love that you added radishes! I’m making bbq pork today per family request, and I have wasabi paste-hope it works well-I’m going to try it. I also have miso paste which I used for a japanese dressing and it was phenomenal. As a reader commented, that might be good. Kind of scared the family won’t care for wasabi–but feeling adventurous.

    • James Brewer

    Ohhh… I like all the different vegetables that are being included in this coleslaw, and the dressing sounds so much lighter than using traditional mayonnaise.

    I love the fact you chopped it by hand, it may never be as neat or perfect when you do it by hand – but the satisfaction you get is awesome.

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Susan: I’ve never done that so don’t know. This particular cabbage is pretty tender so it’s not a problem.

    Dragana: You can use unroasted but often it has very little flavor so you’ll have to add more, perhaps replacing some of the regular oil with it.

    Claire and Mrs. Redboots: The nomenclature varies country by country – “scallions” like we know in the states, don’t exist much in France. (You only see them very, very rarely – like, I think I’ve seen two bunches in my lifetime.) Spring onions do, however, so folks can use either. There’s a little discussion about them in the Fried Bean recipe, too.

    Joanne: I love char sui! Don’t know if I have time to make it myself (even though I know it’s easy) but your mom’s recipe sounds delicious.

    • Heather

    This recipe sounds fabulous. I recently just learned to like cole slaw even though I’ve always loved cabbage. I love how the wasabi adds a great kick to it!

    • Kristin

    I’ve been on a sushi kick this week, so I have tons of wasabi, soy sauce, pickled ginger and nori in the house. I think I might try this and crunch some nori over top and eat it with pickled ginger. Thanks for the idea!

    • Sherry

    Trust a David recipe to give one a craving for a crunchy wasabi kick right after breakfast!

    I did want to offer the following re: the difference between scallions and spring onions (i.e., apparently there IS a difference): the shape of scallions is straight right to the white end, while spring onions have a bulb (and, if left in the ground to mature, will grow into regular onions – not so with scallions).

    See the following:
    I hope that’s useful!

    • Sense of Home Kitchen

    The wasabi dressing sounds like the change my coleslaw needs. I have been adding cayenne pepper to spice it up, but the wasabi would add another flavor, not just heat, terrific idea. That cabbage in the photo is interesting, the oblong shape is what is different, the kind we grow and buy here are all round.


    • KalynsKitchen

    This definitely sounds like my kind of salad!

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Glad there’s so many (other) wasabi fans out there!

    Just to note that there is a wide variation in the strength of wasabi powder. Some contain horseradish and/or mustard, or coloring. (The one I use listed wasabi, horseradish, and mustard on the label, in that order.) Even the ones sold in Japanese markets are usually blends or some sort.

    So feel free to add more, or less, as you wish.

    • Yuri

    What a funny looking cabbage! I can only find the boring, round ones here… can’t wait to try this dressing. I love wasabi and salads. YUM!

    • noplainjaneskitchen

    I always enjoy a cabbage salad and love trying different types of dressings. Using wasabi is inspired and I’m planning to make it for dinner tonight to have with the barbecue baby back ribs I’m prepping for dinner. My family never gets tired of cabbage/slaw because there are so many types of dressings…given that we all love sushi with wasabi I think this will be a hit. Thank you David!!

    • jen @ the baked life

    I love the look of those cabbages! no wonder you are hooked, I would be too if I found them here.

    This slaw looks fantastic. Would be an amazing summer/spring dinner along with lightly seared ahi tuna. yum.

    • Edward K

    You can sometimes find scallions in the street markets in Paris and occasionally in the covered markets. They call them cive and they have a reddish straight bulb and a stronger flavor than the white scallions. Don’t be confused cive with chives and ciboulette. The white scallions can be found at Tang Freres on ave d’Ivry or in the smaller Asian markets all over Paris.

    • Marianne Charters

    OOh fun….there is a pop up food cart on the weekends that sells delicious skewers of Shoyu beef with wasabi coleslaw and fresh pickled good, I will have to try yours soon…..also. I gave your Sweet Life book to a friend headed to Paris this summer (he was especially interested in the Absinthe shops) Thank YOU

    • Kelly

    Oooh! I love the sound of this. Way to take something so standard and often uninspired and give it a fun Asain kick. I wish I had thought of (or had) this recipe a few months back when I had some fresh wasabi on hand as this would have been a fun way to use it.

    • Pennyloper

    Think I’m going to try this dressing with some fresh wasabi. I’ve got wasabi growing in the backyard and have been waiting very patiently (2 years) for it to be ready. It’s ready…

    • Susan Nye

    …love wasabi! Many thanks – Susan

    • Merisi in Vienna

    This pointy cabbage was one of the new vegetables I discovered here in Vienna.
    I love it, so much sweeter than conventional cabbage! Somehow it never ended up in a coleslow, but now it will, soon. Merci beaucoup for this great recipe suggestion!

    • Chrissy @

    Oooo I can see this with some Ahi tuna in my near future :)

    • Tina @ My Life as a MRs

    This looks incredible. I’m not a huge mayo-based coleslaw person, so this looks like absolute perfection! PS- Looking forward to meeting you at the BlogHer Food conference! I LOVE your “Perfect Scoop” book- best ice cream ever. :)

    • Murissa Maurice

    Italy really taught me to slow down and enjoy your lunch or dinner – because you know the waiters aren’t going to change now just for you so might as well sit and enjoy the view and the food and every sip of cappuccino, spumante or chianti.

    The Wanderfull Traveler

    • Monica

    I adore cole slaw, and the cornichons are a fascinating addition to this. Must make. Must buy wasabi powder!

    • Stephanie, the Recipe Renovator

    This sounds absolutely lovely and I’m going to try it with agave syrup and wheat-free tamari to make it fit my sugar-free and gluten-free diet. We are so looking forward to visiting Paris next month!

    • latafiolesucrée

    remove from heat = retirer du feu

    • Nancy

    That’s so funny, I made cole slaw, with a plain old vinaigrette dressing, and added pulled pork for dinner yesterday. And my husband thought I was weird! He liked it a lot once he tried it though

    • Geraldine Toltschin

    As usual everything you do is FANTASTIC. Tell the truth, did you use black sesame seeds? I keep both at home.

    QUESTION, silly BUT, I only have real wasabi,paste, never seen powedred?

    Thanks for another tasty treat.

    • Susan

    I had to come back and say they dressing is wonderful with miso. Fish oil would be great too, I just wanted to use my miso. Also, wasabi paste worked well, I used about two teaspoons. Thanks for the recipe! I think also, you meant use scallions instead of red onion. At any rate no going back to my second rate grocery store for more ingredients; they couldn’t even manage fresh ginger root! Red onion it is!

    • Bee | Rasa Malaysia

    David – Delicious cole slaw and the Asian twist of wasabi dressing. Thanks so much for linking to my char siu recipe. The char siu recipe and the char siu sauce will be in my upcoming cookbook. If you can find maltose in Paris, you should try making the sauce yourself. It’s quite addictive! :)

    • anna

    This sounds delicious MINUS the wasabi which, I’m guessing, is pretty crucial since it’s in the title. I LOVE heat, I just can’t get on board with wasabi… it tastes weird to me. Spicy and blah at the same time. Can I sub something or leave it out?

    Or, maybe the wasabi I’ve had thus far is to blame?

    • Claudia

    You know – I’ve never loved American slaw. Thoiught I would blow through the post – and I never can. The ingredient list had me nodding my head “yes” and the vinaigrette is must-do. As a former drinker of vinegar straight from the bottle (I was young), vinaigrettes always get my attention. And as a bonus – you threw in a rosted pork suggestion. On thing I thought I would never miss about living in NYC was always standing in line (or on line as we used to say). These days, I miss the converations that erupted

    • Anna at the Good Food Room

    Very interesting recipe, I always look forward to reading your posts. Loving the dressing but I will use wasabi peas instead, madly in love with them lately.

    • Melissa

    “Summer is here.”?!? So jealous – in Seattle, it’s still cool, damp and grey. The farmer’s markets are starting to have some nice early spring produce but nothing like those beautiful cabbages. Love, love, love slaws of all types. I think roasted shrimp, in lieu of the pork, would also be very tasty – the sweetness of the shrimp playing counterpoint to the cool spiciness of the dressing – yum.

    • david

    Rien a voir…mais si tu as le temps vas visiter ceci au Havre

    • Max@flavortogofast

    this looks and sounds too good I wish I had the time and ingredients to make it!

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    anna: Wasabi can have a certain indistinct flavor, so you can leave it out. You can punch up the dressing another way, with chiles if you wish. Another reader used miso, which sounds like a great addition as well.

    Bee: I can find Maltose although I think I may be kind of lazy and just buy the jarred sauce. But your recipe does look good and it’s probably better – so I’ll give it a try next time I hit the Asian market for ingredients.

    Merisi, Meriza, Sharon: Someone told me that these cabbages grow to enormous sizes and that in Germany, they are the ones they use for sauerkraut. I don’t know if that’s so, but I’d love to see a giant one if they do exist.

    Edward: I’ve been them at organic stands, but only rarely, like the kind they sell commonly in the states. Perhaps because Americans eat them raw sometimes and in Paris, onions and their relatives are usually cooked. What we call “spring onions” in the states, are usually available.

    I do get scallions at Ace Mart, which I use for my kimchi. They can be rather pricey, but they’re necessary in certain things.

    • Beth

    Sounds delish! I’ll definitely be giving this one a go. Guidance, please…do you mean “chili powder,” as in a blend made for American chili, or powdered chiles? Thanks!

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Beth: Since there’s so many different kinds of chile powders around the world, I hesitate to specify specific kinds because of the variations. Because it’s a salad, folks are welcome to add spices to taste. In my cooking, I frequently use Korean chile powder although I have Mexican ones as well. I’m not familiar with a spice blend sold for making American chili but if there’s other things beside chiles in there, I wouldn’t use it.

    • Leszek

    Done. I had to substitute some ingredients (I’m too lazy to do proper shopping :)) , but the key ones were there. Result – fantastic! The wasabi dressing will stay in my recipe book. Thanks, David!

    • Caffettiera

    This salad is not only bikini-friendly, but also delicious, and I agree with your comment that hand chopping pointed cabbage is deeply satisfying. Wasabi is much more versatile than what I thought at first. A Japanese friend of mine taught me a dressing made by simply mashing avocado, a bit of lemon and wasabi, which is really nice. I bought a small jar of pure wasabi powder, which keeps incredibly well and will probably last me a decade.

    • Merisi in Vienna

    Joanne: I would love to have your mom’s char siu recipe! Would you be willing to share it, please?

    it is so interesting that scallions are next to impossible to find in Paris!
    Luckily, here in Vienna, every small greengrocer and all the supermarkets carry them.
    At the farmers markets, huge piles of neatly stacked spring onions, from the smallest to more mature ones, even red ones, are part of daily offerings.

    • Marianne Charters

    I would be interested in Joanne’s recipe tooooooo

    • Brooke@foodwoolf

    Cabbage has never looked more sexy. Thanks for the reminder to bask in the in between moments, cherish the banter, and enjoy the simple pleasures. xoxo, Brooke

    • Marina

    David- What type of Chili powder do you use? Chili as in cayenne or as in Chile con carne type?

    • Kristie V.

    This salad will be perfect alongside a nice block of seared ahi! Can’t wait…wasabi rules!

    • Matt @ ProChef360

    Hmmm…nice cole slaw recipe with wasabe. I tried cole slaw with mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar, ground pepper and salt. Well, I will try your recipe…

    • Anna

    o, wasabi! yum! there is a food stand that sells something like this near my apartment, but it is always closed when i get the craving! now i can make my own!

    • john s

    Almost started to weep when i saw that picture of the cabbage…the flavor! Can’t get ’em here…and the things one can do, easy to stuff those leaves, big sigh.

    • scigirl

    Just to further the naming variations, in Australia they’re known as sugar loaf cabbages.

    • Pam

    What an interesting twist on boring ol’ coleslaw. I like the marinated pork in there. This sounds like a sidedish I would eat in heaping spoonfuls!

    • Scott at RealEpicurean

    After reading this I went off and made my own cole slaw (not following the recipe to be fair – I made a much more traditional version). Home-made is so much better than what you can buy in the shops.

    • Tamsin

    Looks scrummy, I’ve been making a lot of your mango and chicken slaw for my packed lunches, will give this one a go too.

    I first came across sweetheart or ‘hispi’ cabbages in my organic veggie box several years ago. They’re very popular in the uk and much easier to grow because they mature so quickly the pests don’t have time to set up home!

    • thelittleloaf

    This looks awesome. I always avoid coleslaw because of the horrendous, claggy, mayonnaise packed versions you tend to get served, but this looks like the perfect zingy, fresh solution. Thank you!

    • Gavrielle

    David: thanks so much for a coleslaw recipe that’s not clogged wth mayonnaise. Can’t wait to try it. Thanks also for mentioning that most wasabi is blended with horseradish. We have a boutique wasabi producer here in New Zealand that makes a wonderful product called PureWasabi: it comes as a pale green paste in a glass jar and is wasabi only, mixed with a small amount of “pasting aids” like lemon, citric acid and oil (no artificial colours or flavours). The taste is markedly different to the usual blended wasabi: wonderfully pungent, creamy and fragrant.

    • Sissi

    You think the French have all their time in the shops? I think you should go grocery shopping in Switzerland ;-) This is the country where one learns to be patient…
    I love wasabi, I am crazy for avocado and like coleslaw very much; it looks like a dish I’ll make one day!

    • Lucy

    This sounds delicious and I have bookmarked it. Being from the South, I’m used to mayonnaise based cole slaw, which I like, but am always interested to try different versions that are healthier.

    • magpie

    That sounds deliciously different.

    I get those cabbages from my CSA – they call them arrowhead.

    • Lisa S.

    David, organic gardeners up here in western Massachusetts grow an heirloom cabbage called the Jersey Wakefield–it comes in before the big heads of white cabbage, and has a shorter growing season. It looks just like the French “pointed cabbage” and is as sweet as you describe. Also, when I saw the photo I thought the meat involved might be duck–leftover roast duck seems as if it might be nice in this, too. Thanks for a great-sounding recipe!

    • Lee T.

    Just made this and put it in the fridge for it to chill a little, but I can’t stop sneaking bites! Searched for that cabbage to no avail, yet the slaw is still delicious with regular, thanks for the great recipe. Will be enjoying tonight!

    • עורך דין פלילי

    i’ve been looking for a wasabi based dressing recipe for a long time now. thanks.

    • kellie@foodtoglow

    A bit late to the party but I just wanted to say thanks for a really lovely twist on some much-maligned ingredients. Must try soon. And love how you always take the time to give back some thoughtful answers/comments to the many comments sent to you. Seems pretty heroic to me.

    • Luluk

    Hi, Thanks for the nice recipe. My husband is a crazy fan of coleslaw and an avid addict of wasabi. This recipe is definitely for him! Thanks for sharing :-)


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