Spicy Red Cabbage and Quinoa Slaw

I’m a persistent student of what to have for lunch. With this little salad, I think I’ve reached a new grade level. It’s light but substantial, fun yet everyday, colorful and full of vegetables. Like kale, cabbage is a great base for a make-ahead salad because it becomes more delicious the longer it marinates (rather than soggier).

I serve a slaw of some sort at almost every summer party I host or contribute to. Cabbage is simultaneously hearty and cheap, so grabbing a head or two before a party, slicing it up, and dressing the shreds means you’ll have a vegetarian-friendly, healthful hit on your hands without a lot of work done or money spent. Win.

Over the years, I’ve experimented with different slaw dressings, from cool, creamy mayo-based sauces to sweet vinaigrettes punctuated with fresh herbs. This one, infused with ginger and hot pepper, made tangy with rice vinegar, and sweetened with some sugar, has always been one of my favorites. You heat the dressing before pouring it over the cabbage, a technique that snatches the rawness from the vegetable and leaves it silky yet crunchy.

When lunch rolls around, though, a side-dish-style slaw is not always enough. The real innovation here is the apparently random handful of cooked quinoa, which gives the slaw heft, protein, and the carbs you need to get through the afternoon. A generous portion of peanuts complements the Southeast Asian-inspired flavors and contributes both more protein and more crunch. 

Would you make this for lunch? Or do you have a current favorite summer brown bag lunch? I’d love to hear.


Spicy Red Cabbage and Quinoa Slaw

Serves 1

This is easily doubled, tripled, quadrupled to make for a crowd. The other variable is the quinoa–if you’d like to make this salad even more substantial, it’s fine to increase the proportion of quinoa to cabbage.

2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon safflower, canola, or grapeseed oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 birdseye chile pepper, thinly sliced, or a pinch red pepper flakes
About 1/4 red cabbage, trimmed and shredded on a mandolin or cut thinly with a knife (yielding 2 packed cups)
1/4 onion, thinly sliced on a mandolin or with a knife
1 other vegetable, sliced thinly (I like a turnip, radish, small carrot, red pepper, or cucumber–chef’s choice!)
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/4 cup salted peanuts, chopped

Combine the ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, safflower oil, salt, and chile in a small saucepan and set over medium heat, whisking to dissolve the sugar. It will come to a boil quickly, so keep an eye on it. Let the dressing boil for just a few moments, then turn off the heat.

Meanwhile, combine the cabbage, onion, and your vegetable of choice in a medium mixing bowl. Pour the hot dressing over the vegetables and stir to combine. Stir in the quinoa and most of the chopped peanuts. Stir again. Garnish with the peanuts. You can eat immediately, or refrigerate up to 2 days before eating.


  1. I made this for lunch
    today and it was delicious. I did not have peanuts, so I used toasted
    sesame seeds, which worked well. Also,
    for my taste, I would double the recipe, but keep the amount of dressing the

  2. There is cabbage, there is quinoa and there are spices; this make me happy. As next week is Switzerland’s national day and grilling is almost a tradition; I am sure that this slaw recipe will be on the table. Thanks!

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