waste not: cabbage slaw, three ways.

August 30, 2018

cabbage slaw, three ways | reading my tea leaves

Waste Not is a collaboration with my friend, Carrie King. The premise is simple: Carrie, a food writer and editor, shares a recipe highlighting at least one particular way that we can curb food waste. I make it at home, take a bunch of pictures, and share it with everyone here. 

True story: I bought a large green cabbage—or, more accurately, had one of my sisters buy it for me—when Silas a brand new baby and my breasts felt like they’d soon explode. Cabbage leaves to the rescue! (Something about sulfur and anti-irritants.) Too much information? Well, no less embarrassing, but somewhat less intimate, is the fact that after a few days and a few leaves, when my milk supply regulated and my engorgement settled down, the remaining cabbage sat in the crisper drawer of my fridge for weeks. A month? Two? I finally got tired of it sitting in there and I composted it without taking even a single bite. The trouble is, cabbage doesn’t always feel inspiring and there’s always so much of it!  Here, Carrie gives us three different slaw recipes for turning something a bit ho-hum into something that’s much, much tastier.
cabbage slaw, three ways | reading my tea leavesFrom Carrie:

A head of cabbage sitting on my fridge shelf is me first thing in the morning, right after I roll out of bed. A little disheveled and hard-to-deal-with, not particularly polished, kind of just sitting around, taking up space, not inviting much interaction (as I watch the coffee slowly drip).

Slaw is me an hour later (post-caffeine) after getting cleaned up and pulled together. A little dressed up, a little peppy, a little sassy, but softer and ready to mix and mingle. A more awake, better version of myself.cabbage slaw, three ways | reading my tea leaves

This is all to say that there is really nothing glamorous about a head of cabbage. Even its very name – cabbage – is kind of unfortunate and clunky. It’s not flashy or particularly tasty by itself, and needs some time and work in order to shine. And cabbage is never gonna be kale, its very close, very successful relative that has really shaken off any and all negative associations to rise to food superstardom. It’s always gonna be plain old, reliable cabbage.cabbage slaw, three ways | reading my tea leaves

But, when it comes to value for money in the vegetable department, it’s hard to beat. Cabbage is nutritious, versatile, and relatively cheap (I usually buy organic heads of cabbage for about 99¢/lb). There’s good eating in a cabbage. A lot of times, foods that are nutrient-dense, abundant, and affordable need the most TLC in order for them to become delicious and, in some cases, edible. When it comes to cabbage, which is very, very hearty and fibrous, and not necessarily lip-smacking in its own right, many cultures have traditions that involve stewing, braising, fermenting, or pickling it. Kimchi and sauerkraut are two of the biggies that stand out. There’s also stuffed cabbage, braised cabbage, Ireland’s famous bacon and cabbage. You get the picture.cabbage slaw, three ways | reading my tea leaves

Personally, I find slaws are a great use of any cabbage I have lying around. What is slaw if not a quick pickle of sorts? And since they come together fast, it’s not a huge chore to make, but still makes tough cabbage a whole lot yummier. Plus with slaws, cabbage retains some of that fresh, crunchy texture that I love a lot.

The idea of a cabbage slaw is always the same: you want an acidic, somewhat salted base to help break down the fibrous veggie, so it becomes a bit softer and not as unwieldy. The flavor of cabbage is fairly neutral, which makes it an ideal candidate for all sorts of flavor profiles. You can mix it up depending on the type of meal you’re going for. Because I honestly have cabbage on hand at almost all times (My kids actually like eating it raw! Hard to beat that crunch, I guess!) I find myself making lots of slaws. Slaws for tacos! Slaws for falafels and gyros and other Middle Eastern or Greek-inspired pitas and flatbreads! Slaws for meals with an Asian flair that need some crunch and acid! Slaws for a BBQ! Slaws for days!cabbage slaw, three ways | reading my tea leaves 

Green Cabbage Slaw (for tacos!):

3-4 cups thinly shredded green cabbage

Kosher salt

3-4 tablespoons lime juice

1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves and stems (leftover cilantro?)

3-4 red radishes, very thinly sliced (leftover radishes?)

1/4 cup sour cream or full-fat Greek yogurt

Freshly ground pepper

In a large bowl, combine the cabbage and 2 teaspoons of kosher salt. Use your hands to massage the cabbage and the salt together, 15 times or so, until it starts to wilt and soften.

Add the lime juice, cilantro, radishes, and sour cream or yogurt, stir to combine.

Taste and season with salt and pepper as necessary.

Ways to change this up:

Add a grated carrot

Add a minced jalapeño or Fresno chile

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

Omit the creamy factor (also makes it vegan!)

Up the creamy factor (makes it more creamy!)


Purple Cabbage Slaw (as a falafel or gyro topper!):

3-4 cups thinly shredded purple cabbage

Kosher salt

3-4 tablespoons lemon juice

1 garlic clove, finely grated

2 tablespoons tahini

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves and stems

In a large bowl, combine the cabbage and 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Use your hands to massage the cabbage and salt together, 15 times or so, until the cabbage starts to wilt and soften.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, grated garlic, tahini, olive oil, and a pinch each of salt and pepper.

Toss the cabbage in the dressing.

Stir in the chopped cilantro.

Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.


Napa Cabbage Slaw (for an Asian-style slaw!):

3-4 cups finely shredded Napa cabbage

Kosher salt

3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1-2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar or honey

1 garlic clove, finely grated

1 tablespoon grated ginger

2-3 scallions, thinly sliced

In a large bowl, combine the cabbage and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Use your hands to massage the cabbage and salt together, 5 times or so, until the cabbage starts to wilt and soften.

In a separate small bowl, combine the rice wine vinegar, lemon juice, soy sauce, sugar or honey, grated ginger and garlic, whisking until the sugar or honey dissolve.

Toss the cabbage with the dressing and sliced scallions.

Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

Ways to change this up:

Add 1 teaspoon sesame oil, stir in a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds, add a very thinly sliced red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, and/or a grated carrot


If you have more than 4 cups of shredded cabbage, just proportionately bump up the amounts of the other ingredients and make more slaw. I find that if I have prepared slaw in the fridge it ends up getting eaten as dinner sides and lunchtime sandwich and salad toppers all week. Whereas, if I leave a hunk of cabbage in the fridge it is more likely to get chucked after a while just because…well, see above.

If you have a mandoline or food processor with shredder attachment, both can make quick and even work of finely shredding a bunch of cabbage in a jif!

Thanks to Carrie King for writing this post and developing the recipe. When Carrie’s not encouraging me in tiny-apartment cooking adventures, she’s a food writer and editor. Her cookbook work includes Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner….Life with Missy Robbins and The Chef Next Door with Amanda Freitag. She has contributed to Gather Journal and Life & Thyme and works as recipe editor at Marley Spoon and Dinnerly. Thanks to culinary school and lots of time spent in kitchens, both professional and home, she can cook just about anything, but usually just wants a few couple few slices of pizza.

For the curious:

+ That green cabbage is a cone cabbage! Tastes just like regular green cabbage, but looks cooler!

+ Our serving bowl is from East Fork Pottery.

+ Our cast iron pan is from Field Company.

This post includes affiliate links. Reading My Tea Leaves might earn a small commission on the goods purchased through those links. 

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  • Reply Christie August 30, 2018 at 1:16 pm

    I LOVE this series. Best Series in Blog-land. These recipes have changed my life, and that is not hyperbole. I have been making those lemons every week (we use a lot of lemons, so we keep the old ones in a jar until full, and make quick-preserved). I put the lemons in my faux-lafel, which I make almsot every week because my kids love it so much. I will probably put those lemons in the slaw above and serve with my faux-lafels. I put them in my panzanella we had on Monday. Please keep going with this through the seasons.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 30, 2018 at 1:17 pm

      YAY! SO glad you love it! We do too!!!

    • Reply Carrie King August 30, 2018 at 1:46 pm

      Christie! Thank you for this! I’ll be perma-smiling for the rest of the day!

    • Reply Jennifer Odle August 30, 2018 at 3:00 pm

      Ditto! Also now I’m craving those tacos for dinner!

  • Reply Ann August 30, 2018 at 1:18 pm

    I like the combination of the taste of fresh cabbage and tomatoes. And in winter, sauerkraut and boiled potatoes. Onion, greens, sunflower oil – not much is needed for any cabbage salad. I’ll definitely try to add ginger and wrap the salad in pitu.

  • Reply Stella - Hildebrandt Sustainable Living August 30, 2018 at 1:19 pm

    This post was so perfectly timed as I just stood and stared at the cabbage head in my fridge… now half of it will be eaten as side + with falafel for dinner tomorrow 🙂

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 30, 2018 at 1:22 pm

      Yes! As an aside: I was also really taken aback by how much the step of massaging the cabbage helped with the sheer bulk of cabbage! Massaged, it becomes softer (without losing the crunch!) and wilts a bit…suddenly I don’t feel like I’ve made enough slaw to feed a small army!

      • Reply Stella September 2, 2018 at 4:06 pm

        totally! made a lot (so i thought) and lasted for 2 portions. I’ve tried (and failed) at making sourkraut but this is just so much easier and tastier I think. Love the series!

  • Reply Kate August 30, 2018 at 1:47 pm

    This is great! We’ve gotten a few heads of cabbage from our CSA this summer. I like it, but it’s a lot for two people to get through! Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Reply Doe August 30, 2018 at 2:32 pm

    Ha! I just made slaw last night! Bought a smallish green cabbage two weeks ago, in anticipation of guests–and then never made the slaw while they were here! The outer leaves began to yellow, and I swear I heard whimpering! What a waste, right?! Oh no! Last night I peeled away the yellowing leaves, chopped them up for the chickens, and dug in to the rest of the head with gusto. Made us a giant bowl of shredded slices, whisked together some apple cider vinegar and mayo in roughly equal proportions, shredded two semi-rubberized carrots left over from a CSA share, juiced 1/2 a lemon, and added one mini-box of organic raisins, one handful of slivered almonds, a 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger and another of sweet curry–et, voila!! So good–and lots left over for tonight and likely tomorrow! Yay!

  • Reply Robin August 30, 2018 at 3:44 pm

    Cabbage is one of my favourite veggies. Spring varieties are my favourite, a fresh picked spring cabbage is as enjoyable as a juicy heirloom tomato! I like to shred them and make a salad with a vinaigrette, toasted pumpkin seeds, parsley, and shredded carrots. Later in the year, the dense winter storage cabbages are really good cut into chunks and braised in wine or chicken broth. I use the cookbook “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman for cabbage recipes (and everything, really).

  • Reply Willow Westwood August 31, 2018 at 6:53 am

    Yes! Cabbage is the best!! I got really into braising it for lunch this winter: chop it up and put it over low heat with oil, ACV, salt, and pepper, poke it around it the pan ever so often, and an hour later you have an awesome meal. My entire family is currently obsessed with this recipe from the New York Times:
    but generally do it without the tofu, making it much more versatile. Equally good on tacos as it is with a fried egg for breakfast!

  • Reply Maria September 3, 2018 at 7:34 am

    I’ll be making the Purple Cabbage Slaw tonight! Love this series, always lots of yummy and nutritious recipes that are packed full of color and flavor.

    • Reply Maria September 3, 2018 at 5:56 pm

      I just made the PCS, it is DELICIOUS. I added sliced white onions, basil and swapped out lemon juice for fresh squeezed lime. I’ll be making this recipe for months to come.

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