How Red Cabbage Can Save Your Holiday Meal

It’s easy to get caught up in making comfort food over the holidays – which often leaves our guests crashed in food comas after the big meal is over.

Along with the meat, mashed potatoes, biscuits, and whatever various and sundry rich foods you’ll be making, you’re going to need a crisp, light side dish to balance the meal. I’m talking about salad, but it doesn’t have to be the traditional green kind.

That’s where the cabbage comes in.

A simple red cabbage slaw is all you need to add that necessary element of freshness and zing. Red cabbage is abundant in winter, it sports a festive, purple color, and it’s cheap to boot.

Pair the cabbage with crunchy apples, and you have a sweet-and-sour seasonal dish that will complement whatever you’re making for your big holiday dinner.

This recipe eschews the sour cream and mayo that you’ll often find in cole slaw and instead gets its flavor from tangy vinegar, sharp mustard, and a hit of nutty toasted sesame oil.

Sliced scallions and minced ginger also warm it up and give it a subtle Asian flavor profile.

You can keep this recipe super simple, as it’s written, or riff on it in any number of ways:

– Add toasted seeds or nuts like sesame, sunflower, hemp, almonds, or pecans.

– Add fresh or dried cranberries, raisins or currants, or shaved fennel.

– A small amount of minced anchovies will add an irresistible burst of umami (think Caesar salad dressing), while a garnish of toasted nori sea vegetable (the black wrapper that holds together your sushi) adds a bit of brine.

– A sprinkling of chili flakes, or green herbs like cilantro or parsley, work here too.

And the best part? You can get all the ingredients for the salad ready the day before, then toss it together just before serving.

Red Cabbage Slaw

Serves 4-6


1 small red cabbage, anywhere between 12 oz. – 1 lb.

2 crisp apples, like Fuji, Honeycrisp, or Granny Smith

1-inch chunk of fresh ginger, minced

2 scallions, very thinly sliced

1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil

2 tbsp. olive oil

3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp. honey

2 tsp. Dijon mustard


(Don’t forget the extras and substitutions mentioned above for your own twist!)


1. Halve the cabbage, and slice out the core. Thinly shred the cabbage, and place it in a large bowl.

2. Quarter the apples, and slice thinly. Add the apples to the cabbage along with the ginger and scallions.

3. Whisk together the oils, vinegar, honey, and mustard, and pour over the slaw. Toss to coat, and season with salt.

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