Crunchy Chinese Coleslaw

Chinese coleslaw topped with sesame sticks

My Chinese coleslaw is tossed with the perfect Asian sesame dressing and topped with sliced almonds and salty sesame sticks to double down on an already epic crunch.

Chinese Coleslaw in a white bowl

Chinese coleslaw ~ is it authentic?

This is just the latest example of my endless fascination with slaws. I love their sturdiness, their crunch, and all the ways you can layer in flavors and colors to give them endless personalities. This was takes its cue from Chinese cuisine but wouldn’t be considered authentic. Traditionally the Chinese don’t eat raw foods and leafy salads, although you’re starting to see them pop up on restaurant menus in urban centers like Shanghai and Beijing. So while not a part of traditional Chinese cuisine, this slaw features classic Chinese ingredients and flavors.

Chinese slaw in a small bowl with fork

the fresh greens in Chinese coleslaw

  • Napa cabbage, aka Chinese cabbage ~ Napa cabbage is the most common type of Chinese cabbage. It has has an elongated shape, and ruffly green leaves. The flavor is milder and sweeter than regular white cabbage and it makes a great slaw.
  • Cilantro ~ cilantro is common in Chinese cuisine and is sometimes referred to as Chinese parsley. Most agree it has an amazingly delicious flavor, but a few are genetically predisposed to dislike it. I like to snip it into my slaw, tender stems and all.
  • Scallions aka green onions ~ every slaw needs an onion component and green onions are the most common onion used in Chinese cooking (check out my homemade scallion oil recipe.) Rather than slicing my scallions I chose to julienne them so they echo the shreds of cabbage.
  • Pea shoots ~ these are the tiny leaves and stems of the pea plant, and they’re harvested at just a few weeks old. These delicate shoots are a great harbinger of spring, and lovely to add to a slaw. Note: pea shoots can be gangly and hard to eat, so snip them in half before adding to your slaw.
  • Snow peas, aka Chinese pea pods ~ these edible pea pods are common in Chinese stir frys, but I thought they’d be perfect in my slaw, julienned, of course.
green veggies for Chinese coleslaw

healthy benefits in your bowl of Chinese coleslaw

The health benefits of eating delicious, low calorie slaws of all kinds are many, so let’s break it down:

  1. Salads and slaws are prime examples of how to get more raw foods into your diet. Raw foods retain all those vitamins and minerals that can sometimes be lost due to cooking. They also provide important hydration.
  2. Both cabbage and snow peas are high in Vitamins C and K, as well as providing lots of fiber which can help lower bad cholesterol.
  3. Cruciferous veggies like cabbage are anti-inflammatory which can help fight heart disease and arthritis.
  4. I love how cabbage based slaws last longer in the fridge, so you can enjoy them for more than one day. This encourages us to eat more of them, which is a win win.
Making a Chinese coleslaw in a white bowl

the perfect Asian dressing for slaws and salads

I think I’m going to have to give this dressing a post of its own because it’s that good, and that versatile. Any time you need to dress an Asian style salad, or want to give a regular salad an Asian twist, this is the one to go for. It’s based on a simple combination of toasted sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and a pinch of sugar.

Tip: Don’t skip the sugar! I add it bit by bit, tasting in between additions, until I hit that ‘aha!’ moment. I can’t put my finger on why, but it really makes a difference, and balances out the acidity of the vinegar.

Pouring dressing on Chinese coleslaw

can we talk salad toppings?

Everybody knows that what goes on top of a salad is just as important as what goes in it, am I right? And this yummy slaw jumps to a whole new level after I sprinkle on some sliced almonds, toasted sesame seeds, and sesame sticks (it’s the sesame sticks that do it!) Forget about chow mein noodles, sesame sticks are the best topping for Asian salads and slaws.

you heard it here: sesame sticks are the perfect crunchy Asian salad topper!

Chinese coleslaw topped with sesame sticks

more Asian inspired salads

Chinese coleslaw topped with sesame sticks
5 from 9 votes

Chinese Coleslaw

My Chinese coleslaw is tossed with the perfect Asian sesame dressing and topped with sliced almonds and salty sesame sticks to double down on an already epic crunch.
Course Salad
Cuisine Chinese/American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Yield 10 servings
Calories 70kcal
Author Sue Moran


  • 1 small head of Napa cabbage
  • 1 cup snow peas, more or less
  • 1 bunch scallions, about 6
  • large handful pea shoots
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves


  • 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
  • 1/8 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • pinch of sugar, to taste


  • sliced almonds
  • sesame seeds
  • sesame sticks


  • Trim the end off the cabbage and remove any loose outer leaves. Slice it in half lengthwise and remove the core. Lay the halves cut side down and slice in half once more, lengthwise. Slice the cabbage into thin shreds. Place in a large salad bowl. Note: cabbages range in size, so you may not need the whole head. A general rule of thumb is to allow a cup of cabbage per serving, so for 10 servings, plan on roughly 10 cups of shredded cabbage.
  • Slice your snow peas into a fine julienne. I like to stack 3 or 4 at a time and slice. Add to the bowl.
  • Trim the scallions and peel off any loose or tough outer layers. Slice them into 2-3 inch sections and then slice those sections lengthwise, into strips. Add to the bowl.
  • Snip the pea shoots in half if they are very long, and add to the bowl. Snip the cilantro into the bowl as well.
  • Whisk together the dressing ingredients and taste it to adjust any of the ingredients to your liking. Lightly dress the salad and toss well to combine everything. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • Top with the almonds, sesame seeds, and sesame sticks before serving.


Calories: 70kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 44mg | Potassium: 263mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 572IU | Vitamin C: 32mg | Calcium: 80mg | Iron: 1mg
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.
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    Leave a Reply

    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    May 3, 2022 at 6:06 pm

    5 stars
    Oh my god, the sesame sticks are such a game changer – I might even get my teenage son to eat slaw!

  • Reply
    Sandy V
    February 28, 2022 at 9:39 am

    The dressing and topping ingredients do not print on the recipe card

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      February 28, 2022 at 10:51 am

      There was a glitch this morning Sandy, the recipe will print fully now, just go back and refresh your page and print again, sorry!

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