Autumn Napa Cabbage Salad

Just because the air has turned cool and it’s time to put away your flip-flops and tanning spray, that doesn’t mean you have to start diving into hearty casseroles and rib-sticking stews right away.

Vertical image of a wooden bowl with a mixed vegetable slaw, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

I mean, I love a piping hot, comforting meal on a blustery day. But the arrival of early autumn weather doesn’t mean I stop craving fresh flavors.

That’s where this salad comes in. It combines the best of both worlds by throwing together crisp, refreshing elements like cabbage and bell peppers with fall-favorite veggies like roasted sweet potatoes and nutty toasted pecans.

You know the expression, “No great story ever started with someone eating a salad”? No? Well, this vibrant dish proves that theory to be very, very wrong.

If the idea of cabbage salad immediately whisks you back to memories of cool, creamy mayo-based slaw draped over chili dogs (whoa, I just got really hungry), I’m going to need you to back up.

Vertical image of a white bowl and a wooden bowl filled with a mixed vegetable slaw.

Though cabbage is clearly one of the main ingredients in this recipe, hence the name, we’re not in summer slaw land anymore, Toto. Instead, we’re grabbing our beanies and hoodies, and heading straight for comfort town.

Between the sugary smell of sweet potatoes and carrots roasting away in the oven, and pecans releasing their buttery essential oils into the air, preparing this dish will have you thinking it’s Thanksgiving morning.

And speaking of things to give thanks for, let’s give some nods to napa cabbage for a hot minute.

Also known as Chinese cabbage, the napa variety is a cool-season veggie recognized for its crinkly pale green leaves. Its thick white ribs still offer the crunch factor you’d find in traditional green cabbage, but the leaves are far more feathery.

While napa cabbage can certainly stand up to heat (I dig throwing it into stir fries or homemade egg rolls), its delicate composition, especially when thinly sliced, makes it an ideal ingredient for eating raw. And, yes, this salad may look too pretty to eat, but you’ll want to do it anyway.

Vertical image of a wooden bowl filled with an assorted vegetable salad.

When it comes to texture, there’s no shortage of that either. The sweet potatoes and carrots are lightly caramelized in the oven but they stay tender, while the cabbage and bell pepper hold up their ends of the bargain as the “crisp” bites.

If you really want to go crazy with texture, I’d suggest topping off this salad with my recipe for savory granola. It will add a completely new dimension of both crunch and flavor!

As for that pungent, raw red onion? It gets softened by the citrusy dressing and basically melts in your mouth. Speaking of the dressing: hello, simplicity, my old friend. And does it get any better than sweet and spicy when you’re crafting the ideal flavor profile?

At first glance, the tart vinaigrette may just seem like it’s simply heightened by the syrupy honey, but it’s the dash of hot sauce that gives it depth and character. Feel free to adjust the heat level to your liking.

Though it’s the sweet potatoes who truly bring the earthy flavor and autumn essence, if you don’t put rich, nutty pecans in your fall salad… was it really even fall? I highly recommend including this ingredient without fail, toasted to perfection.

Whether you decide to dish this colorful combo up on the side of a filling entree or place it at center stage for your supper, when you look back on your meal later, you’ll be glad this is one story that started with a salad.

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Horizontal image of a white bowl full of a colorful slaw next to slices of lemon and lime.

Autumn Napa Cabbage Salad


  • Author: Fanny Slater
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 50 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 servings 1x

Description

Get lost in the luscious colors of this autumn-inspired salad made with crunchy napa cabbage, sweet roasted carrots and sweet potatoes, and toasted pecans.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 pound sweet potatoes, scrubbed and sliced into matchsticks (about 3 medium)
  • 1/2 pound carrots, peeled and sliced into matchsticks (about 3 large)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided, plus more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt
  • Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Dash hot sauce (or more, to taste)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups napa cabbage, thinly sliced into ribbons (1 small)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion (1 small)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced sweet bell pepper (1 small)
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley

Instructions

  1. In a large dry skillet over medium-low heat, add the pecans. Shaking the pan and tossing the nuts occasionally to promote even browning, cook until golden and lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside on a plate so they’re completely off the heat.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, toss the sweet potato and carrot matchsticks with the coconut oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Spread onto the prepared baking sheets in a single layer, leaving some space between the veggies to prevent steaming.
  4. Roast in the oven, tossing every 15 minutes until golden brown and tender, about 45 minutes total. Remove from the oven and allow the veggies to cool completely on the pans.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together the Greek yogurt, lime juice, lemon juice, honey, hot sauce, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Whisking as you pour, slowly stream in the olive oil until the dressing comes together. Season to taste with salt and pepper as needed.
  6. Once the roasted sweet potatoes and carrots have cooled, add them to a large mixing bowl along with the toasted pecans, cabbage, red onion, and bell pepper. Add the dressing and parsley, and toss to coat.
  7. Chill before serving, or divide among plates and serve at room temperature.
  • Category: Coleslaw
  • Method: Roasting
  • Cuisine: Salad

Keywords: autumn, cabbage, salad, coleslaw, sweet potatoes, pecans

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Toast the Nuts and Prep the Veggies

Add the pecans to a large dry skillet, and place over medium-low heat.

Shake the pan occasionally to toss the nuts, to promote even browning. Cook until golden and lightly toasted, for about 5 minutes.

Remove the nuts from the pan and set them aside on a plate so they’re completely off the heat.

Horizontal image of carrot and sweet potato matchsticks.

Scrub the sweet potatoes well, and peel the carrots. Trim the ends.

Cut the sweet potatoes and carrots into matchsticks by first slicing them in half lengthwise, and then slicing those halves in half crosswise. Working with a small bunch at a time, keep running your knife through the veggies lengthwise until you have long, skinny matchsticks that are about 1/4 inch thick and 4 inches long.

It’s okay if the length varies a bit, but you want the thickness of the veggies to be the same so they cook evenly in the oven.

Horizontal image of slices of bell peppers and red onions.

Peel and thinly slice the red onion. Remove the stem and seeds, and thinly slice the bell pepper. Remove the stems and roughly chop the parsley.

Horizontal image of slices of cabbage on a cutting board.

Remove the core and slice the cabbage into ribbons.

Step 2 – Roast the Veggies

Melt the coconut oil either in a small bowl in the microwave, or in a small saucepan over low heat on the stove. Allow the oil to cool slightly before tossing it with the veggies.

Horizontal image of slices of carrots and sweet potatoes.

Preheat the oven to 400°F, and prepare two baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, toss the sweet potato and carrot matchsticks with the coconut oil, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of the freshly ground black pepper.

Spread the root vegetables onto the parchment paper-lined baking sheets in a single layer, leaving some space between the pieces to prevent steaming.

Roast in the oven, tossing every 15 minutes until they are golden brown and tender, for about 45 minutes total.

Remove from the oven and allow the veggies to cool completely on the pans.

Step 3 – Make the Dressing

In a small bowl, whisk together the Greek yogurt, lime juice, lemon juice, honey, hot sauce, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

Horizontal image of a metal bowl with a lemon dressing.

You can substitute sour cream for the Greek yogurt, and only use one type of citrus if you prefer. Agave syrup can also be used in place of the honey.

Whisking as you pour, slowly stream in the olive oil until the dressing comes together and emulsifies. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

Step 4 – Toss the Salad and Serve

Horizontal image of sections of sliced and chopped vegetables and nuts in a bowl.

Once the roasted sweet potatoes and carrots have cooled, add them to a large mixing bowl along with the toasted pecans, cabbage, red onion, and bell pepper. Add the dressing and parsley, and toss to coat.

Horizontal image of a white bowl with a colorful salad.

Divide among plates, and serve either chilled or at room temperature. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Fall in Love with This Autumn Salad

This feel-good fall blend of seasonal ingredients will remind you that summer isn’t the only time to eat healthy. Who knew nutritious veggies could also be so cozy and comforting?

Horizontal image of a white bowl full of a colorful slaw next to slices of lemon and lime.

Try tossing in some arugula to give each bite a touch of peppery flair. And if you think walnuts are a totally acceptable swap-in for the pecans, I say you’re absolutely right. Give it a try! A drizzle of maple syrup over the carrots and sweet potatoes before roasting never hurt anybody either.

Want to hear my own personal favorite naughty twist on this dish?

Topping it with warm, gooey, panko-fried goat cheese rounds. How in the world do you make those? I’ve got you. Find instructions here.

This is where the drool emoji comes in handy.

For even more unique spins on salad, these veggie-centric recipes will fill you up without slowing you down:

How will you nudge this dish even more towards fall? Share your creative ideas in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.

Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on November 11, 2013. Last updated on August 19, 2021.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Fanny Slater

Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”

9 thoughts on “Autumn Napa Cabbage Salad”

  1. I love the way cabbage looks when it’s still growing and the outside leaves bloom out like a rose…gorgeous! Also, this salad is fabulous. So much great fall stuff on one plate.

    Reply
  2. I think Napa is a lovely vegetable to gaze upon. I like its taste, texture, and tensile strength – couldn’t help myself, alliteration is too much fun! My favorite use is in Pork Dumplings – rolled, steamed or pan-fried and consumed by a houseful of teenagers eager to eat the work of their hands.

    Reply
  3. I’ve never tried Napa cabbage before, but this looks absolutely delightful- I love the addition of pecans and sweet potatoes. I’m always looking for recipes that are good for you, but don’t compromise on taste – so this is perfect!

    Reply
  4. Napa cabbages are a big deal in Chinese and Korean cooking. Basic kimchi (the kind you see on Google Images if you search for “kimchi”) is made with Napa cabbages. Growing up, my mom would buy huge boxes of them, and spend hours splitting them up and turning them into kimchi (which then had to ferment for weeks). That’s still my favorite way to eat them. 🙂

    Reply
  5. Cabbage is my newfound love this summer, of course, after having so many napa cabbages in my CSA box. 🙂 I love that it’s a warm salad with roasted sweet potato and carrots – so healthy and delicious!

    Reply

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