pack and go lunch: tangled red cabbage salad

pack and go lunch: tangled red cabbage salad |

Food memories are strong memories.

When I was a kid, my mom used to make a delicious red cabbage salad with cucumbers.

She sliced the cabbage very thin, and dressed the tangly strands with red wine vinegar and olive oil.

The salad was left to marinate in a particular bowl, allowing the acidity from the vinaigrette to soften the vegetables.

pack and go lunch: tangled red cabbage salad |

I always looked forward to this dish.

One would think mac & cheese or ice cream would take preference as an acceptable kids’ choice for food. And yes, I ate those things too.

But I also gorged myself on cruciferous cabbage salad until my lips turned purple from the vinaigrette (has that ever happened to you?).

When I stumbled upon this particular recipe, one that calls for an asian-style dressing drizzled over a rainbow of vegetable goodness, I was immediately inspired to try something new.

The dressing combines creamy peanut butter with coconut milk, a hit of hot sauce, and lime juice. It’s drizzled over a bed of shaved red cabbage and kale, with clementine wheels and pomegranate seeds. It’s a wonderful combination of crunchy, creamy, sweet, and tangy…

And just like mom’s salad, it gets better as it sits.

pack and go lunch: tangled red cabbage salad | theclevercarrot.compack and go lunch: tangled red cabbage salad | theclevercarrot.compack and go lunch: tangled red cabbage salad |

This recipe is super quick to put together and very flexible to suit whatever you have on hand (next time, I might even throw in some grilled chicken!).

It also travels well, so it’s perfect for on the go situations.

But the best part, for me, was preparing and enjoying this salad for lunch. With my mom.

(And we’ve come full circle…)

What are some of your favorite food memories?

Kitchen Notes:

Tips: This recipe was inspired by my friend Heike. All of her creations are plant-based and chock full of colorful inspiration! You can find her original version here.

There are a few ways to prep a pomegranate. I like to cut it into quarters, invert the skin, and gently coax the seeds out with my fingers. Work over the salad bowl as you do this- the extra juice will add nice flavor.

Substitutions: The original recipe calls for soba noodles which we forgot to add! We threw them in at the end (after the pictures were taken). They add a great soft and chewy texture to the salad. Don’t forget.

Make-Ahead: The dressing can be made in advance up to 1 week, stored in an airtight container in the fridge. Store sliced cabbage and kale (respectively) in containers or ziploc bags, up to 3-5 days. Pomegranate seeds can be prepped 4-5 days in advance. Slice the clementines fresh.

The entire salad can assembled 1 day in advance, with the pomegranate seeds and clementines scattered over the top (not mixed in- they’ll get soggy). Toss well before serving. This is best served at room temperature.

pack and go lunch: tangled red cabbage salad
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 2-3
For the Dressing
  • 1 tbsp all-natural creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar or white vinegar
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • the juice of ½ lime
  • 1 tsp honey, plus more to taste
  • 2 tbsp coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp hot water
  • dash of hot sauce
For the Salad
  • 1 small wedge of red cabbage, sliced paper thin
  • 2 cups shredded kale
  • 2 scallions, white & light green part only, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 clementines, peeled and sliced into wheels
  • ¼ cups pomegranate seeds
  • 1 serving cooked black rice soba noodles (optional)
  • 1 tsp white sesame seeds (optional)
  1. Add all of the dressing ingredients to a small bowl. Whisk until well blended.
  2. To prepare the salad, add the cabbage, kale and scallions to a large bowl. Pour a little bit of the dressing over the top and toss well. Marinate for 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, if using soba noodles, cook them according to the package directions. When finished, rinse under cold water. Drain well and add to the salad.
  4. To finish, add the clementine wheels, pomegranate seeds and sesame seeds (if using). Add additional dressing and toss well to combine. Taste, and add more lime juice as needed.
  5. Serve at room temperature.



  1. says

    What a beautiful memory! Isn’t so funny how those foods that aren’t kid-like can be the food memories we hold on to? Mine was always stuffing dates for the holidays with my mom – I couldn’t get enough!

    This salad is gorgeous, Emilie. I can’t wait to mix it in to my lunch routine. xo.

    • Emilie says

      Hello Tessa, I absolutely agree. Thank you for sharing your story with me. I often wonder what my boys will remember when they get older too! x

    • Emilie says

      Hi Alice! I always joke- cabbage is the veg that keeps on giving! No matter how much you use, there’s always some leftover! This salad is perfect for those situations as you only need a small amount. Enjoy! x

  2. says

    This looks and sounds so delicious! and I always love when a recipe has a nostalgic note. There are a few things that always make me think of my mom (rice pudding, pitas stuffed with salad and creamy dressings, stuffed shells) and it makes me smile every time I come across them. Lately I’ve been making a crunchy salad with kale, mint, pomegranate, and red cabbage and I can’t get enough. I love that this one incorporates that peanuty dressing, I bet that’s amazing!

    • Emilie says

      Hello Christine! Thank you! It’s amazing how strong and vivid food memories are. I love that. By the way, pitas stuffed with salad sounds absolutely delicious ;) You might have to try that with your own crunchy kale salad! x

    • Emilie says

      Karina, the dressing is wonderful. Really, it’s the type that you keep sticking your finger in just to ‘taste.’ I imagine it would be wonderful of so many recipe- cold noodle dishes, over grilled fish, maybe a dip with raw vegetables? I hope you enjoy! x

    • Emilie says

      Hello! Celia, how do you make yours? I’m always looking for new ways to switch things up, too. We can have a virtual cabbage cook off ;)

  3. says

    This looks beautiful Emilie. I love red cabbage salads and yes, I have totally finished a meal with purple lips from too much cabbage, haha! Love the idea of the satay-ish sauce… yum! I’m loving tahini based dressings similar to this one at the moment, but I think I’ll have to revisit my jar of peanut butter :)
    As per always, I adore the way you write – food memories lead to warm fuzzy feelings xxx

    • Emilie says

      Yes! And from too much vinegar! It still happens to me now ;)

      Laura, a tahini version of this dressing would probably work as well. Although, I have to say, something magical happens when peanut butter and coconut join forces. By the way, and totally unrelated: I found a bottle of Brook Farms Macadamia oil here in NY! (did I tell you this already?) I thought of you! So, I immediately bought it. I drizzle it over avocado, with a splash of vinegar and salt. Delicious. And then teleport myself to a beach with an iconic Perth sunset as my backdrop. x

    • Emilie says

      Oh yes! And you know, I wish the noodles made it into the picture! They add a really nice texture to the salad, which compliments its crunchy counterparts. Plus, you get bites of squishy clementine here and there- it’s all good! x

    • Emilie says

      Hello Sarah! Thank you! I do think that the purple cabbage needs a comeback celebration. It really is beautiful!

  4. says

    This sounds so good. I love red cabbage and I particularly enjoy it shredded and put in salads. So this one is right up my alley.

    Your children are so fortunate. They will grow up eating well, and having been exposed to myriad flavors. Lots of kids live pretty pale culinary existences. Not so for yours.

    You are a true artist. My sister, who is The Queen of Cruciferous Cravings will flip for this one!

    I hope all is well!

  5. says

    Absolutely divine, Emilie! Heike’s IG feed is so inspiring! What a fabulous sauce too! I recently saw a post from the Kitchen about cabbage and it got me thinking about how this demure veggie seems so overlooked. But I have so much gratitude for the humble cabbage because there’s so much to love about it; its flavor, texture, beauty, nutritious, hearty. The neutral flavor allows it to be incredibly versatile. I want to start incorporating more of it into my diet… and this salad is a perfect way to do that. That you and your mom made this together is beautiful. Thank you my dear!! (Your shot of the knifed cabbage – oooF – gorgeeeeous!!)

  6. says

    Stunning photography Emily! Red cabbage is such a beautiful subject. I especially love the photograph of the knife and head of cabbage. Sense Jim of does the cooking on our blog Little Rusted Ladle. I LOVE to use it for natural dyes! It turns a surprising Robbins egg blue. It makes a perfect dye for Easter Eggs which we featured here if yo are interested….

    I also agree with Laura, “Tangled Salad” sounds so delicate and lovely. I am a big fan of cabbage and definitely look forward to making this dressing and all!

  7. Hannah says

    Is there a good substitute for pomegranates now that they are out of season? I can’t find them at any of my local grocery stores. Thanks!

    • Emilie says

      Hi! I would add some dried currants or chopped dried cranberries! Either one will add great flavor and texture.

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