I am always looking for quick, healthy salads to round out a meal. With this no-chill, no mayo Indian red cabbage recipe you have a refreshing go-to side. Shredded coconut and coconut oil add a lovely sweet nuttiness and if you use the pre-shredded red cabbage shortcut it is even quicker and easier.
Serve it with a simple piece of fish, any burger, or grilled or fried meats. For two other perfect summer salads see my Indian Potato Salad with Greek Yogurt Dressing and an Indian cucumber salad.
About Indian-style Red Cabbage Salad
Brightened with the flavors of South India, this quick and easy salad is flavored with mustard seeds, coconut, and fresh lime juice. This recipe is a riff on the stir-fried dish from Kerala called cabbage thoran.
It makes a lovely change of pace from the usual mayonnaise-based American coleslaw. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but sometimes you need to change things up.
The mustard seeds go nutty with a pop in hot oil along with fresh curry leaves, if you can find them. If not, take the lime you are using for juice and zest it. I find the flavor of lime zest is a good stand-in for curry leaves.
Why this Salad is so Good
- Bright, crunchy, and healthy (vegan too!)
- Easily customizable with your favorite veggies
- I love that there is no need to chill before serving
- Light and refreshing ~ No mayonnaise
I always love a good shortcut, and buying pre-shredded cabbage works well in this recipe. Also, this salad doesn’t have many ingredients so the mustard seeds are an important ingredient. Toasting them in oil mellows them and brings out a lovely nuttiness.
The ingredients for Indian red cabbage salad are:
- Cabbage: And any other vegetable you would like to swap out.
- Spices: Mustards seeds
- Flavorings: Lime juice, salt, and a bit of sugar
- Coconut oil: Or oil of your choice
- Coconut: Fresh or desiccated (shredded)
- Optional: Minced green chilies, curry leaves, and a cilantro garnish
How to Make
In a skillet over medium-high heat add the coconut oil and heat until shimmering. Add the mustard seeds and allow them to pop and splutter. Set aside.
Mustard seeds and curry leaves
Shred the cabbage and any other vegetables you are using. Mix together and add the lime juice, sugar, salt, and coconut. Stir to combine and taste for seasonings. Serve immediately or chill.
Make it Your Own
Make this recipe your own by subbing in your favorite vegetables. Just make sure to end up with a total of 4 cups.
I’ve played with various combinations of red and white cabbage, Napa or savoy cabbage, or even some shredded broccoli would be perfect too. Celery adds a nice crunch and I especially like to mix in carrots for color and sweetness. Cucumber, shredded kale, and chopped apples—a surprisingly great addition— are also worth considering.
This recipe works well as a cooked dish too. After cooking the chili and curry leaves (if using), cook the cabbage until it is the texture you prefer. This can be a quick sauté just to take away the rawness, or cook until the cabbage is quite soft and tender.
Serving and Storing
Serve at room temperature or chilled. Indian-style cabbage salad keeps well in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. NOTE: If you aren't serving the salad right away, wait to add the peanuts so that they don't lose their crunch.
Dishes to Serve Alongside
I use this cabbage salad to brighten and add crunch to my favorite Indian-spiced turkey burger, Kerala fried chicken, or spiced kebabs.
Did you try this recipe? I’d love to hear about it! Please rate by clicking stars ⭐️ on the recipe card and/or let me know in the comments below. Thank you! ~Alonna
Recipe Card 📖
Easy Indian-Style Red Cabbage Salad
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil ~ Or oil of your choice
- 1 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds ~ Yellow will also work. See Notes below.
- 1 to 2 teaspoons green chili ~ Optional, minced. See Notes below
- 10 curry leaves ~ Optional, coarsely chopped or 1 teaspoon lime zest
- 4 cups red or green cabbage ~ Thinly sliced, see Notes below
- 1 cup carrot ~ Grated, optional. Reduce the cabbage by 1 cup
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon sea or table salt ~ Or 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
- 2 tablespoons fresh coconut ~ Grated or 3 tablespoons desiccated (shredded) coconut
- 2 tablespoons cilantro ~ Optional, chopped
- 1/4 cup toasted peanuts ~ Coarsely chopped or crushed. Or see Notes below
- In a skillet over medium-high heat add the coconut oil and heat until shimmering. Add the mustard seeds and allow them to pop and splutter. See Notes below for tips! Remove the pan from the heat.
- Add the minced green chili and the curry leaves, if using, and stir for 30 to 60 seconds until the chili is wilted and the curry leaves are aromatic. Pour the infused oil into a small bowl to cool.
- Prepare the vegetables you are using. In a medium-sized bowl stir together the lime juice, sugar, salt, and coconut in a large bowl. Add the cooled flavored oil and stir to combine.
- Add in the shredded cabbage and other vegetables you are using and mix well. Top with chopped peanuts and cilantro. Taste for salt, acid, and heat.
- Serve at room temperature or chilled. Indian-style cabbage salad keeps well in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. NOTE: If you aren't serving the salad right away, wait to add the peanuts so that they don't lose their crunch.
- Mustard seeds: Yellow mustard seeds will do in a pinch. Be sure to get your pan hot before adding the mustard seeds. I like to drop in a seed or two to test the oil. You want them to start popping within 30 seconds or so. Be ready with a lid because they love to jump out of the pan. This step gives the mustard seeds a lovely nuttiness and mellows out the sharpness.
- Green chili: Because the chili is cooked, 1 teaspoon of minced chili gives you a very mild salad, and two teaspoons, a gentle hum of heat. Any green chili works.
- Instead of peanuts use cashews or slivered, flaked or chopped almonds. Or leave out the nuts altogether. Instead of chopping the nuts, give them a couple of good bashes in a mortar and pestle.
- Shortcut: Buy precut cabbage and/or carrot.
- This cabbage salad also works well as a cooked vegetable. After cooking the chili and curry leaves (if using), add another tablespoon of coconut oil and stir in the cabbage. Cook until the cabbage is the texture you prefer. This can be from a quick sauté to just wilt or cook the cabbage until quite soft and tender. Remove from the heat and add grated carrots if you are using.
Very versatile recipe. Making tonight in the cooked form. Thank you.
I hope you enjoy it! Let me know if you make any tweaks to it.