My new friend Sasi, who is originally from Sri Lanka, has a garden full of hot peppers. So when I offered him a ride to a class we are taking together, he paid me back with a bag full of little bright Bird’s Eye chilies, Indian cayenne and serranos. There is only one way to repay kindness, repaying kindness…create kindness again. What could be kinder than cabbage?

Cabbage—the lovely little purple and green heads that show up in my fall farmers market are so tender and sweet, they rival lettuces. They love something pungent and spicy as a spotlight. So it was an easy idea to create this Cabbage with a Kick Salad in honor of my new friend. And be aware that the strength of that “kick” is really up to you. For my salad, I used Sasi’s Indian cayenne—seeds and all, with a jalapeño thrown in for good measure. If this is more kick than you can handle, choose just the jalapeño, or half of one. I will say, though, that this is, perhaps, the best cabbage salad I’ve ever made, but we really get a kick out “kick.”

Cabbage with a Kick Salad

Prep Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Serving Size: one and one half to two cups

Cabbage with a Kick Salad


    For the Dressing
  • Zest and juice of one large lime
  • One large garlic clove, chopped
  • One to two Indian cayenne peppers, chopped
  • One tablespoon light miso
  • One tablespoon soy sauce (I used Bragg Amino Liquid Aminos and I like San-J Tamari in place of traditional soy sauce.)
  • One quarter-cup salted raw cashews (If you are not using salted cashews, increase the sea salt a little.)
  • Two tablespoons unsulfured blackstrap molasses
  • One teaspoon pure sesame oil
  • One quarter-cup chopped cilantro
  • One quarter-cup pure hemp oil (I suggest you try Nutiva.)
  • For the Salad
  • Six cups shredded cabbage (Either red or green will work but a combination of both is yummy and pretty, if available.)
  • One large sweet red bell pepper, chopped
  • Two large green poblano peppers, chopped (These tend to be spicy, so you can cut the heat by using red poblanos or by substituting sweet bells.)
  • One medium red onion, diced
  • Green pumpkin seeds (pepitas), dry toasted and salted (optional)


  1. Put all the dressing ingredients, except the hemp oil, in the bowl of a food processor and process on low until everything is finely minced. With the motor running, slowly pour the hemp oil through the tube at the top to form a smooth emulsion.
  2. In a large salad bowl, combine all the salad ingredients, except the pepitas. Toss well with the prepared dressing. Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight.
  3. Toss well before serving and top with the toasted pumpkin seeds, if you wish.


This is a super-simple dish to put together. Note that the prep time does not include chilling the salad for several hours, but this is critical to giving it a lot of "pop" and its unexpected "kick."

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I think what I like best about the dressing on this salad is its balance. There’s a little bit of every kind of taste in here: sweet and smokey molasses, the umami of miso, the buttery taste of cashew, heat from the chilies and freshness with the cilantro and acidic lime. If cabbage is not your favorite salad, try the dressing on cold noodles or use it to wilt cool-weather greens, like kale and chard. Be brave.

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