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Napa cabbage salad with Thai peanut butter citrus dressing

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Find out how to make Napa cabbage salad with Thai peanut butter citrus dressing. This simple dressing is incredibly delicious and versatile. Use it for salads, veggie dips, chicken satay, and more! 


Our late winter garden is full of crunchy vegetables like Napa cabbage and kohlrabi. We still have loads of citrus on our potted citrus trees that we need to use up so they can start blooming to produce next year’s fruit. In the kitchen, we have turmeric and ginger from a fall harvest.  

Hmm. This combination of produce is perfect for some Thai-inspired dishes. One of our favorites is a salad made from Thai peanut butter citrus dressing generously applied to Napa cabbage and chopstick-cut crunchy veggies. 

Napa cabbage salad with Thai peanut butter dressing. This may well be the most delicious salad recipe you'll ever eat!

Napa cabbage salad with Thai peanut butter dressing. This may well be the most delicious salad recipe you’ll ever eat!

Why you should make more Thai peanut butter citrus dressing than you think you need

Our recommendation: make a lot more of this dressing than you’ll need for a single salad because one serving (about 1/4 cup per person) will just whet your appetite. It’s incredibly delicious. 

It’s also a great resource to have on hand when you don’t have much time but you need to throw together a quick, healthy meal. The dressing will store in the fridge for up to two weeks, which is way longer than you’ll be able to go without eating it.   

While this is a salad recipe, you can also just make the dressing and use it as a veggie dip for crunchy veggies like radishes, kohlrabi, turnips, carrots, Napa cabbage midribs, etc. You can also use it as a dip for chicken kabobs once they come off the grill, approximating chicken satay, another Thai delicacy. 

Important note: For the reasons above, the recipe card at the bottom of this article makes about 2 cups of dressing, which is at least twice as much as you need for the quantity of salad used. This way, you have extra! 

Recipe tips for Thai peanut citrus dressing SALAD 

If you plan to use your Thai peanut citrus dressing to make a salad, here are a few recipe tips: 

1. Use Napa cabbage supplemented with crunchy veggies.

Red Napa cabbage leaves separated by size and color. You could use the large outer leaves (left) to turn this into a salad wrap recipe. The middle leaves are ideal chopped into salad. The inner most leaves are partially blanched and absolutely gorgeous with varying colors and textures. These could be used to elegantly dress up a plate. Or you can just chop up all your leaves and be done with it!

Red Napa cabbage leaves separated by size and color. You could use the large outer leaves (left) to turn this into a salad wrap recipe. The middle leaves are ideal fine chopped into salad. The inner most leaves are partially blanched and absolutely gorgeous with varying colors and textures. These could be used to elegantly dress up a plate. Or you can just chop up all your leaves and be done with it!

Napa cabbage is one of those quintessential Asian greens. It’s unique, slightly crunchy texture and mild yet mustardy flavor makes it the perfect backbone for this salad. 

We grow both red/purple and green Napas. For this recipe, we used one small purple Napa cabbage since it’s so beautiful and colorful. Also, we’ve found that our red/purple Napas often don’t head up quite as well as our green Napas and they go to bolt (flower & seed) more quickly as well. In short: we have more purple Napas to use up right now that green ones. 

We recommend a very thin cut on your Napa cabbage leaves, as seen here.

We recommend a very thin cut on your Napa cabbage leaves, as seen here.

Other seasonal veggies that are perfect added to this salad:

  • kohlrabi (We used a purple kohlrabi, but they’re still green inside.);
  • carrots (We used an orange carrot in the salad, but bonus if you use purple or red carrots. We also used an orange carrot in the dressing to add a sweet earthy flavor and a bright orange accent to the dressing.);
  • radish (We used a hybrid KN-Bravo radish grown by Chris Miller, our farming friend. While we love our heirlooms, these radishes are probably the fastest growing, best tasting, and most beautiful radishes around.)
Garden- and farm-to-table goodness.

Garden- and farm-to-table goodness.

Other alternative veggies that would work well in this salad:

  • mild turnips such as ‘Tokyo market’,
  • colorful sweet bell peppers, but they’re not in season so we didn’t use them. 

2. Cut your veggies into chopsticks. 

Chopstick cut purple kohlrabi and carrots (bottom) with a few round cuts of radishes (top) set aside to showcase their beauty.

Chopstick cut purple kohlrabi and carrots (bottom) with a few round cuts of radishes (top) set aside to showcase their beauty.

How you cut your crunchy veggies makes a big difference in a salad. We recommend a chopstick style cut for your crunchy veggies. However, you could also grate your veggies and make a killer slaw using this exact recipe (yes, we know from experience).   

You can also set aside a few thin round cuts that show off a particularly beautiful veggie and use those as accents on your plate. 

3. Use fresh organic ingredients, ideally from your garden or local farms.  

The best ingredients are the ones you grew yourself, ideally using organic methods. Second best ingredients are from a local farm, which ideally used organic methods. 

Fresh produce grown in rich, living soil equates to better flavor and better nutrition.      

Similarly, colorful in-season garnishes will help make this recipe beautiful on a plate. Some good options we found growing right now:

  • chickweed flowers
  • citrus flowers (every citrus blossom has a slightly different taste; we used calamondin blossoms for this salad) 
  • Meyer lemon zest
  • pansy flowers (our favorite winter-grown edible flower)
  • bolting brassicas (we use bok choy flowers for this reciep)
Top left: bok choy flowers; top right: pansy flowers; bottom left: calamondin orange flowers; bottom right: chickweed flower growth tips.

Top left: bok choy flowers; top right: pansy flowers; bottom left: calamondin orange flowers; bottom right: chickweed flower growth tips.

If you have small-fruited citrus available, that makes a great garnish as well. We used slices of calamondin oranges as a garnish (which worked great) and kumquats in the dressing. Kumquats work better in the dressing since their pith has no bitterness to it, whereas calamondin pith imparts some bitter.   

Recipe: Napa cabbage salad with Thai peanut citrus dressing

Recipe: Napa cabbage salad with Thai peanut butter dressing.

Recipe: Napa cabbage salad with Thai peanut butter dressing
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Napa cabbage salad with Thai peanut citrus dressing

Course: Appetizer, lunch, Salad
Cuisine: thai
Keyword: Thai peanut butter salad dressing
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4

A delicious, Thai-inspired salad made with crunchy seasonal vegetables.

Ingredients

For salad dressing

  • 1 carrot diced dice before blending to make sure it blends smoothly
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter 
  • 8 kumquats, quartered and de-seeded (or 4 tbsp tart citrus juice, like lime juice) 
  • 6 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 4 tbsp sesame oil 
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp honey 
  • 4 garlic cloves  dice before blending to make sure it blends smoothly
  • 2 tbsp fresh grated ginger grate before blending to make sure it blends smoothly
  • 1 tbsp fresh grated orange turmeric  grate before blending to make sure it blends smoothly
  • 1/2 tsp spicy smoked red pepper flakes or to taste depending on how much heat you want

For salad

  • 1 small Napa cabbage (red or green) measured 4 cups after cutting
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, diced
  • 1 carrot, cut into chopsticks
  • 1 kohlrabi, cut into chopsticks
  • 1 sweet/mild radish, cut into chopsticks
  • garnishes (optional): calamondin orange flowers, sliced calamodins, sliced kumquats, cilantro, chickweed flowers, pansy flowers, Meyer lemon zest, brassica or other seasonal flowers 

Instructions

For the dressing

  1. Add all ingredients into blender then add peanut butter. If you add peanut butter first, some of it may stick to the bottom of the blender. We use a Ninja, which does a great job of liquifying all ingredients. However, we still grate or dice the garlic, ginger, turmeric, and carrots just to make sure they're able to be fully blended into the dressing.

For the salad

  1. Fine chop Napa cabbage leaves (see picture above in article for recommended cut). Cut other veggies into chopsticks, but use your discretion if you want to set aside some round cuts to show off particularly attractive veggies.

  2. Combine about half your dressing with the salad ingredients and toss/mix together for a few minutes until evenly coated. Garnish and serve.

  3. Important note: This recipe makes about 2 cups of dressing, which is at least twice as much as you need for the quantity of veggies/salad ingredients used. We want you to have extra dressing because it's so good! If you only want enough dressing for the quantity of veggies used, use half the quantities noted in the dressing recipe.

We hope you love this Napa cabbage salad with Thai peanut butter citrus dressing as much as we do! 

KIGI,

Tyrantfarms
 

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