Thai Red Curry Cabbage Salad

A few months ago I planted a half-bed of Farao cabbage, a new-to-me variety that has become my official favorite fresh eating cabbage. This pointy-headed cabbage has performed wonderfully for me on dense spacing, so I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I’ve made basically one thing with it.

That’s not to say the cabbage has gone to waste, mind you. As soon as a head feels heavy and dense I cut it free and walk it into the kitchen. But since I developed this  red curry and cabbage salad a few weeks ago, I’ve been eating it to the exclusion of nearly all other food.

Thai Red Curry Slaw

This salad is something like coleslaw meets the Thai salad laab. It’s cheap: some ground meat and a cabbage and you are mostly there, but also exotic, with lots of pumped up flavor from red curry and lime juice.

I’ve added extra herbs and extra veggies. I’ve tweaked the dressing more and less spicy. All variations have been craveable. I highly recommend you make this salad and then play around to find your favorite variation.

Find the meat you prefer (I love beef with red curry but I’ll bet shrimp would be awesome too). Add additional Southeast Asian-compatible herbs, thinly sliced scallion or red onion. Try adding cucumbers, shredded carrots,  tomato wedges or fresh pineapple or mango to the mix. Swap maple syrup for honey and soy sauce for fish sauce, if that’s what you have on hand. It’ll be good. Cook, taste and have fun.

The one key ingredient that you cannot mess with is a Thai-style red curry paste. This is a  one of those things most of us would be daft to DIY, since the commercially available version is awesome and inexpensive. I buy this brand of red curry paste locally. If you have a moderately sized SE Asian community anywhere near you, you should be able to find a better price at your local Asian Megamart. It’s spicy, so in this salad, start with a little bit and then increase until you have the spice and flavor intensity that’s right for you.

I know a lot of times folks end up spending five bucks on some exotic ingredient they use once. I just want to put in a plug for these Thai curry pastes. I have the red, yellow and green variants. They last a long time in the fridge – a year, easy. So if spicy and SE Asian flavors appeal to you, and if you eat seafood (the brand of red curry I use contains shrimp paste) consider adding curry paste to your toolkit. I consider it to be a staple condiment up there with Sriracha and green Tabasco.

If you hate curry, Sriracha and green Tabasco, well, maybe we can still be friends. We can talk about cookies or something.

Printable Recipe

Thai Red Curry Salad
A Thai-influenced main-dish coleslaw with lots of flavor!
Red Curry Vinaigrette
  • 1-3 tbsp red curry paste, to taste
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 pound ground beef, pork, chicken or turkey
  • 1 medium green cabbage, shredded
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1 bunch mint, chopped
  1. Make the Red Curry Vinaigrette. Combine the curry paste, fish sauce, honey, olive oil and lime juice in a large bowl. Whisk together to combine, adjust seasonings to your taste, and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, fry the ground meat of your choice in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir occasionally, breaking up the meat into bite-size chunks.
  3. When the meat is fully cooked, transfer it the bowl with the Red Curry Vinaigrette. Stir the meat and dressing together.
  4. Add the shredded cabbage, cilantro and mint the the bowl with the meat. It's best if the meat is still a bit warm when the vegetables and herbs are added. Toss all the salad components together until fully combined.
  5. Serve right away in shallow bowls. Garnish with additional chopped herbs, peanuts, cucumber slices or lime wedges as desired.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 4



  1. says

    Now I love cabbage, but I’m worried about the spice factor. My husband is a huge Asian/Thai fan (and the restaurants around where I live are super expensive) so I need to learn to make some dishes like this at home.

    He’s peeking over my shoulder asking about adding Frank’s Red Hot Sauce (which just might be a local thing where I live) but he doesn’t think this will be spicy enough for him!

    But spending 5 bucks on ingredients that I use once: guilty is charged!

    • says

      You could do the dressing with just a teeny bit of the red curry, but then hand your husband a bottle of either Sriracha or garlic chili sauce. Both are a bit more SE Asiany in flavor than Frank’s Red Hot. Now, when you make hot wings, Frank’s is the only hot sauce that counts. ;)

  2. says

    This recipe highlights the necessity of regional variety in cooking- limes, green cabbage, cilantro and mint are all late winter crops here in Florida. I won’t see a cabbage again until December. Bookmarking this recipe for January!

  3. GayLee says

    Don’t forget the Mussaman curry paste! Red, green and yellow are great, but I’m very fond of Mussaman. The traditional use is for a beef and peanut stew, but I’ve used it in other dishes, and it’s a dark and delicious addition. I think it has tamarind in it.

    I’m trying this salad tonight, BTW. Sounds luscious and I have lots of cabbage to use.

  4. Janet says

    Hi Erica,

    You talked about this recipe with me at the Mother Earth Fair, so thanks so much for posting it. I will try it soon as well as the farao cabbage.
    I remembered after we chatted at the fair that several years ago a friend and I walked by your homestead and had stopped to admire your gardens. You were just leaving and invited us to walk around which we did. Later my husband and I drove by so I could show him your cloches, which we built early this year. Anyway, love your ideas and inspiration.
    Thanks again!!

  5. AllenInAK says

    Wholeheartedly agree on the Mae Ploy curry paste. I actually did make my own. Very expensive, lots of work, and not that different taste wise from store bought brand, but all of them i found had fake stuff added. I want real food. Then some Thai friends who run a restaurant locally turned me on to Mae Ploy. All real food, authentic , I think its even made in Thailand. Wonderful stuff. Next up on the list of favorites is Red Boat Fish Sauce!

    Recipe sounds great and cheap. Gonna give it a try! Thanks so much!

  6. says

    Hey, there’s nothing wrong with eating the same thing over and over again! I LOVE cabbage, and this sounds like the perfect way to eat lots and lots of it. Hooray!

  7. Seline says

    Erica – thank you for sharing this recipe. It sounded wonderful and I had all the necessary ingredients so I made it for dinner tonight using ground turkey. It was awesome! This is definitely going to be a new go-to for meal salads.

  8. Magnamosa says

    i love larb gai with some crunchy cabbage so this just combines the two perfectly. i added some red onion to the salad and also threw in a couple garlic cloves while cooking the chicken. its quick to put together and absolutely delish!!!! thanks for sharing this!

  9. says

    I made this for dinner tonight and it was so delicious. 1T of the curry paste was nice and spicy. Do you have a wine/cocktail pairing suggestion? (We drank a flabby rose because we’re idiots.)

  10. Cyndi says

    We used Pataks “concentrated curry paste mild” because it was what we had already open and in the fridge. It turned out so good! I used the full 3 tbsp but my younger daughter thought it was too spicy, which is funny because she often likes curry powder added to split pea soup. Must have been a different kind of spicy-ness. Next time I will try only 1 tbsp. but my husband and I loved it just the way it was!

  11. Val Rogers says

    Made it tonight and it was yummm. Added garlic to the mead while frying for a little extra punch. My red curry paste was wimpy (Thai Kitchen brand) so I added some schiracha. Used anchovy paste instead of fish sauce and added some tamari. Good sauce. I’ll make it even hotter next time. Added shredded carrots, cucumber & tomato chunks as suggested. Never thought of combining cilantro & mint, but I liked it. Finished with a peanut garnish. What a great simple healthy meal with a new taste. Thanks!

  12. Frances says

    So delicious! Thanks for sharing it. I used panang curry cause its what I had and it is tasty. This also inspires me to grow cabbage and mint. Is it too late to plant a cabbage start for fall/winter harvest? If there are any left in the stores, I’ll give it a try. Thanks!

  13. Jennifer says

    Wow — this was great! I maybe followed a link over from MMM for this recipe, and it was a fantastic and easy dinner. I lazed out and made rice to go with (two teenagers + a rice cooker means I can bulk out this meal with little time investment from me), but I think it would be better as a salad with some rice noodles, perhaps dressed with a little sesame oil. I also cooked the meat with a chopped onion and some ginger and garlic to ramp up the flavor — we’re not subtle around here.
    Thanks so much for the awesomeness! (No, seriously — I don’t make many 7-ingredient dinners that are universally popular and get instant requests for repeats.)

  14. She Beck says

    Just made this for dinner after saving the recipe months ago. So delicious. Instant family favorite. Thank you! Enjoy your articles.

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