Vegan kale slaw is an easy-to-make, nutritious and flavor-packed salad that features a simple sesame soy dressing. This slaw is truly a beautiful medley of colors and flavors!
Serve as a side dish, appetizer or toss in extra protein and carbohydrates to create a balanced meal. It’s great to prep in advance since kale benefits from marinating for at least a few hours.
Get the Veg Out newsletter for vegan recipes + nutrition content!
This post contains affiliate links (including Amazon Associates) and I earn from qualifying purchases.
Is Kale Slaw Vegan?
Kale slaw can be made countless ways, so it’s impossible to make a blanket statement about whether it’s vegan or not.
If the slaw’s base is cabbage and kale, with other vegetables, then that’s of course vegan. The dressing is more likely where you’ll need to watch for non-vegan ingredients.
Slaw recipes with creamy or mayonnaise-based dressing are likely not vegan unless specified. Vinegar-style slaw dressing options may be vegan, but it’s always important to read ingredients on store-bought foods or ask questions in restaurants to be sure.
My vegan kale slaw recipe uses a sesame soy dressing with some delicious flavors like ginger and garlic. It’s well-balanced and makes for a truly delicious salad.
Ingredients for this Kale and Cabbage Salad
Ingredients for the salad base should be easy to find and create a beautifully colorful salad! The dressing ingredients are all tasty kitchen staples that I keep on hand at all times.
Slaw Salad Base
- Kale: As the base of this slaw, start with a bunch of kale. Any type of kale can work for this recipe. Kale is a fairly tough leafy green, so follow the directions to help create a more tender and delicious kale slaw.
- Carrots: For added color, nutrition and flavor, carrots are a deliciously simple addition to this slaw.
- Red cabbage: The color combination of green kale, orange carrots and red (purple) cabbage is beautiful! Not only is it pretty, but these three veggies offer plenty of nutrition and a great combo of flavors. You can use green cabbage too if that’s what you have on hand.
- Green onion: I typically can’t cook without onion; for this slaw I went with a mild green onion. The dressing is packed with more pungent flavors from ginger and garlic, so balance that with a slightly more muted onion flavor. Of course, you could use any type of onion you like.
Sesame Salad Dressing
- Soy sauce: As the base of the dressing, soy sauce offers a delicious depth of flavor and saltiness. You can substitute for tamari to create a gluten free dressing or use another type of soy sauce alternative (ex. coconut aminos). I typically purchase low sodium soy sauce as it has enough salt for my tastes.
- Tamari: I love tamari’s richer, deeper flavor compared to soy sauce. While you could use just soy sauce, or just tamari, I like to blend both sauces. Sometimes I only have one or the other; it’s perfectly fine to use what you have on hand.
- Rice vinegar: For tang and acidity, rice vinegar is the perfect addition to this slaw dressing. Apple cider vinegar can work instead if you don’t keep rice vinegar on hand.
- Maple syrup: To balance the strong flavors of other ingredients, some maple syrup offers the perfect amount of sweetness. This dressing is quite sharp in flavor as it’s loaded with raw ginger, raw garlic and other bold flavors like tamari and sesame oil.
- Sesame oil: For some needed fats in this dressing, sesame oil is the perfect option. Its rich, nutty flavor is so delicious in so many recipes and is my favorite oil to use!
- Garlic: As with onion, I love adding garlic to pretty much anything. For this recipe, the garlic remains raw and creates quite a pungent flavor. If you don’t like raw garlic, you can leave this out. You could also use ½-¾ teaspoon garlic powder for a more mild flavor option.
- Ginger: There’s nothing quite like fresh ginger with sesame oil and soy sauce – it’s one of my all-time favorite flavor combinations. As with garlic, using raw ginger creates a very strong flavor that easily comes through in the final slaw. If you aren’t a fan of ginger, you could leave it out or use a smaller amount. I don’t recommend ginger powder for this recipe.
- Sesame seeds: Sesame seeds are a great, but optional addition. White, toasted or black sesame seeds offer extra flavor and crunch.
How to Make Vegan Kale Slaw
This recipe is simple to make. Just prepare veggies for the slaw salad base, then whisk (or blend) dressing together!
Step 1: Prep Salad Vegetables
The first step is to prepare the kale, carrots, cabbage and green onion.
I’ll be honest, kale isn’t my favorite vegetable, especially when raw. However, there are a few very helpful tips to prepare raw kale that’s tasty to eat.
First, wash the kale and remove the large stem. I typically just rip the kale leaves away from the stem as I find this way faster than cutting out the stem with a knife.
Once the stems are removed, slice the kale very thinly. This creates a great kale slaw texture and is helpful because small pieces are easier to chew.
Next, place the sliced kale in a large bowl and massage it; yes, literally massage it. As you massage the kale it’ll turn from a dull green color to a vibrant green color. This process helps to break down the kale’s fibrous and tough texture.
Once that’s done, peel and grate the carrots and thinly slice or shred the red cabbage. Thinly slice the green onions, using just the green tops or including the white parts as well. Then, toss all the veggies together.
Step 2: Prep Dressing
Start by finely mincing or crushing the garlic. I typically use a garlic press whenever serving garlic that’s raw. This helps ensure nobody eats a large piece of garlic in any one bite.
Then, grate some ginger. I use the small edge of a box grater or a microplane to grate ginger. I also peel my ginger first, but as long as it’s washed well, you don’t have to.
There’s a lot of raw garlic and ginger in this dressing which creates a very strong flavor in the final salad. If you’re not sure you want that much garlic or ginger, start with less and add more as needed once you taste the dressing.
After you prepare the garlic and ginger, add them to a small jar or bowl along with soy sauce, tamari, rice vinegar, sesame oil and maple syrup. If using a jar, place the lid on and shake to combine. If mixing in a bowl, use a small whisk or fork to combine the dressing.
It’s always best to taste the dressing before tossing the salad to make sure the flavors are balanced to your liking. You may want more or less of any of the ingredients so adjust however you like.
Step 3: Toss and Serve
When you’re happy with the dressing, toss it with your prepped slaw vegetables. When everything is combined, you’re ready to serve. I like to top my kale slaw with some sesame seeds for extra flavor and crunch.
You can also leave this salad to marinate in the fridge for a few hours before serving. Raw kale can benefit from time to marinate as this can soften the texture and make it more pleasant to eat.
How to Create a Balanced Vegan Meal
This salad is packed with flavor and nutrition. The colorful veggies are a great way to get in lots of micronutrients. Colored vegetables all have unique nutritional values, and eating a variety of colors helps consume a range of micronutrients and antioxidants.
Aside from delicious veggies, the sauce is super tasty and offers healthy fats from its sesame oil.
Altogether, this is a great tasting side dish or appetizer but is low in carbohydrates and protein. Without carbs and/ or protein, this salad isn’t the most well-balanced meal and would likely leave you feeling hungry fairly quickly.
To add some plant-based protein, I almost always serve this slaw alongside some marinated baked tofu. Any tofu you like can work! Cooked and shelled edamame is another easy protein option.
Tossing in slivered almonds, toasted cashews, hemp seeds or other nuts and seeds can also boost protein and healthy fat content. Remember that protein and fat help keep you feeling full and satisfied for longer!
It’s fine to have lower carbohydrate meals on occasion (some people prefer this style of eating). If you’re looking for some carbs to add to this salad, toss in some cooked quinoa or rice, steamed or roasted sweet potato and/ or chickpeas.
How to Store Vegan Kale Slaw Leftovers
Leftover slaw should be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days. I find this salad holds up well for one week. The vegetables release some liquid as they soak in the dressing, so you’ll likely end up with extra dressing/ water at the bottom of your container.
Kale is a great leafy green to use for salads if you want to meal prep. Since it’s so hearty, it can hold up in a salad dressing for a few days and still taste good (in my opinion at least). I prefer raw kale after it’s marinated in dressing for a day or so when it’s softer and easier to chew.
If you make this recipe, please rate and comment below to help others benefit from your experience!
Vegan Kale Slaw Recipe
- 7-8 cups kale , stems removed and chopped (1 bunch)
- 1 ½ cups carrots , shredded (2 large)
- 1 ½ cups red cabbage , thinly sliced (¼ head)
- ⅓ cup green onion , chopped
Step 1: Prep Salad Vegetables
- Wash a full bunch of kale and remove the large stems. I simply rip leaves off the stems.7-8 cups kale
- Slice the kale leaves very thinly and add to a bowl.
- Massage the kale leaves until they turn a bright green color (this helps tenderize the kale, creating a better texture that is easier to chew).
- Peel and grate carrots, then add to the large bowl with your kale.1 ½ cups carrots
- Thinly slice or shred red cabbage and thinly slice some green onion. Add these to the bowl with the kale.1 ½ cups red cabbage, ⅓ cup green onion
Step 2: Prep Dressing
- Finely dice or crush three garlic cloves. I like to use a garlic press when serving raw garlic so there are no large pieces.3 cloves garlic
- Finely mince or grate some ginger. I use the small edge of a box grater or a microplane to grate ginger.1 tablespoon ginger
- The garlic and ginger are raw and both have very strong flavors. If you’re unsure whether you want that much raw garlic or ginger in your salad, start by adding a smaller amount to the dressing – you can always add more later.
- Add the prepared garlic and ginger to a small bowl or jar along with the other salad dressing ingredients: soy sauce, tamari, rice vinegar, sesame oil and maple syrup.2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons tamari, 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons sesame oil, 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- If using a jar, place the lid on and shake to combine. If using a small bowl, use a small whisk or fork to combine the ingredients.
- Taste the dressing and adjust the ingredients and flavors to your liking.
Step 3: Toss and Serve
- Pour the dressing over your salad base and toss to combine.
- You can serve right away or let the slaw marinate in your fridge for a few hours before serving. Kale becomes more tender when it marinates.
- Serve topped with sesame seeds if you like!sesame seeds
More Vegan Salad Recipes
Like this recipe? You should also try:
About Nicole Stevens
Nicole is a vegan Registered Dietitian (RD) and founder of Lettuce Veg Out.
She helps people thrive on a vegan diet with balanced recipes and easy-to-understand nutrition science.