napa cabbage salad with buttermilk dressing

Stop. No, seriously. Stop everything you’re doing. What are you eating for lunch today? Are you going to one of those delis that will put whatever you want in the salad and mix it with some mysterious, better-not-closely-considered dressing in a squeeze bottle and charge you $10? (Is this a NYC thing, or do they have these everywhere?)(Further, have I waded so far into the NYC bubble that I no longer know what people outside it eat for lunch?) Well, I want you to take a good long look at it and repeat after me: No more deli salads.

buttermilk dressing

Because have you seen this beauty? This should be your lunch tomorrow. This salad dressing is so good. So so so good. Oh, and the salad isn’t half-bad either.

People, I’m in love. Like just about everyone else who bakes, I seem to always have buttermilk left in the fridge, but it’s always too little to make something something frosted and fancy. I had no idea there was such a simple dressing out there that could use it up in half-cup increments, or heck, give you an excuse to buy more because it’s so darn good.

All I’m saying is, don’t say I didn’t warn you, okay?

napa salad with buttermilk dressing

Salad dressings, previously: Blue Cheese Dressing, Anchovy-Optional Caesar Dressing, Everyday French Vinaigrette and Miso-Carrot Dressing with Ginger

One year ago: Strawberry Hand Pies, Nectarine and Blackberry Galette

Napa Cabbage Salad with Buttermilk Dressing
Adapted from Gourmet, November 2007

The dressing is a simple blend of buttermilk, apple cider vinegar, a touch of mayo, shallots, sugar, salt and pepper but the flavor is anything but. This is my new go-to creamy dressing. I am sure it would equally delicious with some crumbled blue cheese mixed in, if you’re into that kind of thing.

The dressing would be really great on an iceberg wedge or romaine hearts salad, or any kind of everything-but-the-kitchen-sink mega mixed bowl. Like your lunch tomorrow.

1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
1 pound Napa cabbage, cored and thinly sliced crosswise (4 cups)
6 radishes, diced
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced diagonally

Whisk together buttermilk, mayonnaise, vinegar, shallot, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl until sugar has dissolved, then whisk in chives.

Toss cabbage, radishes, and celery with dressing.

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195 comments on napa cabbage salad with buttermilk dressing

  1. This looks delicious! And yes, I think that the whole deli salad tossed by some dude thing is very NYC. I’ve never seen it anywhere else, and I was a victim to its seductive ways when I lived there for two years.

  2. Mmmm!!!!! That looks delicious! I’ll have to try it tonight – just like you, I bake too much and was just thinking last night that I had to find a use for my buttermilk before it goes bad.

  3. Oh my that looks awesome! I literally clicked on your site, saw the pic and said out loud: Oh my god!

    The lunch salad thing – I’ve seen that salad maker guy in two sad, strange lunch venues, neither of which can ever, ever compare to you lucky ducks who get to be in NYC every day. The first was your standard corporate-insurance-company-with-a-big-sprawling-campus cafeteria. It was sad that we felt we could never leave that building, but the food was surprisingly decent. The second was, I kid you not, at one of those massive truck stop/gas station/restaurant things on the Mass Turnpike. There was a McDonalds on one end, a Boston Market on the other, and two local fast-food-chains in the middle, one of which was making these salads. I will not complain, it was actually very good.

    However, yours above looks amazing! I’ll try it as soon as possible! That dressing… mmmm hmmmm!

  4. Kate

    I have rarely seen the salad concept outside of NYC – since I only visit NYC I kind of miss them but I can see how it could get your into a serious RUT. Thinking of making you brownie rollout cookies and the homemade oreo frosting for a version of homemade oreos – any reason not to try it?

  5. Sara

    Yummy. On the tossed salad front, you can definitely get them in SF as well, though its not nearly as prevalent as in NYC. And the guys who toss them don’t make me nearly as nervous as they did in NYC, where half the time I would end up with some god-awful combination of kiwis and beets because I got so flustered…

  6. deb

    Me too! I used to hate going to any salad bar besides the one I knew because I didn’t know what to do with new options and completely paralyzed with indecision. Over the choice between dried cherries OR cranberries. And then I’d forget to have them add the tomato, which is like the one thing I couldn’t live without.

    These are my First World Problems.

    1. Tricia

      But wouldn’t we need fresh garden tomato? I can not eat a store tomato and I’ve never been to new York city to experience the salad guys.

  7. Bridget

    I looked at this salad and said, “Wow!” Looks so yummy, I’m gonna make it tonite. I have been subscribed to your blog for a few months, but this is the first time I have commented. Thanks for your blog. I love it! BTW: Happy Birthday to JK Rowling, Harry Potter author.

  8. Sula

    I can’t do dairy (lactose intolerant). Do you think a soy milk + lemon juice mixture would work here (that’s what I normally use for buttermilk in baking)? Soy yogurt? Or is this just not worth it without the buttermilk?

  9. deb

    Hi Sula — I have no experience working with soymilk (but hopefully someone else who does will speak up) however, I would think that perhaps a mixture of the homemade soy buttermilk you make and some soy yogurt might do the trick.

  10. Mona

    YUUMMMMMM! I love creamy dressings, thanks for sharing! And that salad looks too amazing to only be those few ingredients!

  11. Slack

    I live in Tennessee and we have that salad phenomenon. One place closed in my city but another is still going strong.

  12. Chris

    I will say that there isn’t much in the way of make-as-you-order salad in the inner American west (Denver). I was in NYC in June and the first time I stumbled into one of these delis, I was completely confused as to how everything worked.

    Lunch here is more of the bistro sandwich type affair.

  13. Bun

    They do the tossed salad thing down here in D.C. too. This dressing looks delicious…even delicious enough to get me to eat salad (I swear I’m actually not a picky eater, but salad is usually just…meh…to me).

  14. This is looking suspiciously like cole slaw…
    It looks yummy no matter what though! I’ll have to try this. I love cabbage in salad because it’s sooo much more crunchy than lettuce.
    ~The Cat’s Pajamas

  15. This dressing looks divine!

    Chris – where in Denver are you? There are actually two different places that do this in downtown Denver – Green and Mad Green’s – I love it! Although, I agree with the inability to choose from so many different yummy ingredients.

  16. Definitely going to try this one this weekend.

    I will say this about the NYC salad assembly line (and in my opinion Europa takes the cake for highest throughput / most intense pressure to choose choose choose fast fast fast!) — it’s quite the experience. I’ve had friends visiting from out of town who rank it up their with their big apple tourist experiences. :)

  17. Marisa

    As you likely know, a new Whole Foods has opened up in Tribeca, so I can actually GET Napa cabbage without traveling 1/3 of the way across the city by subway or cab. I ran right out to get all of the stuff (plus some nice gulf shrimp for a main course), and I am sooo excited about this cool salad on this hot NYC day. Thanks for sharing!

  18. Gigi

    Wow looks great!

    I use up my leftover buttermilk increments in halved king arthur flour scone recipes.

    No lunch salads in Oz as far as I can see. A lot of places give complimentary glasses of wine though (I think that must be very Aussie.)

  19. Marisa

    Also, my permanent home is in Dallas, TX, and the salad thing is big there too. The more you add to the salad, the more monstrously expensive it gets. I accidentally let things get out of hand one time and spent $15 on one salad. Sigh.

  20. deb

    It is funny that you brought up Whole Foods because for some reason, I can NEVER find napa cabbage there! It’s like a curse. I don’t get how a store with so much space can often stock so little. This weekend, we were in the vicinity of the Time Warner Center so I decided to swing in there to get the stuff for this salad. I found one left in the entire store, buried under other cabbages. I needed two hands to pull it out, and it was in fairly awful condition. Um, we persevered.

  21. Marisa

    Hee! The Tribeca Whole Foods had about 30 beautiful, crisp Napa cabbages. It did not, however, have regular chives, only garlic ones. It’s always something!

  22. at

    Looks good. We’ve got a bunch of those salad mixin’ places here in Chicago, but we only charge $8 for ’em, of course.

  23. cupcakes

    this mixture, shredded chicken or grilled shrimp, warm tortilla…

    drool.. I’m making it like that for dinner.

    thanks for the idea.

  24. Autumn

    Just in time! I have been assigned “salad” for a potluck tomorrow, and have recently become grossed out by commercial salad dressing. I think I’ll have to sub green onions for the shallot and chive, but I bet it will turn out delicious! Thanks!

  25. Cris

    Sula – we use the lactose free milk instead of soy milk (store brand or the Lactaid). I don’t have problems substituting it with regular milk, except I find it sweeter than regular milk. I would mix the dressing up without the sugar and then add from there, depending on taste.

  26. Joy

    This looks like something I could eat for lunch for a week! The only thing that’s putting me off is the celery–do you think that could be omitted without much harm to the recipe?

  27. dina

    I looked for Napa cabbage at the Whole Foods in Monterey, CA and the one in Sacramento, Ca and both times left empty handed…..
    Is there something they are not telling us about Napa cabbage??????

  28. Sula, use plain soy yogurt to get the tangy flavor of buttermilk. I am not a dairy person either but I can’t be free of creamy dressings forever! It’s hard enough to bypass a wedge of Brie!

  29. sarah

    ooh deb, this was delish! made it today for lunch, and added some crumbled goat cheese, tomatoes and red peppers…so close to heaven in a salad, it was scary.

    and in chapel hill we have a TON of the salad places, but it is a college town, so…

  30. I once drove two hours to buy fresh from the cow buttermilk. It was seriously the best thing I’ve ever had — completely worth the two hours in the car.

  31. Are you reading my mind? I was just thinking of making the pancakes you posted earlier, but was wondering what to do with the left over buttermilk. (the last container leftovers from the wheat apple muffins had to be tossed out)

  32. Rachel N.

    Oh, I’ve had salads like that in Chicago… actually the only place I’ve ever had one of those deli-pick your own-salad experiences was at Macy’s, so maybe it is just a NY thing.

  33. Becky

    Deb, THANK YOU. The one thing I miss about working in the city is a quick trip across the street for an overpriced but healthy salad. You’d think that business model would’ve caught hold just across the river but it hasn’t. This looks great and I have left over shallots from the sugar pea and radish salad.

  34. Yum! And I have some buttermilk handy, even.

    Yes, we have those salad places in Denver, too. Several of them. I don’t understand how they stay in business. The salads are good, sure, but whooo, pricey.

  35. I could dive right into that salad this minute. I’m only sorry that I don’t have any buttermilk in the fridge. I’m going to feel short-changed by my lunch now!

  36. SusanPrincess

    To all the lactose intolerant folks: Try lactase enzyme caplets. (Major brand is Lactaid; I use the less costly Costco ones.) They contain the lactose-digesting enzyme that our bodies are missing. Just take one right before ingesting dairy products. Cooked dairy already has some of the lactose converted, so is less bothersome for most lactose intolerant people, and aged cheeses have less lactose than unripened cheeses. Watch out for whey as an ingredient–that’s where the lactose hangs out.

  37. I don’t like deli-salads…they’re normally too sour for my taste and heaven knows what they’ve put in there. This is my first visit and I think you will become a regular stop for me from now on!!!

  38. Caithness

    They have that crappy 10$ mystery salad here in Toronto! I have to go to it everyday for lunch at work or school because it’s either that, or metallic-y “fruit salad” or sandwiches that are just a waste of calories.
    This looks sooo yummy! In the past two weeks I’ve thrown out two half full cartons of buttermilk because they spoiled and I had nothing to do with them each time. This is great, thank you!

  39. deb

    I’m loving all the comments about deli salads! The thing is, I never disliked them. I’m just so picky and I love a little of this and that and I loved being able to get all that pickiness out of the way midday without actually having to chop two tablespoons of avocado, tomatoes, cucumber and carrots myself. But I hated the dressings. They were without fail from Kens or Kraft and totally sketch. I tried the lemon juice + olive oil + s/p thing a few times but it wasn’t the same. If only I’d had this dressing…

    (P.S. I suspect I’ve saved $250 on these lunches since I began freelancing! Which means I deserve new shoes, right?)

  40. RAS

    hmm, i need to make this NOW (yum), but ….deb, how do you feel about low fat buttermilk….and rice wine vinegar (it’s all i got in the house). Is a trip to the store a must?

  41. deb

    Ah, glad you asked. I used lowfat buttermilk. Frankly, it’s all I can find up here, but it works great. And for all of you WW-peeps out there, I also used lowfat mayo. The entire 3/4 cup batch of dressing was 5 points. I promise to get to a real post on this soon.

  42. AmyCO

    That looks great…Couple things. I live in Denver and a new place just opened around here that mixes salads like you are talking about…it’s kind of intimidating to me, both the process and the price! What does “light, medium, or heavy” dressing really mean? Although the salads have fun literary names like Ernest Hemingway. Also, do you ever make your own buttermilk? We do that all the time…just add milk to some buttermilk, let it sit on the counter about 24 hours, and voila. The ratio is about 1:3 parts buttermilk to milk.

  43. Kendall

    I was coming to your site to find a recipe for some cabbage I had in the fridge…and look what’s right here at the top of your page! Thank you for this beauty of an idea. I always have left over buttermilk from baking! This is going in The Book of great recipes I always keep near by.

  44. ali

    I think somebody should write a cookbook about buttermilk, focusing specifically on how to use up the rest of the carton. I always have about half a carton left over. Can you freeze buttermilk? My instincts tell me no.

    1. Eeka

      I freeze leftover buttermilk. It’s been fine going into baked goods; I’m not sure how frozen/defrosted buttermilk would be in a recipe like this, though.

  45. Melissa

    I just made this salad and it’s fantastic!
    I took your everything-but-the-kitchen-sink suggestion and put in red and green cabbage, carrots, celery, green onions, and turkey bacon. Made the dressing just as directed. Oh! Wanted to let you know that you have pepper listed in the how-to, but not on the ingredient list…just in case you want to update that.
    Anyway, this salad was not only beautiful (I REALLY wanted to take a picture. :) ), but even my meat-and-potatoes husband enjoyed it!
    Thank you! I’m new to your site, but will be a regular from here on out!

  46. regina

    wow. looks great. i always make the standard chinese napa cabbage salad with the ramen noodles, so i am anxious to try this one. sorry to hear about your difficulties in finding napa cabbage…even in produced-starved phoenix, it is readily available at every grocery store…and we have one on every other corner.

  47. Thanks deb! Made the salad AND the blueberry crumble bars for dinner for 8 last night. It was a huge hit. The salad was light and crunchy and just perfect in every way. People were fighting over the bars at the end. A lovely time was had by all. Thanks for your part in it!

  48. Christina

    Beautiful salad! I love to see celery that’s really green, instead of pale and flavorless.
    I’ve taken to buying whole-milk buttermilk from the greenmarket in half-gallon jugs and using it in place of both buttermilk and yogurt in recipes. So far, so good. In fact, cultured whole milk “buttermilk” is pretty much the same thing as preservative- and other-stuff-free whole milk yogurt. But the buttermilk is easier to pour and measure. And I’ve yet to have a jug go bad.

  49. I have been searching high and low for a good cole slaw, but have yet to find one that tickles my fancy. This looks like something I need to try ASAP.

    I am a total sucka for the 10 deli salads.

  50. Jenny in Korea

    Hi! Just found this site yesterday and went to the store for ingredients today. If it makes you feel better, I had trouble finding Napa cabbage and…hello…I live in KOREA. They grow the stuff en masse just yards from my house. Also, to answer the question about freezing buttermilk, that’s the way my buttermilk comes- frozen. I thaw it and shake it really well and it is fine. I couldn’t find fresh chives, but I did find freeze dried chives in the spice aisle and I’m hoping they will have some flavor. I’m doing Atkins, and this salad will be a wonderful addition to my lunchtime fare. Thanks!

  51. Carolina

    Am I the only one reading this who actually DRINKS buttermilk? I LOVE it. In fact, I have bought it before for a recipe, and drunk most of it before time to cook so that there wasn’t enough left to make the recipe…(you can always add a little lemon juice or vinegar to regular milk as a substitute though). Probably not for this dressing, but I will buy some buttermilk tomorrow and make the dressing as soon as I get it home. Thanks for sharing. I’ve just found a new blog I will be returning to.

  52. Christine

    I made this dressing last night, but with an extra Tbsp of mayonnaise for a little thickening. I used an immersion blender to mix, to get the chives to be little flecks. Worked great!

  53. Deb that is so fabulous! I just whirred all the ingredients in the blender, including a handful of chives from the garden. Came out a lovely pale green color and tasted delicious! Really perked up our dinner of leftover chicken over salad!!

  54. Kaitlin

    Made this tonight…it was great! My dressing was very runny(but delicious). Maybe I should have added extra mayo, any suggestions?

  55. NYC does have a lot of those places. And while you think you’re getting a decent meal that dressing can have absolutely anything in it. Even with something simple like a balsamic vinaigrette, you’re not necessarily safe. The dressing sounds simple but outstanding, I’ll need to give it a try.

    The salad reminds me of at least 2 vietnamese-style restaurants that offered chopped vegetable salads that had 22 to 24 ingredients. All the finely-chopped ingredients came separated on a plate and they asked if you’d like it as is or mixed. Something about finely chopped salads is just irresistible. Maybe it’s because you don’t know what the next bite will bring.

  56. *sniffle* i miss celery stalks….. oh misery of miseries! Why does this country only eat the roots?!

    On a cheerier note… the rest of the ingredients are accessible and that make me incredibly excited!!

  57. Oh gosh. I was totally planning on having one of those salads for lunch today. In my (slight) defense, the price seems to go down as you move away from midtown, since my local deli on 10th Ave only charges $6. But now I’m craving the do-it-yourself kind like you’ve made here. Siiiiiiiiiiigh. Tomorrow, I promise! :)

  58. linda

    This looked so good and refreshing that I scurried out to buy Napa Cabbage. Everything else I had on hand. I used 1 pound of the cabbage and there was not enough dressing to cover it and the radishes and celery. So I made another 1/2 batch. The end result: tasteless. I added more salt and that helped a little but I’m wondering if this needs to sit for awhile for the flavors to come through. Or the idea of adding blue cheese crumbles might help. I think more mayo would help. Maybe some celery seed? Anyway – at least I’m eating a somewhat healthy dinner!

  59. Lindsey

    I tend to be someone who doesn’t like salad, but this was good enough to make even me happy about eating a salad! It’s even good just with crunchy shredded iceburg and some sliced bell peppers. THANKS!

  60. Yeah, so I’m only slightly obsessed with your awesome salad and slaw recipes these days. Thanks for all the inspiration. My boyfriend and I made this last night to go with some spicy buffalo chicken sausages and sweet corn we had in the fridge. Insta-picnic, I’m telling you. We kept eating the salad to the exclusion of everything else and I think polished off the whole thing. As a radish-hater, I was hesitant, but altogether it worked soooo well. Mmmm, I want more tonight.

  61. Had this dressing 2 days in a row, and I can’t wait to make more tonight! I might put some basil and parsley in it tonight since I don’t have any fresh chives.

  62. Mary

    I made this today for my dinner and for a friend who is homebound. Easy and delicious, but the dressing is really runny. I’m thinking of adding some sour cream or more mayo, but did I do something wrong? I can’t seem to get anything but 1% buttermilk; maybe one with more fat would be thicker. Maybe if I add some of that buttermilk powder?

  63. That salad looks and sounds amazing! There is nothing I love more during warm months than a great salad! This sounds perfect for hot summer nights when I want to jazz up my usual lettuce salad!

  64. I made this tonight for 4 of us when we were starving and past any logic. It was amazing and put all of us into a more rational and peaceful mood. Thanks for saving the night!

    p.s. I made buttermilk from goats’ milk, since one of us was allergic to cow casein, and replaced the celery with thin rings of mini bell peppers. Yum!

  65. Mary

    Jeni, I was thinking of adding slivers of green pepper for tonight’s varation on yesterday’s salad! Now I really will do it, and I’m sure it will be delicious.

  66. Emily

    I’m very confused. I made this exactly like the recipe and it just tasted like slightly bitter nothingness. I used green cabbage instead of Napa so maybe that was the problem.

  67. Meagan

    Color me confused as well. As at least one other poster mentions, my dressing was extremely runny. Not just a little runny, but more like the consistency of water. I see in your pictures that your dressing sits atop the salad. Mine… well, mine sank right down to the bottom of the bowl. Is it the full fat, “lowfat” thing? Or are we missing a binder?

  68. deb

    The two times I made this, my dressing was on the thin side but certainly not watery. I used low-fat buttermilk and low-fat mayo, because that’s what we had on hand. I’d expect the full fat components to be even thicker. Perhaps using a tablespoon or two less buttermilk will thicken the dressing up a bit next time, for those of you who didn’t like the consistency.

  69. Steph

    I used regular buttermilk and mayo and also had the too runny dressing. I then added 2 more tablespoons mayo and hoped a couple hours in the fridge would firm it up, it didn’t. Don’t think I’ll be making this one again.

  70. Kelly

    Mine was watery, but who cares. It was soooo yummy! That’s what I liked about it. It’s not your typical heavy calorie laden cream dressing. It’s very, very light. I made an extra batch of it and added a little more. I never eat creamy dressings because of the high fat/calorie content, so I enjoyed this. If you did want to thicken it, maybe try blending cottage cheese until smooth and adding that. You may have to add more seasoning.

    You must use Napa Cabbage. It’s nothing like regular cabbage. It’s actually more like a lettuce. It’s the perfect texture for this salad.

    I can’t wait to make it again!

  71. mpls lisa

    This sounds wonderful! I have some buttermilk at home and was debating Buttermilk Cookies(which are wonderful!!!) or this heathly salad. I think the salad has won! It sounds so good and refreshing! A perfect summer salad to go with our almost nightly grilling of something!

  72. I think I’ve died and gone to Salad Heaven. I’m SO glad you posted this! Now I know the perfect dish to make for my parents’ birthdays! The problem w/there birthday’s is that they have only two days between them so I never know what to do for dinners. But you’ve SO made it easier! :D Do you know if I could possibly feed four people off of two of these or is this for one serving in and of itself?

  73. Drema

    Hi just found you board. This salad really sounds wonderful.
    I love the tase of buttermilk. Excelent with corn bread crumbeled in it. Yum!
    Anywhoo, I’m soing to make this evening. Will let you know how it is recived. Will be attend a pot luck for about 100 give or take a few.

  74. redengine88

    I’m coming back to this to give my 2 cents. I had been staring at this printed recipe on my fridge since its post. Finally, at 8:30 last night we made it when we were too tired to make anything else. The two of us almost ate the entire salad it was so good. The only thing we added was broccoli. The dressing is very runny- we used Fat Free Buttermilk and full fat Duke’s Mayo (thhheeeeeeee beeessssssttt)- but it didn’t detract at all from the awesomeness. The texture of the nappa cabbage with all the nooks and crannies absorbed the dressing well, and each bite was flavorful. I plan to make this again tonight with our leftover veggies, definitely adding some red pepper as suggested above. I can see where people who really like a coating of dressing on their salads might think this is too bland; but it is the vegetables that really do the talking here: the peppery spunk in the nappa and the raddishes and that freshness in the celery. I think this salad is a great introduction into “eating light” in the sense of training our over-salted/fat/sweet American tastebuds into enjoying the FOOD more than the additives in the food.

    Thanks Deb for another winner!

  75. don

    Carolina – I’ve just found this blog and I’m reading through the archives. I was wondering by the time I got to yours ‘does noone drnik this fabulous stuff any more? Thank God. For years the only use I’ve made of buttermilk is to drink and for dressing – equal parts mayo.buttermilk and sour cream with whatever herbs or flavours you want (Worcestershire is my favourite.
    Deb I love your blog.

  76. jessie

    i just made this last night and it was so easy/good. its also good with some fennel in it. i brought it to work with me and only had vinaigrette at work and it was STILL so good!

  77. Dave J.

    This is a truly great dressing, but the first time I made it my wife and both thought it was way too sweet. Since then we’ve made it many times, but have cut the sugar down to 1 t. from 1 T., which really lessens the super sweet taste and lets the other flavors shine a bit more.

  78. Jessica

    This was wonderful– I’ve made it three times in a week. The only modification I made was to half the sugar for personal taste. Although the dressing was thinner than I had for some reason expected, it was absolutely perfect with the veggies.

  79. Kelsey

    Wow. This cabbage salad is amazing. Just tried it last week, substituting the green cabbage and kohlrabi that I had on hand for napa cabbage and radishes. Yum! My boyfriend loved it too. This recipe is a homerun!

  80. Jara

    We have them in Chicago. I actually love them (They are more like $7 -$8 here). As for the dressing I stick for asking for avocado on my salad and sides of Vinegar and EVOO. I mash up the avocado in the vinegar and drizzle in 1 teaspoon of oil while I stir. Probably not as tasty as yours but pretty healthy, since I like to use ALOT of dressing!

  81. Leanna

    I made a large spread of dishes for Labor Day, including ribs, homemade baked beans, focaccia bread, tabouli, chocolate/chocolate/chocolate cake, and this salad. The group consensus was that this salad was the best part of the meal. I have already made it twice. My only suggestion is to double the dressing, it is that good. Thanks for the new favorite.

  82. Debra

    I made the buttermilk dressing and used it in a tomato onion salad. Delicious! Also made crispy baked chicken breasts and dipped that into the dressing too. I think you could dunk darn near anything in this dressing – its tasty and versatile.

    Also, I liked the consistency. It isn’t too creamy thick.

  83. Michelle

    I read the first couple comments and all I saw was, “it looks good”. But I made it last night and it is good! I don’t like celery but it was yum. The salad is light and refreshing. Dressing was surprisingly yum as well. Thank you.

  84. This salad is amazing. So, so yummy. I love the dressing. Light and thin, not gloppy like commercial buttermilk dressings. I think it would also be good with a little blue cheese sprinkled in.

    Also, re: your book. Can it be just 80 recipes for slaws and salads? I die for slaws and salads.

  85. Yum, yum! I am making this for dinner tonight with the first Napa Cabbage of the season from our CSA! I don’t comment often, but I wanted to tell you how much I love the browse by buttons. Especially the seasonal ones! I also wanted to tell you that your little guy is the cutest! (After my own little ones of course!)

  86. Caitlin

    I had this for dinner last night with a chopped boiled egg on top: Hubs wasn’t a fan of the sweetish dressing and the bitter foliage, so I have lunch for the next two days : )

  87. andrea

    for those who have a hard time looking for napa cabbage, if you drop by a local korean grocery or probably any other asian grocery you’ll find these in abundance. hope this helps!

  88. Karyn

    I am going to try this recipe but my small town grocery store does not carry buttermilk. Has anybody been successful in using powdered buttermilk such as SACO Cultured Buttermilk Blend?

  89. Dave J.

    Karyn–you can always make your own–1 c. milk + 1 T. white vinegar. Let it curdle for 5 mins, and you’ve got your “buttermilk.” Won’t be as thick as the real stuff, however, so you might want to increase the mayo, or just plan on having a slightly runnier dressing.

  90. Luisa J.

    I stumbled across this recipe last night while using your ‘surprise me’ feature. Oh my goodness, thank you so much. I am 11 weeks pregnant with my 3rd child and I seriously could DRINK this stuff. I added a bit more sugar to suit my tastes. I also made it the first time with clabbered milk because I didn’t have any buttermilk on hand and it worked fine, and added a little bit of green onion. But buttermilk is preferable. Thanks again.

  91. Amy M D

    Found this today while looking through the Spring section. Easy to make and soo delicious. Fortunately, there are leftovers for lunch tomorrow. I made this, the Mediterranean Pepper Salad and grilled a couple chicken breasts, for a rgeat dinner.
    I’m thinking the dressing would make a good base for a lot of creamy salad dressings.

  92. Susie

    I was assigned to bring a salad tomorrow night and immediately came here to peruse. This one looks perfect. As I was printing I realized I had pulled this out of Gourmet back in the day as well….and never made it! I’m sure your touch will make all the difference and I will have the best dish at dinner tomorrow.

  93. This is now my go-to cole slaw dressing. I often add a tablespoon or two of plain yogurt to make it thicker. Yesterday when I made it, I also substituted some orange juice for some of the vinegar and added a little orange zest, giving it a subtle orange kick. It was awesome.

  94. E

    I almost didn’t make this because of all of the reviews that said it was runny, but figured Deb never steers me wrong so I’ll trust her. I’m glad I did, this dressing is AWESOME. It is indeed runny, but I realized after I’d tossed it with my salad that I find this to be a positive quality. The dressing is incredibly light, but still packs an intensely flavorful punch. The second time I made it (i.e., the night after the first time I made it) I used sour cream instead of mayo, and liked it better, although the difference wasn’t major. I bet you could also sub yogurt without much problem. I used the dressing on an ‘everything-but-the-kitchen-sink mega mixed bowl’ as Deb referenced, and was blown away. I don’t generally consider myself a salad-as-a-meal kind of person, but I have had a salad with this dressing three nights in a row. That, my friends, is a first.

  95. Lisa

    I liked this dressing and I don’t eat creamy dressings since I have a mayo aversion. I used fat free yogurt instead of buttermilk and added a tablespoon of milk to thin it. Oh, I also added a little blue cheese.

  96. Nancy

    A very refreshing salad…loved it! I was surprised how thin the dressing was and next time I will cut back a tad on the buttermilk. I have already bought the ingredients to make this again. One thing I learned, do NOT dress this hours in advance (I thot maybe the flavors would meld even better) as it will not be as crunchy as it should be. Thanks for a great recipe!

  97. Jennifer

    Oooh…I was looking for recipes to use up some buttermilk (why oh why does my grocery store only sell half gallon jugs of the stuff?) and came across this. And on the day my deli charged me for my $10 salad & FORGOT the chicken chili that is supposed to go on it. I am so making this for lunch tomorrow!

  98. Michelle

    Made this dressing today but accidentally bought savoy cabbage instead of napa (don’t think that made a difference). Delicious and SO much more low fat than the store bought creamy dressings. This is my lunch for the rest of the week. :-)

  99. Camille

    Just a quick note to say that I used this dressing for a quick cole slaw today. My husband’s actual statement: “This may be the best cole slaw I’ve ever had.” This dressing is definitely going in the keeper file!

  100. Jamie Lynn

    This is officially now my go-to salad dressing….I discovered it here when my little co-op garden produced so many radishes I didn’t know what to do with them all. I’ve been eating this for two weeks now, and have subbed regular cabbage and leaf lettuce over the Napa and it’s delish.

  101. Liz

    I just made these today and will be putting these in my “Absolute Favorites” recipe collection. All I can say is YUMMY!!! Thanks for sharing!

  102. Obsessed

    I made this yesterday and added thin sliced zucchini, yellow squash, -clearly inspired by your zucchini posts- avocado, and english peas- was delicious as is (texture of dressing was runny but so yum and coated everything- so i loved it)…the next day for lunch the salad had absorbed a lot of the dressing and shed some water so instead of eating salad soup i added a couple handfuls of arugula and a squeeze of lime (didnt have lemon)…. Was sooo good- officially obsessed with this dressing! Thanks!

  103. Hayley

    I had the good fortune of receiving napa cabbage in my CSA shortly after stumbling across this recipe (you had referenced it in a more recent post, I think, as one of your favorite salads). Your praise is justified – it was delicious!

    For full disclosure, we followed the recipe by using: nappa cabbage, the chives, and the wonderful dressing, but filled the salad with thinly sliced purple and green peppers (another CSA treasure) and cucumber (left over from making another one of your fabulous recipes the tzatziki potato salad). We then topped it with hard boiled eggs from some protein, I would highly highly recommend this addition, it made the already filling salad a complete meal, and I think the texture of the eggs complemented the other ingredients well.

    Anyways, great salad, highly recommended, and thank you!!

  104. Jan

    I know the original recipe was published ages ago, but we discovered a way to make it thicker: with GREEK YOGURT, which has a wonderful consistency and seems to have more tang than regular yogurt (and so the taste is closer to buttermilk).

    We make this ALL the time and it is soooo delicious! We add or subtract veggies as our mood dictates …. one of the best additions was fresh jalapenos from our garden, very finely chopped. Zing!


  105. Gina

    Just wanted to say that this dressing is amazing. I’m living abroad at the moment and it was a bit of a shock coming to a place where the three brands of salad dressing make only very artificial tasting stuff. I was at one point used to rows and rows of options, and a lot of delicious options. And often organic, semi healthy options This recipe is a god send. Even my boyfriend, who actually almost always eats salad *plain*, went back for more. Thanks, Deb!

  106. sara

    my boyfriend has a serious aversion to mayonnaise. I would replace it with greek yogurt but am wondering about other suggestions or what to add in addition to the yogurt to cut the tartness?

  107. Kate

    Deb, the description proceeding the recipe includes salt and pepper, but I don’t see those in the ingredients list for the dressing. Do you add S&P to the salad after it’s dressed? Does it matter? Made it without either and it was awesome — thanks!

  108. Deb, I have been looking for ways to jazz up a crab and avocado salad my family has been making for years. Separately, I was browsing your wonderful site for slaw ideas, and BOOM!, I had the idea to combine the two! I made this almost to the T, and simply added lump crab and fresh avocado on top. It was FANTASTIC! The tart dressing was the perfect flavor balance to the rich crab and creamy avocado, and the crunchy slaw ingredients were a perfect texture compliment. Thanks so much for the excellent idea, as always!

  109. Manda

    I generally don’t do dressings (especially the creamy ones) due to the unnecessary calories and often the commercial ones are too sweet also.
    I’m making this In the morning ready for my lunch!

    Oh btw, for those of you who have leftover buttermilk (after making this delicious salad) you might find it handy to know that you can freeze buttermilk!

    None of those salad places here in Australia!v

  110. Laura

    This looks delicious and I want to eat it right now! I’ve been trying to avoid dairy and sugar – call me crazy but how do you think this would work with coconut milk and without sugar? Is there any addition I could make (maybe white vinegar?) to get the tartness of the buttermilk?

    1. deb

      Laura — You can skip the sugar, I do it all the time, but it will be harder to get the tang of buttermilk. I might start with a non-dairy yogurt and thin it a little.

  111. terri

    mine did not come out as dressing at all! it pours like water and has absolutely no body to it. i’m guessing my buttermilk was not as thick as yours :(

  112. Maria B

    I found the dressing a little too sweet, so I added a heaping tablespoon of creme fraiche to balance. Next time, and there will be a next time, I’ll cut the sugar back.

  113. Sarah Beth

    I’m NOT KIDDING when I say I’ve made this slaw something like 5 times in the last two weeks. Addictive doesn’t begin to cover it. And the fact that it’s still so good the next day…….amazing.

  114. Andrea

    Good lord, is this amazing. Talk about the sum being far more than the component parts. I added cumin and half a preserved lemon, which amped it up even more. Incredible.

  115. Staci

    Hi, Please forgive my naivety…. Can the salad hold up to having the dressing on for a few hours in the fridge before serving? Or is this a dress and serve immediately? I’m making it now for a CSA Farm Potluck and I’m debating whether to dress it now and let the flavors meld in the refrigerator or wait until I arrive to dress and toss. Thank you for your work – I, of course, love your recipes, photos and very witty commentary ;-)

    1. deb

      Staci — It can, but I like putting it on at the end. Salt in dressings draws out water in vegetables, causing a runnier effect after some time.

  116. The dressing got rave reviews, and I was glad I doubled the dressing. I felt the salad was a little underwhelming with the texture being overall too crunchy. Granted I did not toss the salad in the dressing as I didn’t want the leftovers to be soggy. I love Napa Cabbage, but maybe a mixture of cabbage and spinach and cucumbers instead of celery would have been more to my liking.
    I’ll definitely be making the dressing again though. Good flavor, lots of tangy-creaminess.

  117. Elizabeth

    Haha, good move – I have most of a quart of buttermilk left from the buttermilk pancakes you posted the other day and now I am totally making this dressing. Love your posts and recipes.

  118. Cat

    I didn’t have celery so I substituted rainbow chard stems, since that is what I had in my garden. Also, instead of chives, I used garlic scapes! Delicious!! Thank you for the inspiration.

  119. I was really excited to make this salad for Memorial Day! The colors were so bright and vibrant and the flavors sounded as though they would be cool and refreshing. I’m sorry to report that the salad was lacking the luster and kick I had dreamt it would have. Not sure what might make this salad more appealing to the tastebuds. Perhaps a more dense dressing, with a bit more flavor?

  120. Cat

    Just made this salad and I think it’s delicious, refreshing and new to my tastebuds, exactly what I was looking for! I did add maybe two more tablespoons of mayonnaise because the dressing seemed thin to me. Thanks!

  121. Daniela Hobelsberger

    dear Deb,
    please can you put your whole lemon bars recipe on your blog,
    i am reading vs. germany and can’t receive food network, i am very interested on.
    Thank you so much.
    Greetings from munich Dani

    1. deb

      I wouldn’t leave it with the dressing on overnight. It’s good for a while but Napa could definitely get limp after enough time, not in a good way like firmer cabbage does.

  122. LJ

    I just made this! I rarely buy Napa cabbage (and I’m not sure why).
    I really like the dressing, but, wanted it to be a bit thicker so, I added a bit more mayo and skipped the sugar. Yay! Thank you!

  123. kat

    I hate buttermilk! So, it there something else that would also taste good in this recipe. No milk and vinegar…same taste as the buttermilk. Just really do not like the taste so and suggestions?

  124. jennycolvin

    I live in the south and while my local grocery stores are abundant in cole slaw mix and mountain cabbage, I would have to drive 45 minutes to whole foods for Napa cabbage. Do you think it would taste okay with regular old cabbage? (My store also had no radishes today so I was completely thwarted in my memorial day picnic salad attempt!)

  125. Abby Martin

    We ate this alongside bratwurst and sweet potatoes. We added tomatoes, pickled red onions, and cucumbers to the salad.

    We’ve made the salad as written in the recipe before, and enjoyed it very much. But it’s more fun with a wider variety of flavors and textures.

    Be sure to dry the cabbage well. We chopped it, then ran it through a salad spinner again. The dressing is already thin and water lingering in the cabbage leaves can dilute the dressing further.

  126. Hmm – I just made the dressing and tasted it on a piece of celery, it seems very sweet to me, hoping it gets distracted by the rest of the salad. wish I had read the comments before mixing. But, I am sure it will be great!


  127. Lisa

    Delicious salad. I also added small shrimp.
    How long do you think it will last in the frig after it’s been tossed with the dressing?

    1. deb

      I prefer to toss it closer to when I’m going to serve it because it’s going to eventually soften. It should last, however, as long as shrimp will.

  128. Bridgit

    Choosing “I made this” seems like a little bit of a lie. It’s more like “I was inspired by this recipe.” We used color flower for life finally chopped, and thinly sliced carrots (with ridges!). I briefly saw the dressing, omitting the sugar, using yogurt and all of its way instead of buttermilk, added a big spoonful of fairly spicy mustard, and two large handfuls of I roughly follow the dressing, omitting the sugar, using yogurt and all of its way instead of buttermilk, added a big spoonful of fairly spicy mustard, and two large handfuls of dill because of a dilly buttermilk mustard potato salad someone served me earlier this year. Also, we made our first batch of pesto tonight and put it on freshly cooked garbanzo beans. We have a 4 year old who thought we were having pasta, so he was lured to the table by us telling him the beans were rocks (see the book Hippopotomister for further details). I have no regrets. Except that now I’m a bit too full.

  129. Beth Steele

    I have made this multiple times and I am always so so happy with it!
    What a treat!
    I follow the recipe exactly.
    Thanks Deb!!

  130. Kristin

    I love the ranch and Napa cabbage combo. Homemade ranch is so much better than store bought! I didn’t have radishes so I added carrots. I found the dressing to be way too sweet for my taste so would advise holding back on the sugar until you taste it. As others have said, I added more mayo to thicken it a bit.

  131. Jennie

    My much-stained printout of this recipe is in Brooklyn, but I’ve been upstate since March avoiding COVID. I almost never make any recipe twice, just because there are so many damn things I want to try–who has the time? But I keep coming back to this wonderful salad, with its freshness and crunch and mild radishy sweetness. We are making a Chanukah meal tonight–latkes and jelly doughnuts!–and this is our respite from all the oil. I love this salad and this is our third or fourth time having it. Just saying thanks, Deb, for this gift that keeps on giving.

  132. Maddie’s Mom

    Nice addition to our backyard fish fry.
    Love the crunch and the dressing.
    I mixed it together right before serving.

  133. April

    I made this tonight and even though nobody here *loves* radishes everyone ate it. The dressing was so yummy I might replace my usual coleslaw dressing with it. If you aren’t a lover of radishes give this a try and it might change your mind.

  134. Barbara Giardina

    I made this with Savoy Cabbage which was all I could find. It was delicious, and the best part, remained crunchy for a couple of days. I did not have buttermilk so used a combination of Greek yogurt and milk which worked really well. I am going to be making this again.

  135. Nadine

    I had a half a head of purple cabbage and it worked wonderfully with this dressing. (I have chives growing in my backyard, so that was a nice thing to add in.) I will be using this dressing on MANY other things. YUM!

  136. Libby

    Good! I substituted a hakurei turnip for the radishes and added some julienned carrot–otherwise, I followed the recipe. I have no complaints about the dressing, which is an absolute keeper. I was reminded, however, of my irritation with cabbage salad: all of those crunchy shreds of cabbage flicking drops of dressing at me every time I removed a forkful from the bowl. It sounds like this salad will soften up in the fridge, though.