Nothing jazzes up a salad like adding some exotic flavours! Our Cabbage Fennel Slaw with finger limes is sure to turn heads. These colourful mini pearls are best described as citrusy caviar, but don’t worry; we also give you a clever substitution. With this show-stopping salad, you will impress your dinner guests!
Ah, the beauty of a good slaw - crispy, crunchy, and full of flavour. This cabbage and fennel slaw was no exception!
The finger limes were a delightful addition to the slaw – their tart yet slightly sharp taste was a wonderful contrast to the mild earthiness of the savoy cabbage and the aniseed flavour of the fennel.
Need some more slaw salad inspiration? Try our Greek Coleslaw for a simple recipe. Or, for some added colour, you can't go wrong with our Red Cabbage Raspberry Slaw. How about some Asian umami flavour, our Thai Asian Slaw can't be beat!
What Can I Use Instead of Finger Limes?
I usually find Australian finger limes during the winter months at farmer's markets or at speciality greengrocers.
While you cannot replace the look of the colourful pearls. You can replicate the taste with the zest from 1 to 2 limes (key limes or kaffir/makrut limes are ideal) for this recipe.
When I find these rare beauties, I stock up and store them in the fridge or freezer.
Wrap your limes in plastic and store them in the fridge for 2-4 weeks. Or in the freezer for 6-12 months in a zip-lock bag. Defrost, pat dry, and cut them open to use in your recipe.
Other Ingredients and Substitutions
This is a versatile fennel and cabbage slaw recipe, and if you don’t have one ingredient, you can swap it for something else.
- Savoy Cabbage - forms the base of this salad; you can replace it with Chinese cabbage/wombok/Napa cabbage or romaine/cos lettuce. If you are making it with lettuce, add the dressing just before serving and keep in mind that it won’t keep as long.
- Fennel - adds a wonderful licorice-like flavour; if you don't like fennel, substitute it with 1.5 cups extra cabbage and one teaspoon of fennel seeds instead, or with a cup of chopped celery or grated kohlrabi.
- Fresh Mint -adds a wonderful aroma to the salad; swap with some fresh dill, coriander/cilantro, or some parsley.
- Finger Limes - as mentioned above, you can mimic the flavour with some lime zest.
- The Dressing - we took advantage of the finger limes and shook them up in tangy dressing with Kaffir/Makrut lime leaves and MCT oil. Swap with a lime vinaigrette or a simple lemon garlic dressing.
🤔 Consider Adding - A pop of colour, with some finely shredded red cabbage or some grated carrots. Sweetness, with apples that are cut into matchsticks. Crunch, with some seeds (pumpkin, pepita, sunflower or linseeds), roasted cashews or peanuts.
How to Make It
Step 1 - Start With the Vinaigrette
It is important to start with the vinaigrette to allow the flavours to meld together.
Place all the ingredients in a glass jar, season and shake until emulsified.
Step 2 - Prepare the Vegetables
Wash the savoy cabbage, remove the core and any damaged or wilted leaves, and shred finely with a mandoline/v-slicer or knife.
Alternatively, you can use the slicing attachment on your food processor and shred in batches. Once shredded, transfer the cabbage to a large bowl.
Now, let's take care of the fennel. Wash it, cut off the base, hard fennel core and any damaged parts - but keep the fronds!
Thinly slice the fennel, either using a mandoline/v-slicer or a sharp knife.
Then chop up the fronds from your fennel
As fennel discolours easily, make sure to place it in a bowl of cold water with some lemon juice (called acidulated water) until ready to use.
Wash the finger limes, cut off the top, or cut them in half and squeeze out the finger lime pearls.
Then give the mint a good wash, shake it and pat it dry. Strip the mint leaves from the stems, then roughly chop.
Step 3 - Assemble Your Cabbage Fennel Salad
Drain the fennel in a colander and dry it well using a clean kitchen towel. Transfer it to a bowl with all of your delicious salad ingredients.
Add the finger lime pearls, chopped mint leaves, and toasted coconut flakes to the mix.
Give the vinaigrette a good shake before pouring it over the salad, then season to perfection with salt and pepper.
Mix everything well so that the dressing spreads evenly throughout the salad. Taste it, and add more seasoning if needed based on what you like.
Taste and adjust the seasonings according to your preference.
Arrange in a salad bowl or platter and garnish with some sliced finger limes. Serve and Enjoy!
Give your next meal an extra kick of flavour with this delicious Fennel Cabbage Salad!
This crunchy, refreshing salad is a great side dish for seafood dishes such as grilled salmon, oysters, seared scallops, grilled prawns, and fresh crab.
It also pairs well with poultry dishes such as turkey or chicken, as well as with rice dishes such as risotto or pilaff.
Here are some creative ideas to get you started:
- Make it the star of an appetizer platter with seared scallops or grilled prawns
- Serve as part of a seafood banquet
- Serve with a whole baked salmon for an elegant dinner
- Serve as a side with sticky lime roast chicken
- Enjoy as a light lunch with a fig and goat cheese tart
- Make it a meal by adding some flaked salmon or grilled chicken.
Tips and Questions
What Are Finger Limes?
Fingers limes are native to Australia and are the fruit of a native rainforest tree. They look like small fingers, long and slender, that taper at each end. They have a pebbly skin in various shades of green, from dark to yellow-green.
On the inside, you will find mini pearls, just like caviar, in an assortment of colours such as green, yellow, purple, pink and bright red. They have a lemony lime, sharp flavour with herby undertones.
Can I Use Green Cabbage?
I prefer the soft texture of Napa/Chinese cabbage for this salad. If you are going to use green cabbage, massage it with the dressing to soften it first, just like you would kale.
How to Make Cabbage Fennel Slaw Ahead.
- You can slice your fennel the day before and keep it in acidulated water (water with added lemon juice). Place in a container in the fridge. Make sure you strain it well and pat it dry before adding it to your salad.
- Shred your cabbage and keep it covered in water in the fridge. Strain it well and rinse it under cold running water to get rid of the cabbagey smell. Make sure it is drained well before assembling your salad.
- Make the dressing a day or two before and keep it covered in the fridge.
- I will quite often make this salad the day before and just add the herbs right before serving to allow the flavours to develop and meld together.
- This salad can also be made 2-3 hours in advance and kept chilled in the fridge until ready to serve.
What to Do With the Leftovers?
The leftovers can be enjoyed for several days in the fridge. In fact, it will taste even better the next day as all the flavours meld beautifully together.
This cabbage fennel salad suits all eating styles - Dairy-Free; Gluten-Free; Keto; Low Carb; Nut-Free; Paleo; Vegan; Vegetarian; and Whole30.
Each serving has 175 calories with a net carb count of 7 grams.
(Nutritional Information is provided as a courtesy based on a nutritional database and should only be used as an estimate.)
- Mandoline / V-Slicer or Food Processor
- 2 cups savoy cabbage, shredded (approximately 250 grams, 8.82 ounces)
- 1 medium fennel (approximately 250 grams, 8.82 ounces)
- ¼ cup mint leaves chopped
- 2 Kaffir lime leaves cut in chiffonade*
- 1 Australian finger lime
- 2 tablespoons coconut flakes toasted
- Sea salt and cracked black pepper
- ¼ cup MCT oil (you can substitute with melted coconut oil)
- ¼ cup lime juice (juice from 2 medium limes)
- 2 teaspoons lime zest (zest from 1-2 medium limes)
- 2 tablespoons finger lime pearls (approximately 3 finger limes)
- 2 Kaffir lime leaves cut in chiffonade*
- 1 tablespoon coconut flakes, toasted
- 1 Australian finger lime sliced in half
- Start with the vinaigrette: combine all the ingredients in a glass jar, shake well until emulsified and set aside.
- Wash and prepare the savoy cabbage: remove the core, any damaged or wilted leaves, and shred finely with a mandoline/v-slicer or knife (or use the slicing attachment on your food processor to shred in batches). Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
- Prepare the fennel: cut off the base, hard core and any damaged parts and shred finely either using a mandoline/v-slicer or a sharp knife. To prevent discolouration, place the fennel in a bowl filled with cold water and some lemon juice until ready to use.
- Squeeze the finger limes to extract the pearls, and then add them to the mixing bowl along with the chopped mint leaves and toasted coconut flakes.
- Drain the fennel in a colander and dry well using a clean kitchen towel, then transfer to the bowl with the rest of the salad ingredients.
- Finally, shake the vinaigrette again before pouring over the salad, season with salt and pepper, and mix everything together. Enjoy! Taste and adjust the seasonings to your preference.
- Place the salad in a bowl, top it with extra coconut flakes and a finger lime for garnish. Serve and enjoy!