Red cabbage and fennel slaw with sunflower seeds. Photo by Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post.

All too often, slaw is a sad and soggy afterthought - a mayonnaise-heavy mound of cabbage smothered into submission. What a missed opportunity when you consider the bright, fresh possibilities a good slaw presents.

This recipe is a case in point. It's a crisp, colourful mélange of shredded vegetables - red cabbage, fennel, carrot and onion - in a tangy-sweet vinaigrette, made with healthful oil, that softens the slaw components slightly and brings them together without overdoing it.

A final toss with toasted sunflower seeds adds a delightfully nutty crunch for a slaw that stands up to make-ahead treatment for a summer gathering, and it stands out as a truly desirable side dish.

Red cabbage and fennel slaw with sunflower seeds

8 servings (makes about 6 cups)


  • 1/3 cup unsalted, hulled sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup walnut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, halved, cored and thinly sliced (4 cups)
  • 1 large carrot, shredded (1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion


  1. Toast the sunflower seeds in a dry skillet over a medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant and lightly browned, about 3 minutes. 
  2. Cool completely.
  3. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper in a liquid measuring cup, to form an emulsified dressing.
  4. Toss together the cabbage, fennel, carrot and onion in a mixing bowl. 
  5. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. 
  6. Toss in the sunflower seeds just before serving.

Ellie Krieger is a registered dietitian, nutritionist and author.