Kohlrabi Saengchae (Korean Salad with Kohlrabi)

kohl_sae_I think I have already mentioned that I grew up eating kohlrabi, but uniquely as a snack. If you have never had it (or if you were unlucky to have it only cooked), raw kohlrabi is a more delicate and juicier version of pink radish. This year I have tried to include kohlrabi for the first time in an actual dish and loved it as a green papaya substitution in the famous Vietnamese salad. I have kohlrabi in my fridge quite often, so I knew there would be a second experiment one day. Kohlrabi replacing the Korean radish (unavailable here anyway) was by far more delicious than when prepared with daikon, the very popular Japanese white radish, which, I’ve learnt from a reliable source, is much stronger than the Korean radish.

If you have already been in a Korean restaurant, you might have tasted saengchae, fresh spicy salads served in small portions as side-dishes.  Apparently they are served in Korea practically with everything and from my own experience I can assure you that at least this saengchae goes well with anything, of course as long as you like spicy food. I found many moo (radish) saengchae recipes on web and in my cookery books, some including ginger or garlic, but finally for the delicate kohlrabi I chose the simplest one, from my regular Korean cooking companion: Food and Cooking of Korea by Young Jin Song. As usually, I have slightly changed the proportions and some ingredients, but I hope it still keeps a Korean touch.

TIPS: If you buy kohlrabi (also called “German turnip” and “turnip cabbage”) for the first time, it looks like a cross between a turnip and a very light green apple. Choose the smoothest one and not too big because it might become tough and fibrous. The smaller it is, the juicier and the crunchier it will be.

This salad keeps very well for about two days in the fridge, so you can make a double portion in advance and add to your lunch box the following day (as I did).

Preparation: about ten minutes+chilling

Ingredients (serves two):

1 medium kohlrabi, peeled


1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sugar

salt (to taste)

1/2 teaspoon Korean chilli powder (or any other medium hot chilli powder)

toasted sesame seeds

chopped green onion or chives

1 teaspoon sesame oil

shredded fresh red chilli pepper

Cut the kohlrabi into very fine, matchstick-like pieces (a julienne grating tool is very handy here).

Combine the ingredients of the marinade (sugar, salt, chilli powder and vinegar).

Coat the kohlrabi with the marinade and put into the fridge to chill (this step is not necessary especially if your kohlrabi was already very cold).

Serve sprinkled with sesame seeds, chives/green onion, fresh red chilli pepper (I didn’t have it, since its absence in the photograph) and a splash of sesame oil.

19 Replies to “Kohlrabi Saengchae (Korean Salad with Kohlrabi)”

  1. I’ve only had this cooked (boiled, roasted, sauteed). Never thought of having it raw. I never thought of having beetroot raw, but tried it and its great. So I guess the same can be said for kolhrabi.

    1. You must have it raw! I still remember when someone in France told me she had it only cooked… it was as if she had pink radish only cooked. Such a shock! Anyway, the taste is 100 or 1000 times better. I hope you will enjoy it.

  2. Well leave it to Sissi to transform kohlrabi into something so deliciously tempting — I will never look at this turnip cabbage the same way again! What a great idea to use it here in this Korean inspired salad. Your marinade sounds lip-smacking good — love those acidic notes paired with heat… positively addictive.

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly, for the kind words. I hope you will try kohlrabi in this spicy version.

  3. Great timing, it’s Kohlrabi season. I was so surprised to see Kohlrabi in my neighborhood store in India, but they called it something else of course. Apparently it’s commonly grown in Maharastra, India and they use it int he cuisine there. I wonder if Kohlrabi can be found in Korea or anywhere else in Asia.
    Sissi, your salad does look enticing. I like the idea too of more subtle flavors with the kohlrabi instead of radish.

    1. Thank you so much, Hélène. I’d also be surprised to see kohlrabi in India. I imagine you were very happy.

  4. I’ve seen a lot of people using kohlrabi lately on the internet. I was intrigued even more when you used it for this Korean dish. I’d love to try it. It sounds really good. White radish saengchae is one of my favourite Korean side dish. Thanks for introducing this rare vegetable to me. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Sue. I’m so happy you don’t scold me for this big change 🙂
      It’s quite an ordinary vegetable in at least several European countries. I hope you can find it at a farmer’s market in your area too. It’s such a delicious and healthy snack… I hope you will like it.

  5. I haven’t tried kohlrabi and I am so curious! The salad looks very appetizing and I am left with the desire to try this vegetable!

    1. Thank you so much, Katerina. I hope you will find it in Greece. It seems to be a colder European climate vegetable…

  6. Awesome! One of many things I like about Korean restaurant is that they serve many mini dishes on the side (and they give you more ). I love side dish like this…forget main dish, I’m totally satisfied just rice and this appetizing salad.

  7. This will be a wonderful side dish! Now I enjoy spicy foods more, I can imagine myself crunching on these! It’s a great cleanser between meals. 🙂 Looks refreshing and delicious!

    1. Thank you so much, Nami. It’s funny that I have used here the vegetable which was as common in my childhood as daikon was in yours 😉 I’m sure you would like it too.

  8. This might sound very strange to you, but I’ve never had kohlrabi. I’ve seen it in the markets, but have never been brave enough to try it. 🙂 Plus I never really knew what to do with it. Your marinade is similar to what I do with cucumber so I know I love the flavors there, and then, of course, the red chile makes this very, very attractive. A great side dish Sissi!

    1. Thank you so much, MJ. I think you should first try kolhrabi as a snack. You will see how delicious and juicy it is! It does look like an ordinary turnip, but it’s much more than that. Just make sure your kohlrabi isn’t too big… it must be rather smooth and medium or small.

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