Good for Your Gut: A Recipe for Spicy Kimchi Slaw

Spicy kimchi slaw in a bowl.

There is so much exciting new science about the benefits of a healthy gut microbiome.  But what does your gut bacteria have to do with your cancer treatment? Plenty! Immunotherapy is a cornerstone for treating some cancers. Interestingly, what we eat influences what bugs are found in our gastrointestinal (GI) tract and in turn the impact of immunotherapy.

A high-quality diet rich in plant fiber is associated with better responses to immunotherapy (Spencer et al 2021). Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet (SAD diet), which is high in processed foods and low in fiber, results in gut bacteria that contribute to inflammation, excess weight, cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer. But a diet with lots of plant fiber provides the right food sources for healthy immune promoting bugs to grow.

Individuals with melanoma who were following a high fiber diet were five times more likely to respond to their immunotherapy than those consuming a low fiber diet (Spencer et al 2021). Helpful foods for your gut bacteria include prebiotics that healthy bacteria like to eat such as onions, asparagus and bananas. Probiotic foods, such as sauerkraut and kimchi contain some of the healthy bacteria themselves. However, we don’t know enough about probiotic supplements and cancer at this time.

The following recipe includes pre and probiotics. And if you are receiving immunotherapy and your doctor wants you to eat more plants, the UVM Cancer Center Health Coaches can help you change behaviors that will get you there.

Spicy Kimchi Slaw

Modified from Bon Appetit


  • 8 scallions
  • ½ cup kimchi, plus 1 tablespoon juice from jar
  • 2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 small head of Napa or Savoy cabbage
  • 1 6" piece daikon, peeled, cut into matchsticks
  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Toasted sesame seeds and cilantro with tender stems (for serving)


Step 1:  Remove dark green tops from scallions and thinly slice; set aside. Blend scallion bulbs, kimchi, kimchi juice, vinegar, Sriracha, fish sauce and sesame oil in a blender until smooth. With motor running, very slowly stream in olive oil; blend until dressing is thick and airy. Set aside.

Step 2:  Tear off leaves from cabbage until you get down to the crunchy white part. Rip outer leaves into 2" pieces. Thinly slice core crosswise until you have about 6 cups; reserve remaining cabbage for another use. Toss in a large bowl with daikon, carrots, and reserved scallion tops. Season with salt; pour reserved dressing over. Toss to coat, transfer to a platter, and top with sesame seeds and cilantro.

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