Is there a more important side for a bbq or fried chicken than coleslaw? It brings the whole meal all together. Just about everyone has their opinion on what the perfect coleslaw is. Some like it creamy, some like it vinegary or mustardy and some even like it spicy.
I think one thing we can all agree on is that a simple coleslaw brightens up most any rich foods you might be serving. It’s inexpensive, readily available and totally delicious!
Coleslaw should be simple with the perfect balance of a crunchy texture from the cabbage and carrots to the slightly creamy and bright dressing. It needs to aim to please the whole crowd (because that's usually what we make it for). Definitely not too much mayo. And don't go overboard with the celery seeds, as those can be overpowering.
Whatever you do, please don't ever buy pre-made coleslaw dressing. If you look at the ingredients, you will freak out. Luckily you are here, so that's probably the last thing you will be doing. 🙂
This coleslaw dressing is very straightforward using ingredients you probably already have in your pantry and fridge. It's not at all complicated and you won't find any strange ingredients.
The slaw needs to pair well with the other dishes you are serving. If you are having smoked pulled pork, it needs to be a little bit tart and a little bit creamy. Pork and coleslaw = the perfect combo!
Once you make it a few times, you won't even need a recipe.
What is coleslaw?
Coleslaw is a salad consisting of finely shredded raw cabbage and is tossed in a dressing. There are many different types of coleslaw, but the typical recipe includes finely shredded cabbage and carrots and a dressing made with vinegar and mayo.
Coleslaw is generally served as a side or topping with foods such as fried chicken or barbecued meat. It is also great on hot dogs, hamburgers and tacos.
Can you make coleslaw with no mayo?
If you're not a fan of mayo, no worries. Coleslaw is actually very tasty without mayo.
To make coleslaw without mayo, simply follow the recipe provided in this post, but instead of adding the mayo, add about 3 tablespoons of olive oil. You can definitely adjust ingredients according to your preferred taste and consistency.
Cabbage - (red, green or both). Sure, a store-bought mix can work, but coleslaw tastes so much better when it's fresh. It's also cheaper to buy thee cabbage and just shred it yourself. It's really easy to shred in a food processor, with a mandolin slicer or even with a very sharp knife.
Carrots - shredded. You can buy a bag of shredded carrots, use your food processor, or a julienne slicer to shred the carrots.
Seasonings - celery seed, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. There are other favorite seasonings that can be added, but these are the classics to get us started.
Coleslaw Dressing Ingredients:
Vinegar - apple cider vinegar is most often used to make coleslaw dressing, but other types of vinegar, like white or rice vinegar may also be used.
Mayonnaise - for the creaminess a bit of mayonnaise is needed. If you're not using mayonnaise, olive oil can work as a substitute.
Flavor makers - lemon juice, sugar or honey are added for a delicious, balanced taste.
Add-on/upgrade options - apples, raisins or dried cranberries, green onions, poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds, Italian parsley are all great options if you're looking to upgrade the typical coleslaw recipe.
Tips for coleslaw
- If you are in a pinch, you can totally buy a bag of pre-shredded cabbage coleslaw mix, but the quality will usually be a lot better and it will be cheaper if you shred it yourself in the food processor.
- Water in the cabbage can be the enemy. Sprinkling some salt on the shredded cabbage in a colander and letting it sit for about 10 minutes will do the trick. Just give it a gentle squeeze to remove the excess moisture before adding it to the dressing.
- Make the dressing in a very large bowl so you have plenty of room to toss the slaw. Flying objects can cause frustration in the kitchen.
- Start with a smaller amount of mayo and add more as needed. You can always add more, but it's hard to take it away. You want the creaminess from the mayo, but don't want to actually taste it.
- Always be tasting. If it's too tart, add some more honey/sugar; if it's too tangy add a little more mayo. The key to a good coleslaw is to taste as you go.
- Let the coleslaw chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving it. This gives the flavors time to come together (don’t worry, the cabbage won’t wilt before you’re able to serve it).
- Make ahead option: This slaw can be made up to 8 hours before you plan to serve it. Coleslaw is best when chilled, so store in the fridge before serving. Also, store any leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge for about two days. Any longer and the cabbage will start to become a bit soggy.
- Tip for food processing: Using a food processor makes for speedy shredding work. Quarter the cabbage so it fits into the food processor and use the round blade for the cabbage. Use the round slicer for carrots. You can discard any large pieces of cabbage stem that don't get shredded.
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- Food processor or box grater
- Mandolin slicer
- Julienne slicer
- Large bowl
- Tongs for tossing
More side dish recipes
What goes with coleslaw?
Barbecue or fried chicken is probably what comes to mind. But there are so many dishes that pair well with coleslaw. Smoked Pulled Pork sandwiches can't live without a great coleslaw. A smoked brisket loves is heavenly with joined with a flavorful coleslaw. A few other recipes that work great with coleslaw are:
- ½ Red cabbage shredded
- ½ Green Cabbage shredded
- 2 Carrots peeled and shredded
For the Dressing
- ⅓ cup Apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup Mayonaise
- 1 tablespoon Sugar
- ½ teaspoon Celery seeds
- 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Make the dressing in a very large bowl by whisking all ingredients until well combined. Taste test for overall flavor and balance.
- Add the shredded cabbage, carrots and mix well to fully coat.
- Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes until serving.