16 Amazing Slaw Recipes for Your Cookout
With so many delicious variations, this all-American side dish should be your go-to for cookouts, potlucks, and picnics
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Tangy Purple Cabbage Slaw by Leanne Ray
When I was a kid, I only had coleslaw if it came from the grocery store, the kosher deli (where it was served with an assortment of pickles), or Kentucky Fried Chicken (more on that later). Oh, and sometimes there was a vinegar-based salad called “health slaw.” It never occurred to my mom — or me, for that matter— to try making slaw at home, or to experiment with ingredients and flavor combinations. I didn’t discover what I was missing until I reached adulthood. At a friend’s BBQ, someone brought a big ol’ bowl of homemade slaw. Crunchy and fresh, it kept calling me back for more. If it wouldn’t have been rude, I could’ve devoured the whole thing.
After that I went home and made my first slaw, and I’ve never looked back.
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How to cut cabbage for slaw
Cabbages tend to be big and kinda intimidating, but shredding one doesn’t take any special expertise. Here’s how it’s done:
Remove and discard any wilted or tough outer leaves.
Cut the cabbage through the stem into quarters.
Lay each quarter flat and remove the hard core.
Use a sharp knife to cut thin slices across the short side.
Once you’ve done it a few times, you’ll find yourself with mounds of shredded cabbage in minutes. You can also shred cabbage with a food processor or mandoline, but you may need to cut the cabbage into smaller pieces first. (If you’re looking for easy slaw recipes, I won’t tell anybody if you decide to save time and buy some ready-made coleslaw mix.)
How to make slaw
Almost any slaw recipe will have the same three steps:
Shred the vegetables.
Make the dressing.
Toss everything together in a large bowl and refrigerate to let the flavors meld.
It really is that simple, at least as a jumping-off point. If you’d like to be a little chef-ier about it, toss the shredded cabbage with a generous teaspoon of salt. Let it sit in a colander for 30 minutes, then press out as much moisture as you can. This extra step helps keep your slaw from getting soggy.
From here you can add herbs and aromatics, switch up the dressing ingredients, even give your slaw some textural contrast by cooking an ingredient or two.
Easy coleslaw recipes
From-scratch coleslaw takes just minutes to throw together. And if somehow you don’t finish it all at once, slaw lasts beautifully for a day or two, sometimes more — especially if you’ve taken the time to salt the cabbage first. (Of course, you should store slaw in the fridge.) Let this collection of best slaw recipes show you just how versatile the simple salad can be.
Creamy coleslaw recipes
You probably pictured the creamy variety when you first read the word “coleslaw” — at its simplest, it’s nothing but crunchy shredded cabbage tossed with a mayo-based coleslaw dressing. If this is your first time trying homemade coleslaw, start here.
Think of this as the OG, classic coleslaw recipe: It’s a fabulous side dish for everything from BBQ pulled pork sandwiches to fried chicken to deli sandwiches to burgers and hot dogs. It’s beautifully simple, just a half-cup mayonnaise, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt, and black pepper tossed with shredded cabbage and carrot. Make it even easier by swapping in packaged coleslaw mix.
I grew up kosher, but there was a KFC (back then, called Kentucky Fried Chicken) right near my middle school. On the way home my friends and I would stop in. They’d feast on chicken, of course, while I kept myself happy with the Colonel’s perfect coleslaw. This recipe keeps things quick by using a food processor to replicate the chain’s more-chopped-than-shredded style.
Nobody ever said green cabbage was a requirement for slaw. Here, you’ll use raw brussels sprouts (basically mini-cabbage, right?). The dressing ingredients include a nice dollop of Dijon mustard plus lime and orange juices — and some grated Parmesan makes this really interesting. The dried cranberries bring a great burst of sweet-tart flavor.
Sweet and crunchy thanks to pineapple and slivered almonds, this slaw has a light, summery dressing made with plain yogurt instead of mayo. Using slaw mix keeps the prep time down to just 10 minutes.
Vinegar- and citrus-based slaw recipes
As much as I loved KFC coleslaw as a tween, as an adult I think the best coleslaw uses something acidic like vinegar or citrus juice to soften the cabbage. That tangy crunch is perfect for grain bowls and tacos.
When I want the best possible version of the classic, I turn to a recipe like this. It includes a fraction of a teaspoon celery seeds. If you’ve never used them before, I highly recommend getting yourself a small jar. You’ll be amazed at how much flavor those tiny seeds contain. I love the vinegar versatility here — you can use apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, or rice wine vinegar.
An ear of corn and a whole jalapeño get charred in a cast-iron skillet before they’re chopped and added to the mixing bowl. The end result: a slaw that’s begging to be served with tacos. Red bell pepper adds sweet crunch, while chopped cilantro, lime juice, honey, garlic, and cumin jazz up the dressing.
This may be my new favorite slaw recipe. I love the puckery pop you get when you bite into a yellow mustard seed, and the thinly sliced mini bell peppers are so pretty with the green and red cabbage. To get the full marinated effect, this one has to spend a while in the fridge. Make sure you plan for 12 hours’ total time. It’s worth it.
One great bonus of vinegar-based slaws is how healthy they are — they usually have relatively little fat, and of course they’re bursting with veggies. This recipe’s coleslaw dressing lives up to its tangy billing with a little heart-healthy olive oil, a larger amount of red wine vinegar, and a smidge of Dijon mustard. It gets tossed with shredded red cabbage, carrots, and kale. So yes, quite nutritious, but also remarkably tasty.
Slaw recipes with global flavors
Coleslaw is a classic American dish, but c’mon, we’re a melting pot. Adding some international influence just makes sense.
Fermented kimchi is certainly not coleslaw, but you can borrow the idea of it — napa cabbage, red cabbage, green onions, and other vegetables with garlic, ginger, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and the Korean chili paste gochujang — to make an irresistible side dish for bulgogi, Korean burgers, Korean fried chicken, and more.
Here’s a slaw that gets its creaminess from a peanut butter-lime-honey-Sriracha dressing. With tons of colorful veggies like red and green cabbage, carrots, bell pepper, and green onions, it’s as fun to eat as it is pretty to look at.
If coleslaw can be considered indulgent, I think this recipe would qualify. It takes all the rich toppings of esquites — the Mexican corn salad that stars a creamy, cheesy, lime-scented, chili-flecked dressing — and adds them to a large bowl of shredded red cabbage.
Chopped mint, parsley, and green onions, plus a simple lemon vinaigrette, take this lovely salad firmly into Middle Eastern territory. I like to add a generous sprinkle of tart ground sumac, and serve it with chicken or lamb kabobs and warm pita.
Cabbage-free slaw recipes
Sometimes you’re just not in the mood for a cabbage slaw.
Just because the word “autumn” is in the name of this recipe, don’t think for a minute that you can’t make it at the height of summer (or any other time of year). Shredded kale, carrots, and apples get tossed in a tahini-honey-lemon dressing, then topped with toasted hazelnuts. Super-simple, and yet sophisticated.
Crispy, snappy jicama is a fantastic option for a cabbage-free slaw. Use a handheld julienne slicer or mandoline to make quick work of shredding a small jicama, a bunch of carrots, and some mini sweet peppers, then toss in a spicy-sweet dressing made with lime juice, agave, garlic, cumin, and cayenne. I could eat a dozen fish tacos topped with this slaw.
Sometimes I pick up bags of broccoli slaw instead of the cabbage variety. Shredded broccoli stalks hold up so nicely to all kinds of dressing. Here, we head to the Southwest with chopped cilantro, jalapeño, and red onion, with some thinly sliced red bell pepper for juicy sweetness. Tossed in a simple combo of sour cream, lime juice, and agave, this comes together in minutes.
I used to think eating raw fennel would be akin to chowing down on unsweetened licorice. I am not a licorice fan. But when you shave the bulb into thin slices with a mandoline, then marinate it with a mustardy, lemony, minty dressing, it mellows into a still-crunchy side dish with just a hint of licorice flavor.
What to serve alongside your slaw
You’ve got the coleslaw figured out. Get a taste for the rest of the meal in these next articles.