How to Make Coleslaw, According to Professional Chefs

·5 min read
Still life with bowls of Mauritian pickled coleslaw (zasar)
Still life with bowls of Mauritian pickled coleslaw (zasar)



  1. On This Page

    • How to Make It

    • Chef-Approved Tips

    • Coleslaw Recipes

If you're attending a backyard barbecue or potluck picnic, chances are there will be a big bowl of colorful, crunchy coleslaw on the table. It's just one of those classic summer side dishes that pairs well with pretty much anything, from burgers and hot dogs to flaky grilled fish and slow-cooked ribs. And while there are countless recipes out there, it all comes down to whether you prefer coleslaw that's rich and creamy or tangy and acidic (hint: there's no wrong answer.)

No matter what type of coleslaw your family fancies, one thing is for sure—nothing beats a fresh, homemade batch. It may be more convenient to grab a container from the deli counter at the supermarket, but trust us when we say the store-bought stuff won't be nearly as delicious. Use the below tips from professional chefs to craft your own flavorful coleslaw at home. You'll be surprised at how easy it is!

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How to Make Coleslaw

If you're looking to make a classic, creamy coleslaw, this simple recipe comes out perfect every time.

For the coleslaw:

  • Head of green cabbage

  • Head of red cabbage

  • 2 carrots

  • Fresh herbs (such as parsley and chives)

For the dressing:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise

  • 1 tablespoon vinegar (white or apple cider work well)

  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 1 teaspoon honey

  1. Thinly slice both heads of cabbage and place in a big bowl.

  2. Using either a mandolin or peeler, carefully shave the carrots and add to bowl.

  3. Chop fresh herbs and sprinkle over other vegetables in bowl. Set aside.

  4. For the dressing, mix all of the ingredients and taste before adding it to the vegetables. Adjust as needed.

  5. Pour dressing over the cabbage and mix thoroughly so everything is coated.

  6. Place plastic wrap over the coleslaw and chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

Coleslaw Tips and Tricks

One of the best parts of making homemade coleslaw is that it's easy to get creative. And while it's a simple dish to whip up, here are some tips and tricks from professional chefs to keep in mind:

Try an Alternative Base

There are plenty of ways to customize your slaw, especially by using firm vegetables you might already have on hand. Chef Thomas Boemer of Revival in Minneapolis, mentions that ingredients like Napa cabbage, broccoli, and bok choy are all great options.

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Remove the Moisture

Is there anything worse than soggy, watery coleslaw? Since cabbage is made up of about 92 percent water, Dan Snowden, chef and Director of Culinary Operations for Chicago-based restaurant group Land and Sea Dept., says it's absolutely key to remove as much moisture ahead of time. "The easiest way to extract water from cabbage is by salting it," Snowden explains. "Shred, chop, or mince the cabbage and toss it in a bowl with salt, then, let the salted cabbage sit in the fridge for at least an hour. Lastly, drain the cabbage in a colander, pressing down to squeeze out as much liquid as possible."

Make It Crunchy and Control the Sweet

While the cabbage adds the perfect crunch, Gabriel Glasier, former executive chef, restauranteur, and founder of Chef Travel Guide, suggests adding seeds and nuts for additional texture. "The options are nearly unlimited, ranging from sunflower seeds to roasted walnuts," he says. Glasier recommends using pepitas or pumpkin seeds because they add a nice nutty flavor.

And if you don't like your coleslaw on the sweeter side, Glasier says to skip the sugar or honey and replace it with dried fruit. By doing this, it lowers the overall sweetness of the coleslaw and replaces it with small bites of sweet fruit flavors. "Cranberries and dried cherries work really well, especially alongside roasted pistachios or pecans."

Experiment With Different Flavors

Who says coleslaw can't take on a different flavor? Christina Bailey, a Michelin-star restaurant alum via Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bistro and culinary instructor for Cozymeal, encourages people not to be afraid to spice up a traditional coleslaw dressing. If you enjoy Eastern flavors, Bailey suggests using "tamarind, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, palm sugar, and chopped peanuts" for a fun Pad Thai-inspired slaw. If a Mediterranean-style dish is more your speed, she recommends flavors like turmeric, curry paste, red pepper, or a bit of harissa paste.

Easy Coleslaw Recipes

Now that you know some tips and tricks that will help you elevate your homemade coleslaw, check out this roundup of simple coleslaw recipes so you can really experiment with making the versatile side on your own.

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Turkey Sloppy Joes With Coleslaw

Pair these rich, saucy Sloppy Joes with crunchy coleslaw for the perfect weeknight meal. You don't have to be a little kid to enjoy this classic.

Turkey Sloppy Joes With Coleslaw
Turkey Sloppy Joes With Coleslaw

Slow-Cooker Barbecue Pork Sandwiches With Crunchy Coleslaw

Nothing goes better together than the combination of tangy pork sandwiches with creamy coleslaw. Impress your guests by making this dish at your next summer get-together.

Slow-Cooker Barbecue Pork Sandwiches With Crunchy Coleslaw
Slow-Cooker Barbecue Pork Sandwiches With Crunchy Coleslaw

Tangy Broccoli Slaw

This slaw recipe calls for unique ingredients like crunchy broccoli, dried sour cherries, and unsweetened kefir instead of mayo. It pairs perfectly with a simple piece of grilled salmon or steak, and it's just one of those dishes that tastes even better the next day.

Slow-Cooker Open-Face Pulled-Pork Sandwiches With Tangy Broccoli Slaw
Slow-Cooker Open-Face Pulled-Pork Sandwiches With Tangy Broccoli Slaw

Shrimp Tacos With Citrus Cabbage Slaw

The easiest way to elevate any type of taco is with a zesty, citrusy slaw. This coleslaw recipe boasts a Mexican-inspired flair by using jalapeños and corn in addition to standard cabbage—and the result is delicious!

Shrimp Tacos With Citrus Cabbage Slaw
Shrimp Tacos With Citrus Cabbage Slaw

Carrot and Parsnip Slaw

If cabbage isn't your thing, this carrot and parsnip slaw is for you. It calls for just a few ingredients like lime, plain yogurt, and fresh dill, and can be made within 15 minutes. It doesn't get much better than that!

Carrot and Parsnip Slaw
Carrot and Parsnip Slaw