Cole Slaw & Variations

Published on October 29, 2022 | Updated on July 17, 2024 | by Allen Bixby

There have been cold cabbage salads since Roman times. Koosla, the Dutch root word that English speakers made into cole slaw, appears in a cookbook dated 1770. Since mayonnaise doesn’t appear until 36 years later, it was obviously not what we think of.

cabbage and slaw in bowl

The food called cole slaw has had two constant ingredients; cabbage and mayonnaise.

Until recently that is, now it is any shredded vegetable in any kind of dressing. We, however, went with the traditional idea of a cabbage-based dish with a mayonnaise-based dressing for this recipe. However, let’s explore some fun variations that are quite tasty.

Cole Slaw varieties

Asian-slaw in plate

Probably our favorite evolution are the slaws based in Asian flavor profiles. Soy, sesame oil, hoisin, rice wine vinegar, sweet chili sauce…the dressing components are extensive. From napa cabbage, a Chinese variety, to cucumbers, daikon radish, long green beans, bok choy, they also have an extensive pallet of vegetables to chose from. When paired with a rich peanut sauced dish or a spicy chicken item, these slaws offer a great accompaniment.

Hybrid salads

We still like seeing the traditional core ingredient of cabbage. But adding finely sliced onions, bell peppers of any color, zucchini or yellow squash, makes great looking food with broader flavors.

Then there are the dressing variations.

You need some tang, usually from vinegar, although lemon is a brightly flavored alternative to consider, or use as an addition. A dash of barbecue sauce can bring your slaw in a different direction, as will a Russian style tomato-y dressing.

Hybrid salads, made with a slaw base and pasta, offer a hearty dish with a satisfying fresh crunch from the slaw.

Cole Slaw in dishes

pork and slaw sandwich

The other most fun trend in cole slaw is using it as the crunchy crisp and fresh aspect of sandwich building. In North Carolina and Tennesse, it’s with pulled pork and slaw, in Missouri it is with beef brisket, or there’s the Polish Boy in Ohio, made with kielbasa, French fries and slaw layered together. A complete free for all. Since slaw is already dressed, it brings great flavors and textures to any sandwich it is used in.

Fresh mex squash

As much fun as it is as a sandwich add-on, it goes way beyond that.

Multiple taco variations that integrate slaws as a component are becoming common place. Tweak it with some lime juice, salsa or tequila, add some jicama or tatuma, you have great choices to bring to theme of the dish.

Hawaiian-slaw in bowl

Cole slaw becomes Hawaiian with the addition of some pineapple and serves well with poke or fried spam.

Most fruits can work, from oranges to apples to raisins.

We’ve seen chilled cooked potato slices topped with slaw as a fun summer hybrid side dish.

You can mix it up with diced cold corned beef and roll it into a wonderful wrap.

Vegetarian or Vegan

Cole slaw is a natural for folks that follow these diets. We like the mayonnaise base, and now there are multiple vegan choices that do a great job of emulating the texture and flavors of egg-based mayo. Beyond that, everything else we’ve mentioned here comes into play.

Plant based sausages scream for a crispy cool topping of slaw. Cheese free nachos or a bean tostada will all get better with a topping of slaw. As versatility goes, it is hard to find something more versatile than cole slaw and its varieties.

Tips for the Best Cole Slaw

Food Processor food processor machine

The batch size on this recipe is not especially large. As a result, it may not be with the clean up required to use your food processor. However, the recipe scales quite well into larger batches. Then the ease of running the cabbage and carrots through the food processor may be well worth it.

cutting cabbage

One big factor that differentiates one slaw from another is how you cut the cabbage. We favor thin slicing it off the head, then a couple quick cuts across the pile to shorten the strips to a more manageable size.

More cross cuts will get you the more common commercial slaw with pellet sized pieces.

Cutting the carrots

Grating carrot with course grater

For the carrots, a course grater is the easiest choice. As always watch your knuckles! If you are good with a knife you can certainly do it that way. But it is hard to beat the consistency of grating it.

Red cabbage

Red cabbage is a nice colorful add to your slaw. Keep in mind that it has a heavier texture and flavor. Some folks will slice and mince it finer, some like to blanch the heavy leaves to soften them up. If you choose to use red cabbage, be aware that it will bleed color into your salad. With this ingredient make you dish the day you want to serve it as opposed to far in advance.


Cole Slaw Recipe

Allen Bixby
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Add on, Appetizer, Garnish, Our favorite side dish, Salad, Topping
Cuisine American food, Fresh, Light, Summer
Servings 6
Calories 65 kcal


  • ½ Head green cabbage
  • 2 Medium Carrots
  • ¼ Cup Mayo
  • 1 Tablespoon Cider vinegar
  • ½ Lemon juiced
  • ¼ Teaspoon Black pepper
  • ½ Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Dried basil


  • Chop cabbage
  • Clean and grate carrots
  • In a large bowl mix mayo, cider vinegar, lemon juice, black pepper, salt, and dried basil
  • Add cabbage and carrots, mix well, serve and enjoy.


Difficulty; 1 spatula


Calories: 65kcal
Keyword cole slaw, cole slaw recipe, coleslaw
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
About the Author Allen Bixby

A retired restaurateur, not quite ready to stop playing in the kitchen.

I have had the pleasure of watching amazing high end chefs, and classic American style diner cooking, creating a very diverse background with food. Add both parents teaching English, watching Julia Childs and Graham Kerr as a child, and learning to bake bread from my Finnish great grandma, and you get a decent recipe for a knowledgeable voice to write about food.

From recipe design to equipment testing, there is a broad spectrum of entertaining aspects of food and how we do what we do every day to feed our loved ones!

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