A well-executed cookout should be a study in flavor contrasts. The perfect picture is peppery steak kebabs alongside sweet fruit salads, creamy mac and cheese, and fresh seasonal greens next to perfectly charred hot dogs or smoky pulled pork sandwiches loaded up with cool, crunchy coleslaw. As a condiment or a side dish, coleslaw has a lot to offer, and traditional cabbage-based slaw delivers both a bright acidity and a welcome undercurrent of funk.
However, plenty of other vegetables and fruits can supplement a cabbage coleslaw base, and the typical mayonnaise-laden formula isn’t the only way for a slaw to offer a refreshing counterpoint to grilled meats and proteins. We asked a group of professional chefs to provide unique coleslaw recipes that venture beyond this dish’s expected norms, and you can find these creative slaw variations below.
Traditional coleslaw is a simple cabbage salad composed of green, red, or a mixture of the two cabbages. It usually contains finely shredded carrots and onions and can be dressed in either a creamy mayonnaise-based dressing or a lighter, vinegar-based dressing. It’s meant to be a light and refreshing side dish to complement richer dishes, such as barbecued meats or heavier deli sandwiches.
(By Sybille van Kempen, owner, Loaves & Fishes, Sagaponack, New York)
Hamptons-based cookbook author and restaurateur Sybille van Kempen likes to use the classic shredded cabbage in her favorite slaw recipe, but she chooses to bolster that ingredient with sweet grated carrots. She dresses the slaw with a blend of soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, honey, and lime juice, drawing inspiration from flavors commonly found in Asian cuisines. “This slaw features carrots and cabbage with other farm-fresh veggies, including radicchio and snow peas. The dressing is light and flavorful, with just a hint of sweetness from honey and sesame oil,” said van Kempen.
- 6 carrots, peeled and grated
- 1/2 head Savoy or green cabbage, shredded
- 1 head radicchio, shredded
- 2 cups bias-sliced snow peas
- 1/2 red onion, sliced
- 2 scallions, sliced on a bias
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- Grated zest of 1 lime
- 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Add carrots, cabbage, radicchio, snow peas, red onion, and scallions to a medium-sized bowl.
- To make the dressing, add soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, sesame oil, lime juice, lime zest, canola or vegetable oil, and salt & pepper to a small bowl and whisk to combine.
- Pour the dressing over the slaw and toss until the slaw is completely coated.
(By Hany Ali, former executive chef, Europa Village, Temecula, California)
For an extra zing of acidity, former executive chef Hany Ali mixes his coleslaw cabbage with sliced and julienned green apple. He hews to tradition by using a mayonnaise-based dressing for this slaw, but he includes both apple cider vinegar and honey to play off of the apple flavors, resulting in a side dish that’s bright, invigorating, and a perfect match for char-grilled barbecue fare.
- 1 medium-sized green cabbage head, finely shredded
- 3 scallions, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup toasted Marcona almonds
- 4 Granny Smith apples, ½ julienned and ½ sliced
- 1 carrot, finely shredded
- 24 mint leaves, chopped or torn
- 1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup local honey
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon toasted black mustard seeds
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Add cabbage, julienned apples, scallions, almonds, carrot, and mint leaves to a large mixing bowl.
- To make the dressing, add Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, honey, apple cider vinegar, black mustard seeds, salt, and pepper to a bowl and whisk to combine.
- Pour the dressing over the salad and toss until fully coated. Garnish with sliced apples.
(By Sarah Bell Lewis, former chef de cuisine, The Ranch at Las Colinas, Irving, Texas)
“Familiar flavors play well together in this lightly sweet and spicy slaw, perfect to top a taco or to simply spice up a burger. Sweet roasted corn and spicy Fresno peppers are balanced with fresh tangy lime juice and crunchy jicama. Dial up the heat by adding more Fresno peppers or pull back for a subtle kick,” former chef de cuisine Sarah Bell Lewis said of her slaw, which she tosses with a creamy lime dressing.
- 2 cups green cabbage, thinly sliced with a sharp knife or a mandolin
- 1/2 cup red cabbage, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup roasted corn kernels (cut from the ear)
- 1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup jicama, julienned
- 1/4 cup green onion, cut in a diagonal
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped or torn
- 3 tablespoons Fresno peppers, thinly sliced in rings
- 1/2 cup creamy lime dressing*
- Add all ingredients to a medium mixing bowl and toss until the vegetables are coated with dressing.
- Garnish with cilantro sprigs.
*Creamy lime dressing:
- Add 1/4 cup lime juice, 1 teaspoon of lime zest, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/2 cup mayonnaise to a medium mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside until needed.
(By Evan LeRoy, chef/co-owner, LeRoy & Lewis, Austin, Texas)
Austinites view barbecue in near-religious terms, and their scrutiny isn’t limited to the smoked meats themselves. Side dishes also must pass muster, and chef Evan LeRoy of mega-popular Austin barbecue truck LeRoy & Lewis considers his Kale Caesar slaw a fitting companion for his lauded pulled pork, sausage, and brisket. “Our best ideas are the ones [where] people can grasp onto something they are semi-familiar with, but that are also something slightly different. I was watching a show one time and a chef said, ‘Every restaurant in America should have a Kale Caesar on the menu.’ While I don’t necessarily agree with that statement, something clicked in my head where I knew I could make a slaw out of [this concept] because kale is so sturdy and can stand up to a heavy Caesar dressing without getting wilted,” LeRoy told The Manual.
- 1 bunch curly green kale
- 1 head green cabbage
- 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup Caesar dressing of choice
- 1 cup croutons*
- Wash the kale, then, remove the leaves from the stem of the kale. Slice the leaves thinly into ribbons.
- Remove the outer leaves from the cabbage. Core and quarter the cabbage head and slice as thinly as possible.
- In a large container, mix the kale, cabbage, and Parmesan together until fully incorporated. Add the dressing and mix thoroughly until all the greens are coated.
- Plate the slaw and garnish with croutons.
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cut 12 slices of saved bread heels into cubes and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 30-45 minutes, or until crisp and slightly browned.
- Add the croutons to a large container and coat with 4 ounces of olive oil.
- Add 1 tablespoon of Italian herb seasoning, 1 teaspoon of granulated garlic, and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt to the crouton container and toss until fully combined.
(By Brandon Collins, mustard sommelier, Maille)
For a completely cabbage-free spin on coleslaw, try this celery root-based version created by mustard expert Brandon Collins. Celery root, a tuber vegetable, has a celery-like flavor with a distinct hint of sweetness, and this slaw’s combination of aromatic fennel and a tangy dressing made from Dijon mustard and sherry vinegar sets off the shaved celery root to perfection.
- 1/3 cup Dijon mustard (Collins uses Maille Dijon Mustard)
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
- 1/4 cup avocado oil
- 1 red onion, sliced
- 1 large fennel head, sliced thin
- 1 large celery root knob, julienned
- 1/4 cup chopped chives
- Pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper
- Mix all ingredients except for the fennel and celery root in a large bowl and set aside.
- Put the fennel and celery root in a separate bowl.
- Mix fennel and celery root with the desired amount of dressing and serve.
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