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Cole Slaw Trouble-shooting

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  • Val G Jul 13, 2002 12:34 PM
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How can I make my cole slaw more delicious without mayonnaise? My basic recipie is BORING. We like tangy, spicey food. My experimentatal dressings just didn't blend right with the cabbage.

A goal is to get those good cabbage nutrients without too much fat.

Does anyone have a preferred method for processing the vegetables? Sliced? Shredded? Chopped?

My usual combination:
~5 cups green cabbage
~1 cups carrot
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
2 TB oil (canola or EVO)
1 TB sugar
pinch salt

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  1. Are you willing to substitute sour cream or yogurt for the mayonnaise? Most coleslaw recipes call for way too much mayo, IMO, and I usually cut the mayo amount in half and substitute a low-fat sour cream for some of the mayo. Or...do you want just a vinegar & oil-based dressing?

    For some added flavor, try adding any of the following to your dressing:

    > a spicy-hot mustard
    > red pepper flakes or ground cayenne
    > lime juice, honey, and freshly grated ginger root (or horseradish)
    > hot chili oil or minced serrano chilis

    And I prefer shredded veggies for my coleslaw.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Linda W.

      I usually make what in the delis of my youth was called "Health Salad": shredded cabbage (any variety except red), carrots, and cucumbers, paper-thin-sliced celery, grated onion, julienne or small dice of red and/or green pepper -- in a sweet-and-sour vinegar/water/sugar dressing (no oil at all). That's the basic. Then: julienne jicama, if I have any around; minced jalapeno or serrano peppers, or red pepper flakes; a bit of fish sauce; maybe a little lime juice, maybe some grated ginger, maybe some garlic. If I leave out the sugar and up the red pepper flakes, I think of it as instant kimchee.

    2. I've been trying adding other vegetables and fruits to the slaw this year, like turnip, bok choy, scallions, dill pickles, onions, Greek olives, sunflower seeds, apples, pineapple, etc. Usually not all at the same time. And usually there is still more cabbage than everything else together. Looking at the list, I see that most of the additions are crunchy or somewhat astringent, or both.

      For the dressing I've experimented with anchovies, Thai fish sauce, lemon juice, mustard (both prepared and dry), peanut butter, Tabasco, and garlic. Again, usually not all at the same time.

      The peanut butter worked out very well. I usually do a quarter of a head of cabbage at a time, and for that much cabbage I put in less than half a teaspoon of peanut butter. For me, the taste doesn't really register as peanut butter, but it does give the slaw a noticeably richer, earthier flavor.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Bruce H.

        when no one's looking, i add brine from dill pickles.... i also use pepper vinegar -- just hot red peppers stored in a bottle of cider vinegar. Sugar, Vinegar, Pepper & Salt. The must have's of southern cooking. Jazzes up just about anything.

      2. ...I always put in raisins in my coleslaw.

        1. c
          Caitlin Wheeler

          One option is to take regular coleslaw (I think some mayo is called for -- Hellman's low fat isn't bad if you add lots of extra vinegar) and add Frank's Hot Sauce. It's a great combo.

          My low fat coleslaw is cabbage and carrots (I often use coleslaw mix in the bags for convenience) with seasoned rice vinegar and grated fresh ginger. Another terrific addition would be just a touch of sesame oil or sesame seeds.

          1. This is a great non mayonnaise cole slaw.
            1 head cabbage, shredded
            1 red onion, diced
            1 green pepper, diced
            1 cup sugar
            1 teaspoon salt
            1 teaspoon Colemans dry mustard
            1 teaspoon celery seed
            1 cup vinegar
            1/3 cup salad oil
            Mix veggies. Combine other ingredients in s small saucepan. Bring to boil. Pour over veggies and toss. Cover and refrigerate AT LEAST several hours or overnight. I usually use a little less sugar. Letting sit is important.

            1. Try wasabi - great with grilled duck or chicken.

              Or DO use a little mayo, but cut it with some mustard - either dijon or regular yellow. This is incredible with bbq.

              1. I think the key to a tasty cole slaw (and I got this from Cook's Illustrated) is to add salt and sugar (more sugar than salt) to the cabbage ahead of time, to draw off the extra liquid. After it is sitting in a pool of its juice (at least a couple of hours) I add some vinegar. Wait a day and you have lightly pickled cabbage. Drain it and add the dressing of your choice. Red cabbage is especially attractive.

                I like to keep this in the refrigerator and dress it at the last minute. The dressing never gets diluted by cabbage liquid.

                2 Replies
                1. re: ironmom

                  My favorite cole slaw recipe is very similar to ironmom's.

                  Shred a head of cabbage and spread on the counter. Sprinkle liberally with salt and let sit at least an hour. The salt will draw out the liquid. Gather the cabbage by the handful, muster all the strength you can, and squeeze out all the liquid you can. Then mix to taste, mayo, vinegar, salt and pepper. Don't drench the cabbage in the dressing. Tastes better cold and after 24 hours.

                  1. re: LB

                    My mom did this, but she put the cabbage on a tea towel, and then, after letting the cabbage rest, wrapped it up in the towel, and squeezed the life out of it.

                    And, while I definitely like mayo dressings, I've also used a yogurt style bottled dressing, and a homemade one that uses balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and honey plus spices. They make a nice change of pace, and help me get that all important fibre!

                2. For a more traditional (non-Asian) result, I always use a little Worcestershire sauce, diced red pepper, and minced pickled onions. Also, I agree with presalting, which softens it.

                  1. When I was in New Orleans a few years back , I found many places had a slaw they called broccoslaw . Sounded kinda scary , but wtf , I'm a brave eater . It was delicious . Turns out , it was shredded broccoli stems ( peeled ), light on the mayo , light on the sugar , extra cider vinegar , and Tabasco sauce . I wish I had an exact recipe , but hey it's just slaw , play with it . It was excellent . Tangy , spicy , and not too sweet . ( Ugh , I can't stand overly sweet slaw .) Plus , it uses up the broccoli stems . Maybe some southerners out there can be more accurate than me .

                    1. The best coleslaw has a balance of salt-sweet-sour and some onion. I like a slightly creamy dressing. What I often make is pineapple coleslaw. I agree that salt-sugar for a few hours before adding dressing is the best way to make slaw, but I'm often in a last-minute mode. So, I use the bagged sliced cabbage and carrots and make a dressing in the blender: 2-3 heaping T. each of mayo and non-fat yogurt, 1/4 of a small onion (vidalia type) or a scallion, plain rice vinegar and lemon juice ( a slug of each) some lemon peel, and a mini, lunchbox-size can of pineapple packed in its own juice. Just pour the whole thing in, and add 1/4-1/2 t. of salt. Blend, pour over cabbage and toss. It's better if it has time to macerate for a while, so I do it first, and then prepare whatever else I'm making. You can't really taste the pineapple as a separate flavor, but it mellows the cabbage and isn't cloyingly sweet. Great with fried fish or fried chicken.

                      1. My favorite coleslaw recipe has a nice kick to it;
                        8 oz. pkg'd shredded cabage
                        1/4 c mayo
                        1/4 c plain yogurt
                        1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar
                        2 tsp. creamy horseradish
                        1 tsp. dry mustard
                        1/4 tsp. salt

                        Yummmmeeee!!!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Shaebones

                          Horseradish ... hmm , good call . I never thought of that , sounds like a great match with the cabbage . Ah cabbage , the underappreciated vegetable , so good .

                          1. re: Shaebones

                            Try the horseradish in potato salad in place of some of the mayo, too. (About 1/6 of total amount seems to be a good proportion.) My husband caught me doing this when I ran short on mayo when preparing for a party, and was distraught. Now he always wants it in there!

                          2. At the risk of repeating advice others have already given, I came upon a way of making coleslaw that people who love and hate coleslaw both love.

                            Salting, draining, rinsing and draining all of the shredded veggies is essential to avoid a limp, watery product. I sometimes do this the night before, and refrigerate the bag o'veggies until just before serving; snipping a corner off the bag at that time allows you to squeeze the last bits of watery residue out before dressing them.

                            Like the others, I throw any number of shredded or diced veggies in addition to cabbage, depending on what is on hand and is in good shape, like English cucumbers, sweet peppers of many colors, celery, carrots, and leeks (raw onion can overpower unless rinsed a few times before adding). My most important odd veggie: *parsnips*, which add a wonderful flavor to coleslaw that no one can figure out but miss when it's missing. To coleslaw traditionalists, of course, this is quelle horreur...

                            Cabbage is most easily shredded finely on a V-slicer/mandoline, btw. And I use a head of Savoy rather than white cabbage, with a half a head of red cabbage added.

                            I and many others prefer a dressing that is based more (or even entirely) on sour cream than mayonnaise; it seems to complement most cabbages better than mayo or "salad dressing".

                            Mincing up and adding a bit of dill pickle, with juice, is a good addition to the dressing, btw. A little lemon zest can help, too. And celery seed and some finely minced flat Italian parsley is essential to finish the dressing.

                            The wonderful thing about this is that, if you simply substitute penne or other short pastas for the cabbage, it also makes a great pasta salad.

                            1. Standard slaw at our house:
                              --nappa cabbage, thinly sliced then cross-chopped into 2" lengths or so.
                              --apple or pear, peeled and chopped
                              --some low-fat mayo
                              --some sweet pickle juice to thin the mayo
                              --celery seed

                              dress the salad sparingly - don't like gooey slaw.

                              1. I usually put peppers and onions into my slaw as well. For peppers, I use a mixture of sweet bell peppers and cubanelles, for a little extra kick. I agree with all the comments about salting and draining.

                                Pat G.

                                1. Well, Val, have you gotten overwhelmed with the ideas?
                                  Let me run one more variation by you, as I did not see anyone post a cole slaw with gelatin as an ingredient.
                                  Until the past year, north Florida had a well-known vegetable stand called "County Line," and on our trips to St. Augustine a few times a year, we would make a point of stopping at this stand in the heart of cabbage and potato country on the way back home. Don't know why this landmark is gone, but years ago, their "County Line Cole Slaw" was printed in the St. Petersburg paper:

                                  County Line Cole Slaw:

                                  4 pounds cabbage, shredded
                                  2 cups green peppers, chopped
                                  2 cups carrots, shredded
                                  1 cup onion, chopped
                                  1 envelope unflavored gelatin
                                  1 teaspoon celery seed
                                  1/4 teaspoon pepper
                                  1 teaspoon salt
                                  1 cup vinegar
                                  1 cup salad oil
                                  1+1/2 cups sugar
                                  [See also my notes, for substitutions]

                                  Dissolve 1 envelope of unflavored gelatin in 1/2 cup warm water. Heat vinegar, sugar, and oil until dissolved. Add gelatin and spices and pour over vegetables. Mix and let stand in refridgerator for 24 hours. Makes a gallon. Keeps a month.
                                  >>ric's notes: we sometimes use Tarragon as the vinegar. We often substitute Morton's Nature's Seasons blend for salt and pepper. The presence of gelatin does not make this a "congealed salad" in any way, so don't be scared off by it. Allow 2+1/2 hours prep time, and then the 24 hour marinating time. And my prep style ends up dirtying every bowl in the kitchen as the mixture grows and grows. I personally prefer a gloppy, mayonaise cole slaw, but this always got great reviews at covered dish dinners, so it has been made often around here.
                                  Also- my thanks to all who clued me in to the salt-sugar pre-soak trick! New to me- I will have to try it!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: ric

                                    As I was putting that "County Line" recipe away, I ran across a pamphlet of Cole Slaw and Potato Salad recipes, put out by the Marzetti Company. I am posting this as speculation, not as advertisement or endorsement, but have you tried a commercial slaw dressing mix such as Marzetti Slaw Dressing? It may bring in some variety once in a while. The pamphlet I am looking at has slaw recipe variations such as "Waldorf" and "Hawaiian." I don't have a bottle of Marzetti's in the house right now to offer any ingredient comparison or nutrition comparison to Mayo, but if this of interest to you, go for it! (And I can only imagine that the Marzetti Company would be more than glad to give you all the variations you could possibly use while utilizing their product(s)! )

                                  2. Buy a bottle of Henri's salad dressingnad toss it with pre-packaged broccoli slaw. What a quick and easy slaw and good for you. This is how I get my husband to eat raw veggies.
                                    Experiment with different bottled dressings. Another favorite is the asian ginger dressing.
                                    Since you like heat (and I do,too) toss some minced jalapena or red pepper flakes to the dressing before tossing.

                                    1. I prefer white or rice wine vinegar to cider vinegar for coleslaw, whether or not I am using mayo.

                                      1. The OP specified that they won't use mayonnaise in the cole slaw. I'm guessing that they're vegan, so the egg is a no-no. Coleslaw dressing can still be emulsified and rendered creamy if you use mustard to catalyze the emulsion. Just drizzle oil into a blender that contains 3-4 Tbs Dijon mustard (I add an additional tsp. of Colman's dry mustard) and the juice of half a lemon.

                                        I always put a drained can of chopped pineapple in my coleslaw.

                                        Before chopping (yes, I chop the cabbage, I don't shred it) I soak quartered heads of cabbage in cold water for at least a half hour (this gets rid of all the gassy, sulphurous flavors/odors of cabbage), *then* I cut it up into coarser pieces, lightly salt and drain 'em, then I chop 'em up in the Cuisinart.

                                        A *small* amount of finely minced onion, or even a tablespoon or two of onion juice, is also missing in the OP's recipe. Celery seed/dill seed is also a good addition to any coleslaw. I always add a lot of sugar and a lot of apple cider vinegar to my coleslaw dressing.

                                        A couple of posters above recommend adding horseradish. That's a delicious, classic flavor for coleslaw.

                                        1. I really like it with a bit of honey mustard, toasted almonds or walnuts, and dried cranberries ("Craisins") or cherries. Some diced apple can be nice, too.

                                          1. I have two other versions of slaw that i like to serve -- one is simply shredding savoy and stirring into it Mae Ploy sweet chili sauce. Scallion tops, parsley for color. Bingo! it's done and keeps well. The other is 'Autumn Slaw' -- red cabbage, carrots in a fine dice (not shredded) scallions and fresh parsley and a sweetish viniagrette with balsamic and pepper vinegar, sometimes fennel seed. At the last minute stir in a sweet-crisp red or yellow apple dice. (otherwise it colors) It's very pretty on a plate and jazzes up a buffet nicely. Next day you can braise it with caraway...... serve it all over agan!