HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Deli Cole Slaw Surprise

I had dinner @ my nephew's house this evening. He was making low and slow Bbq ribs, serving with them deli macaroni salad and cole slaw. I like 'em both, so I took a good-sized scoop of each on my plate, added a couple of ribs, and sat at the table to enjoy.

Imagine my surprise when he announced the deli owner made the cole slaw with, as he put it, "Sweet and Low". In truth he wasn't sure of which brand, but only that it was definitely artificial. Thankfully, I hadn't dug a fork into it yet, and off-loaded it to my sister's plate.

I asked my nephew if this was the only cole slaw the deli owner made. Yup.

Now, the owner who made the salad obviously told my nephew. I don't know if it's labeled as such at the deli in question, but I certainly *hope* it is! There are any number of people out there who cannot tolerate one artificial sweetener or another, and shouldn't wind up ingesting them by accident.

I don't have any tolerance issues with artificial sweeteners; I just refuse to ingest them on principle (and taste).

Has anyone else heard of such a thing? Locally-made deli slaw on the "down-low"? I know there are numerous recipes for low-cal cole slaw out there, but would never have expected an encounter like this one.

Plus... WAAAAAH! I never got to enjoy cole slaw with my ribs!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I wonder if you'd have recognized it if you'd eaten it without knowing it was artificially sweetened.

    In a beverage, if it's the only sweetener, I can recognize, and do not like, Sweet-n-Low.
    In a small amount, in food, especially food which had other sweet components, I'm not sure I could. I like Splenda, and routinely sub it for at least half of the sugar in stuff like crisps and quickbreads, where (unlike in cookies) the sugar is not an essential part of achieving the desired texture. As long as there's SOME sugar, I don't register Splenda and as far as I know, no one else who'e eaten my cooking has. I'm not selling to the public, however.

    5 Replies
    1. re: greygarious

      My nephew made much the same point. Of course, I said something to the effect of "yeah, but now since you told me..."

      So we'll never know.

      1. re: mcsheridan

        Nah in my younger days all those artificial sweeteners played havoc with my stomach. As did raw onion, raw peppers, garlic and the like. I would have been very unhappy to find out about it the hard way.

        Guess we need some kind of deli salad by-laws if this is what it's coming to!

        1. re: coll

          Since coleslaw often has raw onion, and sometimes raw peppers, the artificial sweetener would have been only one of your problems.

          1. re: PattiCakes

            Actually as I got older, those sensitivities changed luckily. Back then, I wouldn't have know if it was the cabbage or the onion attacking me.

            But at my deli, no onion in the slaw. Only add ins besides brine were the carrots and parsley on top for decoration.

      2. re: greygarious

        Definite taste and aftertaste for me to any sweetner even stevia.

      3. Why do people even want sweet cole slaw?
        I get it - to each, their own, but, I never get the lure of thinking "cabbage, mayo, onions...all I need now is some SUGAR!!"

        11 Replies
        1. re: gordeaux

          My recipe always includes sour cream with the Mayo, and much more vinegar than sugar. Still, I'd miss that small amount of sugar if it weren't there.

          PS: hold the onions; they go in the potato salad. :)

          1. re: gordeaux

            I agree. I never put sugar or any other sweetener in traditional, mayo based slaw. The carrots typically provide more than enough sweetness to counterbalance the tartness of the vinegar.

            1. re: gordeaux

              Because, at least in my area of NY, deli salads are German style. Meaning sweet and sour.

              1. re: coll

                By German-style, are you referring to a mayonnaise based slaw? I always think of German-style as no mayo - just oil and vinegar (and would expect them to have sugar).

                1. re: masha

                  It's half vinegar/lemon juice, and half mayo/yogurt. But I realize it's a regional thing. Also a big spoonful of dry mustard and another spoonful of sugar, plus a few other embellishments. If you didn't grow up with it, it might not be for you though.

                  The no-mayo always strikes me as Asian.

                  1. re: coll

                    The no mayo version I grew up with was known as "health salad" and was definitely a Central/ Eastern European flavor profile -- not at all Asian.

                    1. re: masha

                      the no mayo version I grew up on, Greek style, was lemon juice, olive oil and fresh crushed garlic (salt, of course)

                      1. re: masha

                        I've seen no mayo versions at groceries and the like, but they are always advertised as such. I a stickler only because I was a cook at a German style deli for awhile; I was allowed to make any hot dishes I wanted but the salad recipes were written in stone. Even the cut of the cabbage was not open to question. The sweetness was only a spoonful if it was a home size recipe, nothing crazy.

                    2. re: masha

                      Yep, oil & vinegar. Not sweet by any means. That's an American twist.

                    1. re: gordeaux

                      Actually, that's how you make a sweet and sour coleslaw. With vinegar and sugar.

                    2. I will add sweetener-
                      I love a sweet cole slaw and really can pass on one that is too vinegary or tart. I will often order cole slaw with my meal at a restaurant and then "test the waters." If it is not sweet enough for my sweet tooth, I reach over for the little packets of Splenda and sprinkle a packet's worth onto the cole slaw to make it edible, and hopefully delicious. We occasionally go to a favorite seafood place whose cole slaw needs such treatment. I will always order the cold slaw and immediately add the Splenda. It sure beats whining across the table, "gee, the slaw in this place is terrible!"

                      P.S., Another post mentions their own use of a Splenda-sugar mix in home baking and says, "...I'm not selling to the public, however." It got me thinking that the deli at the heart of this thread was apparently upfront about their ingredients (verbal or labeled, mcsheriden wasn't sure)- customers there know the secret ingredient is Splenda or Sweet-n-low. I respect their full disclosure and the nephew's disclosure. All of this is also a good reminder for hosts to have some idea of their guest's likes, dislikes, and sensitivities, going in to meal planning.

                      1. I'd be put off by sweetener of any sort. I prefer a tangy slaw with Dijon, vinegar, etc. When I get a hit of sweet from a restaurant/deli slaw, I hand it right over to DH who loves it.

                        1. Repeating my main point, as we seem to be drifting...

                          Has anyone else heard of such a thing? Locally-made deli slaw on the "down-low"? I know there are numerous recipes for low-cal cole slaw out there, but would never have expected an encounter like this one.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: mcsheridan

                            I would expect two versions, one regular and one lo-cal. Clearly marked as so.

                            1. re: mcsheridan

                              I think it is weird too. However, it just goes to show you....you really have little idea of what you are eating when you buy prepared food.

                              I wouldn't expect it, but it also wouldn't be surprised to find out that deli counters use artificial stuff in the food. I think some folks actually have developed a taste for it.

                              1. re: mcsheridan

                                I don't know why you are saying it is "on the down-low." Were ingredients posted and this is a substitute he makes w/o notification? I'm sure there are lots of pre-made items people buy that contain ingredients they don't suspect are used. Unless the owner is not truthful when asked, I wouldn't have an issue.

                                1. re: tcamp

                                  I agree. That the OP was surprised does not mean the deli owner was hiding anything.

                                2. re: mcsheridan

                                  Yes. Some people are convinced they need to add sugar to savory food. When they decide it's unhealthy, they switch to artificial sweeteners.

                                3. I prefer my slaw on the sweetish side with real sugar. I would have at least tried a bite or two to see what it tasted like. I say that because I can't imagine all their deli customers being happy with a funny aftertaste.

                                  1. I haven't seen that. I would be very unhappy if that happened. I have had salad dressings at restaurants that are not labeled on the menu as sugar free or low fat that contain chemical substitutes.

                                    1. The only time I use Splenda is for vinegar dressings, actually.
                                      Rice wine vinegar and Splenda and you've got a really simple dressing for veggies and salads and slaws.

                                      That said, it should have been labeled!

                                      1. As the only "un-natural" ingredient I put into my coleslaw is whatever the Best Foods mayonnaise and the bottled pickle relish contain, I would take issue with anyone deliberately adding any artificial sweetener without advertising it AND without offering an alternative. The corn syrup in the sweet relish is pushing it, as far as I'm concerned, but Mrs. O has to have that relish in there, so there it is. She used to want a teaspoon or so of sugar in there too, but I gradually weaned her from that …

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Will Owen

                                          Pickle relish is a very southern addition to coleslaw, and it certainly adds the sweet note many crave. My take on pickle relish is it's great on hot dogs, and goes nicely (in very small amounts) in tuna salad.

                                          As to the deli in question, I've not seen it, and I don't get down to my nephew's often, so I'm unlikely to ever verify what's what.

                                          I'm still willing to bet, based on responses to this thread, that although many prefer no sweet note in their coleslaw, they haven't seen a Splenda version offered in a deli, either.

                                          1. re: mcsheridan

                                            The one thing I'm most enjoying about Mrs. O's conversion to vegetarianism is that I'm now preparing tuna salad just for me, so I get to use DILL pickle relish instead of the sweet kind she wanted.

                                          2. being diabetic, commercial coleslaw is usually too sweet for me, but I would very much appreciate one made without sugar, using artificial sweeteners, only if it wasn't too sweet.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: laliz

                                              My husband has diabetes. As stated upthread, my homemade slaw has no sweetener -- not sugar, not honey, not artificial -- and it is plenty "sweet" from the carrot and cabbage.

                                              1. re: masha

                                                There's a bit of difference though, in home made and commercially for sale. Not saying right or wrong, but buyer beware. If you have issues, you have to ask questions.

                                                1. re: coll

                                                  I do not disagree at all, Coll. There are some salad dressings or sauces for which I sub a packet of Splenda for a tbs of sugar or honey. But for most, as with my slaw, I just leave out the sugar/ honey without substituting an artificial sweetener and it tastes fine.

                                                  1. re: masha

                                                    As I move through the years, sugar is not anything I crave. Thank goodness! But I have found, especially in Chinese recipes, that a touch of it makes all the difference. I try leaving it out and it is not a good result.

                                            2. That sounds 100% disgusting. I abhor the taste of artificial sweeteners.