Variations on Red Cabbage Coleslaw


Nothing says “I’m aging gracefully” like a keen and unexplained interest in revamping the coleslaw of one’s youth. . . right? 

I don’t understand my motives; I detested slaw as a kid, considering it an imposter –part salad, part side dish–and weirdly crisp long after being placed on the table.  Slathered in puddles of creamy, sugary dressing (sweet or savory? pick a side!), coleslaw has to be one of the most abused dishes in our nation’s history, perhaps second only to jello molds replete with suspended nuts, fruits, and cottage cheese curds.   

Green cabbage adds wonderful depth and texture to vegetable soup.  There’s a delicious recipe for “sick person’s soup” in one of my cookbooks that I whisperingly begged Ryan to make for me last year after randomly coming down with strep throat.  He did, though went off-recipe a bit by adding extra jalapeno peppers which he had sauteed in oil.  My first – and last – sip of soup went down like oily liquid fire.  But I digress.

I love the color and patterns of red cabbage with its curling flames of fierce magenta, but I’ve admired it from afar.  Red cabbage must have been on sale that fateful day.  I waltzed over to it, pretty as you please, and purposefully picked up a bizarrely heavy, purple head of cabbage like I knew what I was going to make with it.  I had no idea.  I asked friends for suggestions.  They looked at me like I had lost my mind: “Coleslaw!” Of course. I had to know more. 

I figured a plant as gorgeous as red cabbage must be a freaking super food, and I was correct.  Flavonoids? Check. Phytochemicals? Yessir. Cabbage is part of the notoriously healthy cruciferous family (distinguished siblings include Brussels sprouts, turnips, and broccoli).  Red cabbage, in particular, has been shown to reduce inflammation and fight bacteria, and its plant-based chemicals (that’s the bright red color) help repair cell damage caused by carcinogens.  Even more exciting, red cabbage is surprisingly high in vitamin A (33% DRV, eyesight, anyone?), vitamin C (56% of DRV! Arrgh, scurvy be gone!), and vitamin K (28% DRV, helps prevent osteoporosis).  (By the way, all of the percentages are for 1 cup of chopped cabbage, in case you were wondering just how much slaw you were going to have to consume!)    

Since that first batch of 21st century coleslaw a few weeks ago, I’ve been experimenting a bit.  These are my favorite variations so far. 

Fresh Red Cabbage Salad (doesn’t this sound better than “slaw”??)  (serves 4)

  • 1/2 head red cabbage, chopped 
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped finely or grated
  • 1/2 cup vegannaise
  • 1 t. dijon mustard
  • 1 t. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1 t. maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 t. onion powder
  • 1/2 t. garlic powder (or fresh garlic to kick it up a notch!)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Lightly Dressed Red Cabbage Coleslaw (adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything)- serves 4

  • 1/2 head red cabbage, sliced and diced
  • 1-2 carrots, grated
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1 T apple cider or red wine vinegar
  • 3 green onions, chopped (white and green parts!)
  • 1-2 t. olive oil
  • pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley or cilantro (most definitely optional; you know how I feel about cilantro)

Feel free to add a variety of chopped nuts, seeds and/or vegetables to your coleslaw – really make it your own. Don’t you want to be known as that relative who “always brings slaw” to every event?  I thought so. 🙂      



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