Several years ago, I developed this recipe for Coleslaw Done Right as a copycat of Marzetti’s Slaw Dressing (which you might find in your store’s produce department.) It’s creamy, tangy, and not overly sweet. Best of all, this simple coleslaw recipe can be put together with ingredients that are easy to have on hand all the time.
As a child, I felt quite coleslaw deprived. Now, it’s not that my parents never made coleslaw. They just didn’t make good coleslaw. Dad would mix cabbage with mayo and a dash of red wine vinegar and call it done. Mom would throw in some celery seed and perhaps a touch of sugar with the mayonnaise. The occasions when I got my hands on (and spoon into) decent coleslaw was a rarer-than-a-planetary-alignment visit to Kentucky Fried Chicken (that’s KFC to you young’uns), or when I convinced mom or grandma to splurge on a jar of Marzetti’s Slaw Dressing. It did not happen often, but to me, that was the Holy Grail of coleslaw: what all coleslaw yearns to be. I still feel that way, to be honest, but the price is a bit steep. I couldn’t find a copycat version on the internet, so I tinkered until I came up with my own.
Learn more: Why Does My Cabbage Taste Bitter?
I have family members who insist I bring some along when visiting. Every. Single. Time. I think they’d still let me in the house if I didn’t, but I wouldn’t take bets on it. If you’re cooking seasonally, winter is a perfect time to serve coleslaw instead of tossed salad, since cabbage is plentiful and bound to be a bargain when compared to lettuce.
Recipe for Coleslaw Done Right
(Marzetti’s Slaw Dressing copycat)
- 1 pound green cabbage (smallish head – may not need it all)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup mayonnaise (full fat so it’s creamy)
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
- 1 small carrot (or use a little more cabbage instead if you like)
Trim any discolored parts from the cabbage, discarding outer leaves if desired. Wash the cabbage, then get your very sharp chef’s knife (say that five times fast, but first put down the knife.)
Now, cut the head in half through the core to the top of the head, then cut each half in two. Carefully cut the core from each quarter and discard. Lay one of the quarters on a cutting board, flat side down, and hold firmly in place. Using the chef’s knife, carefully slice down the other flat side, making long, thin shreds. Move these into a large mixing bowl as they get in your way. Continue until you’ve got one pound, or slightly more, of thinly sliced cabbage.
Sprinkle the salt over the cabbage. Using your hands, mix and squeeze the salt into the cabbage until it starts to give off some juice and feel slightly softer. Gather it all into a small mound, cover the bowl if you wish, then set it aside for about 20 minutes.
Now, this part is tough – pay attention: Combine the mayonnaise, sugar, white wine vinegar and mustard together in a small bowl, and stir until the sugar dissolves. If you didn’t get that, no problem. I’ll just wait here while you read it again. *whistles*
Are we good? Good.
Rinse the cabbage. I do this by adding water to the bowl until the cabbage is completely submerged, swishing it around well, then dumping it all into a colander. Let it drain very well, pressing down to get as much water out as possible. Dry out the cabbage bowl, then return drained cabbage to it. If you want to add carrot for a touch of color, now’s the time. Finely shred the carrot and add to the cabbage. Add the dressing and mix it all up. This can be served right away, but it’s much better if chilled at least an hour.
That’s it. [Well, except for some notes below the picture.]
A few recipe notes:
Could you use a food processor instead of a knife? Sure, if you’ve got one with a slicing disc, go ahead. Unless you broke off that Tiny But Significant Little Plastic Thingy on your food processor the morning of your daughter’s wedding day, while you were trying to shred cheese for the nacho bar and now it won’t work unless you hold it together just so, which makes using it a complete pain, so you’d rather do it by hand. (Who, me?)
If you prefer your coleslaw in smaller bits, instead of the longer shreds, then use the shredding disc of the food processor, or a box grater with large holes. Salting and rinsing may not be necessary if you do this. Perhaps add just a bit of salt to the dressing instead. Not the whole teaspoon – maybe just ¼ teaspoon.
You may need to adjust the amount of dressing to suit your tastes. I like it to be rather drowning in the dressing, so the flavor permeates every bite, but then I serve it with a slotted spoon so the dressing doesn’t drown everything on my plate. Your Mileage May Vary.
Coleslaw can be made ahead and kept in the fridge for a few days. In fact, it’s best to make it at least several hours before serving, because the flavors have time to get all cozy with each other.
Besides being Full of Wonderful in its own right, and in my humble opinion, perfectly acceptable as a snack food, coleslaw really does go well with so many main courses. We’ve enjoyed it with chicken, barbecued ANYTHING, roast beef, burgers, sloppy joes or seafood, and it’s extra awesome with pulled pork sandwiches.
That does it – hungry now!
Here are some more great cabbage recipes you can try: