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3 Ways to Go Beyond Cabbage With Coleslaw

Kohlrabi-fennel slaw

Kohlrabi-fennel slaw. Credit: Elaine Corn.

Trying to please everyone with one type of coleslaw is impossible. There are so many ways to change it, so many mothers to credit for passing down the family favorite, so many trends giving slaw a rebirth.

New slaws have apples, walnuts, wasabi, sunflower seeds, pickle relish, raisins, cilantro, peanut butter (peanut butter?) and even beets and blue cheese. And while cabbage may be slaw’s classic crop, it’s not the only one. Other cruciferous vegetables that now star in slaw are kale, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, broccoli stems and cauliflower hearts. Some slaws don’t even have cabbage. Instead, shredded zucchini, fennel and carrots make the base.

Because slaw is never consumed immediately after it’s made, it’s the ultimate make-ahead. Made ahead, slaw also has a tasty benefit. The miracle of food chemistry both enhances and mellows the taste as it sits, so it’s better the day after, and the day after that. Start a slaw this morning and it will be ready for its Day 1 version by dinner.

A well-balanced slaw, with a bit of sugar and bite from vinegar, is a palate cleanser, an intermezzo, the high note in your mouth. If your salivary glands are already experiencing an involuntary trigger similar to what happens when you think of eating a pickle, that’s what’s supposed to happen when you think of slaw. It’s happening to me right now.

Kohlrabi-Fennel Slaw

Kohlrabi is a member of the brassica family, just like cabbage. Here, it’s used raw, so you can pick up a kohlrabi without even knowing how to cook it. It’s bland and watery, a bit like  jicama. It can take just about any dressing.

Serves 6


For the slaw:

1 whole kohlrabi, peeled and shredded

2 carrots, peeled and shredded

½ red onion, very thinly sliced

¼ cup finely minced fennel fronds

Curls of zest from 1 orange or tangerine

For the dressing:

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

¼ teaspoon pimentón (smoked paprika)

1 teaspoon sugar

¼ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup sour cream

¼ teaspoon salt

White pepper, to taste


1. Place shredded kohlrabi in a large strainer. Sprinkle with salt, toss, and let sit while you prepare the other ingredients. Squeeze kohlrabi of excess water. Combine kohlrabi with remaining slaw ingredients.

2. In a lidded container or jar, shake vinegar, pimentón, sugar, mayonnaise, sour cream, salt and pepper. Pour dressing over slaw, tossing well by hand.

3. Cover in plastic wrap and chill several hours or overnight. To serve, sprinkle slaw with a fine sprinkling of more pimentón.

Kale Slaw With Red Onion, Golden Raisins and Walnuts

Kale makes a surprisingly light slaw. I used fuchsia-tinged Russian kale.

Kale slaw with red onion, golden raisins and walnuts

Kale slaw. Credit: Elaine Corn

Serves 6


For the slaw:

1 bunch kale, leaves julienned (about 8 cups)

½ medium red onion, very thinly sliced

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup fresh walnut halves

For the dressing:

¼ cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

1 cup mayonnaise

½ teaspoon coarse salt

Ground black pepper, to taste


1. Have kale ready in a large bowl.

2. In a lidded jar or container, shake lemon juice, honey, oil and mustard until honey is well blended. Add mayonnaise, salt and pepper and shake until smooth. Dressing will be slightly runny.

3. Pour dressing over slaw mixture. Toss to evenly coat.

4. Cover with plastic wrap and chill. Keeps a week.

Texican slaw

I first had this flavor combination in corn salad. To repurpose cabbage for the concept, it’s chopped. The acid from lime jolts the palate while the sour cream subdues the chiles. Addictive!

Serves 10


For the slaw:

3 fresh poblano (green) chiles, roasted, peeled and diced

1 head green cabbage, chopped in ½-inch dice

2 fresh jalapeño peppers, peeled, seeded and minced

1 jicama, peeled and chopped in ¼-inch cubes

For the dressing:

2 avocados

2 cups sour cream

¼ cup lime juice

1 tablespoon pimentón (smoked paprika), or to taste

¼ teaspoon salt and ground black pepper, to taste


1. Process avocado with all dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor.

2. Pour dressing over slaw ingredients. Toss to evenly coat. Taste, adding salt, pepper, pimentón or lime juice, as desired.

3. Cover with plastic wrap; chill overnight. Stir before serving. Keeps a week.

Top photo: Kohlrabi-fennel slaw. Credit: Elaine Corn

Zester Daily contributor Elaine Corn is a James Beard Award-winning cookbook author and food editor. A former editor at the Louisville Courier-Journal and The Sacramento Bee, Corn has written six cookbooks and contributed food stories to National Public Radio.

  • Susan 7·9·12

    Great recipes for a healthy, cancer fighting vegetable.

  • judith 7·9·12

    These are GREAT slaws: unusual and yet familiar, a real treat to the palate, especially in summer.

  • hilary 7·9·12

    Only Elaine Corn — with her original, creative vision — could see slaw as “intermezzo!” Terrific stuff to crunch on here!

  • Nikki 7·9·12

    Wow, who would have thought slaw could taste so good. Am going to try the Texican one very soon. Sounds yummy. Question: Does it matter if I use red cabbage (other than it will turn things pink?).

  • Rivkah 7·9·12

    Welcome and imaginative change from typical slaws. Fabulous combinations!

  • Louise 7·9·12

    Tough choice to decide which one to make first — they all look so original and delicious!

  • John Paul Khoury 7·9·12

    Coleslaw gets it’s name I believe from Kholrabi. YUM!

  • Deb 7·9·12

    Thanks Elaine! Wish I had read the fennel kohlrabi one before I made soggy slaw last weekend! Can I use chard for Kale? We have a chard forest out there. Or is it too structurally weak?

  • Gary 7·9·12

    Any recipe with poblano chiles or kale gets my attention. thanks Elaine!

  • Pat 7·9·12

    the texican slaw sound verwy interwesting, as elmer fudd would say.

  • Tamsin 7·10·12

    I love making slaws with all kinds of veggies; some of my favorites are celery, apples, carrots… I’ll have to try your kale slaw. I love kale, I love slaw – what more could you want? Looks delicious!

  • Catherine 7·11·12

    LOVE slaws. Thanks for confirming my belief that it just gets better on Day 2 when the flavors really meld. I will try all these recipes.

  • Matt 8·5·12

    Don’t forget about the southern staple of the Slaw Dog!

  • Andrea 8·16·12

    Elaine is always thinking of creative ways to cook everything. She is my neighbor and friend. Kale will give it a new twist. Thanks Elaine

  • Bob Engel 10·3·12

    The KAle slaw is going to be on my next plate. Among the great slaws of the world is the Salvadoran “curtido” – cabbage, carrots, onions, lime juice, salt sugar. Simple and surprisingly wonderful, as simple foods can often be when done right. Blanching the cabbage is part of the trick.

  • Leela Sud 10·13·12

    As a vegetarian I am always looking for new vegetable recipes to try!