Got a picnic coming up? Need a family-friendly potluck dish? Trying to convince your kids that vegetables are, in fact, edible? Coleslaw is your friend. Here are 5 pro tips for making your coleslaw the very best.
1. Start With the Right Ingredients
Green cabbage is the classic slaw base, though red cabbage's peppery flavor and pretty color make it pleasant addition. Both are smooth-leaved, dense, and crunchy (unlike Napa cabbage, which is very popular in Asian cooking, and savoy cabbages, which have a much more subtle flavor and less-assertive crunch). Create a fresh, crunchy, and colorful slaw by mixing in shreds of carrot and even celery and bell peppers.
2. Prep Like a Pro
There are several ways to shred your cabbage and carrots—by hand, grater, food processor, or mandolin, etc. To shred by hand, peel off a couple of the outer layers, then cut the cabbage in half, Cut each half into two parts and then cut out the core. Slice each quarter into thin wedges, then each wedge into little shreds.
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You can also make prep really easy by buying pre-shredded cabbage mixes at the grocery store, then customize your mix as desired by adding other shredded vegetables.
Pro tip #1 for make-ahead slaw: Tenderize your cabbage! This will help remove some of the moisture in the cabbage, so your slaw stays crunchier longer. To do this, shred your cabbage, toss in about a tablespoon of salt—or a combo of salt and sugar—and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before draining off the excess moisture. Now you've got cabbage that is still crunchy but won't give off too much liquid. Leave that to the dressing!
3. Get the Ratio Right
Get the right dressing-to-veggie ratio: Too much dressing results in a gloopy, soupy mess that most folks—particularly those with an aversion to mayonnaise—don't want to eat. Too little dressing, and you've got a pile of cabbage. Get it right by mixing your dressing ingredients in a separate bowl and adding a few spoonfuls at a time to your bowl of veggies. You'll know it's right when your coleslaw is moist and creamy, and clumps together without being drippy. The best ratio is usually around 1-1/4 cups dressing for every head of cabbage plus 3 cups of carrots and other veggies - but with gradual mixing, you're sure to strike the right balance.
Pro tip #2 for make-ahead slaw: Keep the dressing and veggies separate and mix together on the day you're serving the slaw; this prevents the cabbage from losing its crunch.
Make it your way!
4. Build On a Great Recipe
Here's a top-rated recipe -- made by more than 1,000 home cooks -- for simple, restaurant-style coleslaw. It uses buttermilk and vinegar to add a bit of tang to the standard creamy mayo dressing, and saves time by utilizing those store-bought bags of pre-chopped cabbage mix. Start with this great basic, then add shredded carrots, broccoli, or other veggies, and fun extras like apples and raisins as you please.
5. Put a Memorable Spin On It
A simple slaw can be made with just a few ingredients. But think outside the box and you can make coleslaw much more than a side dish - it can be the hit of the picnic!
- Asian Coleslaw: This cabbage slaw gets a slightly Asian twist with the addition of Napa cabbage and a peanut butter-y dressing with soy sauce and ginger.
- Broccoli Slaw: This popular broccoli slaw benefits from the sweet-and-tart of dried cranberries and the surprising addition of pistachios.
Chile paste gives this slaw a spicy kick, while peaches add just the right juicy sweetness.