A Versatile Slaw Formula

My favorite Asian Slaw, at Restaurant Muramoto, in Madison

Recently, a former student of mine emailed me this questions:
I know there are many different alterations for the standard slaw recipes that you allowed us to taste last semester, but what was the basic recipe? I'm hoping to experiment with some of them this summer and would love some guidance/suggestions!
First of all, I love that she wanted to experiment with slaw recipes this summer, and I love that she thought of me as the person to help. I figured I'd share my response to her here as well, so that you can all have access to this.


The basic idea is to shred cabbage really finely, making long, thin strips. Then, you can either just stick with the cabbage, or add any other vegetables you have on hand, again finely stripped (I often use shredded carrot, just because I usually have carrots around). (About 4 cups total veggies for 4 servings, corresponding to the dressing amounts listed below).

Oh, and you don't even really need cabbage! Any crunchy veggie will do, in the same amounts. Sometimes I shred up broccoli stems, sometimes kohlrabi or radishes, sometimes just carrots, sometimes bell peppers. You can really adapt this to whatever is in season, or on hand! So versatile!

The dressing is the part that requires some creativity, and that can take to lots of modifications. The basic idea is to mix something oily, something acidic, something salty, and sometimes something sweet. My most basic incarnation is olive oil, a dash of vinegar (apple cider, usually), a dash of salt, a pinch of sugar. You can also add some creamy items, like some mayo or Dijon mustard, and garlic if you like it (and if you're using enough mayo, that can be your "something oily" and you can skip the olive oil). If you're going Mexican style, substitute the vinegar for lime juice (and maybe add some cilantro). If you're going Italian style, maybe red wine vinegar or balsamic, and throw in some Italian herbs for good measure. And for Asian, go sesame oil and soy sauce.

I usually just add all of these dressing ingredients to taste, but here are some rough guidelines for amounts, for 4 servings, borrowed from other recipes:

Simple Mexican Slaw:
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro (or more)
  • 4 T mayo
  • 3 T fresh lime juice (more or less to taste)
  • hot sauce to taste
  • salt to taste

Classic Cole Slaw:
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
  • 3/4 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Dash pepper

Classic, no mayo:
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Simple, Versatile Oil-Vinegar:
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • dash pepper

Spicy Cole Slaw:
  • 1 tablespoons Dijon mustard, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoons sherry vinegar, red wine vinegar, or freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced fresh chile, like jalapeƱo (optional)
  • 1/8 cup peanut oil or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup chopped scallion, more or less
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

Asian Slaw:
  • 1/8 cup soy sauce
  • 1/8 cup lemon juice
  • 1/8 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Hope this helps, and I'd love to hear what you come up with!  (and the same goes for all you D&O readers).


  1. It's true Anna, 30 Helens agree!: Coleslaw deserves another chance.

    I don't usually use a recipe anymore, but I think what I usually do is basically like your classic no mayo above, sometimes with cumin and lime (with red cabbage and carrots esp.), sometimes with chinese mustard powder and sesame seeds, maybe some sesame oil. I think the key to good no mayo slaw is that tiny dash of white sugar--it makes it all meld together and go into the cabbage better. Also, I like to use Braggs cider vinegar.

    Now I want to try your spicy one, though!

  2. Ha! Glad that the 30 Helens are on board! (I'd never heard of them...?) And I'm glad you share the slaw love.


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