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When it comes to cabbage salads, I am personally very content with an oil and vinegar or lemon juice dressing. However, some of my family members, that shall not be named, do prefer a classic creamy coleslaw (they claim it is the true style of coleslaw and the way it should always be made). I tend to ignore the editorial comments, but I do love to make my family happy.
We are taught that one of the healthy choices you should make is to stay away from anything labeled as “creamy”. The reasoning behind that advice is that “creamy” often stands for sauces that are heavy in cream and cheese and therefore unhealthy fats, that will not only lead to heartburn in the short term, but heart disease in the long term.
What makes a traditional coleslaw not so healthy is not cream or cheese but the use of classic store-bought shelf-stable mayonnaise that are made with inferior ingredients and loaded with artificial ingredients. It’s also generally very high in sodium and in sugar. Triple whammy.
One cup of KFC’s famous coleslaw will set you back 275 calories, 17 grams of fat, 26 grams of sugar and 361 mg of sodium.
Yet it hardly takes any effort to make a healthy classic creamy coleslaw that will provide you all the nutritional benefits of green cabbage and none of the inferior stuff. The key, my friends, is in the mayo.
A word about mayonnaise
If you want to channel your inner Julia Child, making your own mayonnaise is really child’s play (pun intended). Follow my easy homemade mayo recipe that is also Mediterranean Diet friendly. Nothing coming out of a jar will ever taste as good. However, one drawback about homemade mayonnaise is that it doesn’t keep beyond 3 days, and the minimum yield using 1 egg is about 1-1/2 cup of mayo. If you feed a big crowd, it’s not a problem. If you feed one or two people, it is.
But thank goodness, the food industry has come up with shelf-stable options that can keep much longer in your refrigerator once they are open, yet are not made with what I referred to as inferior ingredients. It’s all about reading the labels. Some of the brands available out there that I have vetted:
If time is a precious commodity for you and you don’t need the Zen experience of prepping your cabbage by hand, it is perfectly OK to buy a bag of pre-shredded cabbage or coleslaw mix. I’ve been known to do that myself back in the days when I worked 12 hour workdays in an office. Just don’t buy the coleslaw “salad kits” that include a bag of heart-attack inducing dressing…
If you have some red cabbage on hand, it’s a great color addition!
Green onions make a good substitute for red onions, as do shallots.
How to make classic creamy coleslaw
The first thing to do is mix your dressing at the bottom of a large bowl. You will be adding your cabbage mix on top, and this allows for nice even coating when you toss it together.
How thin you like your cabbage sliced is really a personal preference. I like mine on the thin to very thin side, as it softens nicely. How you slice it is also a personal choice. I have done it by hand with a knife, and that’s a very Zen experience. It requires an excellent knife, total confidence in your knife skills, and your undivided attention to what’s happening on your cutting board. It is however difficult to slice it very thin that way. My go-to method is my favorite kitchen appliance: my trusted food processor. I set the slicing blade at a level 2 or 3 (out of 6). But every food processor is different, so you’ll have to experiment with yours.
I also use my food processor, this time with the shredding blade, to shred the carrots.
The only thing I do slice by hand is the onion, as the food processor does not produce nice little slivers of onion. It tends to shred it and extract a lot of juice.
Place the vegetables into the bowl as you go. Then toss thoroughly.
For best flavor, refrigerate an hour before eating. This will let the cabbage soften nicely.
Top with poppy seeds before serving.
Other recipes you might like
Classic creamy coleslaw
- In a large bowl, measure mayo, vinegar, salt pepper and honey.
- Whisk together until well combined.
- Add cabbage, carrots and onions to the bowl. Toss well.
- For best flavor, refrigerate an hour before eating.
- Top with poppy seeds before serving.