Table of Contents
I always find it amazing how each person has a particular memory that completely defines their version of a certain food. Such as, chili has to have beans for one person or only meat for another. Cornbread needs to be sweet for many while others, like me, do not like added sugar. Often, these ideas come from how we ate growing up. Since we always had chili one way, that’s the only way it can be made, right?
Does this sound like you? You’re not alone! I fall into this trap all the time. In the case of coleslaw, I’ll admit that I’m often in the minority: I crave a coleslaw with a vinaigrette-like dressing. It’s a tangy, yet sweet, balanced dressing that complements the cabbage while avoiding the feeling of being too heavy.
So which are you? Team creamy or team vinegar? I hope I can convince you to join me on the vinegar team!
What is coleslaw?
The Oxford language dictionary defines coleslaw as a raw cabbage salad mixed with mayonnaise or other vegetables. This is right where the creamy argument comes into play. Mayonnaise is rich, tangy, and creamy, but can also be overwhelming when it comes to flavor, especially in a coleslaw.
Instead, I always choose the dressing I grew up with, which my grandma perfected. Honestly, this is just a simple emulsified dressing made with oil and vinegar (just plain white distilled vinegar). And I’ll let you in on a little secret: the flavor really comes from three items:
- a small amount of celery seed, which packs a bigger punch than you’d think
- a little dry mustard
- some chopped onion
Originally, my grandma considered this a blender recipe. Today, this still works great, especially with an immersion blender. The blender instantly pulverizes the onion and emulsifies the dressing, creating a quasi-creamy mixture. Let’s consider this a compromise between team mayonnaise and team vinegar.
What are the benefits of a vinaigrette?
A vinaigrette acts like a pickling brine. In general, anything that is pickled is employed to cut through fat. That’s why we often pair something pickled with a meal heavy on fat. Think brats and sauerkraut, or pickles and hamburgers.
With this in mind, a vinaigrette coleslaw is obviously the perfect pairing for any summer barbecue. A vinegar-based dressing is also the perfect option for a picnic since it can sit out for longer periods of time. Not so with a mayonnaise-based dressing. See… better, right?
But really, I think the flavor is superior, sharp, tangy, and balanced, especially with some added honey. This dressing stays in my refrigerator, ready to be used, all summer long!
Watch how to make this coleslaw
The Perfect Picnic Coleslaw
- ¾ cup neutral oil (safflower, grapeseed)
- ¼ cup vinegar
- 1 tsp celery seed
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp honey
- ¼ cup roughly chopped onion
- 1 lb cabbage shredded
- 2 carrots shredded
- ¼ cup roasted sunflower seeds (optional)
For the dressing
- In a large glass measuring cup or blender container, combine the oil, vinegar, celery seed, dry mustard, salt, honey, and onion. Blend with a countertop or immersion blender until emulsified and smooth, 1-2 minutes.
- Pour into an airtight container and store in the refrigerator until ready to use, for up to one month.
For the coleslaw
- In a large bowl, combine the cabbage and carrot. Add dressing to taste. It is best to start with a smaller amount of dressing, about ⅓, and stir well. Taste and add more if needed. Top with sunflower seeds and serve.
- The coleslaw can be made two hours ahead of time. The thicker the cabbage is cut, the longer it will hold up in the refrigerator before breaking down.
- Add the sunflower seeds right before serving.