Blueprint for a Summer Slaw

Blueprint for a Summer Slaw

I make a big batch of coleslaw every week in the summer. It’s different every time, but it always turns out great (in my own humble opinion)! 

To me, cooking isn’t about following a recipe but rather about applying techniques and principles that will give you to the results you want. It’s finding the balance of flavors and textures that are most enjoyable to you. It’s being able to achieve that balance in a variety of ways, with whatever ingredients you have on hand.

What follows is more of a blueprint than a recipe—but not one you need to follow rigidly. Think of it like the salad bar or the sandwich line at Subway. You can pick and choose from every category, but not every category is required. Hopefully this gives you some inspiration to explore and experiment as you shred, dice, and juice the wonderful bounty summer has to offer!


Veggies from the Ground

Choose 1-4. Cut the veggies into large chunks, then shred or finely chop in a food processor. (Realizing I could shred a whole cabbage or bunch of carrots in the food processor in seconds was a cooking game-changer for me!) If you prefer a rougher/bigger shred, do some of the cutting by hand, and mix in those larger pieces for variety.

  • Cabbage (green, red, or Napa)
  • Radishes (red, daikon, watermelon)
  • Kohlrabi (green or purple)
  • Radicchio
  • Salad turnips
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Kale or collard greens
  • Broccoli (may wish to dice instead of shred)
  • Jicama (may wish to dice instead of shred)


Veggies from the Vine

Choose 1-4. Dice as finely or roughly as you like. 

  • Bell peppers (any color)
  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Watermelon rind (shred rather than dice) 


Something Sweet

Sugar and vinegar is the most basic foundation for dressing a slaw, but there are so many other ways you can get those sweet and tangy flavors! Choose one direction to go here—don't accidentally turn your slaw into a fruit salad. Apple is quite versatile, mango and watermelon go well with a Mexican flavor profile, orange goes well with Asian flavors, and grapes or raisins pair well with a creamy dressing. Dried fruit in general is great for adding a chewy texture.

  • Apple (diced)
  • Mango (diced or pureed)
  • Watermelon (diced, or just use the juice)
  • Orange (diced, or just use the juice)
  • Raisins or other dried fruit
  • Honey
  • Honey mustard
  • Kombucha


Something Tangy

Rice vinegar is a great neutral option. You can’t beat lime juice for a Mexican slaw. And dill pickle juice goes surprisingly well with beets. I think tomato juice enhances everything and that yellow mustard is the most underrated condiment in your fridge (worth trying in places you hadn’t previously thought to try).

  • Vinegar (apple cider, rice, or white wine are all great options)
  • Lime juice
  • Lemon juice
  • Pickle juice
  • Tomato juice
  • Kimchi juice
  • Kombucha
  • Mustard (yellow, Dijon)


Something Creamy/Oily

If you’ve only ever had slaw from the grocery store, you’d be forgiven for thinking coleslaw is a little bit of cabbage drenched in a whole lot of mayonnaise. It doesn’t have to be. A small dollop of something creamy or a splash of oil goes a long way, and you can get the flavor enhancement and cohesion that cream or fat adds without completely covering the taste of the veggies.

  • Mayonnaise
  • Greek yogurt/sour cream
  • Salad dressing (ranch, blue cheese)
  • Avocado/guacamole
  • Mustard/honey mustard
  • Oil (olive, sesame)
  • Peanut butter (for an Asian slaw)


Something Spicy/Salty

I add a big dash of garlic powder to every slaw I make. Curry and mango will pair well together. Cilantro is great with lime. Dill, yogurt, and lemon are a nice trio. Miso paste, soy sauce, and Sriracha go well with orange in an Asian slaw. And as noted above with regard to yellow mustard, ground mustard powder can be a surprisingly versatile flavor enhancer.

  • Cilantro (fresh)
  • Dill (fresh)
  • Onions (sliced green onions or diced red onions)
  • Spicy peppers (jalapeños, habaneros, etc.)
  • Garlic powder
  • Curry powder
  • Ground mustard
  • Taco seasoning
  • Black pepper
  • Hot sauce, chili garlic sauce, Sriracha
  • Soy sauce
  • Miso paste
  • Salt


Something Crunchy/Chewy

You may already have enough going on in your slaw that you don’t need any more texture. But I love some edamame in a Mexican or Asian slaw, dried fruit in anything with a creamy dressing, and something crunchy (like nuts) if you don’t plan to serve the slaw alongside tortilla chips or something else for dipping (the best way to serve a slaw).

  • Beans
  • Edamame
  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts (almonds, walnuts, peanuts)
  • Chow mein or dry ramen noodles
  • Tortilla chips/baked tortilla strips


And there you have it! If this seems like a lot, remember: you only need one or two items from each category to make a killer coleslaw. And with a food processor, you can have a huge bowl of slaw whipped up in less time than it took you to read this post!

Bon appétit!  


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