A Vinegar-Based Version of a Summer Classic
When most of us think coleslaw, we picture Creamy Coleslaw — the kind made with mayonnaise. It’s exceptionally good stuff.
But have you ever tried a vinegar-based coleslaw? It’s usually made with a classic vinaigrette dressing — you know, one made with oil, vinegar, and seasonings.
I flavor my version of this coleslaw with garlic (lots and lots of garlic). That’s because cabbage and garlic have a natural affinity for each other, as you’ll discover when you taste this. Combine them with vinegar and just a touch of red (fully ripe) jalapeño pepper, and you’ve got a flavor explosion happening on your tongue.
With Labor Day weekend coming up in the US, it means we’ve got another great cookout opportunity. We’ll all want to serve coleslaw, no? I mean, what goes better with grilled and barbecued meats?
And when your guests taste this garlic coleslaw? Well, they’ll be urging you to open your own restaurant.
Recipe: Garlic Coleslaw
This coleslaw is great with burgers, hot dogs, and grilled or barbecued meat or fish. It’s also terrific with fried foods like chicken or seafood.
You can use as much or as little garlic in this dish as you like. I suggest between 3 to 6 good-sized cloves. With 3, you’ll notice the presence of garlic, but it’ll be somewhat faint. With 6 (what I prefer) the garlic is very much evident, but not overwhelming.
The other big decision is how much vinegar to use. In this recipe, I recommend 2 parts of vegetable oil for each part of vinegar (a 2:1 ratio). I think this will please most people. I actually prefer a bit more vinegar than that — almost a 3:2 ratio. But I’d start out with less vinegar the first time, because you can always add more.
I suggest making the vinaigrette dressing at least several hours before you make the coleslaw (even a day ahead) in order to let the flavors mingle. But if you don’t have time to do that, the coleslaw will still be delicious.
This recipe makes enough to serve about 10. Leftovers stored in an airtight container will keep for 2 or 3 days in the refrigerator (they’ll be safe to eat for up to a week, but after 3 days or so the quality deteriorates markedly). Preparation time is about 20 minutes, plus at least an hour to let the coleslaw crisp in the refrigerator.
For the Garlic Vinaigrette:
- 6 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
- 3 tablespoons cider vinegar (white or wine vinegar also work; I usually increase this to 4 tablespoons)
- 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
- ~1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- ~1 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
- 2 teaspoons celery seed
- ~1½ pounds of green or savory cabbage, shredded (about ½ of a large cabbage)
- 1 large carrot, grated
- 1 green or red jalapeño pepper (optional but tasty)
For the Garlic Vinaigrette:
- Peel and crush the garlic cloves to a pulp; or mince fine (I usually use a mini food processor).
- Add garlic to a bowl or small plastic container with a lid. Add the vinegar, vegetable oil, salt, pepper, and celery seeds.
- Whisk together if using bowl; or if using plastic container, put the lid on securely, and shake so ingredients form an emulsion.
- Refrigerate for a few hours (or overnight) to develop flavor. Or, if you’re short on time, just continue making the coleslaw.
- Wash cabbage, remove outer leaves if necessary, and cut into quarters. Remove woody core. Either shred cabbage (a food processor makes this easier) or cut each quarter into 3 pieces, then cut into strips — starting at one end, cut 1/8-inch strips of cabbage (cut crosswise). Put the shredded cabbage in a large mixing bowl.
- Wash and peel carrot, and grate in food processor or chop in mini food processor. Add to the bowl with the cabbage.
- Wash jalapeño pepper and cut lengthwise. Use a teaspoon to scoop out the ribs and seeds (be careful, the oil on these is hot; keep fingers away from your eyes). Chop into very small dice (or use mini food processor). Add to the bowl, and then wash your hands with soap and water to remove the hot jalapeño oil from your skin.
- Add the garlic vinaigrette to the bowl, and toss thoroughly to blend with the cabbage mixture. Taste, adjust seasoning if necessary, and put in a covered container in the refrigerator to crisp for at least an hour.
- Making the vinaigrette ahead really helps the garlic flavor to meld with the vinegar and oil. Alternatively, you can make the entire dish ahead of time, and let it rest in the refrigerator for several hours (or overnight). The flavor will be good, but not quite as intense as it would be if you aged the vinaigrette separately.
- If you make the vinaigrette using the 2:1 oil-to-vinegar ratio, and later determine you want a bit more vinegar, you can add it directly to the coleslaw as you prepare it. The flavor won’t be quite as good as if you’d added it to the vinaigrette right up front (it won’t be as well blended), but it’s definitely OK.
- I like to use cider vinegar when I make this dish, but — as indicated — white vinegar or wine vinegar (either red or white) also work fine.
- Although I specify green or savory cabbage, red cabbage works fine in this dish too. In fact, some people may prefer it.
- There are several ways of cutting cabbage for coleslaw. I like reasonably large pieces because I think you get more of the cabbage flavor, so I always cut it with a knife. Lots of people grate cabbage, but I find that makes the cabbage a little watery.
- Speaking of which, here’s a way to correct watery cabbage: After you cut or shred it, toss it with about a tablespoon of salt, then let the cabbage sit in a colander for an hour or two. Then rinse and squeeze dry (or put it in a kitchen towel and pat dry). Then proceed with your recipe.
- The jalapeño pepper adds the barest touch of hotness to this recipe. If you want more, you can double or triple the amount of jalapeño. But be careful — I think too much throws the balance of flavor out of whack (and I speak as someone who usually likes spicy).
- You can also add sweet green peppers to your coleslaw. I’d add a whole small pepper or half a large pepper, chopped or grated.
- You can omit the celery seed if you wish, but I think it combines beautifully with cabbage. You may want to experiment with other herbs and spices. Caraway seed would be an interesting option.
- I like my coleslaw without sugar. But if you want it sweeter, add a bit of sugar to the vinaigrette (I wouldn’t add more than a tablespoon or two, but that’s me).
- Some recipes for vinegar-based garlic coleslaw suggest heating the vinaigrette, adding a tablespoon or two of sugar, and then pouring it over the cabbage mixture. You can serve it hot or cold.
- In fact, some kinds of German coleslaw are made this way. I’ve seen people substitute bacon fat for the oil (as you’d do in a Spinach Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing or German Potato Salad with Bacon). I’ve never done that with coleslaw. You’d probably want to serve the slaw warm if you made it this way — the thought of cold, congealed bacon fat doesn’t seem all that appealing (although it doesn’t create a problem when you serve German Potato Salad cold).
Is Garlic Coleslaw Better than Creamy?
To me, yes. But it’s a dish I almost forgot about! I was reminded of it earlier this year when I did a post on Creamy Coleslaw. At the time, I mentioned to Mrs. Kitchen Riffs that, IMO, garlic coleslaw beat creamy. She had never heard of the garlic version — because I’d never made it. I just hadn’t thought about it for years.
I actually discovered garlic coleslaw ages ago, when I used to travel extensively for work. At one period, I occasionally found myself in Pittsburg, Kansas — home of Pittsburg State University, in case you’re wondering. When you travel you have to eat, right? In Pittsburg, a couple of fried chicken places were my favorites: Chicken Annie’s and Chicken Mary’s (sorry, I couldn’t find a link). Their chicken was good, though not great. But their garlic coleslaws? Outstanding. That’s what kept me coming back to both establishments.
As I was recounting all this to Mrs K R, she nodded her head in agreement. “Yes, I’d say this stuff is definitely outstanding. Best coleslaw I’ve ever eaten. So how could you forget about it?”
I shrugged my shoulders sheepishly. “You know — other stuff to eat, and most coleslaw is creamy, so I guess that’s how I always thought of making it. Besides, I’ve never seen a recipe that really duplicated the flavor I was after, so I had to make one up. Just never got around to doing it.”
Mrs K R finished her coleslaw and pushed her plate over for seconds. “Well, now that you’ve figured it out, you can make up for lost time. We’re going to have this often — right?”
Somehow, I don’t think that was really a question.
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German Potato Salad with Bacon
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French Potato Salad
American (Mayonnaise) Potato Salad
German Potato Salad with Bacon
Potato Salad Basics
Edamame and Bean Salad
Hungarian Cucumber Salad
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