Smoked Spanish paprika adds depth to this spicy slaw
Warm weather has seriously arrived in my part of the world, and I’m looking forward to picnics and barbecue. Here in the US, we’ll be celebrating Memorial Day on May 27th — the beginning of cookout season.
That means our thoughts are turning towards coleslaw. Many people favor a mayonnaise-based version, like my Creamy Cole Slaw. Some prefer a vinaigrette (oil and vinegar) slaw — like my Garlic Coleslaw.
But how about another version of slaw, one that’s a bit out of the ordinary? Allow me to introduce jalapeño coleslaw. It has great flavor, and you can make it as spicy as you want.
To add more depth, you can also include some pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika) in the dressing. The smoky flavor adds an exotic touch, and it blends perfectly with barbecue.
Nothing says summer like coleslaw and barbecue. So why not greet the season in style — with a big batch of Jalapeño Coleslaw with Pimentón?
Recipe: Jalapeño Coleslaw with Pimentón
This recipes calls for chopping/grating your own cabbage and carrot. But you can substitute a bag or two of the packaged, recipe-ready coleslaw mix available in your supermarket (most are essentially a combo of grated cabbage and carrot, although some have a few more interesting ingredients). You’ll need about two bags to equal the amount specified in this recipe. If you use just one bag, you may want to cut the amount of vinaigrette dressing in half, although it’s not necessary.
As written, this recipe is mildly spicy. But you can use as much (or as little) pimentón and jalapeño as you like. If you prefer less heat, cut the amount of both in half. If you want a bit more fire, add an additional jalapeño and the full 2 teaspoons of pimentón. If you don’t want to use pimentón, omit it and just use the jalapeño. In that case, I’d substitute celery seed for the pimentón.
You also need to decide how much vinegar to use in the dressing. I recommend starting with 2 parts of oil for each part of vinegar (a 2:1 ratio). I actually prefer a bit more vinegar — almost a 3:2 ratio. But I’d start out with less vinegar the first time, because you can always add more. You can also substitute freshly squeezed lime juice for the vinegar (see Notes).
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 10 to 12 people as a side dish. Leftovers that are 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 Pimentón Vinaigrette:
- 1 garlic clove, crushed or minced
- 3 tablespoons cider vinegar (white or wine vinegar also work; I usually increase the amount to 4 tablespoons; or you can use lime juice – see Notes)
- 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
- ~1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- ~1 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
- 1 - 2 teaspoons pimentón (start with 1 if you’re using the spicy variety, or want a milder flavored dish)
- ~1½ pounds of green or savory cabbage, shredded (about ½ of a large cabbage; or substitute a bag of pre-cut, recipe -ready coleslaw mix – see headnote)
- 1 large carrot, grated
- 2 green jalapeño peppers
- 1 red bell pepper (optional, but tasty)
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro (or to taste; optional)
- jalapeño or red pepper slices for garnish (optional)
For the Pimentón Vinaigrette:
- Peel and crush the garlic clove to a pulp; or mince fine.
- Add garlic to a bowl or a small plastic container with a lid. Add the vinegar, vegetable oil, salt, pepper, and pimentón.
- Whisk together if using a bowl; or if using a 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). Place the shredded cabbage in a large mixing bowl. (See Notes if using bagged, recipe-ready coleslaw.)
- Wash and peel the carrot, and then grate it in the food processor or chop in a mini food processor. Add to the bowl containing the cabbage.
- Wash jalapeño peppers 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 a mini food processor). Add to the cabbage bowl, and then wash your hands with soap and water to remove the hot jalapeño oil from your skin. You may want to reserve a slice or two of the pepper for garnish.
- Wash and dry the red bell pepper. Core it, and chop into dice of about ¼ inch. (You may want to reserve a slice or some dice for garnish.) Add to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients.
- If using cilantro, wash it, tear leaves from stems, and chop. Add to the cabbage bowl.
- Shake or whisk the vinaigrette to reform the emulsion if necessary, add the pimentón vinaigrette to the bowl, and toss thoroughly to blend with the cabbage mixture. Taste, adjust seasoning if necessary, and place in a covered container in the refrigerator to crisp for at least an hour.
- As mentioned above, you can replace the cabbage and carrot with bags of premade, recipe-ready coleslaw mix that you can find in the supermarket. Just substitute that for the cabbage and carrot in the recipe.
- The exact weight of cabbage isn’t critical — anywhere from a pound to almost two pounds will work with this amount of dressing.
- Making the vinaigrette ahead helps the pimentón flavor 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.
- Imported Spanish pimentón has better flavor than domestically produced versions, IMO. But if you can find only a domestic smoked paprika, that will work fine in this recipe.
- Pimentón is usually spicier than ordinary paprika (which often lacks flavor), but you can find mild (even somewhat sweet) versions if that’s your preference.
- If you make the vinaigrette using the 2:1 oil-to-vinegar ratio, and later determine that 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 will definitely be 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.
- Freshly squeezed lime juice also works quite well. I usually increase the amount of lime juice somewhat when I’m using it.
- 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.
- I like my coleslaw without sugar. But if you want sweeter slaw, add a bit of sugar to the vinaigrette (I wouldn’t add more than a tablespoon to start with).
Some Like it Hot — and Smoky
“Nice,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs as she tasted her Jalapeño Coleslaw with Pimentón. “It’s got some zing to it!”
“It does,” I replied. “And I like the flavor of the pimentón.”
“It’s pleasantly smoky,” agreed Mrs K R. “Doesn’t taste like paprika at all. And it has a little kick.”
“That’s because I’m using the picante — hot — version,” I said. “Pimentón also comes in dulce, which is just a bit sweet, without any hotness. There’s also agridulce, which hints at sweetness but has some heat to it. Picante is all heat, with no sweetness, and maybe just a touch of bitterness.”
“Well, the heat is nice, but what I really like is the smokiness,” said Mrs K R. “We should use this in other dishes, too.”
“Funny you should mention that,” I said. “I’m planning to use pimentón in a rub for some barbecue that I’ll be cooking slow and low in the oven. Cooking it that way produces really tender barbecue, but it doesn’t have the smoky flavor that you get from a live fire.”
“And the pimentón replaces that?” asked Mrs K R.
“Well, there’s nothing like the flavor from a real fire,” I said. “But the smokiness of the pimentón does add a nice note to oven-cooked barbecue.”
“Great idea!” enthused Mrs K R. “Say, it’s been ages since we’ve had spare ribs. Don’t you think you should cook some of those — and use pimentón in the rub?”
Well, I was wondering what kind of meat I was going to barbecue. Guess I don’t have to wonder any more.
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