An Unexpected Ingredient Makes a Simple Slaw Shine

An Unexpected Ingredient Makes a Simple Slaw Shine
A colorful cast of crucifers and roots add visual appeal, varied textures, earthy, sweet, and peppery notes—not to mention a whole lot of nutrients. (Lynda Balslev for Tastefood)

This slaw is the Goldilocks of coleslaws. It's slightly sweet but not too sweet. Slightly creamy but not too creamy. Juicy but certainly not too wet. It has a bite but not too sharp. The only category where it doesn't compromise is texture: It's very crunchy. After all, a crispy, crunchy slaw is non-negotiable.

I have fiddled for years to find the right balance of, well, see the qualities above. This slaw is pretty darn close—thanks, I believe, to a key ingredient: grated onion with its juices. It manages to bind this simple slaw together and provide the elusive je ne sais quoi that compels you to take another (and another) bite.

Onions are sweet, sharp, and pungent. When they are grated, their flavorful juices and aromas are released, mellowing in intensity as they spread and evenly coat the slaw. Only a little is needed, mind you, since we are talking balance here. A couple of tablespoons are enough to tickle the tongue and distribute the oniony sweetness.

Another attraction to this slaw is its color. Coleslaws should be bright and colorful, a billboard that shouts, "Eat your vegetables!" We don't literally eat with our eyes, but we are visually enticed and unlikely to pass up on this vibrant bowl, rainbow-streaked in purple, green, and orange.

Hardy crucifers and roots take the credit for the visual appeal while lending their crispy textures, ruffles, and slivers, all infused with earthy, sweet, and peppery notes—not to mention a whole lot of nutrients. Have fun mixing up the salad ingredients to your preference and season. Sweet peppers, celery root, broccoli stalks, and florets are all great contenders. However you choose to assemble, just remember the onion-infused dressing to tie it all together.

Simple Slaw

Active Time: 10 minutes Total Time: 10 minutes, plus chilling time

Serves 4 to 6

For the Dressing
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons European-style whole-milk yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons grated yellow onion with juices
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon runny honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the Slaw
  • 1/2 head purple cabbage, shredded
  • 1/2 head green cabbage, shredded
  • 4 to 6 leaves Tuscan kale, tough ribs removed, shredded
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 large carrot, shredded
Whisk the dressing ingredients in a bowl.

Combine the slaw ingredients in a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss to thoroughly combine.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to meld. The coleslaw is best eaten within 1 to 2 days.

Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she lives with her Danish husband, two children, a cat, and a dog. Balslev studied cooking at Le Cordon Bleu Ecole de Cuisine in Paris and worked as a personal chef, culinary instructor, and food writer in Switzerland and Denmark. Copyright 2021 Lynda Balslev. Distributed by Andrews McMeel Syndication.
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