Mighty Perfect Cabbage & Broccoli Coleslaw ♥ Recipe

Mighty Perfect Cabbage & Broccoli Coleslaw
Today's healthy coleslaw recipe, a mix of colorful fresh cabbage and broccoli, cooked a little - just a little - in the microwave before adding a low-calorie vinaigrette. It's a slaw recipe with ambition, eager to please. Pretty green broccoli slaw? Yep. Low carb slaw? You bet! Weight Watchers-friendly slaw? Of course! Plus not just vegan, "Vegan Done Real".

So let's talk straight about all the things that can go wrong with a coleslaw recipe, the things that so easily and all too often do go wrong with a coleslaw recipe, turning out cole slaw like this:

Too soggy, too watery. (How many coleslaw recipes are victims of this?)
Too raw and well, cabbage-y.
Too bland and unseasoned. (Such a waste of good cabbage, these coleslaw recipes!)
Too much dressing which translates into "too many calories". (How many coleslaw recipes turn out to be complete disasters, calorie-wise?)
Like a plain-jane slaw with not enough going on, but some times, a cole slaw that just tries too hard, with too much going on. (Poor sad things, these coleslaw recipes.)

This coleslaw recipe fixes all those cole slaw problems! (Maybe we should put the Cooks Illustrated folks onto the European debt crisis.) This recipe is all about technique. (You could even apply the steps to your own favorite recipe.) There are two extra steps:

First, briefly cooking the cabbage and broccoli in the microwave with sugar and salt. Don't skip the sugar and salt, otherwise the extra step doesn't work.
Second, then spinning out excess liquid in a salad spinner. How much extra liquid, you ask? Six tablespoons. Wow, I had no idea!

But this recipe is also all about flavor. It's simple and traditional in all the right ways, yet fresh and updated in others. It's got just a bare touch of sweetness. The first time I made it, a twelve-year old went back for seconds and thirds, then happily carried home the leftovers. "This cole slaw is sooo good!" she said again and again. The next time I made it, her eyes lit up to see it on the table. I live to see eyes lighting up like that!

WORD DANCING: IS IT COLESLAW? COLE SLAW? Or is it just SLAW? So I've been in a little debate, trying to figure out what to call this cabbage and broccoli salad – it seems there might be regional differences. So if you have a preferred way to call a salad made from grated cabbage, I'd love to know, leave a comment if that's alright. (Don't we just love "word dancing"? And who the heck was "cole"?)


Hands-on time: 40 minutes
Time to table: 60 minutes
Makes 4 cups, easy to multiply for larger quantities

1/4 cup (55g) apple cider vinegar (see TIPS)
2 tablespoons (18g) vegetable oil (no olive oil, please, see TIPS)
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 pound cabbage (see TIPS), grated on large holes of a box grater
1/4 pound broccoli crown, cut in tiny florets, stem peeled and chopped small
1/4 cup (55g) sugar
1 teaspoon (15g) table salt

1 large carrot, peeled and grated with box grater
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Salt to taste
Up to 2 teaspoons additional sugar, to taste
Up to 2 teaspoons additional vinegar, to taste

DRESSING In a small bowl, mix the dressing ingredients. Place in the freezer for 15-30 minutes or just until the slaw is ready. (Why the freezer? I have the idea it's just to begin the cool-down process.)

COLESLAW Place the cabbage, broccoli, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon salt in a large, microwave-safe bowl. (The combination of sugar, salt and heat are what help the cabbage express so much liquid.) Cover with a plate and cook on high in the microwave for 1 minute. Stir well, cover with the plate and cook for 30 - 60 seconds until the cabbage has become a little wilted and reduced in volume by about a third. Transfer to a salad spinner and spin for 10 - 20 seconds, expressing excess liquid (see TIPS).

Stir in carrot, parsley and dressing. Taste and add salt, sugar and vinegar to taste.

Chill for 15 minutes or until ready to serve. Keeps well for several days without getting soggy or soft, it helps to turn the storage container every so often.

APPLE CIDER VINEGAR I've started using Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar. It's more expensive but I love its gentleness and apple-y-ness.
WHY NO OLIVE OIL? Because it will thicken and coagulate in the cold.
CABBAGE Cook's Illustrated "insists" in their own inimitable way that fresh cabbage tastes better – and I agree. But I've also had great luck refreshing a bag of cabbage slaw mix from the grocery store by soaking it in ice water for 5 or 10 minutes. Now that may seem counter-intuitive to re-hydrate the slaw and then cook it in the microwave in order to remove excess water. But I think it would work just fine, I really do – and would also cut down on the prep time for this salad, which strikes me as a long while.
EXCESS LIQUID Wow! This is a great technique to avoid watery coleslaw. Both times, putting the cabbage through a salad spinner yielded 6 tablespoons – SIX TABLESPOONS! – water.

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~ Kohlrabi & Apple Slaw with Creamy Coleslaw Dressing ~
~ Jicama Slaw ~
~ Celeriac Slaw ~
~ more coleslaw recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture

~ Alice Waters' Coleslaw ~
~ Holy Slaw! ~
~ Favorite Summer Salad Recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade, my food column

A Veggie Venture is home of 'veggie evangelist' Alanna Kellogg and the
famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.
© Copyright Kitchen Parade 2012

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. cole => German kohl = cabbage

  2. Alanna- I know you have to verify that your commenters are not robots, but the verification words are truly impossible- have you looked at them? I had to try six combinations before I guessed one right, and the audio was completely garbled. Is there another verification service you could use? I am not a half-blind fuddy-duddy, either- I'm not yet forty and I use Internet verifications all the time. This is just a bad one.

  3. Heather ~ Ah, I didn't think that "kohl" or "cole" might be a translation, cool!

    As for the ^&%$I "captchas" that flummox human beings but still let the spammers through, I just turned it off. Thanks for the reminder, I had huge frustration the other day trying to comment somewhere on my phone and finally gave up. No more capchas! Damn the spammers! PS It's the standard Google captcha, but Google's getting less friendly than they once were about such things. THANK YOU for asking about this!!

  4. Hi Alanna

    Spring is peeping at us & within a couple of weeks we can look forward to asparagus but for now this looked just the thing to satisfy the need for salad but with 'winter' veg.

    Tried making just now, but.... I'm thinking I haven't understood the method. While the cabbage /broccoli combo wilted in the microwave as indicated, there was no fluid released, and spinning didn't help either.

    So I got to thinking maybe the initial measures of sugar and salt should have been massaged into the greens the way I do when I'm prepping daikon/carrot for Vietnamese pickles. The only mention in the method for the use of sugar and salt I can find is in adjusting for taste at the end.

    The other hint that I'm not getting something, is the time indicated. Get stuff out, mix up dressing, chop vegies, microwave, salad spin, combine everything. I reckon that is 15 minutes tops for me plus 15 min chill time brings total to 30 minutes and yet the prep time is indicated as 40 minutes with time to table 60 minutes......Is there another step?

    I'm keen to try again, so when you have a moment, would you mind putting me straight , please.

    Thanks as always for this motivating blog.


  5. Alannah, you cheered up my day. I've been on a cole slaw quest for the best recipe, & I will definitely try this one. Just arrived at work, made morning coffee and before the real work begins, popped in to read email, and here your recipe was. Thanks!

  6. Oh, and PS, your food blog is my all time favorite! Sandy

  7. Robyn ~ Ack!! Thank you so much for letting me know, the instructions did NOT say to put the sugar and salt into the microwave with the cabbage and broccoli, it's the combination that makes the cabbage express all its liquid. I am so sorry, I hope the coleslaw isn't a total "bust" without this. And I SO appreciate your taking the time to let me know, it thrills me completely when someone is "called" to cook one of my recipes "right now" and can, because the ingredients are already on hand. I really strive for this!

    On the timing, no I checked carefully again, there are no steps missing. I think you must just work more quickly than I do! I'm always measuring and thinking when I cook, I like to think that this means I don't mislead cooks with how long something will take, at least on the short side.

    Sandy ~ Oh you cheered up MY day, thank you so much for the kind note. If you happened to print the recipe before I made the correction above in my note to Robyn, please take heed!

  8. Goodmorning Alanna

    Thanks for your quick response. Looking forward to trying again this evening. (Last night my wok came to the rescue).

    Cooking books are notorious for errata, despite editors/testers etc. I find it amazing how few editing oversights there are when it comes to the food blogs I follow. All the work you put in to creating and maintaining this wonderful resource is really, really appreciated, I often check in for ideas.

    Regards, Robyn

  9. Hello again

    Worked a treat last night, thanks again.

    Looking forward to using the technique and ringing the changes on the other ingredients used with the cabbage.


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna