basic coleslaw

Once upon a time, I thought I didn’t like coleslaw. A Cooks Illustrated recipe turned me around, but over time, I found aspects of it that I didn’t love. One is that is really does take about 4 hours of salting the cabbage for it to draw out enough water to avoid a watery dressing. Then you have to rinse the salt off so your slaw isn’t too salty, and then you have to dry the cabbage, because wasn’t the whole point of salting to remove water?

The dressing of that recipe is based on buttermilk, which is a great lowfat option, but is too thin to coat the cabbage strands well. Many slaw dressings are nothing more than flavored mayonnaise, and while I do love mayonnaise, I don’t like to spend so much of my calorie budget on salad. The dressing for my old favorite recipe also requires sour cream, which I never have.

The answer, like I’m finding it is to so many things, is Greek yogurt. It’s everything you want in a slaw dressing – thick, creamy and tangy. Oh, and full of protein instead of just fat. I like to use the same flavorings used in the Cooks Illustrated recipe – cider vinegar, parsley, minced onion, a wee bit of sugar. I also like to mix a spoonful of mayonnaise into the yogurt. It’s amazing how even a small proportion of mayonnaise can make the whole mixture taste like it’s full of the fattening stuff.

With a thicker dressing, it isn’t as necessary to draw water out of the cabbage. If I have time, I still often sprinkle the shredded cabbage with salt and set it aside, but I use only as much salt as I need to include in the salad anyway – so no tedious rinsing and drying is required. Without needing to plan four hours in advance, I can mix up a quick coleslaw while Dave heats the grill for brats. I’m not going to say that I like the coleslaw more than the sausage – but it’s close, and it’s a heck of a lot healthier too.

One year ago: Grilled Artichokes
Two years ago: Basic Lentil Soup
Three years ago: Snickery Squares

Printer Friendly Recipe
Basic Coleslaw (adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

You can see that I now take a very laid back approach to preparing slaw. This is what happens when I start making things for lunch on Saturday; I can’t be bothered with details when it’s 85 degrees and sunny out. Sometimes I combine the first few ingredients earlier in the morning and set them aside until later to lightly pickle to cabbage and onion, but sometimes I make the slaw start to finish right before serving. Either way works great.

Feel free to use any fat level of Greek yogurt.

½ cabbage, sliced thin
¼ cup minced red onion
¼ teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 carrot, shredded
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1 (7-ounce container) plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise

In a large bowl, stir together the cabbage, onion, salt, vinegar, and sugar. Set aside while you prepare the remaining ingredients. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine.


  1. My coleslaws are usually with vinegar and no mayonnaise. This looks good for a change.

  2. This recipe looks great! My husband is a huge Cole slaw fan, so I will definitely give this a try. Love your blog!

  3. I love using Greek yogurt in place of sour cream or mayo. Cole slaw goes so well with grilled meat.

  4. I love coleslaw- it’s a picnic and covered dish staple here. I’ll have to try your version! 🙂

  5. I love coleslaw! Thanks for sharing this recipe 😀

  6. The coleslaw does look really good and I love Greek yogurt, but that hotdog behind it looks awesome!

  7. I never thought of using yogurt as the dressing for coleslaw, but it sounds delish!

  8. Katie says:

    Another great trick is to salt the cabbage and leave it in the colander of your salad spinner to dry out. Then after 30 minutes or so, spin away and get rid of all that excess moisture!

  9. I tend not to like restaurant coleslaw, but after glaring at your pictures I am thinking that like homemade potato salad, I am going to love homemade cole slaw! Thanks for the recipe and inspiration!

  10. Katharine says:

    This coleslaw is awesome. I liked your previous recipe too but using yogurt (which I always have) vs buttermilk (which I almost never have) is fantastic. I’ve made it with regular white onion and also with green onions (as well as red) and that substitution worked fine. I also love seeds in my coleslaw so I usually add sunflower seeds too.

    YUM! Especially with the pulled pork…. The best. Thank you.

  11. Your blog is very interesting and fun. Thank you for all the recipes and tips. God bless you.

  12. Great recipe! I love the tanginess the yogurt brings to the dish. I did make one change however; I like a little kick in my coleslaw, so I added a little adobo sauce I had left over from a can of chipotles I’d opened the other day to add a little heat. Was Delicious!

  13. I just made this and it was GREAT!

  14. Lindsey says:

    First time commenter – not a first time visitor. I just hosted a post-inauguration warm up party in DC and made your pulled pork and slaw… Big hit.

    I made the pulled pork yesterday (10lbs of pork shoulder split into two crockpots took about 6.5 hours at high heat), put the pulled pork in the fridge overnight, and reheated it on my crockpot’s “warm” setting with some apple juice (maybe 1/4 cup) starting at 7am, so it was ready when we all invaded the house in need of warmth. Lots of leftovers.

    Also, I substituted 1T of horseradish for your Dijon mustard because I grew up with horseradish in my coleslaw. The dressing is terrific! Love that Greek yogurt comes to the rescue once again – I used 0% fat Fage and the lower fat mayo (whatever that means) – and it held up overnight.

    Many thanks!

  15. Just made a variation on this dressing…used more cider vinegar and mixed it right in with the yogurt and mayo. A bit more sugar, a bit of salt and pepper, and it was spectacular…rich and creamy and with 0% fat yogurt, practically guilt free.