The Best Cole Slaw You’ll Ever Have

Cole slaw is often positioned as a side dish, and soggy cole slaw from a tupperware can be pretty grim. But food blogger Justina Blakeney makes an amazing Asian-inspired cole slaw that deserves center stage. Here’s how to make it…

The Best Cole Slaw You’ll Ever Have
By Justina Blakeney

I grew up in a half black and half Jewish family, where Matzo ball soup was served with a side of collard greens. Growing up in California’s Bay Area, our family meals were also influenced by the cuisine of our neighbors—Japanese nori, Korean kimchi and Thai coconut milk were all staples in my mom’s kitchen. Even though we didn’t call it “food fusion” back then, that’s how we rolled.

One of my favorite dishes was my mom’s cross-cultural cole slaw. I don’t remember exactly what was in it—neither does my mom, a queen of concoctions—but I do remember that it was one of my favorite treats at summer barbecues. As a vegetarian for most of my life, I would pass by the ribs and make a beeline to the side dishes, where I ate cole slaw all. day. long.

Inspired by vague recollections of my mom’s recipe, I asked my best friend, my favorite chef and food stylist Catilin Levin (also fellow Bay Arean who writes the food column on my blog), to help me recreate it. I love this take on coleslaw, which incorporates bits and pieces from different cultures. It’s tangy and a little bit spicy, crunchy and super refreshing. And best of all, this mayo-free recipe is rich in protein, vitamins and live cultures.

Recipe: Cole Slaw
Serves 4
Recipe inspired by my mom, created by Caitlin Levin, and photos and cooking by me!

You’ll need:
1 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup + 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tbsp. soy sauce
3 tbsp. miso paste
3 tsp. siracha
1/2 lb. silken or soft tofu
2 large carrots
1/2 red onion
5 cups Napa cabbage
4 small Persian cucumbers
1 tbsp. black sesame seeds
1 green jalapeno
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup fresh Thai basil leaves

Boil water. With a veggie peeler make long ribbons of the carrots. Cut onion in half and slice paper thin half moon slices. In a bowl, mix carrot ribbons, onions, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 cup vinegar, 1 cup boiling water and a pinch of salt. Set aside and let sit.

In a blender, add 1/2 lb. of silken tofu, 3 teaspoons siracha, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 3 tablespoons miso paste, and 1 tablespoon vinegar. Blend until smooth and set aside.

Cut Napa cabbage in half, length-wise. Slice as thinly as possible, add to a bowl with 1 jalapeno sliced paper thin in circles. Cut 4 Persian cucumbers in half lengthwise and then slice thinly into half moons, add to bowl of cabbage. Add all of your herbs to the bowl.

By this time, your carrots should be ready so drain all the liquid and squeeze the carrots and onions of any remaining liquid. Add these to the bowl.

Thanks, Justina! (And congratulations on the birth of your beautiful daughter.)

P.S. More best recipes, including avocado salad and grilled cheese.

(Photos by Justina Blakeney. Thanks to Shoko for helping with this series)

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  2. Justina is absolutely fantastic in many, many ways, but she’s not a food blogger. :) Just sayin.’

  3. Great great recipe! So excited to try it. Like others have said, I’d sworn off mayo coleslaw long ago but this looks bright, clean and healthy!

    – Miss Lindsey D

  4. If your in San Francisco, there is a bomb sandwich shop called Giordano Bros (2 locations) that puts cole slaw like this (no mayo, delicious) INSIDE their sandwiches. Soooo good.

  5. Looks great, but are the recipe instructions complete? What do you with the tofu bowl after setting it aside? Sesame seeds are pictured and listed in the ingredients, but not mentioned. I guess you could figure it out, but that’s sort if not the point of a recipe! :)

  6. I just Pinned this and am seriously buying the ingredients on my way home from work. I’ve got Thai basil and mint coming out my ears in my balcony garden, and have been looking out for good uses for it. Thanks! Love coleslaw.

  7. I do not eat coleslaw.
    Mayo is nasty.

    BUT, I think I could like this. I skimmed over it all, but it looks similar to something a friend of mine makes. Her’s is vinegar based because she hates mayo, too!


  8. This looks insanely delicious! I love coleslaw, especially a more tangy, vinegar-based coleslaw than your standard sweet and creamy kind. Yum!

  9. what a coincidence! i just made an asian coleslaw and was searching for the “best” recipe online, but couldn’t find out, so made my own up. i’ll definitely have to try this one out. thanks for sharing it!

  10. We fuse foods a lot in my house too! Traditional Pakistani flavors find their way into everything from barbecue chicken to Chinese chili beef. I love it!

  11. Spicy coleslaw sounds great! And looks so delicious too. I’m sure that fusion salad is much better than the plan one.

  12. This is great! I can’t stand the typical deli cole slaw with a gag-inducing amount of mayo. Can’t wait to see how this tastes :)

  13. oh yum! I think you had me at jalepenos in coleslaw. I’m usually picky with coleslaw (bad experiences with the soggy tupperware kind), but this looks perfect.

  14. How awesome, I just made regular coleslaw this week (It’s such a staple in the UK) and have some leftover cabbage,I’m always up to try an asian influenced recipe! Growing up in Hawaii has bent me that way! Can’t wait to try it!

  15. WOW, it looks really scrumptious and fresh:) I could have some right now! xoxo

  16. Looks delish- fresh and crunchy, as opposed to the soggy sap found in supermarkets. May have to revisit this old chestnut.