Fast Food Coleslaw Ranked Worst To Best

Barbecue staples like fried chicken need something to counteract the salt, something that cools down your mouth between those heavy bites. Your first thought might be a tall glass of water, but we're talking about a colorful blend of shredded cabbage, minced carrots, and a tongue-tingling dressing usually mixed with mayonnaise or vinegar – we're talking about coleslaw. No symbol of Americana dining like the cookout — or currently, the drive-thru — would be complete without its tart showing. 

When venturing to our favorite fast food chains, you'll find a helping offered alongside poultry, seafood, or even burgers. Some establishments, in fact, have taken it upon themselves to develop unique recipes, chopping the vegetables differently or shaking up the ingredients. Having said that, coleslaw can be tricky to get right when the modern-day restaurant is concentrated on convenience, not necessarily quality. Where do we go for a solid batch, then? Our list, ranked from worst to best, will show you the way. Let's start at the bottom and work our way up towards the cream of the crop. 

Raising Cane's

Every ranker has to have a last place, and when it comes to fast food coleslaw there's no question: Raising Cane's races to the bottom. Indeed, we know fanatics can't get enough of its crunchy chicken tenders and dipping sauces, but that irresistible quality is missing significantly from the slaw. There's no getting around the funky flavor and generally unappetizing whitish mash. Not only is the minced cabbage an afterthought in taste, but Raising Canes' most dedicated fans intentionally avoid it. Describing the coleslaw as "underwhelming," one person commented that the side dish fails in living up to the creamy, mouthwatering potential. "A good coleslaw can be magic and this is not it." 

As Reddit users have vocalized, most people ordering the chain's "Caniac" dinners seem to trade in the shredded cabbage for another slice of Texas Toast or more fries. We know coleslaw's always been doomed to the borders of a fast food feast, but that's a pretty telling sign Raising Cane's should finish last. Find yourself another chain if creamy cabbage is on the brain — in our humble opinion, a franchise rolling in (mostly) starch can't be trusted to offer a halfway-edible version.

El Pollo Loco

El Pollo Loco, a spice-fueled Mexican chain with close to 500 eateries throughout the nation, offers coleslaw as an accompaniment to its charbroiled chicken as well as beans, rice, and mashed potatoes. To be generous for a minute, El Pollo Loco's style is not of the dressing-drenched bowls found at your neighborhood potluck. The slaw is mixed in a "creamy sweet and sour dressing" that's thinner and more vinegar-based. The cabbage also claims a coarser chop. 

Chicken restaurants — heck, most restaurants — don't invest much effort in crafting a delicious coleslaw, and El Pollo Loco is nothing new. In spite of the low price (and calorie count) of this side dish, the overall execution is disappointing, to say the least. The watery consistency is a let-down, as is the weakly-seasoned flavor. Seeing flecks of purple cabbage and sliced carrots might imbue a colorful hue to your platter, but that won't mean much when there's hardly any tang or pepper coming through. 

Where's that tart, lip-puckering zing that coats the roof of our mouths? Nowhere, that's what. Definitely avoid this one if you're picky with texture, or want to taste something, anything.


As a whole, Zaxby's plays it disappointingly safe with the coleslaw. A single cup starts at 140 calories and features finely-diced cabbage and carrot pieces bathed in mayonnaise. The cool crispness (if there is any) will moderate the breading overload of its chicken dinners, but as we've established, that shouldn't be mistaken for enhancing your meal. 

One of our biggest gripes is that the veggies are stale. Did you ever go to a supermarket and see bagged shredded cabbage that's a little off-color, even stinky? Then sadly, you have some idea of what to expect from the Southern poultry purveyor. A Tripadvisor review lamented the chicken chain's "bad coleslaw," which was further echoed by a Yelp user refusing to polish off the rest of the portion. You know it's a bad sign when customers refuse to eat part of their order, and not just because they're too full to finish it! 

Insider did enjoy the tanginess of the dressing, so we'll concede that some batches might be better than others. However, a damp clump of cruciferous vegetables isn't going to get our tastebuds revving into gear, no matter how healthy. For shredded slaws that won't make you sad, there are piles more pining for your attention. 

Red Lobster

Pass the coleslaw? At Red Lobster, you'll be passing on it instead. Teasing Cheddar Bay Biscuits — and of course, lobster — is an effective strategy to visit the seafood franchise, but we guarantee you it won't be because of this dish. Being roughly shredded, it's not the prettiest tumble of greens we've come across, and the dressing coats the cabbage in a slimy slick. 

That's before touching on the taste of the sauce, your textbook mayonnaise emulsion. The flavor actually brings to mind poppyseed dressing. Granted, coleslaw's sort of suspended between a salad and a garnish, so it's not the weirdest comparison. The issue that arises is that it's not pleasant to eat. To be overly creamy and tangy is a surefire way to turn off our appetites. 

Much like the rest of our roundup, it's a carb-free option you can depend on when dining out of the house — a true rarity. On the flip side, getting some greenery on your plate is kind of a low bar, don't you think? When nutrition's on your mind, broccoli and Brussels sprouts will more than suffice. 

Pollo Campero

In terms of nutritional value, Pollo Campero's coleslaw ranks at the top with 259 calories (that's for a single serving, mind you). However, we have to ask: is it worth the cost? On the one hand, you're getting what's advertised, which is a scoop of minced, sweet-and-sour green cabbage. On the other hand, that's exactly what's wrong with the dish. Taste-wise, it's ordinary. 

We can appreciate coleslaw's role in bouncing off heavy, deep-fried flavors — after all, it can't overpower the main attraction of (in these circumstances) fiery Latin American cuisine. For a place where you can chow down on Yucca fries and plantains, though, the blandness is staggering to behold. The "savory punch" that's promised? Reviewers came up blank on that defining piquancy. As a matter of fact, a Yelp reviewer complained that Pollo Campero's side dish "tasted like the container it came in." 

Sure, there's ample mayonnaise and a smooth crunch, with that defining sourness biting through. But really, that's the bare minimum we'd expect from any drive-thru business. There isn't much happening to get our collective mouths watering. While tossing in chopped pepper gives it culinary cohesion, we would have preferred the traditional sliced carrot since it looks overly homogenous otherwise. 

Slim Chickens

Slim Chickens parades fried chicken in many forms — tenders, wings, and sandwiches – across 33 states. Our perception of the coleslaw? It starts off promising and ends in fast food folly. Although the slaw is likely lighter on the dressing compared some of the other sides — the potato salad, for instance — the condiment inevitably seeps down and turns the chopped mixture lumpy and wet. The Arkansas-based franchise ain't so slim in the mayonnaise department.

Something Penn State's Daily Collegian enjoyed, despite the milky dampness, was the tartness and peppery sensation. But frankly, a basic sense of seasoning isn't enough to save it from plunging into the lukewarm depths of the ranking pool. Regarding one complaint from an underwhelmed Tripadvisor reviewer, it's essentially indistinguishable from a store-bought tub you'd pick up at the supermarket. The so-so quality is apparent from the get-go. 

Remember how dull and watery the last few side offerings have been? Slim Chickens, while not as terrible, definitely doesn't deserve brownie points considering mushy coleslaw is a major no-no for crisp, creamy deliciousness. The generic feel also makes a better case for sticking to the chain's other accompaniments (fried okra, anyone?) and leaving the shredded slaw to the pros. 

Long John Silver's

No fish feast is complete without salty fries and a bed of coleslaw. The seafood wares you can net at Long John Silver's demand something chilled to offset the grease, and for the most part, the coleslaw meets the goal. The cabbage-to-carrot ratio is decent, the taste is sweet, and the presence of seasonings such as mustard ricochets an acidic heat off the palate. It's also a catch price-wise: a single serving totals $1.89, but the menu's combo-driven format means you're probably spending less than that when it's included in a meal.

Of course, it's easy to heave a scoop into your mouth when it's surrounded by breaded filets and hush puppies, but how does it fare in isolation? On the whole, our verdict lies somewhere around the middle. To a fan on Tripadvisor with discriminating slaw tastes, the creamy side satisfied the itch. Another user found it merely adequate amid a wishy-washy meal, even comparing the overall profile to a fast food chain we'll encounter much later on our list: KFC. Tempting as it is to accuse Long John Silver's of blatant copying, it's hard for fast food coleslaw to stand out. This one is no exception. 


It's just a matter of principle that in the Southern United States, fixing for fried chicken will inevitably lead you to Bojangles. Biscuits and "Bo-Rounds" dominate most discussions of this staple chain (besides the bird), but for the skeptics in our midst, the coleslaw might inspire a change of heart. You've got finely-diced cabbage pieces, with chopped carrot that stays crispy thanks to a level amount of dressing. Dressing, by the way, that's a proprietary recipe from the restaurant's vault. Plus, it's hard to beat an individual-sized scoop for only $1.49. 

The minced texture provides a solid crunch, and it's not soggy or waterlogged. For some customers, Bojangles' coleslaw could give KFC a run for its money — and that's after describing the Kentucky chain as the reigning "king" of chopped cabbage. The sweetness is also decent, and doesn't cloy for attention. In spite of that, we have a bone to pick with the creaminess. It just doesn't come off every spoonful. Clearly, people don't want to dip their silverware into cabbage soup, but we think Bojangles could whip in some extra moisture to help it stay fresh and rich. 


Midwesterners have an insatiable appetite for Swensons' comforting drive-in fare, and while the joint might be prized for its grilled-to-order hamburgers (or "Hamburgs"), the coleslaw warrants not only a try, but a carton to-go. Shredded to perfection in a creamy dressing, the cabbagy-carrot mixture embellishes the chain's seafood entrees, the Shrimp Dinner and Fish Dinner respectively. 

At first glance, you'll see that this is a standard diner-style coleslaw: the veggies are diced small, and the sauce lightly drizzles every piece with a milky sheen. The cup sizes, according to one Yelp review, aren't as generous as other fast food eateries who pile it high, while the seasonings can be divisive to some palates. However, we're willing to forgive the skimpier portions since by all accounts, it's a super fresh choice. 

Another bonus we'd like to give this slaw is the superb value. Customers could tack on the dish to their Galley Boy if they desire, but with select dinners already including it (plus an apple and fries), it's undeniable you're getting bang for your buck. Coleslaw lovers, things are looking up! 


In this day and age, it's hard finding homestyle fried chicken with as much flavor as Popeyes'. In our opinion, that also goes for the swath of Cajun side items crashing the party. It's apparent people find the coleslaw to be fairly exceptional by fast food standards, and we have a couple of ideas for why that is. The softness and sweetness are properly balanced. The carrots and cabbage are grated well, neither outshining or overwhelming the other. And finally, the acidity and savoriness fire on all cylinders due to what some foodies believe are pickles. 

At 140 calories, 190 milligrams of sodium, 1 gram of fiber, and 9 grams of sugar, the nutritional value is comparable to other drive-thrus of this ilk. In terms of pure taste, Popeyes nevertheless spices up a stale playing field. The relish-y undertones make for a nice Southern touch that blooms on the tongue, and we like the denser chop of the vegetables. Sometimes minced cabbage tends to turn soggy and mealy, but the heftier pieces allow for the zesty dressing to hold its own. Regardless of some feelings towards the pickled flavor, Popeyes will make your tastebuds sing.


You might be surprised KFC doesn't sweep the coleslaw cook-off, given its authority as a global chicken connoisseur. But you know what? The Colonel still comes dang close. The slaw is luxuriously thick and creamy, thanks to the "signature dressing," as well as one of the few versions to toss in minced onions. Fun fact: The Spokesman-Review reports that the coarser style of chopped cabbage was hatched by Harland Sanders himself to retain the dish's crunch. 

Judging by our research, KFC appears to be the gold standard when it comes to slaw from the drive-thru. It's sweet, rich, and just crispy enough to relieve your mouth from the onslaught of fried fare on your plate. Heck, you must be doing something right if people constantly crank out knock-off recipes to channel its greatness. One Reddit commenter went as far as to declare that "KFC actually has the best coleslaw of any fast food restaurant." 

Frankly, this isn't a refreshingly spry serving of coleslaw you're getting — it's hefty, and as the nutritional guide shows, a great deal sugary. Balancing out the sweetness with a touch more acidity could improve its chances, but then again, you'd be missing out on the Southern-style dining experience. 

Church's Chicken

Church's Chicken whips up a mean coleslaw like your Texan grandmother, except it's scooped and slung not at a family reunion, but out of hundreds of drive-thrus. That leads us to the quick of it: For a mass-produced side, it's surprisingly tasty. Unlike Popeyes or KFC, Church's keeps the dressing at a minimum, and the flecks of cabbage and carrot slivers are chunky. Rather than the minced, grainy style that you spoon up, we like that it's streamlined to showcase the chilled veggies — in addition to staying nice and zesty, that also makes it convenient for forking generous bites into your mouth. 

Regardless, the "cleaner" feel, as one Reddit user pointed out, is what defines the deliciousness of Church's coleslaw. The sweetness doesn't devolve into dessert territory, nor does the cabbage taste bone-dry. Rather, the coleslaw is stripped down to its most essential form. Both tartness and crispiness collide on the tongue splendidly. There's an argument to be had on textural preferences, considering personal taste will always factor into food. Nevertheless, its resemblance to the nostalgic dish of cookouts past makes it blue-ribbon-worthy.  

Captain D's

Seafood samplers are the bread and butter of Captain D's. The traditional fish fry is bolstered by a creamy slaw, and this rendition is top-tier with its chunky disposition and tart, peppery finish. You'd think the saucy dressing would overwhelm the crispness of the cabbage and carrots, but fear not: the veggies remain crunchy from the first spoonful to the last. Additionally, Captain D's hawks well-portioned servings, ensuring you won't run out of it midway through your Catfish dinner.

It's common knowledge that when a mayonnaise-centric sauce and cabbage intertwine, liquid blooms. You might encounter a milky pool collected at the bottom of the carton, and while that's not always bad, nobody wants their coleslaw too watery. Miraculously, Captain D's succeeds in locking in the moisture, all the while retaining the punch of flavorful seasonings (and sweetness!) at the same time. 

Admittedly, fast-food fish is on the hook in terms of questionable freshness, so it's understandable if you're skeptical of Captain D's. But this slaw is super. Whether you slide in for a basket of fried shrimp or the Blackened Tilapia, Captain D's lies at the helm of excellence. 


Thumbs up to Culver's for showing us how fast-food coleslaw is done. Crunchiness, creaminess, and biting zing are the core traits this side staple needs, and the burger joint brings all three to the table. We were thrilled by the plethora of flavors coming through, along with the refreshing feel provided from the dressing. The veggies are fresh, and the addition of vinegar conjures that perfect combination of acidity and sweetness. 

Considering how Culver's goes through the pains of whipping up everything on the spot, it's predictable that the quality will be better, too. Take it from one customer who tried the side dish and a Rueben sandwich: the exceptional taste, allegedly, recalled something out of an authentic sandwich shop. Meanwhile, the creamy mix manages to snag the spotlight in the seafood baskets, including another reviewer who found it "quite good" paired with the breaded shrimp. 

Butterburgers and homemade custard may have initially encompassed the Wisconsin eatery's repertoire in the mid-1980s, but the menu's a comfort food powerhouse today. If it can make an excellent coleslaw, it can make anything. Try it with crispy chicken strips or one of the savory melts for the most blissful bites.