The Best Copycat KFC Coleslaw Contains Mayonnaise, Not Miracle Whip

Creating copycat recipes can be tricky since most restaurants aren't in the business of sharing every last detail. Sure, you might strike it lucky, as was the case when McDonald's released a recipe for make-at-home Egg McMuffins during the pandemic, but in such a case, there's no need for the intervention of a food writer since anyone who logs onto the company website can "create" the copycat recipe themselves. Other companies, however, are far more cagey about what they put in their secret recipes, so when developer Lindsay Mattison set out to recreate KFC's coleslaw, she says she "scoured the internet, looking at copycat recipe after copycat recipe to find the perfect combination of ingredients."

Unfortunately for Mattison, the information she found was contradictory. As she explains, "Some people swear that KFC coleslaw is made with Miracle Whip, and making this dish with mayonnaise simply won't create copycat-worthy results." Others, however, are Team Mayonnaise all the way, and Mattison is very much in the latter camp. As evidence to support her point of view, she cites two facts: 1) Miracle Whip contains garlic, and 2) the nutrition data for KFC coleslaw lists "natural flavors" but doesn't specify garlic. Because the FDA stipulates that garlic, along with onions and celery, fits into the category of items "traditionally regarded as foods," this ingredient must be listed separately. As Mattison deduces, the lack of garlic on KFC's ingredients list means "it's not possible that they use Miracle Whip." Ergo, mayo.

So what else goes into this copycat coleslaw and how close is it to the real deal?

While Mattison admits that other online KFC coleslaw copycats differ from hers and also that the chain itself doesn't share too much info apart from potential allergens (which is how she deduced the lack of dairy), she was finally able to piece together a list of ingredients that she feels are likely to best approximate the original. These include chopped cabbage and carrots, minced onion (she went with yellow), sugar, mayonnaise, canola oil, cider vinegar, celery salt, and paprika. Oh, and a little xanthan gum to give it that thick and glossy commercial texture. While she assures us that such a small amount of xanthan gum is unlikely to make you gassy or otherwise impact your health, still, she does say that you can "go ahead and skip it" if you don't want to buy a bag of the stuff to use the ΒΌ teaspoon required for the recipe.

So how closely does this coleslaw approximate the chicken chain's version? According to Mattison, "After we first mixed the coleslaw, it wasn't even close to the flavor of the KFC original." Still, as she points out, the recipe wasn't quite done at that stage, since she claims that the rest period called for is "the true secret to KFC coleslaw" and says that after 24 hours in the refrigerator, her copycat coleslaw "was pretty much spot-on."