How To Prevent Watery Coleslaw

Maybe you like vinegar-based coleslaw, maybe you like mayonnaise-based, but no matter what your preference of dressings, nobody likes soggy, watery coleslaw — and nothing ruins a batch of the classic side dish faster than that dreaded puddle of diluted dressing at the bottom of your bowl. But how do you prevent watery coleslaw?

Surprisingly, it doesn't have anything to do with the amount of dressing, or even when you add the dressing — the key to coleslaw that isn't soggy and watery lies in the preparation of the cabbage. All you've got to do is salt and drain your shredded cabbage before continuing with your recipe. It's an extra step to take, sure, but it's worth the time and effort.

Food writer Mark Bittman recommends, via The New York Times, using about 1 tablespoon of salt per 1-1/2 pounds of shredded cabbage. Place the cabbage in a colander, toss it with the salt, and let it sit for at least an hour (but two is better if you have the time), tossing it occasionally. The cabbage will appear wilted, but once you squeeze out the liquid, The Kitchn confirms that even dressed coleslaw will stay crisp for hours.

Carnegie Mellon University recipe testers noted that this salt-and-drain method prevents watery coleslaw better than the other often-recommended technique of soaking the shredded cabbage in ice water. Though the ice bath method does create plump, crisp shreds, it also means that all the absorbed water eventually gets released back into your bowl. They did note, however, that you might find the salted cabbage a bit too salty, in which case, a quick rinse to wash away the excess won't do any harm, but you should pat it dry before proceeding.

Armed with your newfound knowledge of how to prevent watery coleslaw, you can prepare your side dish hours in advance, saving yourself the stress of any last minute food prep. It's a win-win.