Easy Tips To Take Your Coleslaw To The Next Level

With a hint of ingenuity, you can effortlessly transform coleslaw (a staple side dish, burger or pulled pork topping, taco filling, and salad enhancer) into a culinary superstar. Mashed spoke with Art Smith — the award-winning executive chef at Reunion on Navy Pier in Chicago — about a few strategic tweaks to elevate your coleslaw game for any gathering. Smith's first and foremost advice concerns the main event of a traditional coleslaw recipe: the uniformly chopped vegetables.

"The secret to a standout coleslaw is in the chopping," he shares. "Make sure your cabbage, carrots, kale, and onions are finely chopped so they're tender and easy to eat." Meticulous chopping is the foundation for a cohesion of flavors within the slaw. If your kitchen knife skills are fair at best, mandolines and handheld food choppers can be a total lifesaver. Others swear that the key to better homemade coleslaw is a vegetable peeler, which offers convenience and minimal cleanup.

Thankfully, there are countless ways to add more flavor to coleslaw. Smith, for one, suggests incorporating fresh herbs like dill or cilantro into your batch of coleslaw to introduce an extra burst of fragrant notes. Toasted nuts or seeds also bring an element of surprise to every forkful. A generous handful of almonds, sunflower seeds, or pepitas provides a delightful crunch that complements the supple vegetables.

Embrace inventiveness when making coleslaw

When it comes to whipping up the slaw dressing, chef Art Smith knows it's all about discovering the optimal taste proportions. "No matter what dressing you choose — mayo, sour cream, vegan, or vinaigrette — it's all about balancing the hot, salty, sour, and sweet," he explains.

If you prefer a mayonnaise-based dressing to coat your cabbage and accompanying veggies, consider adding a splash of apple cider vinegar for an acidic boost or a squeeze of honey for a mellow sweetness. If you opt for a vinaigrette, feel free to mix in a squirt of Dijon mustard for a flicker of heat or a pinch of sugar to offset the mouth-puckering tang. Finding this flavor harmony prevents the sauce's ingredients from overpowering one another, thereby resulting in a truly delicious, well-rounded dish.

Most importantly, plenty of experimentation will help you devise the coleslaw recipes you'll rustle up on repeat. Care to amplify the crisp factor? Try folding in some shredded apples or julienned jícama. In the mood for spice? Toss in a sliced jalapeño pepper for a subtle kick. With a bit of creativity, your coleslaw can spark as much conversation as the barbecue's entrees. And if you have any leftover coleslaw to savor, it can be revitalized within moments.