Not your mama’s coleslaw

Who would think to mess with something as simple as coleslaw? I came across a jar of chia seeds on the pantry shelf that sparked an idea. My mother-in-law used to feed a crowd of us at the lake cabin on a lot of summer weekends. Often the menu included coleslaw tossed with a slightly sweet, clear dressing and poppyseeds. It was really good but I didn’t want noticeable sweetness in this mix. My mom’s was standard coleslaw with mayonnaise and a little vinegar, and I didn’t want this too tart. This is a mashup of the two types.

Green cabbage was run through the grater on a food processor. I dug out the spiralizer to make curls from some big carrots, and then thinly sliced and chopped red cabbage to get a variety of textures. You could add thin slices of onion, or even pickled onion, but as much as I like raw onions they are off my list. Sometime maybe I’ll tell the story of the springtime radish and onion sandwich that led to a hospital stay and gallbladder surgery when I was 21. Or maybe that’s as much as you need to know about it.

I perked this up with lime juice but vinegar is the usual tartness in coleslaw. If you choose to use vinegar instead there are so many flavor choices – try apple cider, champagne, or sherry varieties. Chia seeds and paprika are unexpected twists on texture and heat. Sunflower seeds add a nice crunch but don’t add them to the coleslaw, where they’ll absorb dressing and get soft. Pass a little dish of them with the coleslaw so they can be added to each serving.

This is a summertime food side dish, great with grilled or smoked meat, or as a topping on fish tacos. Be careful if serving this at a picnic. Anything with mayonnaise and sour cream should not be left out for more than an hour or two, especially in hot weather.

– Joan, 15 May 2020


Not your mama's coleslaw

  • Servings: about 5 cups
  • Print

  • 2 cups green cabbage, grated
  • 2 cups red cabbage, thinly sliced and chopped
  • 2 large carrots, spiralized or grated
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced onion or pickled onion, optional
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • roasted and salted sunflower seeds for serving


  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise such as Hellman’s Mayo with Olive Oil
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 2-3 teaspoons lime juice or flavored vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Stir together the dressing and set aside. Mix all the other ingredients in a large bowl, then stir in the dressing until well coated. Refrigerate an hour or until serving. Pass sunflower seeds for topping at serving time. Keeps for 2-3 days, tightly covered and refrigerated.


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