Coleslaw or kraut is universal throughout northern Europe, North America, and Russia. Coleslaw (from the Dutch term koolsla meaning ‘cabbage salad’), also known as coleslaw or simply slaw, is a salad consisting primarily of finely shredded raw cabbage tossed in a vinaigrette. Not only is this an essential side dish for a traditional southern barbecue, but it is also great in appetizers, sandwiches, hamburgers, and hotdogs/sausages. Jalapeño coleslaw is a Texas thing.
The German-style technique cures the cabbage with salt and sugar to release excess moisture, so the coleslaw does not become waterlogged. (CAUTION: this is a professional technique. The salt and sugar need to be thoroughly washed out before proceeding to the next step. IF this is your first time to try this, add the sugar/salted cabbage to a large bowl of cool, clean water and rinse thoroughly, squeezing and agitating as you go.) This technique is used if you need to make massive amounts of coleslaw at one time.
The Southwestern-style technique adds jalapeño, lime-cilantro, cumin, and buttermilk/sour cream dressing. This slaw is savory and is commonly served throughout central Texas.
If you’ve never had a BBQ smoked pulled pork or chopped brisket sandwich with a healthy crunch of savory Jalapeño Coleslaw on top, you haven’t lived. However, when done correctly, it’s a thing of beauty. One of those moments that you close your eyes and allow your eyeballs to roll back in your head.
Beverage Pairings: Pilsner or Amber Lager Beer.
- a food processor fitted with medium to large grating attachment or hand grater
- cutting board
- chef knife
- measuring spoons and cups
- wire whisk
- 2 large mixing bowls
- rubber spatula
- storage container with a tight-fitting lid
- Microplane zester or standard zester
- ½ head cabbage, green, shredded
- ⅓ cup salt, kosher or sea salt (Be sure to rinse the cabbage well)
- ⅔ cup sugar
- 1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
- 2 large jalapeño, cored and seeds removed, finely diced (If you want a spicy slaw, leave ½ or all of the jalapeño seeds in)
- 3 whole scallions, thinly sliced
Buttermilk Cilantro Lime Dressing
- ⅓ cup buttermilk
- ⅓ cup mayonnaise, homemade or store-bought
- ⅓ cup sour cream, homemade or store-bought (substitutes are Mexican Crema or French Crème Fraîche)
- 3 tbsp vinegar, apple, or white vinegar
- 3 tbsp sugar, granulated or caster
- 1 whole lime, zested, and juiced
- 1 whole lemon, zested, and juiced
- 3 tbsp cilantro, fresh and cleaned, minced (Leafy green parts work best, but fresh cilantro stems will work also)
- 3 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
- ½ tsp cumin, ground
- ⅛ tsp pepper, black, ground
- salt to taste (Salt is optional since the cabbage has already been salted to extract excess moisture. Even though thoroughly washed, it still retains some saltiness.)
Preparing the Cabbage
- Remove the core at the bottom of the cabbage. Cut the cabbage down into workable sizes.
- Using a food processor set up with a medium or large grating attachment. Shred all the cabbage and place it into a colander fitted over a larger mixing bowl. Alternatively, you may use a hand grater.
- Add the salt and sugar to the mixing bowl. Mix the cabbage by hand.
- Place a colander in a mixing bowl and pour the cabbage mixture into the colander.
NOTE: (IF YOU ARE NOT A PROFESSIONAL, YOU CAN SKIP THE SUGAR/SALTING PROCEDURE. The Jalapeño Coleslaw will still be extremely delicious.)
- The cabbage must be thoroughly mixed with salt and sugar for at least 30 minutes in a colander over a larger mixing bowl. After 30 minutes, squeeze the excess moisture from the cabbage by hand. Next, rinse the cabbage under icy water and again squeeze out all the excess moisture. (For those trying this for the first time, repeat this process to remove the excess salt thoroughly.) Reserve.
- Shred the carrots using the same food processor or grater as before. Reserve.
- Cut the stems from the jalapeños. Split the jalapeño into two halves. Use the tip of the knife to cut out the seeds and pith. Slice the jalapeño into thin strips and then bunch the slices together and cut across to dice. Reserve.
- Thinly slice the scallions, discarding the root end. Reserve.
- Add the prepared cabbage, carrots, jalapeños, and scallions to a large mixing bowl. Toss to combine. Reserve.
Making the Dressing
- Zest and juice the lemons and limes. Reserve.
- Mince the well-rinsed and dried cilantro. Reserve.
- Smash the garlic cloves with the flat side of a knife. Mince the garlic thoroughly. Reserve.
- Measure out the apple cider vinegar, sugar, cumin, and black pepper. Reserve
- In a large mixing bowl, measure out the buttermilk, sour cream, and mayonnaise. Then, use a wire whisk and combine the ingredients thoroughly.
- Once the dressing base is made, add the zest, cilantro, garlic, apple cider vinegar, sugar, cumin, and black pepper, whisking together occasionally. Check for salt. You may find you don't need any.
Combine the Cabbage Mixture with the Dressing
- Add the prepared Buttermilk Cilantro Lime Dressing to the prepared cabbage mixture. Use a rubber spatula or your hands, fitted with kitchen gloves, and mix the coleslaw thoroughly.
- Place the Jalapeño Coleslaw into a container with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Serve as needed. Jalapeño Coleslaw will keep 3-4 days refrigerated.
I was so looking forward to this slaw to serve beside a low country boil for my husband’s birthday gathering. I had never heard of putting salt and sugar on the cabbage, letting it drain, rinsing before making the slaw. So I tried it. The sauce tasted fabulous! I couldn’t wait to put it all together. I rinsed the cabbage for 5 minutes, tossing it the whole time. Drained it real well, squeezing it out. Put it all together and it was so salty I couldn’t eat it. Hubby even turned up his nose. Tried to tweek it, adding sugar and mayo. Nothing helped. Too late now to make another batch. Very disappointing. Loved the sauce, though. Will try again one day without pre-prepping the cabbage
Thank you for reaching out on this recipe. I’m so glad you did since this is a teachable moment and will help others with this recipe. First, you can skip the cabbage prepping/curing process if you wish. It is delicious without this step. If you do choose this option, it is best served the same day. Since almost all coleslaw dressing recipes contain salt and sugar, the cabbage will release its internal moisture just as it does in the cabbage prepping/curing process’s images. This will water down the flavor of the coleslaw and dilute the flavor. If prepared two days in advance, it could really change the flavor of the end product. This can be a real problem when mass-produced in a restaurant or at home. What you experienced the first time making this recipe is very common. In the restaurant business, I would have been there behind you during the rinsing process to advise you the first time you made it. When washing the salt and sugar out of the cabbage, you need to be aggressive. The salt and sugar will wash off! Get your hands in with the cabbage and really work it by squeezing, swirling, and washing in clean water. I see that you tried this without success, but it does work. I’ve made this recipe literally hundreds of times. If you doubt that you’ve got all of the salt/sugar out, taste a little of the cabbage to ensure it is clean before proceeding to the next step. (Good advice for any recipe.)
I originally wrote this recipe for a colleague that wanted to learn how to make this dish for their restaurant. They are currently using this recipe to rave reviews. I believe they are using it together with slow-smoked, pulled pork sandwiches. Delicious! The prepping/curing of the cabbage method is a tried and true technique of European origin. Hundreds of years of kraut makers can’t be wrong.
Thank you again for reaching out. I hope this explanation helps, and you will give it another try down the line. Your feedback was wonderful, and if you have any further questions or observations, please send them my way.