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The best coleslaw is a matter of opinion (creamy or vinegary, red or green, loaded with extras or not), but a solid technique should underpin any version of this classic dish. And while it is simple to make in pretty much every form, it’s not necessarily as straightforward as you might think. Try these two tricks for even better slaw than you’re used to.

The basic method of making coleslaw is endlessly adaptable; change up the spices, the dressing ingredients, and so on from the easy recipe below—but be sure to try these two secret steps that make all the difference.

Pressing the Cabbage

cabbage slaw (who invented coleslaw?)

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Chances are your current slaw routine is to shred your cabbage and immediately mix it with your dressing and other ingredients…which is totally fine! But if you have time to salt and press the shredded veg first, it helps tenderize the cabbage (don’t worry, you’ll still get plenty of crunch). It also makes it taste even better—salt tends to do that for pretty much everything, after all. Use this trick for red or green cabbage, whether you slice it with a knife, use a mandoline, or shred it on a grater.

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Soaking the Onion

We love adding a little allium flavor to almost any slaw, but straight-up raw onions can be a bit overwhelming. Soaking sliced, diced, or chopped onion in vinegar is an old trick to tame the pungent bite, but it also introduces a sour note—which is perfect for perking up slaw. (For dishes where it’s not so much a benefit, try soaking onions in baking soda and water instead.)

And if you don’t like onion in your slaw (or at all), that’s fine—at least you still have one new trick to try!

Related Reading: 8 Ways to Make Healthier Slaw That Still Tastes Amazing

What You Need to Make the Best Coleslaw:

  • a large colander
  • a large, heavy can or two small cans to weigh down the cabbage
  • a box grater
  • tongs
  • 1 small head of green or red cabbage (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/4 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon caraway or celery seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning

Steps to Make the Best Coleslaw:

1. Cut the head of cabbage in half, slicing through the core. Cut a V-shaped notch around the core on both halves and discard the core.

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2. Slice each half lengthwise into quarters. Slice each quarter crosswise into 1/8-inch-wide strips.

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3. Place the cabbage in a large colander set over a large plate or bowl, sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, and toss to coat. Place a small plate on top of the cabbage, then a heavy can or two on top of the plate to weigh it down. Let the cabbage sit until it releases about a 1/4 cup of moisture, at least 1 hour.

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4. Meanwhile, place the chopped onion and the vinegar in a small bowl and stir to combine. Let the mixture sit until the cabbage is ready.

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5. Grate the carrots on the large holes of a box grater and set them aside.

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6. Place the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine.

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7. When the cabbage is ready, squeeze large handfuls of it to release any excess liquid; discard the liquid. Place the cabbage in the large bowl with the dressing. Add the grated carrots and the onion-vinegar mixture to the cabbage and dressing.

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8. Toss the coleslaw with tongs to evenly combine the ingredients, then season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

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Serve this on fish tacos, salmon burgers, beside hot dogs and hamburgers, on sandwiches with leftover brisket, or any other way you want to.

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And use these tips and tricks to level up any other slaw recipe you like.

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