(Note: this post was originally published in August of 2021. It has since been updated with additional photos).
Slaw, But Healthy and Vegan
Do you like slaw? A few years ago, I would have said no. Classic slaw, i.e. the kind that's made with mayo, is a total turn-off for me. But then I fell in love with cabbage and started making fresh, bright, acidic slaws and they turned my whole perspective around. This rainbow slaw has become such a go-to in my kitchen and I can't wait to share it with you.
While the classic American perception of slaw has connotations of heavy, mayo-filled, wilty and sulfury cabbage, I don't think it needs to be like that. Instead, let's re-imagine slaw as a bright, colorful, fresh, citrusy dish that's loaded with nutrients and can complement any meal. This vegan slaw recipe is versatile and you can easily change up the flavors to complement the rest of your menu (you'll find a bunch of flavor variations in the post below). Plus this no mayo slaw is of course much healthier than the classic, so there's no reason not to make it again and again.
Colorful Ingredients, Lots of Citrus
This rainbow slaw relies upon three different veggies to create wonderful variability in texture and flavor. There's crunchy red cabbage, sweet orange carrot, and chewy green kale. The combination of textures and flavors is so interesting, and of course beautiful as well. Although the addition of kale brings this closer to salad territory, I think it's the perfect complement to the other veggies (I guess we could debate about whether this is actually a slaw or a salad, but really who cares).
The "dressing" in this no mayo slaw is also very non-traditional in that it's mostly citrus juice. Goodbye, heavy boring slaw! Citrus adds so much pop and freshness. You'll marinate the cabbage and carrot ribbons in citrus for a couple hours so that they become tender, infused with flavor, and very lightly pickled. Add the kale toward the end, garnish it, and you're ready to serve. The citrus tames all of the veggies making them a tender and colorful joy to eat raw.
Timing and Make-Ahead Tips
Although this vegan slaw takes a little while to make, it's almost all hands-off. You'll just need to think a couple hours ahead for it to be at its best, since the slaw needs to marinate in the fridge.
Because it needs to marinate for a bit, this rainbow slaw is a great make-ahead dish. You can make the marinade and cut up all the veggies as much as a couple days before, and the cabbage and carrot ribbons can sit in the marinade overnight; they'll get increasingly tender and flavorful as they sit. Add the kale up to a few hours before serving. When you're ready to serve, just transfer it all to a platter and garnish. Make sure to leave the nuts off until the end so they keep their crunch. Because this no mayo slaw doesn't have ingredients that spoil easily, it's especially friendly for travel, parties, or picnics.
The best thing about this rainbow slaw? It's infinitely customizable! You'll just need to choose your favorite citrus, a dash of oil, a bit of sweetner, and generous salt, and then of course all those fun garnishes! I've made this about a million different ways, but here are a couple of my favorites.
Mexican-inspired: lime juice, avocado oil, and agave; garnish with pepitas
Thai-inspired: lime juice, olive oil with a tiny dash of toasted sesame oil, and honey; garnish with cashews and sesame seeds
Hawaiian-inspired: grapefruit juice, sunflower oil, and honey; garnish with macadamia nuts
Mediterranean-inspired: orange juice, olive oil, and honey; garnish with almonds
Holiday-inspired: orange juice, olive oil, and maple syrup; garnish with pecans
Really any flavor combination in this vegan slaw will work great. The version shown throughout this post is sort of a Mexican-Thai fusion. The slaw is marinated in lime juice, avocado oil, and agave, then I garnished with almonds, sesame seeds, and kumquat slices. Let me know what variations you try in the comments below.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Here's what you'll need for this no mayo slaw, as well as some thoughts, tips, and possible substitutions. If you make any substitutions, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below.
Citrus juice. Lime juice, lemon juice, orange juice, and grapefruit juice are all wonderful; use one or a combination. See the ideas above for flavor variations.
Oil. Again, see the ideas above. You'll want to use something that remains liquid in the fridge, so coconut oil isn't a great option. Olive oil, flavored olive oil, avocado oil, sunflower oil, etc, are all fine. Just a dash of oil adds some nice richness to this vegan slaw.
Liquid sweetener. Maple syrup, honey, or agave will be your best bets; choose one to match your other flavors (but remember that strict vegans may not eat honey).
Lacinato or green kale
Nuts and seeds. Choose one or a few to match your flavor profile.
Citrus slices. For garnish. Just set aside a few slices before you juice the rest of the fruit for your marinade.
You can use this rainbow slaw in so many fun ways. We often enjoy it as a dinner salad, with some beans and/or quinoa mixed in and avocado slices on top. It's a great side dish for any get-together and travels well, plus this no mayo slaw can sit out for a few hours at a party. Or, it can act as a bed for your grilled protein of choice to make a BBQ feel a little bit fresher. Because these are all really hearty veggies, leftovers are great the next day; I've even been known to have leftovers of this slaw for breakfast!
Want to hear a funny story? A couple years ago, I used this slaw as a Valentine for Dave. No joke! I shaped it into a heart and called it a "Kalentine". Check out the photo below for evidence of this absurd creation.
I really hope you enjoy this vegan slaw and find it useful and versatile. It's a dish I make again and again, and it's never the same twice. Let's say goodbye to sad, boring slaw and hello to this cirtus-kissed, super-fresh, colorful version!
It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.
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