Grandma's cabbage slaw gets a flavor boost from honey

  • Nana's Best Coleslaw is made with a bit of honey to give it's creamy flavors a boost.

    Nana's Best Coleslaw is made with a bit of honey to give it's creamy flavors a boost. Courtesy of Don Mauer

Posted9/23/2020 6:00 AM

Some folks may not like the aroma of cooking cabbage, since when it's overcooked, the kitchen smells like rotten eggs. Hydrogen sulfide's the aroma culprit; a gas released when cabbage is overcooked. Ugh.

That's no reason to avoid cabbage since you don't need to cook it at all; turn it into cabbage slaw. Of all the salad recipes I've collected over 30 years, slaw ranks number one.


What's difficult about making slaw is getting the cabbage shredded or chopped. I have a slaw cutter with five sequential blades that slice thin cabbage strips into five slices with one pass. That works well.

Lately, I've used my mandolin with the thin slice setting to slice cabbage, one pass at a time. My mandolin's blade is much sharper versus my not-as-sharp five-slices-at-a-time tool, but it goes fast. I've also used a sharp knife to shred cabbage; that turns out a more rustic cut.

I also go with a chopped cabbage version using my food processor's steel blade. I chop both the cabbage and onions at the same time and then dress the mixture.

There are two issues with the food processor slaw. First, cleaning the multi-part food processor. Second, chopping the cabbage and onion means lots of slicing, making my dressed cabbage lose water when dressed thanks to the dressing's salt content.

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One water issue workaround; place the chopped cabbage, onion mixture into a bowl, sprinkle with two tablespoons of kosher salt, toss and let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour. Then, handful-by-handful, wring out the water/juice and finally dress the slaw. The result is slaw that doesn't get watery but looks wilted.

There's even a method for using a microwave oven to warm up sliced cabbage to get it to wilt and throw-off water before squeezing it out. All those cabbage preparation methods indicate the popularity of cabbage slaws.

The spark for my liking cabbage slaw may have begun with my maternal grandmother, Edna Haynes (aka: Nana). I recently looked at her recipe and found that she used horseradish in her slaw dressing. Different, but not unique.

Nana also blended sour cream and mayonnaise for her slaw. Again, not sufficiently different to be distinctive. For me, what made Nana's slaw dressing outstanding was the addition of a single tablespoon of honey.


Today, I stay as far away from sugars (honey is considered a sugar) as reasonably possible. I looked-up honey and found that one tablespoon has 64 calories, all coming from carbs (17.3 grams).

Nana's recipe serves eight, which means that only eight honey calories (just 2.2 carb grams) would end up on my plate. Not too bad. Simply put, Nana's slaw gets a definite flavor push from the honey, with nearly zero down-side.

Hungry for slaw, I made Nana's recipe as written. One taste and memories of Nana-made slaw came rushing back. She's not your grandma, but if you make her recipe, you won't be disappointed.

• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write to him at don@

Nana's Best Coleslaw

2/3 cup mayonnaise (I use no-added-sugar avocado oil mayonnaise)

½ cup sour cream

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons grated onion

1 tablespoon mild-flavored honey (such as clover)

1 teaspoon celery seeds

1 teaspoon extra-hot horseradish

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

¼ teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

1 medium head (about 2 pounds) green cabbage, shredded

Add mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, onion, honey, celery seeds, salt, and pepper to a large bowl and whisk until combined. Add the cabbage and toss together until completely coated with the dressing. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, taste and adjust seasonings, toss again and serve.

Serves 8.

Nutrition values per serving: 197 calories (79.2 percent from fat), 17.4 g fat (3.7 g saturated fat), 9.5 g carbohydrates (6.6 net carbs), 6.5 g sugars, 2.2 mg added sugars, 2.9 mg fiber, 1.8 g protein, 8 mg cholesterol, 390 mg sodium.

SaltSense: Omitting the added salt reduces sodium per serving to 100 milligrams.

Don Mauer

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