Cooking | Magazine

Recipes: Coleslaw gets a makeover

When picnic weather finally returns, try these slaws and slaw-like salads inspired by the flavors of Greece, Thailand, and Morocco.

Greek cabbage salad with carrots and olives (politiki salata).
Greek cabbage salad with carrots and olives (politiki salata). Connie Miller of CB Creatives

These recipes are part of a new partnership between Christopher Kimball and the cooks at Milk Street and the Globe Magazine’s Cooking column.

When it comes to coleslaw, America gets a raw deal. While ours is a mush of shredded cabbage slopped in mayonnaise, other countries enjoy varieties boasting bright, bold flavors and contrasting textures. There are German slaws with apples and onions dressed with oil and vinegar. In China, there is broccoli with ginger and soy. In Thailand, it’s papaya. In Japan, cabbage is salted and pressed before getting a splash of plum vinegar. So we’re mixing things up this Memorial Day, drawing on slaws and slaw-like salads inspired by the flavors and ingredients of Greece, Thailand, and Morocco.


Greek Cabbage Salad With Carrots and Olives (Politiki Salata)

Makes 4 servings

The salad is best eaten the day it is made, but it can be refrigerated for up to four hours in advance; hold off on adding the feta and olives until just before serving.

Don’t massage the lemon and salt into the cabbage and carrots. Gentle tossing wilts the vegetables but allows them to retain much of their crispness.

½ medium head (14 ounces) green cabbage, thinly sliced (about 4 cups)

3 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely shredded (about 1¼ cups)

5 tablespoons lemon juice, divided

Kosher salt

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon white sugar

1 medium garlic clove, finely grated

3 medium celery stalks, thinly sliced on diagonal (about 1 cup)

1 small or ½ large red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into rough matchsticks

4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (1 cup)

½ cup chopped pitted green olives

In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, carrots, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, and ½ teaspoon salt. Toss gently, just until the vegetables begin to wilt, about 1 minute. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes, or until the cabbage softens slightly. Alternatively, cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours.


In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, sugar, garlic, remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and 1¾ teaspoons salt.

Add the celery and bell pepper to the cabbage mixture. Drizzle with the dressing and toss. Using tongs, transfer the salad to a serving bowl, leaving behind any accumulated liquid. Top with feta and olives.

Thai-Style Napa Coleslaw With Mint and Cilantro

Makes 6 servings

Thai-style Napa coleslaw with mint and cilantro.
Thai-style Napa coleslaw with mint and cilantro. Connie Miller of CB Creatives

Coconut milk offers the right balance of richness and fresh flavor for this napa cabbage-based coleslaw. For heat, we tried Asian hot sauces but preferred fresh chili “cooked” in lime juice, which mellowed the bite and helped disperse the heat more evenly. Fish sauce adds seasoning and pungency, but we found potency varies widely by brand (we liked Red Boat, which is milder than other brands), so start slowly and add to taste.

Don’t use light coconut milk or sweetened cream of coconut for this recipe. The former is too thin, and the latter is too sweet (think piña coladas). For a richer version of this slaw, use thick coconut cream (similar to coconut milk, but with less water) in place of coconut milk, and reduce the volume to 4 tablespoons. And don’t forget to vigorously shake the can before opening to ensure that the fat and liquid are fully mixed.

3 tablespoons lime juice (from 1 to 2 limes)

4 teaspoons white sugar

1 tablespoon fish sauce, plus more, to taste

1 medium serrano chili, seeded and minced


5 tablespoons coconut milk

1 pound napa cabbage (1 small head), thinly sliced crosswise (about 8 cups)

6 radishes, trimmed, halved, and thinly sliced

4 ounces sugar snap peas, strings removed, thinly sliced on diagonal

½ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

½ cup coarsely chopped fresh mint

½ cup roasted, salted cashews, coarsely chopped

In a liquid measuring cup, mix together the lime juice, sugar, fish sauce, and chili. Let sit for 10 minutes. Whisk in the coconut milk until combined, then adjust seasoning with additional fish sauce if desired. In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, radishes, peas, cilantro, and mint. Add the dressing and toss until evenly coated. Stir in the cashews and serve.

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Makes 4 servings

Moroccan carrot salad.
Moroccan carrot salad. Connie Miller of CB Creatives

Our take on classic Moroccan carrot salad transforms average grocery-store carrots into a delicious side dish. Shredding both minimizes the fibrousness of the carrots and increases their sweetness. Pomegranate molasses, often used in Middle Eastern cooking, is a dark, thick syrup with a sweet-sour flavor; look for it in the international aisle of the grocery store or in Middle Eastern markets.

Don’t shred the carrots too finely or too coarsely. Fine shreds quickly turn limp and lack texture, but very coarse shreds are tough and unpleasant. The large holes on a box grater work well, as does a food processor fitted with the medium shredding disk.

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil


1/3 cup dried apricots, thinly sliced

1½ teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted

1 pound carrots, peeled and shredded

½ cup shelled, roasted pistachios, toasted and chopped

¾ cup pitted green olives, chopped

½ cup roughly chopped fresh mint, plus more to serve

In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, molasses, turmeric, and ½ teaspoon salt. While whisking, slowly pour in the oil. Add the apricots and cumin, then let stand for 5 minutes to allow the apricots to soften.

Add the carrots and stir until evenly coated. Stir in the pistachios, olives, and mint. Taste and season with salt and pepper, then transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with additional mint.

Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television shows. Globe readers get 12 weeks of complete digital access, plus two issues of Milk Street print magazine, for just $1. Go to 177milkstreet.com/globe. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.