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What Does Coleslaw Taste Like?

What Does Coleslaw Taste Like?

What Does Coleslaw Taste Like?

After all, all countries of the world eat some form of coleslaw, and it’s a takeout staple with many huge franchise restaurants and takeout places selling it.

But when asked to describe what coleslaw tastes like, most people hit a blank. Just what does coleslaw taste like?

This was the topic of discussion at a recent meal with friends, where we were all enjoying some chicken and coleslaw.

As I asked my friends what they think coleslaw tastes like, it soon became a game as we tried to come up with definitions of what coleslaw might taste like.

I was amazed by the unique answers, and I’m sure you will never look at a bowl of coleslaw the same way again.

What Does Coleslaw Taste Like?

Coleslaw’s main ingredient is cabbage, and this is what dominates the taste profile of coleslaw. If you are using green cabbage, the taste will be slightly bitter due to the high sulfur content in cabbage. Red or purple cabbage may have a sweeter taste since it contains less sulfur, while Chinese cabbage has a milder taste. These different flavor profiles of different cabbages influence the taste of coleslaw. A well-balanced coleslaw will contain cabbage and carrots, where the carrots will balance the cabbage’s bitter taste with its sweet juice. The resulting taste of coleslaw is then a balance of sweet and bitter, with finely sliced or chopped coleslaw tasting sweeter than roughly chopped coleslaw since the cabbage pieces are smaller.

What Does Coleslaw Taste Like?
What Does Coleslaw Taste Like?

Components of Coleslaw and Their Influence on the Coleslaw Flavor Profile

There are different components of coleslaw from cabbage and carrots to onions, raisins, cucumber, mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, and spices.

Each component adds a different flavor note to the coleslaw.

The main ingredient of coleslaw is cabbage. This is what dominates the taste
The main ingredient of coleslaw is cabbage. This is what dominates the taste

Cabbage as the Main Component in Coleslaw

Since cabbage is the staple ingredient in coleslaw, I explained to my friends that the taste of cabbage was slightly bitter, almost sour.

Additionally, cabbage adds a crisp texture that stimulates the taste buds.

Cabbage is rich in sulfurous components, which explains the bitter taste.

The veins of the cabbage are the areas where there is the most sulfur, which is why many coleslaw recipes call for deveined cabbage leaves.

Since a purple cabbage has fewer and smaller veins than a traditional green cabbage, it is less bitter than green cabbage and can contribute to a sweeter coleslaw.

Carrots as the Second Dominant Component in Coleslaw

After cabbage, grated carrots make up the bulk of coleslaw.

Carrots are crunchy, fibrous, and sweet. If the carrots aren’t sweet enough, you may need to add an extra ingredient to boost the sweetness factor, or your coleslaw will be sour.

Carrots in cabbage will sweeten the overall taste
Carrots in cabbage will sweeten the overall taste

Other Vegetables Added to a Coleslaw

Some coleslaws call for the addition of other vegetables like onions and celery, and even fruits like apple, cucumber, and raisins.

These are usually added to diversify the flavor profile from being semi-sour to sweet and fruity.

When adding raisins to coleslaw, the act of biting into a raisin while chewing on the bitter taste of cabbage and crispy carrots will release a burst of sweetness, enhancing the semi-sour taste of the cabbage and carrots.

Similarly, adding diced apple slices to coleslaw will provide slithers of sweetness that hides among the crisp cabbage taste.

Additional components of coleslaw will change the flavor from slightly sour or bitter to a fuller and more rounded taste.

A balance of bitter and sweet is what the ultimate aim of coleslaw taste should be
A balance of bitter and sweet is what the ultimate aim of coleslaw taste should be

Mayonnaise, Salad Dressing, and Other Toppings

Mayonnaise and different salad dressings can change the flavor of coleslaw completely.

Mixing sugar and vinegar can add a zesty dressing that will complement the cabbage and carrots perfectly for a vinaigrette coleslaw.

Mixing in some mayonnaise will create the classic creamy coleslaw taste that is so popular and served at takeout places like KFC, McDonald’s, and Burger King.

The mayonnaise tones down the bitter cabbage and sweet carrot, unifying the taste into a semi-sweet, slightly sour taste that clings to the taste buds.

Adding toppings or condiments like pepper, tomato sauce, chili, and sesame seeds will change the flavor of coleslaw too.

Depending on what kind of cabbage is used (green, red, purple) it can be bitter or mild
Depending on what kind of cabbage is used (green, red, purple) it can be bitter or mild

What About the Taste of Grandma’s Famous Coleslaw Recipe?

After our discussions, I was now very eager to take a connoisseur bite of coleslaw.

Each coleslaw tastes differently, and I am always reminded of my grandma’s famous coleslaw recipe.

My grandma had a way with coleslaw that even the best restaurants just can’t match.

And in case you are wondering, I’m going to share grandma’s famous coleslaw recipe right here.

Grandma’s Coleslaw Recipe


Half a green cabbage, washed and deveined

A cup of purple cabbage, washed and finely sliced

Carrots, peeled and tips removed

One red apple, washed and grated (skin on)

Half a cup of raisins, depitted

Half a celery stick, finely sliced


¾ cup good quality mayonnaise

Two tablespoons white spirit vinegar

Salt and black pepper to taste

A tablespoon fine white sugar


Mix the sauce ingredients together. Rinse the cabbage leaves and whisk in a food processor for a finer textured salad, or slice thinly for a more crunchy salad.

Next, dice the carrots in a food processor, choosing between finely chopped carrots or a coarser sliced carrot.

Mix the carrot and cabbage parts and slice the apple into thin slices. Add in the raisins, celery, and sauce.

If the coleslaw is too sweet, add in a few drops of vinegar, and if it is too bitter or tart, add in a teaspoon of sugar or another sliced apple.

The Final Taste Adventure

The strange question I asked turned into an evening of wild discussion about what tastes we could describe, and we all ended up thinking and experiencing our world like children again.

Coleslaw has since become a firm favorite in our home, and whenever we go out to dinner, we are always sure to try and describe each coleslaw that we try: semi-sweet with bursts of sweetness when you chew into a raisin while the color and taste of the purple cabbage tones down the green cabbage before you crunch through a carrot slice.