Irish coleslaw is a creamy, crunchy delight that's perfect for summer feasting, barbecues, and pot-luck get-togethers.
Irish coleslaw! You probably think I've lost my mind. You may believe there's nothing Irish about the origins of coleslaw.
And you would be correct! Except we do like our cabbage in Ireland.
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Coleslaw in Ireland
Coleslaw is not a traditional Irish food, but in modern Ireland coleslaw is in high demand. Whether served as a side salad, or slathered on deli meat for ham or turkey and coleslaw sandwiches, Irish diners LOVE coleslaw. It's a favorite ingredient for an Irish Pub Salad.
But the coleslaw we crave is distinctly Irish in its flavor combinations, and worlds apart from American slaw.
Irish coleslaw is far creamier and boasts far less vinegar that the stateside variety. In fact, I don't use any vinegar at all when making Irish slaw.
Coleslaw the world over is shredded cabbage, sometimes mixed with carrot and onion, then slathered in a dressing.
The origins of coleslaw date all the way back to ancient Rome. The citizens of this famous Italian city ate a dish that featured cabbage, eggs, vinegar and spices.
The name cole-slaw comes from the Dutch language and is a derivative of the term “koolsla” which means cabbage salad. The Dutch word for cabbage is "kool'" and "sla" is salad.
The Dutch were the founders of New York and they brought their “koosla” recipes with them to New Holland. Dutch settlers served a shredded cabbage salad. American recipes for cabbage slaw date back to the late 1700s.
I confess that I got the etymology all wrong when I was younger. I thought the name was cold slaw, since this side dish was served cold.
Cole refers to the salad's main ingredient and not the fact that it is usually served cold. . The term cole refers to a collection of hardy plants that derive from the wild cabbage. The word cole can be traced back to Old English. The term evolved from Latin caulis, meaning "stem" or "cabbage."
The cole vegetable group includes cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower, bok choy, and kohlrabi.
Each of these veggies can be used to make a slaw or salad, but today we’ll stick to cabbage slaw, and especially how it is prepared in Ireland.
The dressing is what makes all the difference and identifies the origins of the dish. Vinegar based dressing is preferred in northern parts of the United States, and creamy in the southern states, and of course Ireland.
Creamy coleslaw dressing must be just that - CREAMY. It must be able to absorb excess water released from the chopped veggies without separating and becoming watery.
Irish coleslaw is mayonnaise based, and not a vinegar slaw. I find American slaws to be far more watery than my favorite Irish coleslaw. And I detest coleslaw where the cabbage has been diced into corn kernel size pieces, making it look more like curds than coleslaw.
How To Make Creamy Coleslaw Dressing That Does Not Separate
Long, thin cabbage and carrot shreds in my coleslaw, please. I'm beginning to sound like a picky coleslaw eater.
I've been making Irish coleslaw here in America for many years. My basic coleslaw ingredients are shredded cabbage and carrots, mayonnaise, yogurt, dijon mustard, cream, a teeny weeny bit of sugar, and garlic salt or onion powder.
However, this mixture does not travel well and needs to be eaten pretty soon after being tossed together. I like to entertain, especially during the summer, and ensuring my coleslaw doesn't become watery has been a challenge.
I've added extra mayonnaise, went heavy on the yogurt, added cream, and God forbid, I even tried a little bit of vinegar. But try as I might, my coleslaw dressing always seemed to get watery with time, and my shredded veggies ended up swimming in a thin, milky slurry.
That's no good, especially if you've been assigned to make coleslaw for a pot luck. And throwing out left overs goes against the grain for this Irish American Mom.
So I need a slaw that will stand the test of time in the fridge, and a dressing that will bind together.
Miracle of miracles, another Irish American blogger came to my rescue. Thanks to Maria Rokas, from the blog, Tearoom in the Sky, I mastered the art of making deliciously creamy Irish coleslaw this summer, the kind that can be brought along to pot lucks without the risk of watery dressing.
The answer to stabilizing and thickening the dressing is to use a little bit of guar gum or xanathan gum.
You can read all about it in Maria's recipe for creamy Irish coleslaw.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Maria.
My coleslaw recipe is slightly different to Maria's in that I add a little yogurt and dijon mustard for tang. I also use garlic salt or onion powder for seasoning. And no onions. My Donegal husband never touches onions, so I sometimes chop a few green onions into my serving.
And so, without further ado, here's my recipe for Creamy Irish Coleslaw.
Ingredients for Creamy Irish Coleslaw
Here's a list of what you'll need. You'll find exact quantities in the printable recipe below, and you can choose between US and Metric equivalents.
- white cabbage shredded
- shredded carrots
- Greek yogurt or sour cream
- Dijon mustard
- heavy whipping cream
- guar or xanathan gum
- sugar (or to taste)
- garlic salt or onion powder
I use white cabbage for this recipe. You could use a green cabbage such as a head of napa cabbage. Just be aware that you will have a much greener slaw. I don't recommend using Savoy or York cabbage, since the flavor could be too intense.
This coleslaw does not feature any onion or pickles. If you wish you could add some chopped green onions or scallions, chopped chives or finely diced red onion.
This recipe features a creamy dressing, with no lemon juice, lime juice, rice vinegar or ketchup.
I also don't add any pepper, but feel free to add some freshly ground black pepper if you wish.
Directions for Making Irish Style Coleslaw
Coleslaw is all about the dressing, so let's start by creating our creamy mix for tossing our cabbage and carrots.
Add mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, dijon mustard, xanathan gum, onion powder, sugar and some heavy whipping cream to a large mixing bowl.
Whisk them all together and you'll create a creamy, dreamy coleslaw dressing, with a taste of Ireland.
Now only ⅛ of a teaspoon of xanathan or guar gum is needed. Too much and you'll create a thick, gloopy mess.
Next toss your cabbage and carrot shreds into the bowl on top of the dressing.
You can shred your own carrots and cabbage, or go the easy route and buy a packet of pre-shredded coleslaw mix.
If you like onion in your coleslaw then feel free to add some diced onion or green onion.
Toss the cabbage and carrots with the dressing to completely coat the veggies.
Pop the bowl of coleslaw in the refrigerator to chill for about 30 minutes before serving.
And that's all there's to it.
Simple, delicious, and storage friendly Irish coleslaw.
And remember, it's scrumptious served on an Irish pub salad plate.
A little taste of Ireland on a plate! If you would prefer a vinegar based red slaw then check out my recipe for red cabbage slaw.
Recipe Card for Irish Style Creamy Coleslaw
Here's the printable recipe card.
Irish Style Coleslaw
- ½ head white cabbage shredded
- 8 ounces carrots shredded
- ¾ cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt or sour cream
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- ⅛ teaspoon guar gum or xanathan gum
- 1 teaspoon sugar or to taste
- ¼ teaspoon garlic salt or onion powder
Nutrition Information is estimated based on the ingredients and cooking instructions as described in each recipe and is intended to be used for informational purposes only. Please note that nutrition details may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients used.
Wishing you all happy coleslaw making days this summer and all year long.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Mairéad -Irish American Mom
Pronunciation - slawn ah-gus ban-ock-th
Mairéad - rhymes with parade
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