My Grandmother's Simple Cabbage Salad Is Better Than Any Coleslaw You've Ever Tasted

You only need four ingredients to make it, too.

Female hands with a knife chop cabbage for cooking fresh salad
Photo: Getty Images

We all remember some foods from our childhoods more fondly than others. And while it's been at least 40 years since she served it to me, my grandmother's cabbage salad is one I love so much that I continue to make it exactly the same way she did.

Most people refer to sliced or shredded raw cabbage coated with mayo- or vinegar-based dressing as coleslaw (or just slaw). It may also contain lemon juice, onions, shredded carrots, slivered almonds, and even fruit. None of these would stand with my grandmother, Gonnie. Gonnie always called her take on coleslaw "cabbage salad," and I believe that's because the dish is, well, cabbage.

While her exact portions are lost to history, everyone who has tasted my take on this family classic agrees that it tastes just like Gonnie's. And that's the best compliment anyone could give me. But it's something you can adjust to your own taste as long as the ingredients remain the same. Otherwise, Gonnie's ghost will come after you!

Start with a big chunk of plain green cabbage. I usually use ¼ of a medium head, which serves two with some left for the next day. Remove any tough or discolored leaves from the outside. Cut out the core from the bottom. Though Gonnie used a box grater, and you can as well, I use the food processor to give the cabbage a finely-chopped texture.

Place the cabbage in a large bowl and add your favorite mayonnaise. She was team Hellman's all the way, and I am, too. I add 1 tbsp. of mayonnaise at a time until the cabbage is lightly coated but not drowning. Then I add a pinch of salt.

Now, we come to the secret ingredient: whole celery seeds. Compared to celery salt, celery seeds taste fresher, have no salt, and bring both a fun bit of texture and a pop of celery flavor to the salad. Start with 1 tbsp. and add more if you like. Mix thoroughly and taste. Adjust the mayo, salt, and celery seed.

That's it. No onion. No lemon juice. No carrots. No red cabbage. This simple, unadorned salad tastes clean and fresh. So, if you love cabbage, this salad will make you smile. I could eat it every day. And every time I make it, I remember Gonnie and the times she would make a small batch, just for me, and we would eat it together. Yep, food can take you back.


Was this page helpful?
You’ll Also Love