The No-Mayo Coleslaw Recipe Coming Soon to All Your Picnics and Barbecues

A few weeks ago, while clearing out my pantry, I found a package of udon noodles, likely purchased on a whim months ago and swallowed by my cupboard shortly thereafter. Without a recipe in mind, I turned to Google and came across an udon noodle salad on Epicurious, (originally from Self magazine). It called for stir-frying a number of vegetables and making a dressing with miso, which sounded light, refreshing, and different from the peanut noodle dishes I’m always drawn to.

Ready to whirrrrrrrrrrr Photo by Alexandra Stafford

When I set to work, I found myself in unfamiliar territory. First, because the dressing included carrots, and making it would require a blender or food processor (which I rarely find myself relying on for the sake of dressing). Second, the teensy amount of oil threw me off—this dressing would not adhere even remotely to the 1-to-3 acid-to-oil ratio of classic dressings. And finally, a considerable amount of water would be added to the mix.

However, it worked. In just about a minute of whirring, a brilliant orange emulsion had formed, thin and slightly grainy in texture, not unlike a carrot-ginger dressing. And it tasted, much to my surprise, balanced: sweet, fresh, and sharp, thanks to the miso, carrots, and vinegar, respectively.

This is about to get colorful Photo by Alexandra Stafford

I’ve made this dressing several times now, and while I like it with noodles, I prefer it with vegetables, particularly in shredded cabbage slaws. What’s especially nice about this dressing, in addition to it being tasty, is that there’s no mayonnaise or dairy products, which makes it well suited for basking on a buffet table this weekend or any other this season. No nuts, moreover, makes it safe for those with allergies. And its virtues extend to health, too: Self touts the miso for providing “flavor minus the saturated fat.” All of this makes miso happy—sorry, couldn’t resist—I hope it will you, too.

I now pronounce you husband and wife Photo by Alexandra Stafford

Now, the Slaw

Salt the cabbage before you dress it. I read about this technique in The Slanted Door cookbook earlier this year, and I’ve found employing it makes all the difference in the cabbage slaws and salads I’ve been making. Salting the cabbage draws out some of its moisture, which allows it to better soak up the dressing. It also softens the shreds, which makes it easier to eat.

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If you have a food processor, pull it (and all of its attachments) out: When making the dressing, if you use the shredder attachment before using the default blade, the carrots will purée more easily. After you make the dressing, too, you can wipe it out, switch to the slicer attachment, and run the broccoli or cauliflower florets down the shoot.

Ready to serve! Photo by Alexandra Stafford

Crunch: In addition to flavor, nuts and seeds add such nice texture to vegetable slaws. I’ve used toasted pumpkin seeds and almonds here, but any number of nuts (cashews, walnuts, peanuts) and seeds (sunflower, sesame) could work. For additional crunch, you could add un-boiled ramen noodles. To do so, open a package or two, discard the seasoning pack, break the noodles into small pieces, and spread them on a sheet pan. Toast at 425ºF for 5 to 7 minutes until golden. Add to salad, and toss to combine. (Note: Ramen noodles lose their crunch after several hours and turn completely soft after a night in the fridge.)

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Jean Nulf
    Jean Nulf
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    Richard Brungard
  • Alexandra Stafford
    Alexandra Stafford
I write the blog alexandra's kitchen, a place for mostly simple, sometimes fussy, and always seasonal recipes. My cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs is available everywhere books are sold.


Jean N. June 10, 2018
Made it tonight. We had it with dry rub Duroc pork ribs, corn on the cob, corn bread, and the slaw. I added a tablespoon of local honey and a heavy pinch of red pepper flake to the dressing. It was great!
BerryBaby May 28, 2017
Growing up I recall my mother only used vinegar, oil, salt in her cabbage slaw and it was delicious. To this day I still prefer it over mayo dressing.
Richard B. May 30, 2017
Here in central PA, they make a slaw like your mother did, but they add lots of pepper and more vinegar than oil, and call it pepper slaw.
Julie May 26, 2017
This sounds delightful! I've never tried salting cabbage before dressing it. I'll have to employ that trick the next time I make coleslaw! How long does it sit with the salt, and do you rinse it after salting?

I so relate to the first sentence of this article: "A few weeks ago, while clearing out my pantry, I found a package of udon noodles, likely purchased on a whim months ago and swallowed by my cupboard shortly thereafter."
That sentence probably describes about 80% of my pantry... Hehe.
Alexandra S. May 27, 2017
Haha, I love it ... mine, too :) Yes, try the salting! It sits for 15 minutes, and then you do rinse it. The full recipe is here: https://food52.com/recipes/71035-cabbage-slaw-with-miso-carrot-dressing