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Creamy Southwestern Coleslaw

Creamy southwestern coleslaw with pulled chicken sandwiches

Pile up this spicy, Creamy Southwestern Coleslaw on your next sandwich. This crunchy slaw brings the bite with jalapenos, radishes, cilantro, and more. Serve it with smoked meats, or just dab it on some crackers. No one will judge you.

Creamy southwestern coleslaw with pulled chicken sandwiches

Barbecue isn’t complete without a variety of side dishes, and this creamy southwestern slaw fits the bill. Each bite is crisp and refreshing, packed with bold flavors. Pair with just about anything, such as Smoked Pulled Ham, Shredded Chuck Roast, or serve alongside a healthy bowl of Southern Macaroni Salad. It’s ahhhhmazing on Smoked Pulled Pork!

Why This Recipe Works

Crispy crunch. Between the cabbage, radishes, and onions you’ll have plenty of crispy texture with every bite. This really adds to the eating experience as barbecue tends to be on the softer side. Piled up all the pulled meat you want and top it with a scoop of this creamy slaw.

Rich and creamy. This is a mayo-based slaw that adds a layer of fat, helpful for lean proteins such as smoked turkey, chicken, or grilled pork. It’s also a great accompaniment for grilled vegetables.

Southwest flavors. Bright cilantro, spicy jalapenos, and crunchy radishes step out of tacos to bring their flavors into this delicious creamy slaw recipe. The flavors aren’t dominant, allowing this to be used with almost any type of barbecue you have – it’s not limited to southwest cooking.

Grabbing a bite of this creamy slaw

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • Mayonnaise: My favorite full-fat traditional mayo, preferably Duke’s mayo. Use any brand you enjoy.
  • Dijon mustard: Combined with mustard, this is a core ingredient to add zing in the dressing.
  • Honey: Sugar is used often, but honey just brings a different flavor. It also pairs really well with the fresh jalapenos in my testing.
  • Rice wine vinegar: Apple cider vinegar and white vinegar are used often with coleslaw recipes, but rice wine has a nice natural sweetness. You can use the “seasoned” version, just be aware it will add different flavors.
  • Lime: Classic pairing with food in the Southwest, and works well with the other ingredients.
  • Green Cabbage: This crisp cabbage can carry a solo show, so forget about the red with this recipe.
  • Red Onion: A sharp bite of pungent onion balances out the flavors and adds a nice crisp.
  • Cilantro: The herb of the Southwest, naturally it works well here. If cilantro isn’t your thing, I’d recommend flat-leaf parsley.
  • Radishes: Sliced thin into coins, they carry a fresh, sharp bite that isn’t overpowering. It was one of the final touches I’ve added over the years to complete this recipe.
  • Jalapenos: Remove the seeds if you must, but sliced thin these maintain a subtle crisp while bringing an appropriate amount of heat.
Cabbage, red onion, dressing, and other veggies for the slaw

How to Make Creamy Southwestern Coleslaw

Slicing up vegetables can take quite a bit of time, which is why I highly recommend a mandoline if you don’t have one already. I’ve linked my preferred mandoline here in case you need one. This particular one stays extremely sharp, has a nice safety feature, and doesn’t have a bunch of parts to assemble.

STEP 1: Slice and dice everything.

Get out your mandoline and put it to work. The cabbage, red onion, radishes, and jalapenos should be sliced thin, but not too thin. You want to make sure they will still have a crunch. Chop up the cilantro fine and set the veggies aside.

STEP 2: Make the dressing.

Mix the mayonnaise, Dijon, honey, rice wine vinegar, and juice of lime together. Make sure you whisk it to blend everything in, and season with salt & pepper to taste. It will be strong, but not too strong once the veggies are all mixed together.

STEP 3: Mix, taste, and adjust.

Add all of the veggies together in a mixing bowl, and pour in the dressing. Gently fold to combine everything, and taste to adjust. I recommend adding all but a few tablespoons of the dressing initially to make sure it’s not too runny. Vegetables are not all equal in size, best to take it slow and adjust to your preferences. The creamy southwestern coleslaw will taste the best if it has about 2 hours to sit in the fridge, making this a great side dish to prepare ahead of time before your meal is ready.

Mixing all of the ingredients for this southwest slaw recipe

Variations for this slaw

This Southwestern slaw recipe is truly delicious as is, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for different flavors. I’m going to share some of my top ideas to add flavors without changing the flavor profile away from the Southwestern influence.

  • Flavored mayo – Try making your own mayo by infusing flavors of cilantro, lime, or chipotle. This main ingredient is delicious on its own but is also an avenue for another layer of flavor.
  • No mayo? Go with crema – Mexican crema tastes incredible if you swap out the mayo. It isn’t my top choice over mayo, but fresh crema does have a nice tang to it that is similar. We use this for times when guests can’t have or choose not to eat mayo.
  • Onions – Red onions really have a great pungency, but don’t be afraid to try something else, such as scallions. These thin green onions are also a classic staple in the southwest.
  • Charred cabbage – Light up the grill and char the cabbage for a couple of minutes at high heat. Grill marks are enough to transform the flavor into a nice, toasty flavor without softening the cabbage too much. The shelf life will be less, as there was some cooking involved.
  • Swap out chiles – One combination I love is to julienne thin strips of poblanos, raw. The bitter and heat profiles taste delicious against the sweet, creamy dressing. You could also mix it up with a few strips of red jalapenos or Fresno chiles as well for a bright bite.
Serve a big bowl of this creamy southwestern coleslaw

What to Serve with Coleslaw

…anything and everything! This creamy Southwestern coleslaw shines when paired alongside anything grilled, smoked, or roasted. Here are my top ideas:

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Creamy southwestern coleslaw with pulled chicken sandwiches

Creamy Southwestern Coleslaw

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Pile up this spicy, Creamy Southwestern Coleslaw on your next sandwich. This crunchy slaw brings the bite with jalapenos, radishes, cilantro, and more. Serve it with smoked meats, or just dab it on some crackers.

  • Total Time: 10
  • Yield: Serves about 6


  • 1 cup mayonnaise, Duke’s preferred
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 head green cabbage, cored and shredded
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 radishes, sliced thin
  • 1 jalapeno, sliced thin (seeds can be removed)


  1. Mix the mayonnaise, Dijon, honey, rice wine vinegar, lime juice, and salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk to incorporate everything into a smooth dressing.
  2. Shred and dice all of the vegetables to your preferred size. Place them in a large bowl.
  3. Pour most of the dressing into the veggies and mix to combine. Taste and adjust, adding the rest of the dressing as desired.


Allow the slaw to cool in the fridge for about 2 hours before serving. This helps all of the flavors penetrate into the veggies, making it much more flavorful.

  • Author: Brad Prose
  • Prep Time: 10
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Chopping
  • Cuisine: Side Dish
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