13 Ways To Improve Store-Bought Coleslaw

Coleslaw in white bowl
Coleslaw in white bowl - Peredniankina/Getty Images

Coleslaw is a classic side dish loved by most of us — creamy, crunchy, and oh-so-satisfying. It is the perfect accompaniment to sandwiches, sausages, and countless other dishes. In a perfect world, we would all make beautiful homemade coleslaw every time, but the pressures of modern life mean there sometimes isn't time for all that grating. Shop-bought coleslaw offers a tasty alternative, meaning you can enjoy the luxuries of slaw without the effort.

Sometimes, though, store-bought coleslaw seems to be lacking a bit of punch. Fortunately, you can quickly and easily upgrade it to get it closer to a homemade version. Whether you want to add some chili heat or brighten it up with fresh herbs, there are countless ways you can completely transform your regular run-of-the-mill slaw. Join us as we explore the tastiest ways to upgrade your shop-bought coleslaw, from adding some hot honey to transforming it into a nutritious kale slaw. Once you've tried some of these combinations, your coleslaw game will be changed forever.

Read more: 25 Types Of Potatoes And When To Use Them

Add Brightness With Crisp Bell Peppers

colorful bell peppers
colorful bell peppers - Eriyalim/Getty Images

To add a splash of color and a delicious crunchy element to your coleslaw at the same time, opt for some bell peppers. With no heat in them at all, their refreshing flavor will take the coleslaw up a notch while complementing the existing taste of the creamy cabbage. To get the sweetest flavor, you should opt for a colorful range of bell peppers (Here's the difference between red, yellow, and green bell peppers). Green peppers are underripe and have a more bitter taste, but if you enjoy the flavor, it will make a nice contrast to the mellow coleslaw. Of course, mixing up a few different colors will give you the full spectrum of flavor.

For a different twist entirely, you could roast the bell peppers first before adding them. Roasting them will caramelize some of the sugars and add a smoky element that will give a unique twist to the coleslaw. Their soft texture won't contrast with the slaw but will add to the creaminess instead. A pepper coleslaw will make a delicious accompaniment to a variety of meat and plant-based dishes or can even act as a light snack on its own. The color and brightness of flavor from the peppers will transform your shop-bought slaw into an appetizing treat.

Add A Kick With Some Chilis ‌

Thin red chilis in bowl
Thin red chilis in bowl - Barcin/Getty Images

One of the great things about coleslaw is its rich, creamy flavor, but if you're in the mood for something with a bit more kick to it, add some chilis into the mix. You can customize the heat to suit your taste buds or mood, and with countless varieties of chili to experiment with, play with flavors until you find the ideal combination. If you don't know where to start, here are some types of chili peppers and how spicy they are.

For a nice hit of chili flavor without too much spice, jalapeño peppers are the perfect option. They will give a tang to the coleslaw without setting your taste buds on fire. To reduce the heat even further, remove both the seeds and the membrane that holds them, as the spiciness is more concentrated there. To take the spice up a notch, try a bird's eye chili (without the membrane) and use it sparingly. It will give a big kick of heat that will contrast brilliantly with the creamy coleslaw. Of course, if you are a big chili fan or feeling particularly adventurous, you could add a scotch bonnet or habanero chili, but be warned — this coleslaw will knock your socks off! If you are making it for others, be sure to let them know in advance, and keep a glass of cold milk nearby, just in case!

Sweeten It With Dried Fruit

Variety of dried fruits
Variety of dried fruits - rsooll/Shutterstock

If you're in the mood for a bit of sweetness in your coleslaw, a few handfuls of dried fruit will hit the spot. The carrots and cabbage in the slaw already have sweet notes, so adding the concentrated pockets of sugar from the fruit will enhance the flavor nicely. Raisins are an obvious choice, as they will provide a color contrast to the pale coleslaw and add a delightful sweetness to every mouthful. They are also healthier than you may think — full of fiber and providing benefits to both your heart and digestive system. If you want an even sweeter taste, opt for golden raisins instead.

For a more unusual addition to your store-bought coleslaw, you could try adding dried cranberries. They will provide more of a tart flavor than the raisins but will still sweeten up the dish overall. Their deep burgundy color will be fantastic, too, creating a coleslaw that looks as good as it tastes. Alternatively, apricots are a bright, sweet, dried fruit that will transform your coleslaw with a zingy flavor and juicy texture. Chop them into bite-size pieces and distribute them throughout the slaw to liven up the creamy flavor. Whichever dried fruit you add to your shop-bought coleslaw will upgrade the taste and texture with pops of sweetness throughout. This slaw goes well with dishes that pair with fruity flavors, such as sausages or pork chops.

Add A Crunch With Chopped Nuts ‌

Chopped walnuts on board
Chopped walnuts on board - Olgalepeshkina/Getty Images

A soft, luxurious coleslaw can be a creamy delight, but sometimes, a bit of crunch can add a fun twist. Chopping nuts and adding them to your store-bought coleslaw will create a textural contrast in a usually soft side dish. There are plenty of options when it comes to deciding which nuts to use. Slivers of almonds will blend in well with the cabbage, and their mild flavor will not change the taste of the coleslaw much. For a stronger addition, try chopped pecans, which will give a satisfying crunch and a pop of dark color to contrast the pale coleslaw.

Walnuts are another delicious option that is especially good for your health. You may have noticed that they look like tiny brains, and in a strange parallel, they are exceptionally good for brain health. With an abundance of omega-3 and other anti-inflammatory compounds, eating walnuts regularly can help prevent a decrease in cognitive function. Adding them to a store-bought coleslaw is an excellent way to incorporate more of them into your daily meals. Whatever nuts you choose to include in your coleslaw, be sure to add them as late as possible since the mayonnaise will cause them to become soggy over time. And, of course, remember to check for allergies if you are serving it to others.

Add Plenty Of Fresh Herbs

Various fresh herbs on board
Various fresh herbs on board - Foxys_forest_manufacture/Getty Images

As any enthusiastic home cook knows, fresh herbs are the key to elevating the majority of dishes, and store-bought coleslaw is no exception. While the creamy texture of pre-packaged slaw is satisfying, it is missing the pop of freshness that homemade food provides, which is where your fresh herbs can come in. Before deciding what herbs to add, you may wish to consider what you are likely to be eating your coleslaw with. If fish is on the menu, dill is a great herb to add to the mix. Its citrusy flavor will complement both the creamy vegetables in the slaw and the fish itself, making it the perfect herb to bring everything together.

If you are planning to eat tomatoes or a dish with lots of Italian ingredients, basil will do the job well. Its aromatic notes are a great match for fresh vegetables and will enhance any other Italian flavors. Cilantro, on the other hand, is at home in Asian or Latin-American cuisine, so opt for that to accompany dishes that are full of spice. If in doubt, parsley is a versatile herb that will complement most foods, so add some to your slaw to freshen it up. You can always mix and match different herbs; just add a little bit at first to make sure it's not overpowering.

Add A Tangy Element With Dill Pickle ‌

Pickled cucumbers in glass jars
Pickled cucumbers in glass jars - Viktorya Telminova/Shutterstock

Store-bought coleslaw is a great, easy option when you need a side dish quickly, but often, it is crying out for some zing to lift the flavor. This is where dill pickle can shine, lending its bright, acidic flavor as a contrast to the creamy base and mellow veggies. Chop the dill pickles into tiny cubes and mix them into the coleslaw to ensure you get a burst of tang in every mouthful. If you want more of the sharp flavor, add a spoonful of the pickling liquid in, too, making sure to mix everything well.

Dill pickles are a great match for a chargrilled beef burger, as is coleslaw, so what better side dish to serve at a barbecue than a fantastic dill pickle version of the creamy classic? Of course, you could always make your own dill pickle rather than using store-bought ones. It is surprisingly easy, taking around 15 minutes, and means you can have delicious, crunchy pickles on hand for weeks.

Add Some Grated Carrot ‌

Thinly grated carrot in bowl
Thinly grated carrot in bowl - eliscora/Shutterstock

If you've never tried carrot slaw, now is the time to do so. With similar flavor notes to regular coleslaw, it will keep lovers of the original happy while introducing sweeter elements. A classic carrot slaw recipe contains cabbage, too, meaning you can easily upgrade your store-bought coleslaw to a bright carrot version.

Unless your carrots are organic, peel and grate them into fine shreds before adding them to your pre-made coleslaw. You will want to add quite a large amount to ensure the flavor of the carrot shines through — just make sure there is enough creamy dressing to keep the consistency right. Carrot slaw will be delicious with grilled items such as burgers and ribs, enhancing the smoky notes with its sweet flavor. It is the perfect summer dish to serve in huge bowls at garden parties and barbecues, and its beautiful orange hue will brighten everyone's plate.

Try Some Hot Honey ‌

Chili honey in glass jar
Chili honey in glass jar - Pixel-Shot/Shutterstock

If you have never had hot honey, it's time to write it on your must-try list, and what better way to test it out than by adding it to some store-bought coleslaw? A genius blend of sweet honey and spicy chilis, the complex flavor will lift your creamy coleslaw and give it a burst of flavor that your taste buds will adore. To upgrade your store-bought coleslaw, drizzle some hot honey over the top and mix it thoroughly to create a uniform flavor.

If you have some time to spare, try making your own hot honey, which you can then drizzle over just about any food you are eating. Once you have made your hot honey coleslaw, serve it with some fried chicken or pork ribs. This is the perfect way to give a classic coleslaw some sweet heat. The combination of sweet, spicy, and creamy will make an irresistible companion to the crunchy chicken or smoky ribs that will delight everyone who tries it.

Increase The Creaminess With Cheese

Blue cheese and cheddar
Blue cheese and cheddar - barmalini/Shutterstock

As a rule, if you want to improve virtually any dish, adding cheese is likely to work. With coleslaw, this rule definitely applies, and you should aim to do it at every opportunity! Your store-bought slaw already has a creamy flavor and texture from the vegetables and dressing, so adding cheese to it can either enhance the creaminess or provide a contrasting tang, depending on which variety you choose. This delicious coleslaw and blue cheese recipe uses the deep, rich flavors of a crumbly blue, such as Stilton or gorgonzola piccante, to balance the creamy flavors of the mayonnaise. Apple slices are also a great addition to provide a juicy, crunchy texture and a sweet note.

If blue cheese is not really your thing, and you want to ramp up the creamy aspect, try adding some cream cheese instead. A few fresh herbs will help lift the flavor and result in a super-creamy coleslaw to accompany a sandwich or savory snack. Of course, sometimes the classics are the best, and good ol' cheddar cheese is an ideal addition to a store-bought coleslaw. The sharpness of the cheddar will complement the creaminess while adding a smooth texture against the crunchy veggies. Cheddar coleslaw goes brilliantly with meat, so serve some at your next barbecue as an upgraded accompaniment to your sausages.

Add Color With Red Onion

Sliced red onion
Sliced red onion - Candice Bell/Shutterstock

Red onion is the ingredient you're missing for an even better coleslaw. These vegetables can make a great addition to store-bought coleslaw, providing a crunchy texture and sharp, acidic flavor. Raw onions can have too potent a flavor for some, but mixed with the creamy dressing, they bring the perfect balance that is not too overpowering. If you really don't fancy the flavor of raw red onion in your coleslaw, you could always use homemade sugar-free pickled red onions instead. This can mellow the pungent taste while still keeping the distinctive onion element.

To add raw red onions to your store-bought coleslaw, peel and slice them very finely into thin shreds. You don't want huge chunks of red onion dominating the flavor, so opt for thin strands for a more balanced taste. It makes a super sandwich filling alongside deli meat or pulled pork. The tangy flavor from the onion makes it a great accompaniment to any rich flavors, cutting through them and balancing the dish.

Incorporate Tangy Buttermilk

Buttermilk in glass bottle
Buttermilk in glass bottle - Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

If you've got some leftover buttermilk, adding it to your store-bought coleslaw is a trick you may not have considered. The balance of tangy and creamy elements from the buttermilk is the perfect combination to lift your coleslaw and give it an added depth of flavor. Just a few spoonfuls of buttermilk will be enough to transform the flavor, as the tangy notes will complement the sweetness of the cabbage, carrot, and creamy dressing.

If you don't have any buttermilk but want to try this addition to coleslaw, you can whip up a homemade buttermilk substitute (check out the two-ingredient buttermilk replacement you should know) in just a couple of minutes with whole milk and either lemon juice or vinegar. This alternative will give the same sour effect to your coleslaw and is so easy to prepare. Add your new tangy and upgraded coleslaw to sandwiches or wraps, and it will go especially well with our chili-garlic pan-fried fish recipe. Once you know how your coleslaw can be transformed by a few spoonfuls, you will never settle for the regular stuff again.

Add Sweet And Crispy Apple

Red apple slices
Red apple slices - Organi/Getty Images

As good as store-bought coleslaw can be, it sometimes lacks a crunchy texture, as the once-crispy vegetables have softened in the mayonnaise dressing. Adding thinly sliced apple to the mix will give a delightful textural contrast to the rest of the coleslaw, as well as a juicy and sweet hit. Of course, the big question is, what type of apple? Crunchy, tart apples will give the best eating experience, so go for a Granny Smith or Pink Lady if you have them. Both of these varieties have the ideal balance of sweet and tart flavors that will go perfectly with the cabbage and carrots. However, any variety of apples will work, so you can feel free to use whatever you have at hand.

To create a uniform coleslaw, the best option is to slice the apples into skinny matchsticks roughly the same size as the existing carrot and cabbage. Unless you plan to eat the slaw immediately, consider squeezing some lemon juice over the apple slices to prevent them from turning brown. Apple pairs perfectly with pork, so serve your slaw with some sausages or pork chops to allow the tangy apple flavor to cut through the richness of the meat.

Turn Your Coleslaw Into A Kale Slaw

Close up of fresh kale
Close up of fresh kale - DesignToonsy/Shutterstock

If you're looking to add a nutritional boost to your comforting coleslaw, consider adding some chopped kale to your store-bought side dish. Not only will it add a delicious punch of flavor and texture, but its rich green color will also create a stunning contrast to the usually beige salad. Adding kale to your slaw is a great way to make sure your family is getting an extra portion of veg without realizing it. Kale is widely considered to be a superfood, and it is packed with antioxidants such as vitamins A and C, and can potentially reduce blood pressure and protect against cancer.

Kale can sometimes taste quite bitter on its own, especially when raw, but the creamy coleslaw will mask the flavor, meaning the whole family will eat it up happily. Chop the raw kale quite finely to ensure no one gets a big green chunk that is going to put them off eating the rest. Mix it in with the coleslaw and serve this uber-nutritious side dish to your unsuspecting veggie refusers.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.