Southwestern Coleslaw

I make a great pie crust, my father, a killer meatloaf. My mother? She’s the queen of salads. When the three of us cook together, mom almost always gets salad duty, because she just does it so darn well. She has perfected the balance of sweet and acidity, salt, and bitter. This particular coleslaw of hers is one of my favorites. The coleslaw is made with cabbage, carrots, green onions, and cilantro, and seasoned with rice vinegar. No mayo!

It’s light, cool, and crunchy, just what you want a coleslaw to be. Serve it alongside Mexican or TexMex dishes or chili beans. It’s also great as a side to fish or piled high in a fish taco.

Southwestern Coleslaw Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 4.

If the seasoned rice vinegar adds too much sweetness for your taste, sprinkle in a little lemon juice. If you are using unsweetened rice vinegar, to get the right balance of acidity and sweet, sprinkle a little sugar over the salad and toss.



  • 4 cups thinly sliced cabbage (about 1/3 to 1/2 cabbage)*
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 2 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup (packed) fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar (or plain rice vinegar with added sugar to taste)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

* a mandoline will make slicing cabbage much much easier than using a knife.


Place the thinly sliced cabbage, grated carrot, radish slices, sliced green onions, and cilantro in a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with olive oil, rice vinegar, salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

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Spicy Cilantro Peanut Slaw - similar to ours, but with peanuts too, from Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen

Southwestern Coleslaw

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Showing 4 of 18 Comments

  • ellise

    I’ve got a similar recipe — I add chipotle, garlic, a little cumin, too, which really spices up the old cole slaw, and I make it specifically for fish tacos. Hooray that it’s cole slaw season!

  • jonathan

    Any recipe labeled “Southwestern”, “Tex-Mex” or simply “Mexican” gets my eyes a-bulgin’ and my mouth a-droolin’.

    But…where’s the chipotle? Lime juice? j/k

    (The radishes and cilantro more than elevate this to “Southwestern” status.)

    And thanks for the nod to the mandoline. It’s always been my best friend when making cole slaw.

    Particularly cole slaw for 100.

    Not that I really enjoy doing that. ;-p

  • KV

    Is there a possible substitution for the rice vinegar? Maybe regular vinegar or lime juice? Rice vinegar is hard to find where I live. Thanks. Love the site!

    Regular vinegar and some lime juice would work great. ~Elise

  • Heidi

    This looks so yummy, thanks Elise! Can you give us any tips for slicing cabbage with the mandoline? I have a mandoline and I love it but I can’t figure out how to use it for cabbage.

    Hmm, be careful? Sometimes it helps to cut the cabbage in half or in quarters first. A large cabbage can be a little unwieldy. Place the mandoline over a baking dish or a large bowl, so that the cabbage has a contained place to land while you are slicing it with the mandoline. ~Elise

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