Jalapeño Coleslaw Recipe

Lime, chile, and spices give this coleslaw a Tex-Mex kick.

The addition of lime, cilantro, cumin, and jalapeño creates a coleslaw with a Tex-Mex character. Joshua Bousel

Why It Works

  • A sugar-and-salt mixture purges the cabbage of excess moisture, leaving it tender, but still crunchy, and well-seasoned.
  • Seeding the jalapeños lessens the peppers' heat and gives this slaw a mild spiciness that everyone can enjoy.
  • Cumin, cilantro, and lime add a Tex-Mex flavor that compliments the fruity heat of the jalapeño.

Tex-Mex and barbecue are my two favorite cuisines. Since I've managed to cover a pretty decent range of barbecue-style coleslaws, I figured I'd try out a recipe that has a little something in common with my other great love.

Sour cream seemed like the place to start. I threw in some buttermilk with the mayo. I also replaced the vinegar in favor of bright, tart lime juice and added in some supporting Tex-Mex flavors—namely grassy cilantro, earthy cumin, and hot jalapeño. This is the kind of slaw that would be right at home in a fajita.

The trick for a great coleslaw is getting the veggies to release their excess moisture, leaving the cabbage and carrots tender-crisp, and ready to absorb lots of flavorful dressing. Kenji featured this technique in his classic creamy coleslaw, and I employed it when developing my other coleslaw styles: Lexington-style red slaw, mustardy slaw, bright vinegar slaw, and a tangy apple slaw

June 2014

Recipe Facts



Active: 30 mins
Total: 35 mins
Serves: 10 to 12 servings

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For the Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup sour cream

  • 1/3 cup buttermilk

  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise

  • 3 tablespoons sugar

  • 3 tablespoons lime juice plus 1/2 teaspoon lime zest from 3 large limes

  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

  • 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic (about 3 medium cloves)

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the Slaw:

  • 1 large head green cabbage (about 3 1/2 pounds), finely shredded on a mandoline or by hand

  • 1 large carrot, peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater

  • 1 large jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and finely diced

  • 2/3 cup sugar

  • 1/3 cup kosher salt


  1. For the Dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together sour cream, buttermilk, vinegar, mayonnaise, sugar, lime juice and zest, cilantro, garlic, cumin, and black pepper.

    Whisking the jalapeno lime dressing for coleslaw.

    Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

  2. For the Slaw: Combine cabbage, carrot, and jalapeño in a large bowl. Sprinkle with sugar and salt and toss to combine. Let stand 5 minutes, then transfer to a large colander and rinse thoroughly under cold running water.

    A bowl of grated vegetables for coleslaw.

    Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

  3. Transfer vegetables to a salad spinner and spin dry. Alternatively, transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet lined with a triple layer of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel and blot mixture dry with more towels. Return to large bowl.

    A bowl of grated vegetables for coleslaw after draining, in the bowl of a salad spinner for drying.

    Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

  4. Pour dressing over vegetables and toss to coat. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt, pepper, and/or sugar.

    A just-tossed bowl of jalapeno coleslaw.

    Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

Special Equipment

Mandoline (optional)

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
88 Calories
4g Fat
12g Carbs
2g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 10 to 12
Amount per serving
Calories 88
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 4g 5%
Saturated Fat 1g 5%
Cholesterol 5mg 2%
Sodium 260mg 11%
Total Carbohydrate 12g 4%
Dietary Fiber 3g 10%
Total Sugars 8g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 53mg 263%
Calcium 84mg 6%
Iron 0mg 2%
Potassium 308mg 7%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)