This easy Mexican Coleslaw recipe is incredibly simple to make, yet deliciously crisp and full of fresh flavors! Featuring cabbage, corn, carrots, peppers, red onions and a silky Mexican vinaigrette (no mayo in sight!), this crowd pleasing cole slaw is healthy, super versatile and totally customizable. It’s perfect for weeknight dinners, taco nights, picnics, potlucks, barbecues and more!
Featured comment: Another amazing recipe Cheyenne! Having never liked coleslaw before both this and your spicy coleslaw are absolutely wonderful. Thanks again for a very flavorful recipe.” – DWC
Read on for expert tips, plus step-by-step photos showing you exactly how easy this Mexican cabbage slaw is to make at home.
Update: This post was originally published in June 2020. I made updates to the article below to include more information about making coleslaw Mexican style.
Hi, friends! My love of mayo-free summer sides continues. Today I’m proving that shredded cabbage can be totally crave-worthy. And, it doesn’t need to be smothered and covered in heavy, calorie-laden mayonnaise to be utterly delicious and impossible to resist.
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About this Easy Mexican Coleslaw
As previously mentioned, this Mexican cabbage slaw contains not one drop of mayonnaise – and absolutely no sugar! Instead, this recipe for Mexi slaw focuses on fresh ingredients and bold flavors, like crisp cabbage, cooling veggies, and a deliciously refreshing, silky-smooth vinaigrette.
Here’s what’s happening in this recipe for Mexican cole slaw. You’ve got crisp cabbage, crunchy carrots, sweet bell peppers, sharp red onions, juicy charred corn, spicy jalapenos, delicate slivers of scallions, and herbaceous cilantro. All that fresh deliciousness gets generously drizzled and tossed with a smooth, smoky, slightly spicy and tangy Mexican vinaigrette. The end result? A healthy mayo-free slaw that’s crisp, cool and bursting with South of the Border flavors!
While this may not be your typical or traditional coleslaw, I can guarantee that after one bite this Mexican cabbage recipe will become a go-to that you make over and over again! Incredibly easy to prepare, phenomenally versatile and totally customizable, it’s the perfect cold side dish for picnics, potlucks, barbecues, and all your summer soirees! Plus, it’s a great recipe when you need a last minute side for hectic weeknight dinners. This Mexican cabbage salad literally goes great with everything – from grilled meats and cold sandwiches to grain bowls, tacos and Southwestern casseroles!
Simple to prepare and ready to complement any (and every) kind of dish, this Mexican cabbage slaw will become your new favorite salad, side and topping for tacos, burritos and more!
Why you’ll love this slaw recipe
TL;DR? Get the basics about this Mexican cabbage recipe below:
- AMAZING flavors and textures! There’s nothing boring or bland here!
- Healthy and mayo-free! This slaw uses a healthier vinaigrette coleslaw dressing, versus the traditional mayonnaise-based slaw dressing.
- Super easy and straightforward to prepare! Basic ingredients and less than 20 minutes is all your need for this mexican cabbage slaw recipe.
- Versatile! Serve your corn slaw plain as a side dish, stuff it into tacos and sandwiches, use it as a base for burrito bowls, or add your favorite grilled protein for a quick and easy dinner.
- Crowd Favorite! I love how simple this cabbage slaw is to make, and guests love refreshing and delicious it is to eat. I call that a win-win recipe.
What is Mexican slaw?
Mexican coleslaw, also known as taco slaw or Mexican slaw or cole slaw, is a vegetable side dish. It’s primarily made of finely shredded or chopped raw cabbage and various fresh veggies, such as carrots and red onion, mixed with a vinaigrette or mayonnaise-based dressing.
Ingredients for Mexi slaw
This Mexican-style slaw is healthy, easy to prepare and made with simple, fresh ingredients!
- Cabbage: Crunchy, fresh cabbage is the main ingredient in coleslaw. (Scroll down for tips on the best cabbage to use and how to cut it!)
- Carrots: Thinly sliced or julienned carrots add a touch of sweet crunch.
- Bell Peppers: This coleslaw features two types of peppers. Fresh red pepper adds a pop of color and a hint of sweet, slightly fruity flavor. And the jalapeno pepper provides a touch of bright, slightly smoky flavor with a slight hint of heat.
- Corn: Charred kernels of fresh corn delivers juicy pops of sweet, faintly buttery flavor.
- Onions: A mix of pungent red onions and delicate green onions add savory flavor.
- Herbs: Fresh cilantro offers tangy, herbaceous flavor. However, if you are averse to cilantro, you can substitute flat-leaf parsley!
- Dressing: This coleslaw dressing contains no mayonnaise. Instead, a silky, smooth Mexican-flavored vinaigrette ties all the ingredients together and adds tons of South of the Border flavors!
Mexican cabbage slaw variations
This easy Mexican style coleslaw is totally customizable! You can add any tasty mix-ins you have hanging around your kitchen or fresh ingredients your family loves! Feel free to get creative, just make sure you have enough dressing to evenly coat the coleslaw.
- Black Beans (rinsed and drained)
- Diced Avocado
- Jicama (thinly sliced)
- Crumbed Cheese (cotija or feta)
- Chopped Celery Stalks
- Pepitas or Sunflower Seeds
- Flat-leaf Parsley: If you are oppose or are sensitive to cilantro, you can substitute parsley instead!
- Dressing: Looking for a creamy coleslaw? Substitute the oil and vinegar Mexican coleslaw dressing for a mixture of mayonnaise and sour cream or Greek yogurt! Or use my green goddess avocado dressing on this slaw instead.
How to make Mexican coleslaw recipe
This homemade taco slaw recipe is incredibly simple to prepare! It can be ready and on the table in a matter of mere minutes!
- Char corn and jalapeños: Heat oil in a large skillet. Add the kernels of corn and the jalapeno. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the corn is slightly charred. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
- Make the dressing: In a small bowl, combine oil with the orange juice, lime juice, vinegar, cumin, paprika, chili powder, Mexican oregano (if using) and honey. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk together. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Set aside.
- Assemble the slaw: In a large bowl, combine the cooled corn and jalapenos, cabbage, carrots, bell peppers, red onions and half of the green onions. Pour half of the dressing over the slaw. Toss well to combine. Taste and adjust with more dressing if desired.
- Let stand: Let coleslaw stand for at least 20 minutes, tossing once, to allow flavors to develop and meld. Toss again before garnishing and serving.
- Serve: Garnish the top of the coleslaw Mexican with the remaining green onions and cilantro. Top with cheese, avocado and any optional add-ins if using. Serve and enjoy!
Step-by-step photos: making Mexi slaw recipe at home
(Scroll down for the detailed measurements and instructions in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the page.)
FAQs: Mexican slaw
What is the best cabbage to use?
Fresh cabbage will provide the best crunchy flavor for this coleslaw Mexican style. It also happens to be the cheapest option. However, if you are in a hurry and looking to save time, you can use pre-shredded bagged cabbage or a packaged coleslaw mix in this recipe for Mexican slaw.
- Green: Green cabbage is the most common variety to use in coleslaw. It has a light flavor and is deliciously crunchy in texture.
- Red: Red cabbage has a similar structure and flavor to green cabbage; however, it is slightly more peppery in flavor. While I love its pretty purple-red hue, keep in mind that its color has a tendency to steep out and dye the ingredients around it.
- Napa: Napa Cabbage, also called Chinese cabbage is a bit sweeter than green and red cabbage. It’s also more tender and milder in flavor. It’s a delicious option for people who think they don’t like coleslaw!
- Broccoli Slaw: If you aren’t a fan of cabbage, you can use shredded raw broccoli stalks in Mexican cabbage recipes.
How to cut cabbage for slaw?
The most time-consuming part of preparing this recipe for Mexican cole slaw without mayo is cutting the vegetables. However, once you know how to properly cut cabbage, making coleslaw is a breeze!
- Remove tough outer leaves: Remove any tattered, tough or bruised outer leaves and discard them.
- Remove root: If your cabbage still has the root intact, use a sharp chef’s knife to slice off and discard the root.
- Cut in half: Cut the cabbage in half down through the core (or stem).
- Cut into quarters: Slice the cabbage into quarters, cutting down through the core again.
- Remove core: Cut into the cabbage diagonally (in a small triangle shape) to remove and discard the core.
- Slice into shreds: Thinly slice the cabbage into shreds by cutting it crosswise, slicing in the short direction.
Can I make this Mexican cabbage recipe in advance?
Freshly made Mexican-style coleslaw tastes the best on the day it is made. The cabbage salad does need to stand or chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to 2 hours before serving. This time allows the flavors to have a chance to mingle and meld. However, past the recommended ‘stand time’, the longer slaw sits, either in the refrigerator or out on a table, the more the cabbage wilts and releases water. The released water will make the cabbage salad overly soggy.
Nonetheless, if you would like to make this Mexican coleslaw recipe a day or two ahead of time. Here’s your two options:
To make cabbage Mexican style ahead of time
- Prep the veggies and dressing:
- You can slice the cabbage and raw vegetables and store them, undressed in an airtight container or resealable bag in the refrigerator.
- Sauté the corn and jalapeños until slightly charred. Then, allow the vegetables to cool before storing them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- The coleslaw dressing can be made up to 4-5 days in advance. I recommend making the dressing in a mason jar or another small jar. When you’re ready to assemble the slaw, just give the dressing a good shake, pour it over the coleslaw and toss everything together.
- Salt and drain the cabbage: This may seem unorthodox and counterintuitive as salt causes cabbage to wilt. However, it works! Place the shredded cabbage in a colander and toss it with 1 scant tablespoon of coarse salt. Let the cabbage sit for an hour or two, tossing occasionally, until the cabbage wilts. Squeeze as much liquid as you can out of the cabbage before tossing it with the other vegetables and dressing. After salting and removing all the moisture, the prepared coleslaw will keep for several days in the refrigerator.
Serving Mexican coleslaw recipes
How to serve Mexican cabbage slaw?
This easy coleslaw is extraordinarily versatile! It can be served numerous ways, including as a salad, side dish or a topping for dips, tacos and burgers! However, you can also use coleslaw as an ingredient to transform a dish into something spectacular!
What to make with coleslaw:
- Dip: Serve this Mexican coleslaw recipe as a light, healthy dip for hearty tortilla chips! Or, use the slaw as a topping for refried bean dip!
- Entrée Salad: You can easily turn this slaw into a summer salad! Toss in your favorite salad ingredients and top it with chicken, fish, shrimp, or steak!
- Grain Bowl: Slaw is a wonderful way to bulk up and add crisp texture to a grain bowl!
- Sandwiches and Burgers: Add a heaping pile of crisp, cool Mexi slaw to the top of your favorite sandwiches and burgers! I especially love it paired with a crispy fish or fried chicken sandwiches!
- Barbecues: This cabbage slaw is the perfect side salad for weeknight dinners and summer barbecues! It pairs perfectly with grilled chicken, meats, fish, and seafood, like these grilled scallops.
- Hotdogs: Load up the top of your dogs, bonus points for bacon dogs, with fresh slaw and spicy mayonnaise!
- Tacos, Tostadas, Fajitas, Enchiladas and Burritos: This fresh slaw is a delicious substitution to shredded lettuce in tacos, like tacos with beans, and fajitas! Or, it is the perfect lighter pairing for enchiladas and burritos!
- Mexican Casseroles: The most obvious pairing option – serve your slaw with your hearty mexican dishes, like this green chile chicken enchiladas casserole or healthy chicken mexican casserole.
What to serve with it?
This fresh, tangy cabbage Mexican slaw is the perfect way to round out weeknight dinners, picnics, potlucks and summer barbecues! This dish pairs well with basically everything and can take a regular, everyday dinner from boring to outstanding, lickity-split!
- Pico de Gallo
- Queso Dip
- Corn Chili Salsa
- Bean Dip
- Avocado Egg Rolls
- Mexican Shrimp Ceviche
- Chicken Wings
Side dish suggestions
- Easy Baked Beans Recipe
- Mexican Salad with Avocado
- Potato Salad Recipe (No Mayo)
- Mexican Cauliflower Rice Recipe
- Greek Orzo Pasta Salad recipe
- Italian Chopped Salad Recipe
- Chicken Tortilla Soup, Chicken Black Bean Soup or Pozole soup
- Sandwiches and Burgers
- Hot dogs
- Pulled Pork
- Pork Carnitas
- Baja Chicken Tacos
- Grilled Chicken, Grilled Steak and Fish
- Smoked Chicken and Meats
- Tender Brisket
- Fried Chicken and Fish
- Healthy Mexican Casserole
- Beef Barbacoa
- Mexican Main dishes (burritos, tostadas, fajita casseroles, etc.)
- Stacked Enchiladas
Storing coleslaw Mexican
How long does this Mexican slaw with cabbage keep?
While leftovers can still be eaten the next day, this Mexican coleslaw recipe is crunchiest when you enjoy it within a couple of hours of preparing. However, you can store leftover cabbage slaw in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Keep in mind, the longer you store coleslaw, the worse its texture as the vegetables lose crispness. If you would like to prepare a lot of coleslaw specifically to have leftovers, I highly suggest you pre-salt your cabbage! (See above to read about pre-salting shredded cabbage for coleslaw)
Can I freeze cabbage slaw?
This Mexican coleslaw can be frozen as it is dressed with an oil and vinegar-based dressing (no mayo). However, it is important to note that thawed coleslaw does not have the same fresh, crisp flavor and texture as freshly made slaw.
To freeze slaw: Make sure you pre-salt your cabbage before making the coleslaw. Place prepared cabbage slaw in a resealable freezer-safe bag. Remove all excess air, seal and label it. Coleslaw will last in the freezer for up to 3 months.
To use frozen slaw: Remove it from the freezer and let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Drain all excess water from slaw. Refresh the cabbage slaw with a bit of vinaigrette and a pinch of kosher salt before serving. Use the coleslaw within 2-3 days of thawing.
This Mexican coleslaw recipe is fast, healthy, bursting with cool, crunchy and fresh flavors; yet doesn’t require much effort or thought! It’s a wonderful go-to recipe to keep in your back-pocket when you need a healthy salad, stellar side, or deliciously fresh topping for tacos (Or, burritos. And, burgers or sandwiches.) Essentially, this is the perfect last minute dish that pairs well with everything! And, you need it in your life!
Until next time, friends, cheers – to crave-worthy coleslaw!
More recipes with cabbage!
How to make the best Mexican Coleslaw with Corn recipe👇
Mexican Cabbage Slaw
- 1 skillet
- 1 Jar or Small Bowl (dressing)
- 1 Large Mixing Bowl
- 6 TBS Neutral Oil - vegetable or canola - DIVIDED
- 3 Ears Corn – shucked & kernels cut off cob (about 2 ½ cups kernels)
- 2 large Jalapenos – stemmed, seeded & diced
- 4 cups Shredded Green Cabbage (16 ounces shredded coleslaw mix or ½ medium head)
- 1 large Carrot – shredded or peeled into ribbons
- 1 medium Red Bell Peppers – stemmed, cored & finely sliced or diced
- ½ small Red Onion – finely sliced
- 4 medium Green Onions – thinly sliced
- 1/3 Cup Fresh Cilantro – packed & finely chopped, or more to taste
- Optional Mix-Ins: Crumbled Fresco or Feta Cheese, Diced Avocado, Thinly Sliced Jicama, Pepitas, Cooked Black Beans - to taste
- Char the corn and jalapenos: Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the kernels of corn and the jalapenos. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the corn is slightly charred, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat and let the veggies cool completely while you make the dressing.
- Make the dressing: In a glass measure or small bowl, combine the remaining 5 tablespoons of oil with the orange juice, lime juice, vinegar, cumin, paprika, chili powder, Mexican oregano (if using) and 1 tablespoon of honey. Season with ½ teaspoon of kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper. Whisk the dressing well to emulsify. Taste and adjust the dressing with more citrus juice, honey, salt and pepper if desired. Set aside.
- Assemble the slaw: In a large bowl, combine the cooled corn and jalapeños with the cabbage, carrots, bell peppers, red onions and half of the green onions (and jicama if using). Pour half of the dressing over the Mexican slaw. Toss well to combine. Taste the cabbage slaw and adjust the with more dressing if desired.
- Let stand: Let the coleslaw stand for at least 20 minutes, tossing once, to allow flavors to develop and meld. After the 20 minutes, toss everything again.
- Serve: Top with cheese, avocado and any optional add-ins if using. Then, garnish the top of the slaw with the remaining green onions and cilantro. Serve and enjoy!
- Raw onions: If you are sensitive to raw onions, soak the diced red onions in a bowl of lightly salted cold water for 15 minutes. Rinse and drain well before using.
- Make ahead instructions:
- Slaw: You can prepare and slice all of the ingredients up to 2 days ahead. Cut everything except the cilantro. Place the coleslaw ingredients in a serving bowl (do not add dressing) and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator.
- Char Corn: Sauté the corn and jalapenos until slightly charred. Allow the vegetables to cool and then store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Dressing: The dressing can be made up to 5 days in advance. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Shake well before using.
- When ready to serve: Add the dressing and toss together. Garnish with cilantro. Serve & Enjoy!
- Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- Want leftovers? If you would like to prepare a lot of coleslaw specifically to have leftovers, I highly suggest you pre-salt your cabbage! (See post for salting shredded cabbage)
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