Cumin Lime Coleslaw

By Ann Fulton

Crisp texture, vibrant flavor, and impressive versatility make this super simple side dish a favorite way to eat veggies in our house!
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Thanks to its crisp texture, vibrant flavor and impressive versatility, this super simple side dish might just become a new favorite way to eat your veggies. Three cheers for Cumin Lime Coleslaw!


When I ask my family what they’d like for dinner, the answer may be pulled pork, spicy shrimp, or mac and cheese, and likely not a tossed salad, roasted broccoli, or mashed potatoes–even though they enjoy all of those things.

Quite logically, when planning our evening meals, most of us tend to focus our time and effort on the main dish instead of the sides.

Side dishes can become an afterthought when most of our limited time is spent on the focal point of a meal. But a great side dish can elevate a meal, making it more filling, more flavorful, and more visually appealing. 

The following slaw recipe accomplishes all of those things–in about five minutes.

For years, I’ve been making this versatile, crisp side dish several times a month because it just seems to make so many meals better. Think of it as a side dish, salad, and condiment. 

In the flavor department, hints of cumin and lime provide a unique flavor upgrade to the traditional slaw, while complementing seemingly everything. 

Further down the page, I’ve included the many ways my family enjoys the dish (it’s a go-to when cooking for company too), with hopes that the list provides inspiration and the easy recipe becomes a go-to for you as well. 

Are you ready?

Crisp texture, vibrant flavor, and impressive versatility make this super simple side dish a favorite way to eat veggies in our house!

A bag of coleslaw mix makes extra quick work of this slaw, and I’ve used them often. That said, shredding your own cabbage doesn’t take long and offers an economical alternative. And when wrapped well, cabbage will usually keep for 1 to 2 months in the refrigerator.

Crisp texture, vibrant flavor, and impressive versatility make this super simple side dish a favorite way to eat veggies in our house!

When shredding your own, green cabbage alone will taste great. If you have them on hand, a small amount of shredded red cabbage and carrot will add visual appeal.

Crisp texture, vibrant flavor, and impressive versatility make this super simple side dish a favorite way to eat veggies in our house!

Basic pantry ingredients and a touch of fresh lime juice create a quick dressing with a pop of flavor that brings the cabbage to life.

Crisp texture, vibrant flavor, and impressive versatility make this super simple side dish a favorite way to eat veggies in our house!

When using the standard 14- to 16-ounce bag of slaw mix, I add slightly less than all the dressing and toss. At first, it will seem like not enough dressing, but if you keep tossing, it will coat better than it first appears. If you like a heavier coating, you may then add the rest. When I have a little extra dressing left, I cover and refrigerate. Then, if I have leftovers, I can refresh and stretch them by adding a little extra shredded cabbage or carrot – even chopped broccoli, shredded Brussels sprouts, fresh greens, or shredded broccoli stem – along with any leftover dressing. 

Crisp texture, vibrant flavor, and impressive versatility make this super simple side dish a favorite way to eat veggies in our house!

I often add the slaw to a grain like rice or quinoa, and then add black beans (or another protein like shredded chicken or chopped shrimp), tomatoes, and avocado. A few crumbled tortilla chips or a sprinkle of pepitas supplies added crunch. Then I mix it up for a satisfying bowl meal that beats Chipotle every time!

Crisp texture, vibrant flavor, and impressive versatility make this super simple side dish a favorite way to eat veggies in our house!     

As mentioned, the convenience of a bagged slaw mix works very well here. However, if you’d like to thinly slice or shred your own cabbage, it won’t take long and is even more economical.

And because a head of cabbage will maintain freshness for quite a few weeks in your produce drawer, a crisp slaw can be a quick and easy option any night of the week. (If using a whole head of cabbage, you may enjoy the tips and FAQs detailed in How To Cut Cabbage.)

As an added bonus, salads made with slaw blends tend to keep well overnight. Unlike tender lettuces, slaw components like cabbage, broccoli, and carrots don’t wilt as quickly once dressed, making them a welcome lunch or leftover dinner option over the next few days.

What can I serve this coleslaw with?

  • For starters, any protein from chicken and seafood to beef and pork. Serve it as a side dish or pile it on top.
  • A perfect match for all sorts of Mexican cuisine, the slaw is also a natural with tacos, quesadillas, burrito bowls, and carnitas.
  • Similarly, the flavors complement all varieties of backyard barbecue fare. Serve with a side of baked beans and anything off the grill. Cumin Lime Slaw also offers a crisp veggie balance to pasta and potato salads.  
  • Anything handheld… We enjoy this simple slaw piled on burgers, sloppy Joes, pulled pork sandwiches, tacos (fish and beef), and turkey sandwiches. It’s so very versatile. 
  • Build your own bowls. The slaw will serve as both the greens portion and provides a dressing component. Combine with your favorite grain (rice, quinoa, farro, etc.), veggies (tomatoes, peppers, corn, avocado, cucumbers, pickled onions…), protein (black or kidney beans, chicken, shrimp, and so on), and extras like crumbled tortilla chips, pepitas, sliced black olives, jalapeños–and whatever else sounds good to you.

Some of my favorite recipes to pair with Cumin Lime Coleslaw include:

For a well-liked variation, I’ve added two or so cups of broccoli florets, chopped small. When making the recipe without extra add-ins, you may wish to start with three-quarters of the dressing if you prefer a lighter coating. Correspondingly, after the salad sits for a few minutes, the cruciferous vegetables soften slightly, and the dressing goes further than it may initially appear.

Leftovers?  While leftovers do hold up well, for optimal freshness and crispest slaw I sometimes dress half the salad at a time if I plan to use the remaining portion for another meal later in the week.  If it’s just me enjoying leftovers for lunch, I go ahead and mix the whole batch.  

To perk up and bolster those leftovers?  I’ve mixed in some chopped, cooked chicken, a few halved grape or cherry tomatoes, a squirt of sriracha, and a sprinkle of sunflower seeds to create a quick and delicious all-in-one meal. You can even bolster it with roughly chopped baby spinach or slivered kale. If you’ve added enough extras to make the leftovers seem dry, simply stir in a spoonful of mayo and add an extra squeeze of lime and/or sriracha.

Crisp texture, vibrant flavor, and impressive versatility make this super simple side dish a favorite way to eat veggies in our house!

So much more than “just” a side dish, we love to pile Cumin Lime Coleslaw on burgers, tacos, and these saucy Barbecue Sandwiches!

Cumin Lime Coleslaw piled on saucy barbecue sandwiches for the win!

Delicious with Chili Lime Chicken, too!

For its ease, flavor, and versatility, the following coleslaw is one of my most frequently repeated side dishes. Crunchy with a hint of creaminess, the mayonnaise in this recipe is lightened and brightened with a hint of lime. Earthy cumin and a touch of cayenne further enhance the flavor.

Cumin Lime Coleslaw
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Yield: approximately 6 servings
This crisp slaw is that go-with-everything alternative to a green salad and can be piled on burgers, burrito bowls, fish tacos, pulled pork, sloppy Joes, turkey sandwiches, and more. You can use a bag of slaw mix or chop your own. Either way, hints of cumin and lime take the easy dressing to the next level.
  • ½ cup (104g) mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) fresh lime juice
  • ½ tablespoon (10g) honey
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt (start with ¼ teaspoon if using table salt)
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 (14-ounce) bag coleslaw mix with carrots*
  • 2-3 green onions, thinly sliced
  1. Stir together the mayonnaise, lime juice, honey, cumin, salt, and cayenne pepper. Refrigerate the dressing until ready to use. This may be done 1-2 days in advance.
  2. Combine the coleslaw mix and green onions in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over top, and toss until the cabbage is evenly coated. If you prefer a lightly coated slaw, start with ¾ of the dressing and add more to taste.
  3. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve. The cabbage will soften and the flavors will meld over time, but the slaw is crisp and delicious right away. Stir the coleslaw well before serving.

* When purchasing coleslaw mix, I like the blend with a little red cabbage and carrots mixed in – mostly for color – but feel free to use what you prefer or what is available. You can also add some shaved carrots to a bag of plain shredded green cabbage or even use broccoli slaw.

Prefer to make your own slaw mix? I often very thinly slice green cabbage and add a small carrot. A cup or two of red cabbage adds appealing color if you have some on hand. And save broccoli stalks – they can be coarsely shredded and used in this slaw as well. Plan on 7-8 cups when shredding your own. When you first toss the freshly cut cabbage, the dressing will appear to barely coat it. As the slaw sits for a few minutes, however, the cabbage will soften and release some moisture. You may even find that you can stir in a little extra cabbage.

Have leftovers? The slaw will soften over time but will still be delicious for several days. I often add a little extra cabbage to the leftovers. A handful or two of crisp cabbage or slaw mix will add fresh appeal and stretch the leftovers.

A few more things...

Chopped fresh cilantro is a nice addition for those who enjoy that herb, and pepitas (I like roasted and salted) provide complementary crunch. For added protein, you could stir in a cup or so of rinsed and drained black beans. Or serve over rice and top with grilled shrimp or chicken.

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A fun nutrition fact from our dietitian Emily:
Coleslaw is absolutely considered a vegetable! As Ann notes, it’s typically made up of various types of raw cabbage, but can also include carrots, scallions, and/or broccoli stems in addition to other vegetables. Adding vegetables, instead of subtracting foods, can be an effective strategy to eating healthfully!

For those who are curious…
The reason we don’t list nutritional breakdowns next to each recipe is because the numbers can change significantly depending on brands people buy and how exact the measuring is. In saying that, if you email me separately, I can provide you with my best estimations on the nutrients you would like to know more about in this recipe. I’m happy to help! 

Recipe first posted April 14, 2018

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  1. Carolyn

    Served this coleslaw with grilled Chili Lime chicken tonight and got a double “Wow” from my usually reserved husband. A definite hit, and good combo to serve for company too. Thanks, Ann!

  2. Pingback: Santa Claus is Cumin to Town in a One Horse Open Slaw Burger (S3E9) – Bob's Burgers by Broads

  3. Alexis

    Great variation of traditional coleslaw. I used red cabbage as that’s what I had on hand. Turned the dish a lovely pinky purple. Topped smoked pulled pork sandwiches one night then burrito bowls another meal. Thanks!

    1. Ann Post author

      Alexis, I make this slaw often as everyone here loves it – and it’s versatile as you mention…and easy! I’m so happy you tried and enjoyed, pink hue and all!

  4. Pat Post author

    This is our new favorite coleslaw–actually our new favorite side dish! I’ve made it three times since you published it in the newspaper. The flavor is nothing short of fantastic!