If foods were actors in movies, coleslaw would never be a star—only a supporting character at best. No one in the history of humanity has ever said, “[insert a Chris Rock voice] I want to go to restaurant ‘x’ because of the coleslaw.” It’s never happened. Not once.
At its best, coleslaw is like Hawkeye from the Avengers movies. He’s a great supporting character, but he’s not going to be the guy that defeats ‘Thanos.’
Coleslaw doesn’t have to be an afterthought.
Just because cole slaw won’t be the star of a meal, that doesn’t mean that we always have to treat it as an afterthought. I’ve been to top-notch BBQ restaurants where the chefs deal with coleslaw like they only serve it out of fear of being shut down by the BBQ police. It’s like they didn’t even try to make it taste good. They’ll cut down applewood trees by hand, make a BBQ rub with 72 ingredients, smoke a brisket for three days, and then give you a mouthwash cup filled with miracle whip and cabbage?
Not all restaurants show this blatant disrespect to coleslaw. Some places treat coleslaw like an elegant dessert—they perfectly balance salt, sugar, sour flavors, and fat. With all of these flavors, a well-made, traditional coleslaw is definitely a tasty side dish. However, I wouldn’t place it in the ‘healthy’ category due to its sugar content (check out my article about sugar if you need a refresher on issues with sugar). For those who look at coleslaw as the healthy counterbalance to pounds of smoked meat—you may want to keep looking (#ijs).
Can you make coleslaw without any fat or added sugar?
So when a company asked me to create a recipe for people with familial chylomicron syndrome, a condition that prevents people from adequately metabolizing sugar and fat, I knew it was going to be a difficult task.
How do I provide a creamy flavor without using fat? How do I make the slaw sweet without sugar?
Using a nonfat Greek yogurt was a decent substitution for mayo, sour cream, or miracle whip. It was a good starting place, but it didn’t have enough texture to it. I needed something to mimic the feel of the eggs in mayonnaise. I immediately thought of aquafaba, the thick liquid that comes from soaking beans in water. It’s basically the stuff from canned beans that most people pour down the drain. It’s so rich in protein; you can easily use it as a non-fat, vegan egg substitute. Speaking of vegan, some of my vegan readers can forgo the yogurt and use veganaise. Just bear in mind that this wouldn’t be a low-fat recipe if use veganaise since it is high in fat.
Substituting sugar was a little more difficult. I, unfortunately, made the mistake of trying stevia. Have you ever tasted stevia? I made a ‘malort face‘ after trying it. No offense to stevia lovers, but its smell reminded me of my medical school’s anatomy lab.
Since people with FCS can have moderate amounts of fruit—I used apples in the recipe for their natural sweetness. I typically prefer Fuji apples or Pink Ladies (man, I’m definitely losing my street cred with this blog).
I flew out to Scottsdale for the cooking demo, and everyone loved it. Enjoy!
I am a physician and trained chef. I specialize in gastroenterology and nutrition. Currently I work as the Associate Director of Adult Nutrition at the University of Chicago.