Does coleslaw have dairy?

Coleslaw is a salad made primarily of shredded cabbage. It is often served as a side dish and is a staple at summer barbecues and potlucks. Coleslaw comes in many varieties – some are creamy with a mayonnaise-based dressing while others have vinaigrettes. So does coleslaw have dairy?

The short answer is: it depends. Traditional coleslaw recipes call for mayonnaise, which contains eggs – a dairy product. So creamy coleslaw made with mayo does contain dairy. However, there are many dairy-free coleslaw options made with oil and vinegar-based dressings. Vinegar-based coleslaw has no dairy.

What are the Main Ingredients in Coleslaw?

The base of coleslaw is shredded green and/or red cabbage. Beyond cabbage, coleslaw ingredients depend on the variety but often include:

  • Mayonnaise – A thick, creamy emulsion of oil, egg yolks, vinegar or lemon juice used in creamy coleslaw dressings. Mayonnaise contains dairy.
  • Vinegar – An acetic acid used to flavor and preserve food. Cider vinegar, white vinegar, rice vinegar and red wine vinegar are commonly used in coleslaw. Vinegar contains no dairy.
  • Carrots – Shredded carrots are the most common vegetable addition to coleslaw.
  • Onions – Both red and white onions can add crunch and flavor.
  • Sugar – White and brown sugar help balance the acidity of vinegar dressings.
  • Salt and Pepper – Seasonings to taste.
  • Dill or Celery Seed – Herbs and spices that complement cabbage.

Common Coleslaw Varieties

There are many different ways to make coleslaw. Here are some of the most popular varieties:

  • Creamy Coleslaw – Made with a mayonnaise-based dressing. Contains dairy.
  • Vinegar-Based Coleslaw – Made with a vinaigrette of oil and vinegar. Dairy-free.
  • German Coleslaw – Warm version with bacon. Contains dairy.
  • Asian Coleslaw – Made with rice vinegar, sesame oil, ginger and soy sauce. Dairy-free.

Does Store-Bought Coleslaw Have Dairy?

When buying pre-packaged coleslaw from a grocery store or ordering coleslaw from a restaurant, it can be tricky to know if it contains dairy. Here are some tips:

  • Check the ingredients – Creamy coleslaws made with mayo will list eggs in the ingredients.
  • Look for “non-dairy” or “vegan” labels – This indicates a vinegar-based dressing.
  • Ask about the dressing – If unsure, ask if the coleslaw is made with mayo or a vinaigrette.
  • Specify no dairy – Request your coleslaw without mayo or dairy products.

Pre-made coleslaw you find at the grocery store typically comes in two varieties:

  • Creamy Coleslaw – Contains mayo and dairy. Most common pre-packaged option.
  • Vinegar-Based Coleslaw – Uses oil and vinegar. Check ingredients to confirm no dairy.

Can You Make Dairy-Free Coleslaw?

Yes, it is easy to make coleslaw dairy-free by using an oil and vinegar dressing rather than mayonnaise. Here are some recipes for dairy-free coleslaws:

Vinaigrette Coleslaw Dressing

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together dressing ingredients. Toss with shredded cabbage, carrots and other desired vegetables and herbs. Chill before serving.

Creamy Vegan Coleslaw Dressing

  • 1/2 cup vegan mayo (such as Just Mayo)
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together dressing ingredients. Toss with shredded cabbage, carrots and other desired vegetables and herbs. Chill before serving.

What Can I Substitute for Mayonnaise in Coleslaw?

For those avoiding dairy, there are several great mayo substitutes that can be used to make creamy coleslaw:

  • Vegan Mayonnaise – Vegan mayo mimics the texture of regular mayonnaise. Brands like Just Mayo are made from oils and egg-free emulsifiers.
  • Greek Yogurt – Plain non-fat Greek yogurt makes a good mayo substitute. Be sure to choose a non-dairy yogurt.
  • Avocado – Blended avocado can be used in place of mayo in coleslaw dressings.
  • Tofu – Silken tofu pureed with vinegar, lemon juice and herbs creates a creamy base.
  • Hummus – Chickpea hummus can be thinned with vinegar and spices to make a coleslaw dressing.

Coleslaw Ingredients to Avoid with Dairy Allergies

Those with milk allergies need to avoid even small amounts of dairy in their coleslaw. Here are some ingredients to watch out for:

  • Mayonnaise
  • Buttermilk
  • Sour cream
  • Cheese
  • Cream cheese
  • Milk
  • Artificial butter flavor
  • Casein
  • Whey
  • Lactose
  • Ghee
  • Curds
  • Cream
  • Butter
  • Clarified butter

When in doubt, choose coleslaws with oil and vinegar-based dressings or make your own dairy-free dressing at home.

What about Coleslaw with Lemon Juice or Lime Juice?

Lemon or lime juice are great ways to add bright, citrusy flavor to coleslaw. They typically replace some or all of the vinegar in a vinaigrette-style coleslaw dressing. Lemon and lime juice contain no dairy, so:

Coleslaw made with lemon juice or lime juice is dairy-free.

Here’s an easy 4-ingredient lime coleslaw dressing:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp salt

Whisk together and toss with shredded cabbage and veggies. The possibilities are endless when making your own dairy-free coleslaw.

Summary: Does Coleslaw Have Dairy?

To summarize:

  • Traditional creamy coleslaw made with mayonnaise contains dairy.
  • Vinegar-based and vinaigrette coleslaws are dairy-free.
  • To be sure, check ingredients on pre-made coleslaw for mayo or milk products.
  • Ask restaurants if their coleslaw contains mayo or dairy.
  • Coleslaw can easily be made dairy-free at home with oil & vinegar or lemon/lime juice dressings.

So while creamy coleslaw has dairy, there are plenty of delicious ways to make coleslaw without milk ingredients. With some simple swaps and homemade dressings, you can enjoy coleslaw on a dairy-free diet.

Nutrition Facts for Different Types of Coleslaw

Below is a comparison nutrition facts table for creamy coleslaw and vinegar-based coleslaw. Serving sizes are based on a typical 1/2 cup portion.

Nutrition Facts Creamy Coleslaw (with Mayo) Vinegar-Based Coleslaw
Calories 180 60
Total Fat 18g 5g
Sodium 300mg 120mg
Total Carbs 5g 6g
Protein 0g 1g

As shown above, creamy coleslaw tends to be much higher in calories, fat and sodium due to the mayonnaise-based dressing. Vinegar coleslaws provide a lighter option.

Health Benefits of Coleslaw

Coleslaw made from fresh vegetables offers some great nutritional benefits:

  • High in Vitamin C – Raw cabbage and carrots provide immune-boosting vitamin C.
  • Source of Vitamin K – Cabbage has lots of blood-clotting vitamin K.
  • Contains Antioxidants – Coleslaw vegetables have antioxidant power to fight free radicals.
  • Good Source of Fiber – Cabbage fiber supports healthy digestion.
  • Low Carb – Vinegar-based and vinaigrette coleslaws are low in net carbs.

To maximize nutrition, look for coleslaws made with lots of vegetables and minimal added sugar. With oil-based dressings, keep portion sizes modest.

Tips for Serving Coleslaw

Here are some tips for serving delicious coleslaw:

  • Shred cabbage and carrots thinly and evenly for the best texture.
  • Dress coleslaw just before serving to prevent moisture from collecting.
  • Add coleslaw to sandwiches for crunch.
  • Mix different varieties of cabbage like green and red.
  • Toss in shredded kale or brussels sprouts for a nutrition boost.
  • Top coleslaw with toasted sunflower seeds or slivered almonds.
  • Serve coleslaw alongside barbecue dishes, fried chicken or fish tacos.
  • Enjoy coleslaw on its own as a healthy salad or side.

With so many ways to enjoy coleslaw, this versatile crunchy salad can be a tasty addition to any meal. Select dairy-free options or whirl up your own custom coleslaw dressing at home.

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