Coleslaw (or cole slaw) is a salad consisting primarily of shredded raw cabbage. It can also include shredded carrots.
There are many variations of the recipe which include the addition of other ingredients, such as red cabbage, grated cheese, pineapple, or apple. It is usually mixed with a dressing which traditionally consists of vegetable oil and vinegar or a vinaigrette. In the U.S. coleslaw often contains mayonnaise (or its substitutes); although many regional variations exist, and recipes incorporating prepared mustard are also common.
A variety of seasonings may be added. The dressing is usually allowed to settle on the blended ingredients for several hours before being served. The cabbage may come in finely minced pieces, shredded strips, or small squares.
Coleslaw is generally eaten as a side dish with foods such as barbecue, French fries, and other fried foods; notably, fried catfish in the southern U.S. Also, in this region, it is common as a sandwich ingredient, often placed on barbecue sandwiches, and on hamburgers and hot dogs along with chili and hot mustard. It is sometimes used as an ingredient in the Reuben sandwich. A variant with vinegar and oil is often served with pizza in Sweden. It is common for West Virginians to place it on hot dogs with chili, yellow mustard, and chopped onion.
"Asian" coleslaws are also popular in the U.S. and usually contain all the typical ingredients plus dry noodles or almonds and no mayonnaise.
Coleslaw was probably consumed, in its earliest form, in the times of the ancient Romans. Since then, it has been adopted in many countries, including (but not limited to) the United Kingdom
, the United States
, and Spain
. However, the mayonnaise variety of coleslaw could not have arisen until the 18th century as mayonnaise was not yet invented. The term, "cole slaw", arose in the 18th century as a partial translation from the Dutch term "koolsla", a shortening of "koolsalade", which means "cabbage salad". It was commonly called cold slaw in Britain until the 1860s when "cole" (meaning cabbage) was revived. "Cole" originates from the Latin, colis, meaning "cabbage", and is the origin of the Dutch word as well. In addition to calling it "coleslaw," U.S. Southerners also refer to it as "slaw." In Arabic
it is called 'Salatit Al Malfooof' سلطة الملفوف meaning the cabbage salad. Today, coleslaw generally refers to the variation of the recipe with a mayonnaise-based dressing on the shredded cabbage and other vegetables.