Mom’s Healthy but Delicious Coleslaw

When I was growing up, “good for you” invariably applied to things I did not want to eat. There were, however, a few exceptions, the main one being our family’s special version of coleslaw, invented by my grandmother who lived with us and did the cooking. Rather than the usual creamy dressing, it was prepared with equal parts of freshly squeezed lemon juice and oil. It wouldn’t be the same without the minced garlic and in recent years, my mother’s much appreciated addition has been currants for little bursts of sweetness and chopped avocado, which adds a slight creaminess and lusciousness of flavor.

Years ago I bought my mother a food processor to ease the preparation by speeding the grating of the cabbage and carrots. She tried it several times but we all agreed that the hand grating added something to the texture so she returned to the old way and I breathed a sigh of relief.

When I was a child, this coleslaw often accompanied family meals and we all enjoyed it on top of buttered rye bread. But because it was such a family favorite, it always appeared (and still does) at holiday dinners as well. Its savory freshness and lightness in face of all the heavier fare makes it an ideal side dish. It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving, in fact, without cousin Sue’s apple pie and mom’s coleslaw.

Any leftover coleslaw is still delicious, though less crisp, the following day but that’s the storage limit once the dressing has been added. I know because I always go home with a jar of the leftover. I guess I must have grown up; the fact that it’s healthy food actually pleases me now.

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Marinating time: at least 1 hour; up to 8 hours
volume ounces grams
green cabbage (shredded with a knife or 4 mm. Cuisinarts slicing disc) 3 cups 10 ounces 284 grams
4 medium carrots, coarsely shredded cups 5 ounces 142 grams
green bell pepper, chopped ½ cup 2.3 ounces 65 grams
dried currants ¼ cup 0.5 ounce 14 grams
olive oil, preferably light ¼ liquid cup
lemon juice, freshly squeezed* ¼ liquid cup
1 large clove garlic, minced teaspoons 5 grams
OPTIONAL: avocado, diced ½ cup 2.5 ounces 70 grams

*Lime juice makes a nice variation.


In a 2-quart bowl, place the cabbage, carrots, green pepper and currants. In a glass measuring cup, measure the oil and lemon juice; add the garlic and mix lightly. Pour the dressing over the vegetable mixture and toss to mix well. Add the avocado and toss lightly.

Cover the coleslaw tightly and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour before serving. The coleslaw is best eaten the same day.

NOTE: The vegetable mixture, except the avocado, can be prepared a day ahead and refrigerated.