Kitchn Love Letters

Thanksgiving Slaw Deserves a Place at Your Holiday Table

published Nov 13, 2019
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Credit: Meghan Splawn

This year, when choosing sides for the Thanksgiving feast, I want you to think about slaw. Hear me out: Perhaps you think slaw is a summer barbecue food, not something that sits alongside a turkey. What I have in mind is different. What I have in mind is Thanksgiving slaw.

Thanksgiving slaw is a Kitchn recipe that I’ve been making for the past four years. I would have made it longer, but we only published it in 2016. It’s a delightfully tangy salad with lots of bite and crunch — exactly the thing that every rich potato- and stuffing-filled dinner table needs. Here’s why I think slaw is an essential Thanksgiving recipe.

Credit: Lauren Volo

Why This Winter Slaw Is Essential

Thanksgiving slaw is made with great crunchy winter veggies like hearty cabbage, kale, parsley, and red onions. And it’s easy to make: After thinly slicing the veggies, you toss them with a maple-mustard vinaigrette, and top with toasted almonds and dried cranberries. Done. And yet you don’t have to make it the day you’re making everything else. In fact, it only gets better as it sits, so you should make it the day before, and just pull it out at dinner time.

Obviously this slaw fills a certain obligation we all feel to have something green on our Thanksgiving or holiday tables. But unlike a basic side salad, something fascinating happens when you bring Thanksgiving slaw to a table. Once everyone tastes the sweet, tangy dressing and crisp vegetables pairing so well with the turkey and gravy, they’ll go back for seconds. Then they will ask for the recipe.

How to Make Thanksgiving Slaw Really Sing

Here’s how I make Thanksgiving slaw for my own turkey day feast: I mix up a dressing of olive oil, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, and apple cider vinegar in a small jar. (This can be done well in advance.) Up to two days before the meal, I shave cabbage, kale, and red onions, and marinate the onions in a bit of the dressing while I toast some almonds and set them aside. Then I toss the rest of the salad ingredients (cabbage, kale, cranberries) with the onions and dressing to coat. I leave a little more dressing aside with the almonds to add just before serving — otherwise the almonds get soggy and lose their crunch. Right before serving, I toss the slaw with the last of the dressing and top with the almonds.

This recipe is also the perfect framework for making other fall salads. I’ve ditched the cabbage in favor of raw Brussels sprouts shaved finely on a mandoline (although Trader Joe’s sells bags of shredded sprouts) and I swapped the dried cranberries for pomegranate arils once, when my sister had a mix-up shopping for me on Thanksgiving day. It was a most delicious accident.

Get the recipe: Thanksgiving Slaw

At Kitchn, our editors and contributors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. Kitchn Love Letters is a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.