Coleslaw, or slaw as the cool kids call it, is essentially a salad of shredded cabbage with either a vinaigrette or mayonnaise-based dressing.
When I think of coleslaw, it takes me back to my childhood when we'd order KFC and undoubtedly would have coleslaw as one of the sides.
Is coleslaw keto friendly? Traditional coleslaw is made with a vinaigrette or mayo-based dressing that has added sugars making most coleslaws not keto friendly.
However, in this article, I'll go over how coleslaw COULD be keto-friendly, where you might find it, and some keto-friendly coleslaw recipes for those of you who like to experiment in the kitchen.
Will Coleslaw Kick You Out Of Ketosis?
After looking at some fast-food restaurant coleslaw ingredients and nutrition facts, every single one of them lists sugar was one of the main components.
Take, for example, this coleslaw from KFC.
Coleslaw (Coleslaw: Chopped Cabbage, Carrots, and Onions, Sugar, Soybean Oil, Water, Distilled Vinegar, Whole Eggs, Food Starch Modified, Salt, Mustard Flour, Corn Vinegar, Apple Cider Vinegar, Natural Flavor, Xanthan Gum, Paprika, Extractives of Paprika.)
And the nutrition facts for a single side of coleslaw.
Is KFC coleslaw keto friendly? The coleslaw itself has 14g of total carbohydrates with 4g of carbs coming from fiber, making the entire coleslaw only 10 grams of net carbs. KFC’s individual-sized coleslaw wouldn’t be considered keto-friendly for many individuals, but could be fit in if accounted for.
While you could potentially fit 10 grams of net carbs into your daily budget, you have to decide if that's worth it to you.
Maybe it is.
Therefore, coleslaw will not inherently kick you out of ketosis as it will largely depend on the ingredients and the serving size.
So long as you stay at or under your carbohydrate threshold, you should have no problems getting and staying in ketosis.
Is Restaurant Or Store Bought Coleslaw Keto Friendly
Most restaurant or store-bought coleslaw have added sugars.
To determine whether a coleslaw is keto-friendly, first, check the nutrition label to decide whether or not you can fit your desired amount into your carbohydrate allotment for the day.
If there is no nutritional information provided, it's probably best to stay on the safe side and skip it altogether.
How Many Carbs Are In Coleslaw
The number of carbs in coleslaw will depend on the serving size and the amount of sugar used in the dressing.
An individual-sized side of coleslaw form KFC has 10 grams of net carbs.Store-bought coleslaw will have more or fewer carbs depending on the amount of sugar used in the slaw dressing.
You can ensure a lower amount of carbohydrates by making your own keto-friendly slaw, which I gave examples of down below.
One cup of chopped raw cabbage, the main ingredient in coleslaw, has 5 grams of total carbohydrates, with two grams coming from dietary fiber, leaving 3 grams of net carbs.
How Is Coleslaw Made?
Coleslaw comes from the Dutch term koolsla, which means cabbage salad.
Coleslaw is a salad that consists of two main ingredients:
- Finely shredded raw cabbage
- Salad dressing (vinaigrette or mayo-based)
Other ingredients may include:
Where coleslaw and keto don't seem to jive well is when too many sugars are added to the dressing mixed with the cabbage.
What Is A Great Use For Coleslaw?
When you think of coleslaw, you probably think “side dish,” and you would be correct.
Coleslaw is generally eaten as a side dish, but it doesn't have to be, so finding dishes it pairs well with is an essential factor.
Some keto-friendly foods coleslaw works well with include:
- Fried chicken
- Grilled meats
- Sandwiches using keto-friendly bread *link
- Fish tacos with keto-friendly tortillas *link
Also, so long as your coleslaw doesn't contain a mayo-based dressing, you can freeze any leftovers for future use. This means that coleslaw is a great food to prep a lot of in advance and freeze some for the following days or weeks.
Keto Friendly Coleslaw Recipes
Since coleslaw could potentially be keto-friendly, how can we accomplish that? To make coleslaw as keto-friendly as possible, we would need to use a dressing without any added sugar or with the use of a sugar substitute.
Since I'm not much of an experimenter in the kitchen and like to keep things simple, I tend to use some ingredients you may not have thought to use.
For an easy and low-calorie coleslaw, I like to mix:
- Finely shredded cabbage
- Non-fat or Full-fat Greek yogurt such as the Two Good yogurt brand
- A little bit of finely shredded carrots
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Sugar-free sweetener of choice (I like either Stevia or Splenda)
Since I'm a fly by the seat type of guy, I don't have a set recipe with ratios, but here are some other keto-friendly coleslaw keto recipes I've tried before.
Low Carb Coleslaw
If you like a very “citrusy” type of coleslaw, you'll enjoy this one.
Photo and recipe courtesy of The Little Pine
4 Ingredient Keto Coleslaw
If you're looking for an easy coleslaw recipe with limited ingredients, check this keto-friendly coleslaw recipe out.
Photo and recipe courtesy of Jennifer Banz
Keto Friendly Dill Pickle Slaw
This coleslaws secret weapon? Pork or turkey bacon and pickles!
Photo and recipe courtesy of Seeking Good Eats
Some Other Helpful Coleslaw Tips
If you're going to make some coleslaw, you may run into some of these questions.
What cabbage do you use for coleslaw? I like using Napa cabbage and possibly a red cabbage for added color.
Technically you can use any cabbage that you prefer, or if you're in a hurry, you could buy a pre-shredded cabbage mix.
Can I freeze coleslaw? I briefly mentioned earlier that you could freeze coleslaw, but so long as you're not using a dairy-based dressing.
How long you can freeze coleslaw depends on how comfortable you are with frozen foods, but up to 3-months is generally accepted.
Which cabbage is the most nutritious? Out of the different cabbage varieties, red cabbage has added nutritional benefits over other forms of cabbage and provides a heartier flavor.
Is Coleslaw Healthy To Eat?
Defining health varies from person to person, but coleslaw does offer some impressive nutrition, and that's because of its main ingredient, cabbage.
Cabbage belongs in the same genus of vegetables like broccoli and kale, but may people associate cabbage with the likes of lettuce due to its appearance.
In just 1 cup of raw green cabbage:
- Vitamin K: 85% of the RDI
- Vitamin C: 54% of the RDI
- Folate: 10% of the RDI
- Manganese 7% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 6% of the RDI
- Calcium: 4% of the RDI
- Potassium: 4% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 3% of the RDI
Also, cabbage may help reduce inflammation due to its powerful antioxidants.1 2 Researchers have identified as many as 15 different phenols and 20 different flavonoids in cabbage.
Chronic inflammation has been associated with many diseases we face today, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), rheumatoid arthritis, and heart disease. 3
What Are Some Alternatives To Coleslaw?
While there is no real “alternative” to coleslaw, slaw can be made with just about any form of vegetable you prefer.
Replace cabbage in any recipes with vegetables such as:
- Broccoli (Trader Joes makes a great broccoli slaw base)
- Green beans
- Brussels sprouts
- Pickled peppers
Traditional coleslaw isn't exactly the most keto-friendly food you can find, primarily due to the added sugars in the dressing. However, coleslaw can be made using more keto-friendly recipes and ingredients, as shown above.
As an example, a small side dish of coleslaw from KFC has 10 grams of net carbs, which you could potentially fit in on a ketogenic diet.
When in doubt, it's probably best to skip the coleslaw if there is no nutritional information provided.
Or, you could eat a tiny serving, but where's the fun in that.