Everyone has a favorite side dish at KFC. Many opt for the creamy mashed potatoes and gravy, and it's hard to say no to cheesy mac and cheese. But me? I'm all about that coleslaw. For starters, I can pretend—even if it's just for a second—that the meal in front of me is healthy because there are vegetables on my plate. Mayonnaise-tossed, sugary-sweet vegetables, sure, but vegetables nonetheless! All kidding aside, the real reason I love KFC coleslaw is because it's the perfect complement to fried chicken.
It's crunchy. It's creamy. It's sweet, salty, tangy, and aromatic. Put it all together, and it's the perfect side to balance all that richness in fried chicken. There's also something irresistible about the contrast between cold coleslaw and hot chicken that keeps me digging back in, bite after bite.
If you're also a coleslaw lover, we have great news: You don't have to make a special trip to KFC to get this iconic side. After picking up a batch of coleslaw straight from the source, we performed an intensive taste test, considering the flavors experienced with each bite. We compared our tasting notes with the information available on KFC's website and created a dairy-free copycat KFC coleslaw recipe that tastes exactly like the original!
What is KFC Coleslaw Made Of?
KFC's nutrition calculator lists the ingredients in every dish, so it was easy to get started. The vegetables in the slaw are clearly stated as cabbage and carrots. For the dressing, we had to make a few guesses because KFC lists the mayonnaise ingredients separately (i.e. egg, soybean oil, distilled vinegar, water, etc.) We determined the core ingredients of the dressing are mayonnaise, sugar, corn oil, apple cider vinegar, onion, and paprika. Since corn oil isn't an ingredient most home cooks use, we substituted avocado oil (but you can use any neutral oil, like vegetable oil or canola oil).
The ingredients list also includes "natural flavor," which the FDA defines as additives derived from plants or animals "whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional." In our taste tests, we definitely tasted celery, so we added celery salt to the list. Finally, we saw xanthan gum (a thickening agent) on the list, but we left that one off our copycat recipe. The dressing turns out a little thinner than KFC's, so you can add 1/4 teaspoon of xanthan gum to the mix if you have it on hand. It's not strictly necessary, though, because our dairy-free copycat KFC coleslaw recipe tasted just as good without it!
Is There Dairy in KFC Coleslaw?
Most KFC coleslaw copycat recipes include buttermilk, but we didn't include any buttermilk or milk in our copycat recipe. There were no dairy-based ingredients in the nutrition calculator, and we confirmed that the coleslaw is dairy-free when looking at KFC's food allergies wizard.
We also skipped the garlic powder, another common ingredient found in copycat recipes. Unlike an ingredient like celery salt, which can be listed as "natural flavor," the FDA requires garlic to be listed as a specific ingredient. Since it wasn't, we didn't use it here.
How to Serve KFC Coleslaw
Coleslaw is a perfect side dish to bring to a picnic. It pairs exceptionally well with rich meat dishes like fried chicken or bbq pork. You can add it to your favorite pulled pork sandwich, toss it into a fish taco, or pile it high on top of a hot dog. Basically, if your dish would benefit from a little crunch, sweetness, and tangy flavor, coleslaw is a great choice!
How to Make Copycat KFC Coleslaw
For a truly authentic KFC coleslaw experience, you'll want to use a food processor to break down the cabbage and celery. We get it: It's way easier to buy pre-shredded coleslaw mix than it is to deal with a gigantic head of cabbage. But chopping the vegetables very finely is an important step in making truly authentic copycat KFC coleslaw because it creates the right texture.
If you don't have a food processor, you could use a box grater to get similarly-sized pieces. Or you could go through the painfully long exercise of chopping by hand. Of course, if store-bought coleslaw mix is your only option, go for it! You'll need a little over 8 cups of cabbage and carrot mixture to make this recipe.
KFC Coleslaw Substitutions
KFC coleslaw is naturally dairy-free and gluten-free. It is not vegan-friendly because the dressing is made with mayonnaise, which contains eggs. To make this recipe egg-free, substitute your favorite vegan mayo instead! You can use other mayonnaise substitutes, like sour cream or avocado, but the end result won't turn out tasting like KFC's coleslaw.
Dairy-Free Copycat KFC Coleslaw Recipe
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons neutral tasting oil like canola oil or avocado oil
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons minced onion
- 3/4 teaspoon celery salt
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1 medium head green cabbage cored and cut into large chunks
- 1 medium carrot cut into several pieces
- In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, sugar, oil, vinegar, minced onion, celery salt, and paprika. Whisk the dressing until well combined and set aside.
- Using a food processor, chop the cabbage and carrots very finely, until they are the size of rice. You may need to do this in several stages, depending on the size of your food processor.
- Remove the contents to a large bowl and toss the cabbage mixture with the prepared dressing. Mix well.
- Cover the coleslaw tightly with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or as long as 24 hours.
- Optional: Before serving the coleslaw, place it in a strainer to remove the excess water. Discard the coleslaw water or use it to make other dressings and sauces.
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