Does Salting Coleslaw Make It Watery? A Comprehensive Guide to Keeping Your Coleslaw Crisp

Coleslaw is a beloved summer staple, offering a refreshing and crunchy accompaniment to barbeque, picnics, and other outdoor gatherings. However, many home cooks struggle with the frustrating problem of watery coleslaw, which can transform this delightful side dish into a soggy mess. This article explores the science behind salting coleslaw, delves into the reasons why it can make coleslaw watery, and provides practical tips on how to keep your coleslaw crisp and delicious.

The Science Behind Salting Coleslaw:

Salting cabbage, the primary ingredient in coleslaw, is a common practice for several reasons:

  • Enhances Flavor: Salt enhances the natural flavors of cabbage, adding depth and complexity to the overall taste of the coleslaw.
  • Preserves Crispness: Salt helps to draw out excess moisture from the cabbage, which can contribute to wilting and sogginess.
  • Improves Texture: Salting cabbage makes it more pliable and easier to chew, enhancing the overall texture of the coleslaw.

Why Salting Can Make Coleslaw Watery:

While salting cabbage has its benefits, it can also lead to watery coleslaw if not done correctly. Here’s why:

  • Excessive Salt: Using too much salt can draw out an excessive amount of moisture from the cabbage, creating a pool of water at the bottom of the bowl.
  • Incomplete Draining: If the cabbage is not properly drained after salting, the excess moisture will remain and dilute the dressing, making the coleslaw watery.
  • Adding Salt Too Late: Adding salt directly to the coleslaw mixture can cause the cabbage to release moisture into the dressing, resulting in a watery texture.

Tips for Keeping Coleslaw Crisp:

To avoid watery coleslaw and ensure a crisp and delicious result, follow these tips:

  • Salt the Cabbage Separately: Salt the shredded cabbage in a colander, using 1 tablespoon of salt per head of cabbage. Let it sit for 1-2 hours, then rinse thoroughly with cold water to remove excess salt and moisture.
  • Dry the Cabbage Thoroughly: After rinsing, pat the cabbage dry with paper towels to remove as much moisture as possible.
  • Add Salt to the Dressing: Instead of salting the cabbage directly, add salt to the dressing to taste. This prevents the cabbage from releasing excess moisture and keeps the dressing flavorful.
  • Use a Light Dressing: Opt for a light and creamy dressing, such as a mayonnaise-based dressing, to avoid weighing down the coleslaw and making it soggy.
  • Store Properly: Store coleslaw in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Avoid over-mixing or stirring the coleslaw before serving to prevent it from becoming watery.

Salting cabbage is a valuable technique for enhancing the flavor and texture of coleslaw. However, it’s crucial to use the correct amount of salt, drain the cabbage thoroughly, and add salt to the dressing rather than directly to the cabbage to avoid a watery outcome. By following these simple tips, you can ensure that your coleslaw remains crisp, refreshing, and delicious, making it the perfect accompaniment to your summer meals.


  • coleslaw
  • watery coleslaw
  • salting cabbage
  • crisp coleslaw
  • coleslaw tips
  • summer side dish
  • barbeque
  • picnics

Additional Resources:


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Using a food processer

Use the food processor’s slicing blade rather than the shredding blade.

Alternately, chop the cabbage into pieces that will fit into the food processor’s hopper (use the slicing blade instead of the shredding one). The slicing blade produces beautifully even shreds with much more personality than the shredding blade, which produces bits of cabbage that are too fine and reminiscent of KFC coleslaw.

Most coleslaw recipes just call for tossing the freshly shredded cabbage with a hurriedly made homemade dressing after shredding. The cabbage will start to leak liquid within an hour, which will dilute the dressing and leave the cabbage sitting in a puddle of runny dressing that won’t stick to the leaves.

A tiny bit of salt goes a long way toward preventing this heart-stopping effect.

Over a large bowl, arrange your shredded cabbage in a colander or a large mesh strainer. Toss the shreds to ensure that the salt is evenly distributed throughout the cabbage, then sprinkle one teaspoon of salt per pound of cabbage on top.

Allow to stand for at least one hour, but ideally four hours overall. When you check the slaw four hours later, you’ll be astounded by how much liquid has come out while keeping its pickle-crisp texture.

Squeeze or wring out as much liquid as you can, then pat dry with paper towels.

Make the dressing according to your preferred coleslaw recipe, and it will stay puddle-free, crisp, and just the right amount of tender!

Creamy Lemon Buttermilk Coleslaw is one of our faves for an All-American-style coleslaw.

When cooked correctly, inexpensive and unassuming cabbage can be enhanced with a variety of palate-tingling flavors, like Asian Coleslaw.

Check out all of our coleslaw recipes here.

how do you keep cole slaw from getting watery

The creamy, nutty, and delicious dressing made with peanut butter pairs incredibly well with this coleslaw.

how do you keep cole slaw from getting watery

The buttermilk dressing lightens the cole slaw without adding a lot of fat, giving it a creamy flavor. Fresh chives and parsley keeps the taste bright. A tasty side dish with BBQ!.

how do you keep cole slaw from getting watery

A classic American creamy coleslaw with a hint of lemon that stays creamy the next day.

how do you keep cole slaw from getting watery

It’s incredibly quick and simple to prepare, and it tastes creamy and fresh with a nice crunch.

how do you keep cole slaw from getting watery

This Mexican coleslaw is ready in about ten minutes. Refreshing, light, tasty and packed with goodness.

how do you keep cole slaw from getting watery

With the exception of the slightly bitter aftertaste from the preservative, this recipe tastes just like the original Kentucky Fried Chicken coleslaw. It’s inexpensive and simple to prepare in a food processor.

how do you keep cole slaw from getting watery

In addition to providing a welcome crunch, the celery and peanuts also gave the salad a wonderful tang and nuttiness. Very simple to make; to get the best flavor, let it sit in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. Tasty and refreshing!.

how do you keep cole slaw from getting watery

how do you keep cole slaw from getting watery

Crunchy and refreshing, the coleslaw was slightly sweet and sour. Loved the dried cranberries in it, and our guests thought it was delicious and gave it great reviews. I also added one peeled and chopped green apple. Another delicious coleslaw is perfect for summer BBQs.

how do you keep cole slaw from getting watery

Instead of using pimento, I used roasted bell pepper, and it turned out just fine. The coleslaw’s delicious smokiness was enhanced by the roasted bell pepper, and it was incredibly simple to prepare. Refreshing and quite tasty.

how do you keep cole slaw from getting watery

A tasty take on coleslaw that incorporates sweet bell peppers and Tabasco sauce

RecipeLand was established in 1996, years before Google and the term “blogger.” comTM was developed to provide an elusive response to a query that home cooks worldwide had.

how do you keep cole slaw from getting watery

Why does my homemade coleslaw go watery?


How do you make coleslaw not watery?

To avoid watery slaw, salt and drain the cabbage before mixing. The challenge: Despite its simplicity, two things have always bothered us about coleslaw: the pool of watery dressing at the bottom of the bowl after a few hours, and the salad’s sharpness, regardless of the kind or quality of vinegar used.

How do you get the water out of cabbage for coleslaw?

Place salted cabbage in a colander over a bowl for 1 to 2 hours. The salt pulls moisture out of the cabbage, seasons it, and leaves you with a super-crunchy texture that isn’t raw or tough-tasting. Rinse! Rinse well to purge the salt.

How do you thicken cole slaw?

You can use a ¼ teaspoon of xanthan gum in your copycat KFC coleslaw to thicken up the dressing, which is made with canola oil, mayonnaise, sugar, apple cider vinegar, and xanthan gum. You’ll find this dressing super thick and perfect for binding together the tiny flecks of grated cabbage and carrot in the coleslaw.

Why does coleslaw get soggy?

The problem is that cabbage naturally contains a lot of water, which can leak out to create a coleslaw soup. The solution is to salt the cabbage first. This will draw out the moisture and allow you to make a perfect, non-watery coleslaw.

How do you keep coleslaw from wilting?

Place the cabbage in a colander, toss it with the salt, and let it sit for at least an hour (but two is better if you have the time), tossing it occasionally. The cabbage will appear wilted, but once you squeeze out the liquid, The Kitchn confirms that even dressed coleslaw will stay crisp for hours.

How do you make non-watery coleslaw?

The solution is to salt the cabbage first. This will draw out the moisture and allow you to make a perfect, non-watery coleslaw. Put the cabbage in a colander and toss with salt. Let the colander stand in the sink for at least 1 hour. Place the colander under the faucet and rinse the cabbage under cold water. Pat cabbage dry with paper towels.

Does dressing make coleslaw soggy & watery?

Surprisingly, it doesn’t have anything to do with the amount of dressing, or even when you add the dressing — the key to coleslaw that isn’t soggy and watery lies in the preparation of the cabbage. All you’ve got to do is salt and drain your shredded cabbage before continuing with your recipe.

Does coleslaw need salt?

You know the culprit: salt. But coleslaw relies on salt for flavor. Not to mention, your recipe probably calls for it. There’s actually an easy answer to this coleslaw conundrum. Read on to learn how to salt your slaw to keep the cabbage crisp and the dressing creamy. Salting the cabbage should be step one of any coleslaw recipe.

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