Charred Jalapeño Coleslaw with Cotija Cheese

Charred Jalapeño Slaw

Charred Jalapeño Coleslaw. Give me a half a cabbage and I can work a miracle. So can you. Really. A cabbage miracle. You may not think that cabbage is miraculous. You may even question yourself when you buy it. But summer is here and you figure you’ll probably have to make a stupid, boring coleslaw at some point for some dumb barbeque. Cabbage may not be sexy, but a properly stored cabbage seems to last forever in the refrigerator. So you buy it, just to be coleslaw ready, but you don’t feel good about it.

That’s because coleslaw has become a side dish that’s lost at sea. It’s fallen between the cracks and gone astray. Coleslaw gets pushed to the back of the buffet, next to the melba toast, where it sits, practically forgotten, waiting for a miracle. The funny thing is– cabbage miracles are easy to perform. Slaw doesn’t have to be a listless mulch of cabbage and carrots. Miracle Whip is not the miracle to which I refer.

Before we get to the coleslaw miracles lets discuss the coleslaw sins:

  • Too much dressing. Whether it’s mayo, vinegar or fruit juice. A proper slaw should not swim in its dressing.
  • Mushy slaw. Contrary to popular belief coleslaw doesn’t always “get better the next day”. In fact most slaws, when left too long in their dressing, simply die a limp and languid death. If you don’t believe me simply pick up a Styrofoam tub in the “deli” section of your grocery store. I guarantee it’s been sitting there long enough to prove my point. There are exceptions. Pickled slaws can get better with time spent stewing in the refrigerator. But honestly, I prefer most pickle trays to an overly pickled slaw.
  • Too many ingredients. Slaw is not the time to clean out the refrigerator. Find another use for that week-old caviar, and don’t mix chutney with milk. My favorite slaws feature just three maybe four contrasting flavors bound together with a simple but flavorful dressing.

Once you know what not to do, the path to glorious coleslaw is easy to follow. Be creative. Brighten up the concept with seasonal fruit. Fresh herbs make the medley modern. Extras like cheese, nuts, and dried fruits can transform coleslaw too. Don’t forget, nobody says you have to use cabbage either. Sturdy lettuce such as frisée can provide the backbone you need.

Charred Jalapeño Coleslaw

But if you’re like me, you always have a cabbage chilling in the veg drawer. In that case go for a classic coleslaw with a zing. I used Napa cabbage, carrots, and salty cotija cheese. The zing comes from my new favorite dressing. It’s a vinaigrette made with charred jalapeños and reduced tangerine juice. I seem to always have it around this summer. It’s just the thing for whipping up miracles. GREG

Napa Cabbage for Jalapeño Coleslaw Jalapeño Coleslaw vinaigretteThe Napa cabbage photograph appears courtesy of and editorial partnership with Shutterstock.

Spicy Coleslaw with Charred Jalapeño Vinaigrette and Cotija 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 8–10Published


  • ½ cup fresh tangerine or orange juice
  • 1 jalapeño
  • 1 small shallot (peeled and minced)
  • 2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 pinch kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (or more to taste)
  • ½ cup vegetable oil (or other mild flavored oil)
  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ pound Napa cabbage (thinly shredded) about ½ head
  • 2 large carrots (peeled and coarslely grated)
  • 4 ounce cotija cheese (crumbled)


Make the vinaigrette: Simmer tangerine or orange juice in a small saucepan until syrupy and reduced to about 2 tablespoons, about 8 minutes. Let cool.

Roast the jalapeño by laying it directly over gas flame, turning occasionally until charred on all sides. Place it in a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap, set aside until cool; rub off the blackened skin, remove stem and seeds, then finely chop the pepper.

Whisk shallot, vinegar, reduced juice, and the jalapeño in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper. Whisk in vegetable oil, then olive oil. Set vinaigrette aside. Vinaigrette can be made 1 day ahead; cover and chill. This recipe makes more vinaigrette than you need for this recipe.

Make the slaw: Combine the shredded cabbage, carrots, and crumbled cotija in a large bowl. Dress lightly with charred jalapeño vinaigrette; toss well before serving.