Slaw Down

This recipe for coleslaw took decades to nail down. Not full time, had other things to do.

It starts with Porta’s barbecue on Jenny Lind near my junior high school, Ramsey, in central Fort Smith, Arkansas. There were several Porta brothers, Art’s only served BBQ and sides, intended for take-out though there were a couple of tables. Another ran a diner on Rogers across from Northside High, featuring barbecue as well, but my family went there for the burgers and fries.

Ingredients jotted on dry-erase sheet on the fridge.
Ingredients jotted on dry-erase sheet on the fridge.

We always ordered sliced beef sandwiches on thick white bread with beans and slaw. Saturday nights. It’s the slaw that never left my memory, because it wasn’t sweet. Ever since, at any restaurant or deli, I’ve only been served syrupy gloopy slaw that I’d quit after one bite. If Art made it with sugar it was minimal. Mom loved the prominence of celery seed, as well as a healthy sprinkle of black pepper.

Art’s Barbecue moved way southeast later in the century, near St. Edward’s (now Mercy hospital). Ownership likely changed. The barbecue meats were just as good, my mom and big brother visiting from out of state reported (I having gone veg at some point in there), but the slaw had been turned conventional.

Unlike other recipes in Brick, no credits to share here; I’ve winged this mix on my own. Believe me when I say all dressing ingredients are optional, and you’ll still come out with a tasty slaw. Even the mayo. But as is, this is my memory brought to life.

One exception: Art’s without a doubt never used sesame oil — my add-on.


  • 2-4 Tablespoons vegan mayo or any other mayo
  • 1 Tablespoon lime or lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon rice or white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dried dill weed OR 1 teaspoon dill seed
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon dried onion flakes
  • 1 teaspoon toasted dark sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried garlic granules OR garlic powder
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon red cayenne pepper
  • 10-16 oz. bag shredded cabbage/coleslaw, any kind like “tricolor” or “angel hair” or broccoli slaw


  1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together all the dressing ingredients. Allow at least 5 minutes for the dried seasonings to begin to rehydrate.
  2. Add to the bowl the shredded cabbage mix.
  3. Two ways to complete:
    • Stir together well and wait at least 30 minutes to serve for full flavor.
    • With a clean hand, “massage” the cabbage into the dressing with your fingers for a good minute. Kneading incorporates the salt and acids to do their thing quickly. Can serve immediately.

Four large servings. Refrigerate leftovers for up to three days.


Of course you can start with a head of cabbage and shred it yourself. But a pound equals a head a little bigger than a softball and they rarely come that small, so you’d have a lot of cabbage to repurpose. Coleslaw from the prewashed/precut veggie cooler is surprisingly inexpensive, assuming you don’t buy one with a manufactured dressing packet that now you’d toss.

Ingredients all being optional includes the mayo. Your slaw won’t have a white creamy look, but it still will taste great.

Celery seed is NOT celery salt. Garlic powder is not garlic salt.

A fun substitute for the sesame oil would be 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika.

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