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Recipe: The Best NYC Deli Cole Slaw

For years, I’ve searched for a recipe that recreated the Cole Slaw of my youth. And by that I mean, the creamy side dish served at the great New York delis in and around my neighborhood. It wasn’t until I came across a cookbook from the 2nd Avenue Deli that my hopes were finally realized. This recipe is simple, and absolutely the real deal.

Cole Slaw from the 2nd Avenue Deli
makes around 2 quarts

2 pounds green cabbage
1/4 cup very finely grated carrot
3 tablespoons white vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper

1. Remove and discard loose outer cabbage leaves and core. Shred cabbage. (The easiest way to do this is to cut the cabbage in quarters, julienne each quarter into 1/8-inch or smaller strips with a sharp knife, then pulse chopped cabbage a few times in your food processor.) Don’t shred it too fine; you want texture and crumch. Place shredded cabbage in a large bowl, add carrots (these can be shredded very fine in the bowl of a food processor) and mix.

2. In a separate bowl, mix all other ingredients. Pour them over the cabbage and carrots and toss to combine thoroughly. Chill for several hours, or even overnight.

Photograph by John Grant


15 comments for “Recipe: The Best NYC Deli Cole Slaw”

  1. Lana Roy says:

    I live in NYC and have been to the 2nd Avenue deli when it was still on Second Avenue. Anyhow, I want to recreate the recipe for a party on Saturday. There must be a mistake in the recipe as re-written by you… there was never mayonnaise. No mayo is what made it great, and made it taste kind of guilt free. Can you re-check your source ?

    • wendy says:

      I found it in their cookbook. And it’s delicious. But I’ve tasted slaws with vinaigrettes and they’re great too. This particular recipe reminds me of the coleslaw from delis in my childhood, so it’s got sentimental value.

    • Martha says:

      Here is the coleslaw recipe- This is the one that they give you with your meal. It’s the best!!!!!!

      1 small head of green cabbage
      2 medium carrots, peeled
      1 green bell pepper
      1 large rib of celery, cut crosswise into thin slices
      3/4 cup distilled white vinegar
      2 tablespoons vegetable oil
      1/3 cup white sugar
      1 tablespoon salt
      1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper


      To prepare the coleslaw:
      Have the cabbage, cut into quarters and remove the core. Slice as thin as possible and add to a medium size bowl.
      Grate the carrots on the coarsest side of a box grater. Add those to the cabbage.
      Remove the seeds and ribs from the bell pepper and dice. Add to the cabbage and carrot.
      In a large liquid measuring cup, mix white vinegar, vegetable oil, sugar, salt and pepper. Pour over the coleslaw. Mix well and refrigerate over night or at least 8 hours.

      Even if you don’t let it sit, it’s still delicious.

    • Rebecca says:

      They have (and had) a “health salad”, which had no mayo, and cole slaw, which is essentially the health salad with mayo.

  2. jeff Garner says:

    odicvered the recipethat Ben’s Deicatession uses for their amazing cole slaw. I have been eating it for over 20 years on both Long Islan and Boca Raton Florida, however I have never found one. Does anyone have a reciepe that even comes close and have an article of video showing or explaining how you make it.

    The wondering Jew Jeff G

  3. jeff Garner says:

    I am looking for the recepe of Ben’s amazing Cole Slaw. They have refused to provide multiple requests for the reciepe, however maybe has come close to replicating it. Please tell me where I can find it and an expanation on how to make it, a video of making it would be great as well.

    A member of the lost tribe in Boca Raton, even though we have a beens searching for how to make the best Cole Slaw in the world.

    Jeff G a member of the lost Tribe

  4. Sam says:

    I just left Katz’s Deli an hour ago, I had the classic cole slaw, and absolutely had mayo. Cabbage and vinegar without mayo is sauerkraut

  5. Donna Mitterling says:

    Here is the best coleslaw ever!

    KFC style coleslaw
    Combine : 8 C shredded cabbage(use mandolin for long thin shreds)
    1/4 C carrots Finely diced

    1/2 t salt
    1/8 t pepper
    1/2 C mayo
    1/4 C milk
    1/4 C buttermilk
    21/2 Tbsp Lemon juice
    11/2 Tbsp white vinegar

    Beat until senseless

    Mix Cover Refrig for at least 2hrs

    Notes We use powdered buttermilk Buttermilk Blend (sacopantry.com)
    we don’t use the carrots and we just add cabbage until it looks right Not too dry and creamy we don’t measure

    There is several sites that have this recipe as a KFC Knockoff some add onions but I don’t think that would taste good

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