Posted by: Erica Retrochef | March 11, 2013

Old King Cole’s Favorite Slaw

Funny story: I was cropping this picture to use as a new blog header, because the “groan” vs. “grin” transition really seems to personify my family’s varying reactions to the Retro Recipe experience. And one of the professors was walking by and she stuck her head in and said, “What are you working on?” So I explained the blog and everything, and she thought it was pretty cool. Then the next day she came by my office with four cans of Cream of [Something] Soup. So look for some Campbell’s stuff in the next few weeks.

But today, we’re just using cabbage and miracle whip. If Peg can get grins from it, maybe we can, too…


Combine 1/2 c. Miracle Whip Salad Dressing with 2 tbsp. Tarragon Vinegar, 1 tsp. Kraft Salad Style Mustard, 1/2 tsp. salt, dash of seasoned salt and freshly ground pepper. Chill. Mix with 2 c. shredded red cabbage. Place cole slaw in 4 individual salad bowls. Garnish with Miracle Whip. Arrange each bowl on a salad plate and garnish with lettuce hearts.

For color and variety: Make half the recipe with white cabbage — half with red. Serve in 4 bowls — 2 of each color slaw.

In fact, the term “cole slaw” comes from the Dutch “koosla,” meaning “cabbage salad.” Old King Cole, while nobody’s entirely sure who exactly he was (if indeed he was a real person), has a Celtic name. There’s really no relationship between King Cole and cole slaw, although if you really want to sing an old nursery rhyme while shredding cabbage, hey, I won’t stop you. I just find the name of their salad to be a pretty weird choice.

But you came here to see whether Peg’s new salad would be a groan or a grin, didn’t you?


Tarragon vinegar was not terribly hard to find; I was afraid I would need to make my own (by soaking tarragon leaves in vinegar for a few weeks), but it turns out it’s readily available in the grocery store.


I thought I’d be able to mix up the Miracle Whip, vinegar, and mustard in a little glass bowl, but it filled it nearly all the way up, meaning stirring was quite implausible.


Once they were transferred to a more appropriately sized bowl, whisking took only ten seconds.


Half of a small cabbage makes two cups of shredded cabbage. (I’m desperately looking around for another red cabbage recipe. Either that, or we’re going to make some homemade pH indicator and play chemist.)

I let the dressing chill (as requested) for about ten minutes, then glopped it on top of the cabbage.


A quick stir to evenly coat, and everything was done!

Peg’s salad turns out to be somewhere in between a grin and a groan. The first few bites were enjoyable, but after a while it was just too much vinegar and mustard sourness. The flavors were interesting but overwhelming — while I might have been grinning after my first taste, I was grimacing by the end of the bowl. On the other hand, it was a very quick and easy vegetable, so a bit of tweaking might be able to balance the flavors better.

Posted on Flickr by saltycotton, originally from “True Story” magazine, October 1951.



  1. Maybe mix half mayo and half Miracle Whip? Use a little less on the cabbage? I despise MW, but a little mixed with mayo gives food a bit of ‘tang’. (You can always use the leftover red cabbage leaves to dye Easter eggs!)

  2. Did you try it the next day? I love my ridiculously easy cole slaw recipe, but if you try to eat it before letting it sit overnight, you’ll be sorry.

    • I confess I didn’t — I might pretend that’s because the whole batch was used up at that meal, but I don’t think I could have faced trying it again anyway!

    • I ate some of it two days later, and I don’t think it tasted appreciably different. Then again, I rather liked it the first time, so maybe I would have been less likely to notice an improvement.

  3. With the rest of your red cabbage I’d try a non-mayo cole slaw.

  4. Maybe it needs a teaspoon of sugar or honey? I always add some honey when I make cole slaw, and that balances out the bitter. I add raisins sometimes too.

    • I just tried making another batch with a teaspoon of sugar and slightly less mustard. Everybody agreed that it was an improvement, but some people still found it tricky to eat in substantial quantities.

  5. naomusings beat me to it. I’m a sweet slaw guy, and this recipe lacks the ‘sweet’, honey or a little sugar, or even a little apple jelly, but SUMPIN’ sweet.

    I grew up in a Miracle Whip home. My mom always kept a small jar of Hellman’s in the fridge for her sandwiches, but we all used MW. After I got married, we kept a small / med MW, and being the South, my wife HAD to have her Duke’s Mayo. [we keep both Jif ex-crunchy and Peter Pan smooth PB too!] But at some point in the late 1980’s, they changed the MW recipe. It just got too sweet, so, I moved the Duke’s Mayo!

    We use Duke’s for everything that needs mayoness, UNLESS, I make homemade mayo!

    But even with homemade mayo, I add SUGAR, honey or apple jelly to slaw.

  6. If you have red cabbage to use up I recommend the relish recipe here! I replace the fish sauce with light soy, rice vinegar with any you have (red wine vinegar works well with the colour) and palm sugar with any you have. And ignore the ‘up to a week’ bit – I’ve kept mine for ages in the fridge.

  7. Sounds a bit like my dad’s recipe, but instead of mustard, he actually adds a bit of sugar — cuts the sourness a bit. (And of course, a little carrot in there for color in nice.)

  8. For the extra cabbage, make sauerkraut. Its really easy, and amazingly delicious. Also healthy.

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