This tropical pineapple coleslaw combines crunchy shredded cabbage, juicy pineapple, salty macadamia nuts, and a mayo-free, Asian-inspired dressing. It’s the perfect soy-free, paleo, gluten-free, and Whole30 summer side dish for your favorite grilled main dishes!
If you’re looking for a mayonnaise-based creamy coleslaw recipe, this ain’t it. Instead, I present to you my Hawaiian-inspired pineapple coleslaw recipe! My rendition of this classic side dish features crispy cabbage and carrots, sweet pineapple chunks, crunchy macadamia nuts, and toasty sesame seeds all tossed together with an Asian-inspired, umami-packed dressing. Plus, it’s also a cinch to throw together if you’ve got a bottle of my versatile All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce in the fridge already!
How to prevent watery coleslaw
Few things in life will make you sadder than a watery, soggy coleslaw. I know the disappointment firsthand; the first few times I tested out this recipe, I fell victim to watery coleslaw. The salad tasted great immediately after I dressed it, but the longer the coleslaw sat, the more liquid was released by the shredded cabbage, rendering the overall texture and taste of the coleslaw no bueno.
After doing some research, I came across a technique to prevent watery coleslaw. The smart folks at Cook’s Illustrated make sure that all of their coleslaw recipes start with salting the cabbage and letting it sit. That way, the excess liquid is leached out and the resulting cabbage texture stays crunchy and squeaky. After a quick rinse to remove the salt followed by a towel dry, the cabbage is ready to take on the dressing without getting all soggy!
I’ve found that the best ratio of cabbage to salt is 1 medium head of shredded cabbage (~2 pounds) tossed with 1 tablespoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt. If you’re using table salt, you should use half the amount, or about 1½ teaspoons.
Of course, this crucial step means a little pre-planning is required. The salted cabbage needs to drain for 1 to 4 hours—but this step is well worth it. Pro tip: store the salted and drained cabbage in a sealed container for up to 24 hours in the fridge; this way, the coleslaw can be thrown together in mere minutes!
- All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce: You’ve heard me say this OVER and OVER again: this sauce is super versatile. It even makes an amazing Asian-inspired salad dressing! (It does use fish sauce as a powerful umami booster, so if you don’t like or tolerate fish sauce, I have a recipe for “No Fish Sauce” on page 28 of our latest cookbook, Nom Nom Paleo: Let’s Go!, which can be used to make a vegan All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce.)
- Cabbage: I find that a mix of green and purple cabbage makes for a prettier salad. If you don’t want to end up with two leftover cabbage head halves, feel free to buy just one medium cabbage head (the color is up to you) or just get some pre-shredded coleslaw in a bag.
- Diamond Crystal kosher salt: As described above, this is the secret to non-watery coleslaw!
- Carrots: Add extra color and veggies to the coleslaw. I use this julienne peeler to shred ’em up.
- Canned pineapple tidbits in 100% pineapple juice: I know some of you will be tempted to use fresh pineapple, but I insist on using canned tidbits for this salad because it’s a lot less work and the quality and sweetness are consistent.
- Scallions or green onions: Add a pop of green and fresh onion flavor to the salad. I also love to throw some minced cilantro in the slaw if I have some on hand.
- Roasted and salted macadamia nuts: Top your salad with mac nuts right before serving to prevent them from getting soft. Toasted hazelnuts, cashews, or almonds are a great replacement if you don’t have any macadamias. Got a nut allergy? Throw on some crispy shallots in place of the nuts!
- Toasted sesame seeds: Add a toasty nuttiness that I love in Asian-inspired salads.
How to make pineapple coleslaw
Shake up a jar of All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce or grab it from the refrigerator. This is your easy-peasy pineapple coleslaw dressing—no adjustments needed!
Toss the cabbage and salt in a large bowl or colander.
Transfer the salted cabbage to a colander (if it’s not in one already) and let it sit for 1 to 4 hours or until the cabbage mixture wilts and liquid is released. The resulting texture should be squeaky and crunchy.
Rinse the cabbage in the colander to wash off some of the salt.
Gently press the cabbage in the colander to drain off the water. Then, transfer the cabbage to a clean kitchen towel or paper towels and thoroughly pat dry. You can store the salted and drained cabbage in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
Transfer the cabbage to a large bowl and add the carrots and pineapple. Pour in the All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce and toss well to combine.
Chill, covered in the refrigerator, for about 30 minutes. (You can skip this step if you don’t care that the slaw is room temperature.)
When you’re ready to serve the pineapple coleslaw, transfer it to a pretty serving dish. Taste for seasoning, and add more All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce if needed.
Toss in the chopped macadamia nuts, sesame seeds, and sliced scallions. Enjoy!
How do you store the leftover pineapple coleslaw?
The leftover coleslaw can be kept in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
What can you serve with pineapple coleslaw?
This pineapple slaw pairs well with just about anything you want to throw on the BBQ, roast in the oven, pop in the air fryer, or pressure cook in the Instant Pot: pork chops, burgers, steak, chicken, salmon, shrimp, tacos — you name it!
If you want more specific recipes for protein pairings, check these out:
- Instant Pot Kalua Pig or Slow Cooker Kalua Pig
- Kalbi (Korean Barbecue Shortribs)
- Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken
- Air Fryer Whole Chicken
- Gregory Gourdet’s Favorite Grilled Chicken
- The Perfect Steak
Looking for more recipe ideas? Head on over to my Recipe Index. You’ll also find exclusive recipes on my iPhone and iPad app, and in my cookbooks, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2013), Ready or Not! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2017), and Nom Nom Paleo: Let’s Go! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2022).
PRINTER-FRIENDLY RECIPE CARD
- ½ cup All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce
- 1 pound green cabbage cored, and finely shred
- 1 pound red cabbage cored, and finely shred
- 1 tablespoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt or 1½ teaspoons table salt
- 2 medium carrots peeled and finely sliced
- 1 cup canned pineapple tidbits in 100% pineapple juice drained
- ¼ cup roasted and salted macadamia nuts roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
- 2 scallions or green onions thinly sliced
- Shake up a jar of All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce or grab it from the refrigerator. This is your easy-peasy pineapple coleslaw dressing!
- Toss the cabbage and salt in a large colander. Leave it for 1 to 4 hours or until the cabbage mixture wilts and liquid is released. The resulting texture should be squeaky and crunchy.
- Rinse the cabbage in the colander to wash off some of the salt. Gently press the cabbage to drain the water and then transfer the cabbage to a clean kitchen towel or paper towels and thoroughly pat dry. You can store the salted, wilted, and drained cabbage in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
- Transfer the cabbage to a large bowl and add the carrots, and pineapple. Pour in the All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce and toss well to combine.
- Chill the coleslaw, covered in the refrigerator, for about 30 minutes. (You can skip this step, if you don’t care that the slaw is room temperature.)
- When you are ready to serve the pineapple coleslaw, transfer it to a pretty serving dish. Taste for seasoning, and add more All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce if needed.
- Toss in the chopped macadamia nuts, sesame seeds, and sliced scallions. Enjoy!
- 1 pound of cabbage is about ½ a medium head of cabbage.
- The salting and draining step is essential for non-watery coleslaw. If you’re impatient, just dress the cabbage right before serving and eat it quickly!
- You can store the salted, wilted, and drained cabbage in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
- Don’t add the macadamia nuts, sesame seeds, and scallions until you’re ready to serve it.
- Leftover coleslaw can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
I made this last week and my family loved it!