Over mayo-heavy slaws? With red cabbage, carrots, sunflower seeds, blue cheese, and honey Dijon dressing, this kale and apple slaw is crunchy, colorful, and so fresh! It’s lovely with everything from pulled pork and burgers to steak and tacos. And the slaw is make-ahead so it’s amazing for picnics, BBQs, dinner parties, & more!

A white bowl of kale and apple slaw on a white tile counter next to wood tongs, a white linen, and white and brown plates of sunflower seeds, salad, and honey Dijon dressing.

Honestly, I love some good roughage. I mean, I also love brownies and chocolate chip cookies. But I am down with a good salad situation these days. It’s all about ~balance~, ya know?

And now that warmer weather is (maybe? hopefully? 🤞) upon us, I’ve been dreaming of recipes like watermelon feta salad with nectarines and raw carrot salad with shallot vinaigrette. But of course, it’s not summer without some slaw.

This slaw is a distant relative of the classic recipe you know and love. With kale, apples, sunflower seeds, and blue cheese, it’s a lot fresher, a bit crunchier, and has more contrast flavor-wise. But, as a nod to its roots, it still has cabbage and a creamy (ish) dressing to go along with BBQ, grilled burgers, and everything in-between. And as a bonus, it’s beyond gorgeous for an impressive dinner party recipe.

Recipe details

I feel like overall, coleslaw is a very divisive topic. And I get it, because soggy, mayo-laden (or even worse, Miracle Whip-laden) coleslaw is a no from me. But forget what you know, because in this recipe, we’re re-thinking the entire concept. We’re adding a big handful of fresh ingredients like leafy greens, carrots, and Honeycrisp apples for a totally unique slaw situation.

  • This slaw is crunchy, tart, sweet, and a bit funky thanks to a handful of blue cheese.
  • The salad is simple, make-ahead, and comes together quickly.
  • It’s amazing with everything from BBQ in the summer to roast chicken in the winter.
  • Make this slaw for BBQs, potlucks, dinner parties, or weeknight dinners.

The ingredients

White and brown bowls of kale, red cabbage, sunflower seeds, carrots, vinegar, spices, Dijon mustard, blue cheese, oil, apples, mayo, salt, and pepper on a white counter.

For the slaw

  • Kale – I use curly kale because I like the texture better for salads. But any kale you like will do!
  • Red cabbage – as a nod to traditional slaw, we’ll keep the cabbage. But, in this recipe, we’ll swap green cabbage with red for color and crunch!
  • Carrots – shredded carrots add a hint of sweetness to this slaw. You will want to grate the carrots yourself for the best flavor and texture. Pre-shredded carrots can be dry and spongy.
  • Apples – I recommend a tart, sweet, and crunchy apple like Honeycrisp. But feel free to use Pink Lady, Fuji, or Gala.
  • Sunflower seeds – these will add a lovely, nutty crunch! I recommend unsalted so the slaw doesn’t come out too salty.
  • Blue cheese – apples and blue cheese is one of my fave combos ever. Any blue cheese you like will work. Just make sure it’s freshly-crumbled!

For the dressing

  • Vinegar – my go-to is red wine vinegar which is bold and a bit fruity. But feel free to use apple cider vinegar or sherry vinegar instead.
  • Honey mustard – to skip a step, I use store-bought honey Dijon mustard. But, you can also use 1 Tablespoon of Dijon mustard + 1/2 Tablespoon of honey.
  • Mayo – for just a hint of creaminess, I like to add a small bit of mayo. If you don’t like mayo, feel free to use Greek yogurt instead!
  • Garlic powder – a few dashes of garlic powder adds extra flavor without being overpowering.
  • Sugar – just a bit of sugar offsets the bitterness of the kale and cabbage.
  • Oil – you will want to use an oil that emulsifies in the dressing. I use avocado but canola oil will work too. Or, use a half-and-half mix of avocado/canola and olive oil.
  • Salt & pepper – I use Morton’s Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper.

Variations & substitutions

  • Veggies – replace some of the carrots with shaved red onion. Or, use a mix of green cabbage, red cabbage, and kale for extra color.
  • Nuts – you can also use toasted slivered almonds or hazelnuts.
  • Cheese – try crumbled feta, goat cheese, or shredded sharp white cheddar.
  • Honey – you can also use maple syrup if you prefer.

Quick tip

Since this apple red cabbage slaw is so simple, quality ingredients make a big difference! It’s important to shred the kale, cabbage, and carrots by hand so the slaw is crunchy and bright. You will also want to use freshly-crumbled blue cheese. I promise it’s worth the extra effort!

How to make this slaw

Six steps to making honey Dijon dressing. In photo 1, a grey bowl is filled with vinegar, honey mustard, mayo, and spices. In photo 2, a whisk mixes it together. In photo 3, a hand is whisking oil into the dressing. In photo 4, the dressing is mixed. In photo 5, the dressing is topped with salt and pepper. In photo 6, a whisk mixed the dressing together.

Whisk up the dressing

  1. First, whisk the red wine vinegar, honey mustard, mayo, garlic powder, and sugar in a small bowl until smooth.
  2. Then, while whisking constantly, slowly drizzle the oil into the bowl. Whisk until it’s fully emulsified.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste and whisk until smooth. Set aside for later.

Quick tip

To make whipping up the dressing easier, use a blender or food processor. Just blend the vinegar, honey mustard, mayo, garlic powder, and sugar until smooth. Then, while the blender or food processor is running, slowly drizzle in the oil until the dressing is emulsified. Season with salt and pepper. All done!

Three steps to making kale and apple slaw. In photo 1, a white bowl has kale, cabbage, blue cheese, apples, carrots, and sunflower seeds. In photo 2, wood tongs mix the salad together. In photo 3, a white bowl of slaw with wood tongs is on a tile counter next to white and brown bowls of sunflower seeds, salad, and dressing.

Toss the salad

  1. Add the kale, cabbage, carrots, apples, sunflower seeds, and blue cheese to a large salad bowl.
  2. Then, use tongs to toss the slaw until it is well-combined.
  3. Lastly, add the dressing and toss well. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Enjoy!

Pro tip

For the right texture, you’ll want to slice all of the ingredients very thinly. Especially if you’re using the slaw on top of sandwiches or tacos! If you don’t want to cut the kale and cabbage by hand, you can always use a mandoline instead.

How do I prep and cut kale for salad?

When kale is raw, it can sometimes have a tough texture and a bitter taste. But don’t worry, because in culinary school, they taught us how to prep and cut kale for salad so it comes out tender and peppery. All you have to do is lightly massage the kale which helps soften the leaves. The kale will still be crunchy and have a slight bitterness but in a mellow (not overpowering) way!

Slice the kale

  1. First, wash the kale and dry it very well. Dirt can sometimes get caught in the stems so it’s important to give it a good rinse!
  2. Then, using one hand, grip the stem of a kale leaf. Using the other hand, gently grip the bottom of the leaves with your thumb and forefinger. Pull your hand away from the bottom of the stem to strip the leaves from each side. Repeat with the remaining leaves.
  3. Discard the stem. Then, thinly slice the kale into strips.

Massaging the kale

  1. To massage the kale, first scoop the chopped greens into a large salad bowl.
  2. Then, drizzle the kale with just a bit of oil (about 1/2-1 Tablespoon should do).
  3. Using clean hands, massage (gently rub) the kale with your fingers until it’s softened, about 2-3 minutes. Note: don’t over-do it or the kale will end up soggy!

Quick tip

If you plan on making this crunchy kale salad in advance, you don’t have to massage the kale. The dressing will help soften the kale as it sits in the fridge. You only have to tenderize the greens if you plan on serving the slaw right away!

Helpful tools

A white bowl of kale salad on a white tile counter next to white and brown bowls of blue cheese, salad, and dressing.

Serving ideas

Even though slaw is typically a spring and summer thing, this recipe is also amazing as a fall or winter side thanks to the kale and apples! I love making this apple coleslaw for pulled pork, tacos, and so much more. It’s a lovely side for BBQs, potlucks, dinner parties, picnics, and everything in-between. The slaw is also a great option for meal prep or weeknight dinners. Here are some of my favorite meals to go along with this slaw!

Storing & make-ahead

To store leftovers, spoon the slaw into an airtight container. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. After a few days, the salad will start to lose its crunch.

You can also make this apple red cabbage slaw in advance! Just mix up the kale, cabbage, carrots, blue cheese, and dressing the night before. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Then, add the apples and sunflower seeds right before serving so they stay nice and crunchy.

Pro tip

If you can swing it, I recommend making this slaw at least one hour in advance. It lets all the flavors meld together and softens the kale as it sits.

Wood tongs tossing kale and apple slaw in a white bowl on a white tile counter next to white and brown bowls of salad, blue cheese, and sunflower seeds.

Tips & tricks

  • For the best flavor and texture, use apples that are a mix of crisp and sweet. I like Honeycrisp! But any crunchy, tart, and sweet apple will work.
  • To keep the apples from browning, toss them with a bit of lemon juice. The vinegar in the dressing will help too!
  • Start with half of the dressing and add more to taste. I typically end up using all of the dressing, but nothing is worse than a soggy, over-dressed slaw.
  • If you’re making this recipe in advance, add the apples and sunflower seeds right before serving. It keeps them nice and crunchy!
  • This slaw is amazing for a crowd. Feel free to double, triple, or even quadruple this recipe for a group!

Recipe FAQs

What kind of kale should I use?

My personal favorite is curly kale! It has a lovely texture and tends to be less fibrous than other varieties. But Lacinato (a.k.a. Tuscan) kale will work too. Just make sure you thinly slice it and give it a good massage to soften it a bit!

Can you use the whole kale leaf?

Sure! If you don’t mind extra crunch, you can use the whole kale leaf with the stem. Make sure to slice it thinly so the stems are easier to chew.

Do I have to massage the kale?

Technically, no you don’t have to. But it does cut the bitterness and makes a big difference texture-wise! If you want to skip this step, I would make this crunchy kale salad at least an hour in advance so the greens have time to soften in the dressing.

Can I make this salad vegan?

Yes! To make this slaw vegan, replace the honey with maple syrup and leave out the blue cheese. Or, replace the blue cheese with your favorite vegan alternative.

A white bowl of crunchy kale salad on a white tile counter next to brown and white bowls of dressing and sunflower seeds.

More veggie sides

Simple Green Salad with Sherry Shallot Dressing
Crispy Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
Lemony Green Beans with Pine Nuts
Charred Broccoli with Pecorino
Kale Salad with Yogurt “Caesar” Dressing
The Best Hot Honey Brussels Sprouts

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Kale and Apple Slaw with Honey Dijon Dressing

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Over mayo-heavy slaws? With red cabbage, carrots, sunflower seeds, blue cheese, and honey Dijon dressing, this kale and apple slaw is crunchy, colorful, and so fresh! It's lovely with everything from pulled pork and burgers to steak and tacos. And the slaw is make-ahead so it's amazing for picnics, BBQs, dinner parties, & more!

Ingredients

Honey Dijon Dressing

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar (60 milliliters)
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons honey mustard (25 grams)
  • 2 Tablespoons mayonnaise or plain Greek yogurt (30 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar (5 grams)
  • 1/2 cup avocado oil (100 grams)
  • Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

Apple Kale Slaw

  • 1 head curly kale, de-stemmed & very thinly sliced (150 grams)
  • 1/2 head red cabbage, cored & very thinly sliced (270 grams)
  • 3 carrots, peeled & shredded (185 grams)
  • 2 small Honeycrisp apples, cored & thinly sliced (200 grams)
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, toasted (78 grams)
  • 1/2 cup freshly-crumbled blue cheese (68 grams)

Equipment

Instructions 

Make the dressing

  • First, add the red wine vinegar, honey mustard, mayonnaise, garlic powder, and sugar to a small bowl. Whisk until smooth.
  • Then, while whisking constantly, slowly drizzle the avocado oil into the dressing until it's fully emulsified. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

Toss the slaw

  • Add the kale, red cabbage, carrots, apples, sunflower seeds, and blue cheese to a large bowl. Toss to combine.
  • Pour half of the dressing over the slaw and toss. Then, add more dressing, to taste. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. Cover and refrigerate the slaw for 1 hour to allow the flavors to meld (optional but recommended). Enjoy!

Notes

Since this salad is so simple, quality ingredients make a big difference! It’s important to shred the kale, cabbage, and carrots by hand so the slaw is crunchy and bright. You will also want to use freshly-crumbled blue cheese. I promise it’s worth the extra effort!
If you don’t have pre-made honey mustard, use 1 Tablespoon of Dijon mustard + 1/2 Tablespoon of honey instead.
To make whipping up the dressing easier, use a blender or food processor. Just blend the vinegar, honey mustard, mayo, garlic powder, and sugar until smooth. Then, while the blender or food processor is running, slowly drizzle in the oil until the dressing is emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.
For the right texture, you’ll want to slice all of the ingredients very thinly. Especially if you’re using the slaw on top of sandwiches or tacos! If you don’t want to cut the kale and cabbage by hand, you can always use a mandoline instead.
To keep the apples from browning, toss them with a bit of lemon juice. The vinegar in the dressing will help too!
If you’re making this recipe in advance (over 1 hour), add the apples and sunflower seeds right before serving. It keeps them nice and crunchy!
If you’re serving this slaw right away, you will want to massage the kale first to tenderize it and remove any extra bitterness. After the kale is sliced, drizzle it with just a bit of oil (about 1/2-1 Tablespoon should do). Using clean hands, massage (gently rub) the kale with your fingers until it’s softened, about 2-3 minutes. Note: don’t over-do it or the kale will end up soggy!
Cuisine: American
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Serving: 1serving, Calories: 236kcal, Carbohydrates: 14.6g, Protein: 3.8g, Fat: 18.8g, Saturated Fat: 3.5g, Cholesterol: 7mg, Sodium: 190mg, Potassium: 336mg, Fiber: 2.8g, Sugar: 7.4g, Calcium: 96mg, Iron: 3mg
Did you make this recipe?Tag @sundaytable.co on Instagram!

xo Sara Lynn

Song of the day – Remember When by Wallows