Smoky Paprika Coleslaw | An Unusual But Winning Recipe

Given how much I enjoy coleslaw – it’s a must-have accompaniment to breaded chicken fillets, deep fried chicken and chicken burgers, not to mention perfect picnic food – it’s a little surprising to me that I rarely made my own; it’s not exactly complicated to shred some raw vegetables and toss in a home-made dressing, after all.

But I always struggle to decide which recipe to use for the dressing. I’ve found many recipes for mayonnaise sweetened with a little sugar or tarted up with horseradish or mustard. I’ve found yoghurt-based recipes and recipes for buttermilk with maple syrup. I’ve found recipes for dairy-free vinaigrette versions. I’ve even found a recipe for a flour-based roux “mayonnaise” that looked like no mayonnaise I’ve ever heard of!

But when I asked friends for tried and tested suggestions, one recommendation immediately stood out:

My friend Jaxie told me about  her partner’s condensed milk and vinegar dressing, assuring me that although it “sounds insane”, actually, “it’s bloody delicious”. As I love condensed milk in coffee, there’s always some in our house, so I just had to give this unusual coleslaw dressing a try.

She advised that her partner TS adds mustard powder for extra flavour, but I had a eureka moment and decided to use some wonderfully smoky sweet paprika I bought from a Spanish market in London last May. I chose cider vinegar instead of TS’ malt vinegar as I love the gentle fruitiness it provides.

Spicy-Paprika-Coleslaw-Condensed-Milk-Cider-Vinegar-5370 Spicy-Paprika-Coleslaw-Condensed-Milk-Cider-Vinegar-5377

All I can say is “Wow” – this was definitely a winner!

The tart vinegar balances out the intensely sweet condensed milk. The smoky paprika gives a fabulously earthy flavour that brings to mind the smoky aromas of a summer barbecue.

For me, an equal amount of cider vinegar and condensed milk created just the right balance, but you can adjust the ratio to create a sweeter or sharper dressing if you prefer.

Although I’ve provided approximate amounts for the salad vegetables, I suggest you grate as much or little coleslaw as you like, mix up a batch of dressing and mix it in a little at a time until you have a ratio of salad to dressing that works best for you.

You can always mix up another batch of dressing if you need more.

Smoky Paprika Coleslaw | An Unusual But Winning Recipe


For the salad

  • 150 grams white cabbage (about a quarter)
  • 150 grams red cabbage (about a quarter)
  • 150 grams carrot (about 1 medium)

For the dressing

  • 3 tbsp condensed milk
  • 3 tbsp cider vinegar
  • ½ tsp sweet smoked paprika
  • salt
  • pepper


The salad ingredients are, to my mind, the three core choices for a traditional coleslaw. You might also like to add red or white onion or sliced spring onion greens.
Make sure you use sweet smoked paprika rather than the hot kind. The smokiness is key to the flavour of this dressing and sweet paprika gives a pleasing but mild kick.


  • Combine the dressing ingredients and mix well. Add a little more vinegar or condensed milk if you would like the dressing to be a touch tarter or sweeter. Taste, adjust seasoning and set aside.
  • Remove any damaged or tough outer cabbage leaves. Wash your vegetables. Top, tail and peel the carrot.
  • Grate your vegetables using a food processor or finely shred by hand. Mix together in a large bowl.
  • Add the dressing to the salad and combine thoroughly. If you prefer lightly dressed coleslaw, you can add the dressing in batches, mix well and add more as required.
  • Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 days.


I absolutely love the simple combination of condensed milk and cider vinegar, and will definitely make this again, not just for coleslaw but as a general salad dressing.

The addition of a generous amount of smoky sweet paprika provided a very distinctive flavour for my coleslaw but you could stick to TS’s original suggestion of mustard powder or try other spices and herbs, to ring the changes.

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22 Comments to "Smoky Paprika Coleslaw | An Unusual But Winning Recipe"

  1. Corina

    I love coleslaw and have added smoked paprika to it before but with a vinegar and oil dressing. I’d certainly never have thought to add condensed milk!

  2. kaveyeats

    Yes, indeed, and I love sharp and sweet combinations, but it does sound weird when you first hear of it. But it make sense and definitely works! 🙂

  3. Ian Hoare

    After reading your post in Wildfood I was all set to come here guns blazing and saying that coleslaw isn’t about carrot, but I guess just one titchy carrot in a sea of red and white cabbage is just about OK. (After all “cole” means cabbage). I’m sensitive about it because here in France, the stupermarkups insist on selling as coleslaw a product using more carrot than cabbage. GRRR.


    Yes, the word coleslaw originates from Dutch cabbage salad, but dishes evolve and I think if you ask 100 people in the UK (and I’m sure in a few other countries too), the majority would see coleslaw as a dish that usually includes carrot alongside the cabbage. I’d say carrot versions have become much more common than cabbage-only versions…

    I have tried cabbage-only coleslaws but find them a little lacking, as I think the addition of carrot brings a sweetness and different texture that is just wonderful!


  4. Jane Willis

    *everything* should include carrot. Except perhaps strawberries and cream.

  5. Ian Hoare

    (Oh, I’m not against a bit of carrot in a coleslaw, anymore than I’m against some onion or even something like raisins. I agree about it being a bit “fade” as the French say, without something like that.

    It’s when there’s more carrot than cabbage that I get twitchy.

    Jane, I feel the same about cream and butter.

  6. James van Praag

    Tried it today and added red onion. Took a little getting used to the sweetness but with food (we tried chicken burgers) it was really good. Less like a traditional coleslaw and more really good burger topping. Thanks Kav x and carrot is a must. Adds requisite sweetness


    So pleased you like it, both the paprika and balance of the dressing. And another carrot in coleslaw fan… shocker, you being Dutch and all! 😉

  7. Thunderstorm Bun

    My take: coleslaw shouldn’t exist at all.

    Why take perfectly decent vegetables and smother them in mayonnaise?

    (Two riders: I mentioned this strong opinion to Kavey on twitter and she told me to leave a comment. Also, my mother’s American, so the coleslaw I’m used to is German-style onion and cabbage in vinagrette. [I don’t like that either.])


    Your comment on twitter made me giggle! ! Cabbage and onion is closer to Dutch original but… I adore the sweet earthiness of carrot! 🙂

  8. Corina

    If dishes never changed and no variation was ever allowed, what would be the fun in cooking and recipe creation? It wouldn’t exist and neither would us food bloggers. As a food blogger with a Masters degree in applied linguistics, I’d say it’s all just a matter of semantics and as languages change and words are adopted into different languages, even if a word is the same word in another language, it doesn’t mean the meaning is the same.


    Yes I agree! Evolution and diversion are totally normal… so dishes that naturally change make sense. I think where I dislike incorrect naming is where a restaurant just grab a name they like and apply it to completely different dish, which means you have no idea what you’ll get!

  9. Chaundra

    Thanks for this Kavey! I decided to make this for my Eurovision BBQ last weekend and it was a huge hit. I used evaporated rather than condensed milk (what I could find) and upped the paprika slightly, but the tangy/sweet/spicy/smokey was a really nice combination with the crunchy vegetables. Definitely a keeper in my recipe box.


    So pleased you liked it and hope your Eurovision party was lots of fun!

  10. Jason

    Interesting alternatives but I do like to add nutmeg and pepper to mine. These tend to be obvious by their absence in most alternatives I’ve tried – somehow they work very well together to add the subtle kick needed. I’d be interested in your feedback!


    I shall have to try… and you must try the base I’ve suggested but with your nutmeg and pepper instead of paprika?


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