This Is What Makes KFC's Coleslaw Taste So Good

KFC coleslaw tub
KFC coleslaw tub - Maliflower73/Shutterstock

We all know that KFC's fried chicken is so good and irresistible, which is what compels us to drive across town for a bite when a strong craving hits. There's nothing better than sitting with a hot bucket of chicken pieces, crunching on the crispy skin, and slurping down the juicy meat. It's affordable and quick, and the sides aren't too shabby either.

In fact, one immensely popular side is KFC's coleslaw. If you're feeling guilty about your fast food meal, then coleslaw is a great way to get some greens in. Sure, it's not the healthiest thing ever, but it's definitely not the worst thing on the menu either when it comes to ingredients and calories. Plus, it's got a certain "je ne sais quoi" that urges you to always add it to your KFC order.

So what exactly is it that makes KFC coleslaw so good? It turns out that there are a lot of factors that make it impossible to say "no" to this delicious dish.

Read more: The Ultimate Ranking Of The Best Fried Chicken Chains

Finely Diced Ingredients

diced cabbage on cutting board
diced cabbage on cutting board - Kcuxen/Shutterstock

Fresh ingredients are key to a good slaw, and KFC does alright for a fast food restaurant. You won't find any wilted cabbage pieces, and the carrots are nice and hard as well. What's more, KFC finely dices everything so you don't have to chew that much, and all the flavors and textures blend perfectly. More specifically, they dice cabbage, carrots, and onions, which are all crunchy and have a pleasant mouth feel.

The crispness of the vegetables plays an important role in balancing out the liquid. They absorb the dressing to deliver sweet and tangy flavors with each crunchy bite. And you can count on KFC to always have freshly prepared batches in their stores, ensuring that you never receive an order that's overly soggy or watery from sitting way past its shelf life. This means that you can trust KFC to deliver coleslaw that'll hit the spot.


commercial refrigeration unit
commercial refrigeration unit - Denishilov/Shutterstock

A visit to KFC almost certainly means an order of their crispy fried chicken, as well as things like the KFC Smash'd Potato Bowl -- the delectable mashed potato side with mouthwatering gravy. Now, all of these dishes are fantastically delicious, but they're also all piping hot. Your mouth can only take so many bites of steaming food before it's begging for a break.

This is where coleslaw saves the day. Whether the chicken or the weather's too hot, bites of chilled coleslaw will absolutely hit the spot. It probably won't actually lower your body temperature, but it'll help lessen the temperature in your mouth at least. And if you're having the KFC hot and spicy wings, then the cold and sweet coleslaw will reduce the burning on your tongue. This will be especially appreciated if you can't tolerate spice well, but don't want to chug milk with your fast food meal to get relief.

The Bright Colors

closeup coleslaw metal fork
closeup coleslaw metal fork - Maliflower73/Shutterstock

Many chefs like to say, "You eat first with your eyes," (credit for the saying goes to a 1st Century Roman foodie named Apicius). Well, it's certainly true if you think about it. Think back to all the times in school when they served you gray slop; chances are, you didn't feel those meals were particularly appetizing, which impacted how they tasted when you forced them down. In reality, the food may not have been all that bad, but there was just something lacking visually that made the meals a "nope" for you. There's a reason for this: A study by Regan et al found that our ancestors developed colored vision to ensure that we foraged high-energy fruits and vegetables. We also evolved to have "visual hunger" to have a positive association between seeing and eating food.

What does this have to do with KFC coleslaw? Well, take a closer look, and you'll realize that it's peppered with bright hues, such as green, orange, and white. This tickling of our visual sense enhances our enjoyment when chowing down.

The Portion Size Is Just Right

coleslaw clear tub
coleslaw clear tub - BuyMorePlease/Shutterstock

You know what they say: It's possible to have too much of a good thing. When you eat something tasty, you crave more after that initial bite. If you have a large portion of it, you might be excited that you have plenty more to go around, but it's very possible to be sick of it by the time you're finished. As a result, you'll never want to order it again, or at least you'll want to wait a long time before you do.

The beauty of KFC's coleslaw is it's portioned just right. Sure, you can get the humungous tub, but that's meant for sharing with your loved ones. Otherwise, if you're having a fried chicken meal combo on your own, you'll typically get the small side of coleslaw. It's just enough for you to crave more, but not copious enough that you're dreading the last bites.

The Salt Content

salt shaker and salt pile
salt shaker and salt pile - Kittiphan Dusdeeworaruk/Shutterstock

Salt is such a simple "spice," but take a mediocre dish, sprinkle a few dashes of salt on it, and it'll instantly go from "meh" to "great!" It's a mineral that's versatile, as it helps bring out other flavor elements in a dish. It's no wonder that salt used to be a highly valued and traded commodity. When you look at the ingredients needed for this delectable KFC gravy copycat, it's no surprise that salt is one of them. And when it comes to coleslaw, it's the same.

In one serving of KFC coleslaw, you'll find 180 mg of salt (keep in mind the daily limit is around 2,000 mg). This means that getting an order will give you a nice kick of salt, one of humanity's age-old ways of enhancing food. Do keep in mind that other KFC menu items have hefty amounts of salt in them too, so keep your intake to a minimum to avoid potential health issues. Overdoing it on sodium can have negative consequences on your health.

The Sugar Content

sugar cubes and sugar piles
sugar cubes and sugar piles - Andrii Shablovskyi/Getty Images

If you've got a sweet tooth, then a side of coleslaw with your KFC order is sure to please your taste buds. In one serving, there's 10 g of sugar, which is almost half of the recommended daily limit (between 25 to 36 g). If you've ever wondered why this fast-food coleslaw is so addicting, well, now you know: You're scratching that sweet tooth itch.

In fact, sugar combines flawlessly with salt, which the order has a small amount of. Adding a tiny bit of salt can bring out the sweetness in a dish, which is why these opposites pair excellently. We'll spare you all the scientific details, but what's important to know is that sodium activates certain pathways that make your taste buds go, "yum, sweetness!" We know it's the last thing you'd expect while grabbing a dish made out of vegetables, but coleslaw's an outstanding way to scratch that sweet tooth itch.


apple cider vinegar in bowl
apple cider vinegar in bowl - masa44/Shutterstock

Check out any recipe for coleslaw, and you'll see that vinegar is the secret ingredient that makes the dish pop. Some may call for regular vinegar, while others may get fancy with stuff like apple cider vinegar. Now, on KFC's own website, it doesn't specify which type the chain uses (probably to fiercely guard their proprietary recipe). However, a former employee claims on that, when they used to prep KFC coleslaw, they used cider vinegar. However, the cider used could vary by location, meaning that this employee very well may have used cider vinegar while other locations used a different vinegar. If you do a Google search, you'll see that the vast majority of copycat recipes use tarragon vinegar, which offers a milder taste than white vinegar. Do note that the official types of vinegar listed by KFC include distilled, apple cider, and corn vinegar.

We can keep guessing if KFC actually does use tarragon vinegar or any other variation, but the fact is, we'll never know. What we do know is that the addition of such an ingredient adds a nice sourness that complements the salt and sugar found in KFC coleslaw. The recipe is careful to add the perfect amount so your face might pucker slightly, but not so much so that you'll outright reject the side completely.

Mayonnaise/Miracle Whip

whisking mayonnaise in a bowl
whisking mayonnaise in a bowl - Floortje/Getty Images

To make a creamy coleslaw dressing, you'll need to add ample amounts of mayonnaise. This provides a thick and rich base for the other ingredients before you toss the dressing with diced lettuce, carrots, and onions to finish the side off. Considering that most coleslaw recipes use mayonnaise, it's safe to assume that KFC does it as well. With its fat, its salt, and its slightly acidic taste, mayo is exactly what's needed to balance and enhance the vinegar, salt, and sugar found in coleslaw.

What's interesting is that some copycat recipes use Miracle Whip instead, and even former KFC employees claim their locations used it too. The key differences between mayonnaise and Miracle Whip are that the latter is less oily and has additional spices, such as garlic and paprika. Other copycat recipes use buttermilk as well. Whichever one KFC uses, you can bet that this ingredient is what provides the core richness of their coleslaw.

Read the original article on Daily Meal