With a zippy honey-mustard vinaigrette, this easy Brussels Sprout Slaw is a great option when you're looking for a fresh take on classic fall and winter flavors. Sweet-tart pomegranates, crisp apples, and buttery pecans pull the recipe together.
What is it?
A slaw is made by finely shredding vegetables, usually cabbage and other brassicas, before mixing them with a dressing. Most slaws incorporate a creamy, mayonnaise-based dressing, but I favor a simple vinaigrette for this Brussels sprout slaw.
In addition, you'll add pomegranate arils, apples, shallots, and pecans which give the slaw flavor, texture, and visual interest. These fall-inspired ingredients work well with Brussels sprouts in a new take on classic cole slaw.
Why this recipe works
- Brussels sprouts can be bitter when cooked, but serving them fresh in a slaw can highlight their sweet elements.
- Brassicas, such as Brussels sprouts, are rich in antioxidants and sulfur-containing phytonutrients called glucosinolates that support cellular health (1, 2).
- Apples, pomegranates, and pecans drive visual interest and give the slaw a vibrant flavor and loads of texture.
- A zippy vinaigrette made with honey, Dijon mustard, olive oil, and apple cider vinegar pulls everything together.
- It's very easy to make. You toss everything into a bowl, whisk up a vinaigrette, and you're good to go.
- You can make it ahead and it keeps fairly well. This makes the slaw a great option for fall and winter potlucks or weekday lunches.
In a good Brussels sprout slaw, you'll find balance among the ingredients. Sweet, tart, and salty ingredients can bring a little life to the Brussels sprouts while crunchy and crisp ingredients bring varied texture. It's this variety and balance that makes for an excellent slaw.
- Brussels sprouts are the foundation of this recipe. They're members of the Brassica family and are rich in many antioxidants. Their antioxidant content is highest in raw Brussels sprouts (2), making this slaw a clear win.
- Apples give the slaw a little sweetness and texture. Gala apples work well as do Fujis, Honecrisps, and SweeTango. Apples are rich in the antioxidant quercetin, a potent antioxidant that supports metabolic health (3), and even cognitive health as we age (4).
- Pecans are a nut that's native to the American south. They have a sweet, buttery flavor and are rich in healthy, monounsaturated fat just like olive oil.
- Pomegranate arils (also known as pomegranate seeds) taste sweet and tart with a pleasant, juicy crunch. Their bright color brings a vibrant touch to this slaw, and it also indicates a high antioxidant content. All those anti-inflammatory compounds show promise in the prevention of cancer (5), although more research is necessary.
- A vinaigrette made with maple, Dijon mustard, vinegar, and olive oil finishes off the slaw and brings it all together. Many Brussels sprout slaws use a sour cream- or mayonnaise-based dressing, but this vinaigrette is both lighter and sharper.
As with most slaw recipes, this version using Brussels sprouts is easy to make. Focusing on the freshness of your ingredients and your knife skills will make all the difference.
- Use a sharp knife to slice the Brussels sprouts thinly. The key to a good Brussels sprout slaw is very thin slices. They'll absorb the vinaigrette more effectively than large hunks or thick slices. A mandolin can work just as well as a sharp knife, too, and you can toss the sprouts into a food processor equipped with a shredding blade if you're short on time.
- Your dressing should be emulsified and smooth. Traditionally, this means slowly adding olive oil to your other ingredients while you whisk them together furiously. But, you can achieve the same effect by adding all the components of the vinaigrette together in a small mason jar and shaking it vigorously.
- Let the slaw rest a few minutes before serving, as this allows the Brussels sprouts to absorb the vinaigrette. All that vinegar and olive oil will help to soften the notoriously tough sprouts.
- Make it ahead. It's easy to throw the components of the salad together and then make the dressing and store it separately. When you're ready to serve it, just combine them together.
Variations + Substitutions
Swap cabbage for Brussels sprouts. Both Brussels sprouts and cabbage are members of the brassica family and work as good stand-ins for one another. Savoy cabbage works particularly well in this recipe.
Skip the pomegranate seeds and try dried cranberries instead. Dried cranberries also lend that lovely sweet-tart flavor that can make this easy slaw shine.
Skip the pecans and try any other crunchy nut or seed. Hazelnuts, with their sweet creamy flavor, work well. And pumpkin seeds are a good option if you're sensitive to nuts.
Fresh herbs can be a nice addition, especially chopped fresh parsley or mint.
Maple syrup is a good stand-in for honey.
A lemon dressing made with fresh lemon (including the lemon zest), olive oil, and a bit of honey is a nice alternative to the Dijon mustard dressing.
A neutral oil, such as refined avocado oil, can work if olive oil is too assertive for your tastes.
Red onions are a passable swap for shallots, but you'll want to use about half of a medium onion in this recipe.
This Brussels sprout slaw keeps well for one day in the fridge. After that, the sprouts tend to wilt and become too soggy.
Store any leftovers in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for up to 1 day.
Yes, but keep the dressing and the salad separate until about 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
Try these slaws and salads next
- Maina, Sylvia et al. “Human, Animal and Plant Health Benefits of Glucosinolates and Strategies for Enhanced Bioactivity: A Systematic Review.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 25,16 3682. 12 Aug. 2020,
- Hwang, Eun-Sun. “Influence of Cooking Methods on Bioactive Compound Content and Antioxidant Activity of Brussels Sprouts.” Preventive nutrition and food science vol. 22,4 (2017): 353-358.
- Yi, Huan et al. “The Therapeutic Effects and Mechanisms of Quercetin on Metabolic Diseases: Pharmacological Data and Clinical Evidence.” Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity vol. 2021 6678662. 23 Jun. 2021.
- Deepika, and Pawan Kumar Maurya. “Health Benefits of Quercetin in Age-Related Diseases.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 27,8 2498. 13 Apr. 2022
- Sharma, Pooja et al. “Pomegranate for Prevention and Treatment of Cancer: An Update.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 22,1 177. 24 Jan. 2017