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colouful coleslaw in wooden bowl with wooden spoons on concrete background

Creamy Sunflower-Ranch Coleslaw – Ditch the mayo and blend up roasted sunflower seeds, with ranch dressing flavours, for a more healthful coleslaw. A whole food twist on a BBQ, pot-luck and picnic favorite.

close up of creamy sunflower-ranch coleslaw in assymetric wooden bowlColeslaw has got a bit of a bad rap. It’s funny how something where the main ingredients are cabbage and carrots can veer so far away from healthful. But adding in a half cup of mayo can do that to a salad. 😉

Of course, many modern coleslaws eschew the sat-fat and opt for an oil and vinegar approach. And sometimes not even the oil. I like these kinds of tangy coleslaw recipes. Not only are they easy to riff on with fruits, herbs and nuts, they are lighter on the palate and digestion. 

I have a vinegar and oil-based, pear-heavy coleslaw, studded with dried cranberries and walnuts, that I could eat pretty much every day. It makes appearances at my work throughout autumn and winter, where it goes faster than a winter salad really ought to. It is absolutely delectable paired with hummus, too.

vertical image of creamy sunflower-ranch coleslaw on concrete backdropToday’s whole food coleslaw is something quite different; more in the spirit of the beloved creamy coleslaw most of us grew up eating. My spin is somewhat creamy and a lot a bit crunchy. The creamy is from roasted (a must!) and soaked sunflower seeds, blended up with plenty of flavoursome ranch dressing bits. 

Originally I was going to make a creamy avocado coleslaw. This was until I realized that many, many people had got there before me (this one looks good). And, if you know anything about me, you know I like to do my own thing. You should see what I’m wearing 😉

So, to that recipe.

creamy sunflower-ranch coleslaw in wooden assymetrical bowlCreamy Sunflower-Ranch Coleslaw ingredients 

Cabbage – red and green please. Savoy is nice for a bit of fancy frilliness. Although coleslaw is the absolute opposite of fancy.

Carrots – of course

Sunflower seeds – raw. You will roast before using. If you want to save 10 minutes buy Trader Joe’s unsalted and roasted. The roasting is essential for the deep flavour it adds. I make two trays of sunflower seeds and pop the rest in a jar for using in other bits and bobs, and just snacking on.

Shallot, a – more fancy stuff. Use a small, mild onion, or even two fat scallions, if shallots aren’t available

Garlic – only a small clove; this isn’t going to scare any vampires

Celery seed – this is optional, but if you have some lurking unloved in your spice cupboard, do use it.

Dijon mustard – not fancy; essential. Wholegrain in a pinch.

Lemon or lime juice + apple cider vinegar – you may go with all vinegar but the balance of these two together is really good.

Parsley and chives – quintessential ranch heroes

side on view of colorful coleslaw with wooden spoonsTweaks

This creamy sunflower-ranch coleslaw is, as per usual for my recipes, quite flexible. Feel very free to leave out the herbs if the presence of green bits will scare the kids. Maybe even add some raisins to entice them. Sweet shredded apple or pear would also be welcome, as would little ruby pomegranate arils or chopped Sharon fruit. Make it your own. Jicama adds even more interest in the crunch department. 

And to make it creamier you could certainly add a dollop of best-quality real or vegan mayo; or perhaps some crème fraîche, yogurt or milk kefir.

Ways to eat Creamy Sunflower-Ranch Coleslaw 

This coleslaw would be welcome at any summer-early autumn BBQ, picnic or outdoor event, as well as a potluck dinner. And of course enjoy it at home in a variety of ways. Such as:

  • Alongside or in a fish (actual or vegan fish-style) sandwich
  • With hummus or other thickish dips in a wrap or sandwich
  • In spring roll wrapper with marinated and baked tofu pieces (try this recipe or perhaps buy a box of ready-made) for a summer roll with a difference 
  • In tacos
  • With pulled jackfruit (or actual meat) sandwiches or sliders
  • In Reubens instead of sauerkraut
  • On vegan hotdogs or burgers, with all the fixings
  • And of course in a meal with your other favourite salads. Need some new salads? See below!
shredded red and green cabbage in a vintage colander on concrete background with salt pot alongside

Salting the cabbage – not crucial, but it will give you a crisper coleslaw

The one step to make any coleslaw the best coleslaw 

The key to a really good coleslaw is crispy cabbage. Thinly sliced, crispy cabbage. We don’t want soggy cabbage – noooo. The best way to get cabbage that stays crispy when slathered in dressing is salting it. Yes, really. 

Using the same method as my Smashed Cucumber Salad, we are salting the shredded cabbage. We do this to draw water out of the cabbage. What you do is toss in some salt and let it drain in a colander. No need to rinse as the salt drains away with the liquid. This will virtually guarantee a crisper salad that will not get soggy as it sits. If you don’t have the recommended minimum of half an hour to do this, don’t worry; the coleslaw will still be tasty. But honestly, this “de-gorging” is a bit of a game-changer. 

And I would really recommend it if you won’t be eating the slaw all in one sitting. I would go as far as to say that you really should try this for any coleslaw that you make. It’s a game-changer. Here’s an interesting – general – article on salting foods.

ingredients for colesalw in galss bowls on concrete backgroundHow to make this coleslaw 

While you are de-gorging your cabbages, you can make the dressing. Do this by toasting the sunflower seeds until irresistibly fragrant and golden – about 10 minutes – and toss in your blender. Cover the seeds with just-boiled water and let sit and soften for 15-30 minutes. 

making sunflower cream sauce

blended roasted and soaked sunflower seeds with all the ranch dressing flavours

After this time the seeds will be blendable and soft. Now add the Dijon mustard, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, optional celery seeds, grated shallot, mashed garlic clove, and salt and pepper, blending until creamy-smooth.

Just a fyi: don’t drain the seeds before blending, as the water is part of the sauce. And you may want to add just a touch more to make it looser. Adjust the flavours, adding more acid or even some honey if you like.

While the sunflower are soaking chop the herbs and grate the carrots. Then, when the dressing is made and the cabbage is drained, you toss it all together. 

More sturdy salads from Food To Glow

I would highly recommend any of these for any US Labor Day get-togethers you have planned or are contributing a dish. Most are older recipes without nice images or recipe cards, but I love them all the same.

Celeriac Remoulade (Andrew’s all-time favorite – and sooooo easy!)

Greek Panzanella

Grilled Bread and Halloumi Salad with Green Tahini Sauce

Ranch Chickpea Salad

Fig Chicory and Walnut Salad

Extra Veg Tabbouleh

Lemony Kale, Quinoa and Chickpea Salad with Homemade Vegan Parmesan

Pomegranate, Pistachio and Sour Cherry Bulgur Wheat Salad (terrible old images but mighty good!)

Za’atar Aubergine and Roasted Onion Salad with Tahini-Garlic Dressing (another oldie but goodie. Love this one)

Whatever your weekend plans, make them delicious!

creamy sunflower-ranch coleslaw with wooden spoons in wooden bowl

sunflower-ranch coleslaw close-up in wooden bowl on concrete background
5 from 7 votes

Creamy Sunflower-Ranch Coleslaw - whole food and vegan

Ditch the claggy mayo and blend up roasted sunflower seeds with some ranch flavours for a healthful coleslaw. I recommend that you take the time to de-gorge the cabbage shreds before making the coleslaw, but it isn't absolutely necessary, especially if it will be be eaten on the day of making. See note at the end if you wish to de-gorge the cabbage.

Course Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword coleslaw, nuts and seeds, vegan
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Soaking Time 15 minutes
Total Time 33 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Calories 101 kcal
Author kellie anderson


  • 100 g shelled, raw sunflower seeds
  • 1 banana shallot / eschallot peeled and roughly chopped; or half small onion
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp celery seeds optional
  • 1 clove garlic smashed and peeled
  • 2 tbsp lemon or lime juice
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 400 g cabbage washed; mix of red and green is nice
  • 150 g carrots washed and trimmed
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
  • 30 g chopped fresh parsley


  1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan/180C/350F. Pour the sunflower seeds onto a baking tray and roast them for 10 minutes.

  2. Pop the hot seeds into the blender along with enough just-boiled water to cover, plus an extra inch. Let the seeds soak fo 15 minutes to half an hour. This is to soften the seeds and plump them up for a creamy sauce. You can do this overnight if you wish.

  3. While the seeds are soaking, slice the vegetables.** Use a heavy knife or mandoline to shred the cabbage into fine slices; grate the carrots on the coarse side of a box grater. Pop the vegetables plus the chives and parsley into a large mixing bowl.

  4. After 15 minutes or so, blend the sunflower seed mix with the shallot/onion, Dijon mustard, celery seeds, smashed garlic, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar. Blend until creamy, adding a little more water if needed. Taste and adjust. You may want a bit of sweetness, but remember that the carrots will be quite sweet.

  5. Scrape the sunflower-ranch dressing over the coleslaw vegetables and mix well. I use my hands and really squish it in. If you want it even creamier, add a touch of yogurt, mayo or kefir.

Recipe Notes

Make this ahead: keep the shredded vegetables and herbs in a separate container to the sunflower-ranch dressing and mix when needed. Both will keep well separately for two day. See the note below

The best way to enjoy this is by adding one more step: de-gorging. This entails shredding the cabbages and tossing them with a tablespoon of salt and letting it all drain in a colander for at least half an hour - up to 2 hours. This will make your coleslaw much much crisper and keep for longer without "weeping". No need to rinse as the salt mostly drains away with the liquid. If you are wanting to keep the made-up coleslaw for a day or two, I would very much recommend you do this step for ANY coleslaw that you make.

Nutrition Facts
Creamy Sunflower-Ranch Coleslaw - whole food and vegan
Amount Per Serving
Calories 101 Calories from Fat 63
% Daily Value*
Fat 7g11%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Sodium 47mg2%
Potassium 257mg7%
Carbohydrates 9g3%
Fiber 3g13%
Sugar 3g3%
Protein 4g8%
Calcium 43mg4%
Vitamin C 27mg33%
Vitamin A 3514IU70%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

7 thoughts on “Creamy Sunflower-Ranch Coleslaw (vegan) + 9 Salads for Labor Day

  1. Lovely slaw and fantastic salads, Kellie! I make sunflower dressing all the time, but we are not too fund of Ranch, so I soak seeds in coconut cream and blitz them with stone ground mustard and a touch of apple cider vinegar. Then I toss a handful of either seeds or coconut shreds on top, depending on salad. Mayo does not live in this house.
    Have a nice weekend!

    1. kellie anderson says:

      Oh I love your coconut vibe!! I’ll need to give that a go next. Yum!! Thanks for sharing xx

      1. My pleasure, dear Kellie! I figure, since we live in tropics and have friends who share home-grown coconuts with us, I might as well use them as much as I can.

  2. beth says:

    Beautiful food!

  3. Mr A says:

    What a great way to make a beautiful healthy slaw feel indulgent. Deeeelicious

  4. Colourful and packed with flavour, these all look fantastic! Thanks for so many great ideas.

  5. Rachel says:

    Yet again proving that an underrated vegetable can be the star of the show!

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