Mexican Slaw for Tacos

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This Mexican slaw for tacos pairs well with shredded chicken, pork, shrimp, or fish tacos and has a zippy citrus dressing made without mayo. Use prepared coleslaw mix for easy prep or learn how to make your own coleslaw mix from fresh cabbage.

The slaw is in a white bowl with a spoon. Fresh lime wedges are on the side.

This easy to prep Mexican slaw makes any taco taste better by adding a fresh zing of citrus and crispy cabbage for crunch.

Using a pre-shredded coleslaw mix, you can have it ready to serve in 5 minutes.

But making your own coleslaw mix only adds a few more minutes of chopping and can be a very budget-friendly way to add some fresh veg to your taco dinner.

Why This is the Best Recipe

One of the easier ways to make Taco Tuesday taste even better is to add some easy homemade taco toppings to the dinner table. I think this is the best Mexican slaw for tacos because:

  1. Pairs Well with Fish, Chicken, or Pork: Actually, I'm pretty sure I'd happily add it to just about any taco out there!
  2. No Mayo: This citrusy slaw is lighter and zippier without the heavy mayo.
  3. 5-Minute Prep: Use a bag of pre-shredded coleslaw mix and you'll have this ready for topping a taco in minutes.


The ingredients to make the Mexican slaw are on the counter.

This easy recipe only needs a few simple ingredients:

  • Coleslaw Mix: You can make this the fastest by purchasing a bag of pre-shredded coleslaw mix from the grocery store. However, making your own is easy-peasy. If you don't want the prepared kind, you will also need a purple cabbage, a green cabbage, and a bag of shredded carrots or whole carrots you can shred.
  • Red Onion: Optional, if you have a hard time with raw onion and heartburn, you can leave this out. Fresh green onions would be a good substitute if you can tolerate those better.
  • Fresh Cilantro
  • Fresh Limes
  • Orange Juice
  • Hot Honey: Using a chili-infused honey adds a bit of heat without making the slaw too spicy. If you don't want to buy this specialty ingredient, you can substitute regular honey and a pinch of cayenne pepper. However, check out all the hot honey recipes you could make with it. It is one of my favorite ingredients.
  • Cumin
  • Olive Oil

Prep the Cole Slaw Mix

If you didn't buy a bag of coleslaw mix, the first step is to prepare your shredded vegetables.

If you've never shredded cabbage heads before, it's really very easy.

Peel off the outer leaves of the cabbage and discard them.

Then using a sharp chef's knife, cut the cabbage head in half just off center from where the stem is like this:

The knife has cut the cabbage head just off from center of the stem.

Store the main section of cabbage for another use.

Place the remaining portion of cabbage flat-side down on the cutting board.

Then use your knife to slice it into very thin strips like this:

The knife has thinly sliced the cabbage into strips.

As you slice the cabbage, some strips will be very long and not very bite-sized friendly.

I recommend cutting the strips in half to make them shorter like this:

The thin strips of cabbage have been sliced in half again to make them shorter.

Then place all the shredded cabbage pieces into a large mixing bowl and repeat the process with the green cabbage.

Add the shredded carrots or peel and shred your own whole carrots. Add them to the bowl and toss it all together.

A Note on Fresh Onion

I love the flavor that red onion brings to this dish but raw onion gives my husband horrible heartburn.

One trick I've found is to slice the red onion super thinly like this:

The red onion has been cut in half and then sliced very thinly.

And then soak the strips in the citrus dressing before tossing with the rest of the slaw. It helps to soften the harshness of the onion and is less likely to trigger my own heartburn.

For my husband however, I just scoop out a portion of slaw for him without the onion and set it aside.

Substituting fresh green onions, which have a much more mild flavor, is also a good thing to try.

Make the Dressing

Add the olive oil, fresh lime juice, orange juice, hot honey (or regular honey with or without some cayenne pepper), cumin, and kosher salt to a small mixing bowl and whisk them together.

The olive oil and seasonings are in a mixing bowl.

Assemble the Slaw

Once you dress the Mexican slaw, the cabbage will start to wilt down. You don't want to dress it until you're within one hour of serving it.

However, I think letting it marinate all together for 30 minutes in the fridge before eating it keeps the slaw crispy but allows for flavors to mingle better.

Simply pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss it all together to coat.

Sprinkle the fresh cilantro over the top right before serving so it stays fresh and bright.

The coleslaw mix is in the bowl next to the bowl of dressing.

Make Ahead Tips

If you want to prep the slaw in advance, you could preshred the vegetables and store them in an airtight bag in the fridge for up to 3 days.

You could make the dressing up to 5 days in advance and just store it in a mason jar in the fridge.

Then just toss it all together 30 minutes before serving.

Serving Suggestions

The slaw is in a white bowl with a spoon. Fresh lime wedges are on the side.

This crispy Mexican slaw is the perfect taco topping for my crockpot chicken tacos or these savory Mexican pulled pork carnitas.

It would also be delicious spooned over a grilled tilapia taco or another fish taco recipe you love.

More Taco Toppings

Tacos taste so much better with yummy toppings spooned over them. This Mexican slaw would also be delicious with a pinch of one of these easy toppings:

📖 Recipe

The slaw is in a white bowl with a spoon. Fresh lime wedges are on the side.

Mexican Slaw

5 from 1 vote
Make this easy Mexican slaw from prepared coleslaw mix or shred your own cabbage and carrots and toss with the zippy dressing made without mayo. This is the perfect taco topping for fish tacos or spicy chicken tacos.
TOTAL TIME 10 minutes
PREP TIME 10 minutes
YIELD 12 servings


For the Slaw Mix: Make Your Own OR Buy 1 (14 oz) bag coleslaw mix

  • 1/2 head green cabbage shredded
  • 1/2 head purple cabbage shredded
  • 1 cup shredded carrots from 1 - 2 large carrots or pre-shredded bag from the store

Additional Slaw Ingredients

  • 1/4 red onion thinly sliced, optional
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro chopped

For the Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice from 1 - 2 limes
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon hot honey or regular honey + 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


Prep the Coleslaw Mix:

  • Using a bag of pre-shredded coleslaw mix makes this recipe so quick and easy. However, if you prefer to make your own coleslaw mix, it only adds a few minutes of chopping onto the preparation.
  • Remove the outer leaves from the heads of cabbage. Cut them in half. Then shred them into thinly sliced strips and place in a large mixing bowl.
  • Peel and shred the carrots and add them to the cabbage.
  • Slice the red onion and add it to the bowl. Chop the cilantro but don't mix it in just yet.

Make the Dressing:

  • Add the olive oil, orange juice, lime juice, hot honey (or regular honey and cayenne pepper), cumin, and kosher salt to a small mixing bowl. Whisk them together until smooth.

Chill & Serve:

  • Pour the dressing over the coleslaw mix and toss to coat. Chill for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to mingle.
  • Add the fresh cilantro and stir it in just before serving.

Recipe Notes

Make Ahead Tips:

You can pre-shred the cabbage and carrots and keep them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. 
Do not toss the slaw in the dressing more than an hour before serving. Let chill in the fridge for the flavors to mingle before using.
COURSESide Dishes

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The photo collage shows the slaw in a bowl next to the picture of the slaw on a chicken taco.

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