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7 Fast-Food Chains That Serve the Best Coleslaw

You won’t be skipping the slaw at these spots.
FACT CHECKED BY Meaghan Cameron

Coleslaw enjoys a nearly 250-year-old history in the United States. And while you might think of slaw as a quintessentially American side dish, one usually served at barbecues and picnics, its roots reach back to the Netherlands. The Dutch term for the dish was "koosla," which translates to "cabbage salad." It's entirely likely that Dutch immigrants to America brought their cabbage salad recipe with them, and by the year 1770, coleslaw was popping up in recipes written in the U.S.

Origins aside, plenty of fast-food restaurants, especially those that serve chicken, have some kind of slaw on their menu. However, coleslaw, which usually consists of thinly-sliced raw cabbage and other vegetables all tossed in a dressing, usually mayonnaise-based, is hardly a highly-regarded dish in the minds of most diners. It's a side all too often left there on the plate after that main dish has been devoured.

But these seven chains are amping up this forgotten side dish by creating tangy, crunchy, craveable slaw sides that can compete with the mashed potatoes and mac and cheese.

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Raising Cane's

raising canes coleslaw
Raising Cane's / Facebook

Raising Cane's likes to keep things pretty simple. All of its meals are based around fried chicken fingers, whether you're getting a sandwich made with said tenders or the tenders in a basket with sides. And of said sides, there are only four options, one of which is another chicken finger!

The others are crinkle-cut fries, Texas toast, and coleslaw. And this is a slaw you'll definitely not be leaving on the plate. It's made with the classic red and green cabbage, shredded carrots, and mayo, but it likely also features sugar, salt, pepper, and vinegar, according to a popular copycat recipe. These ingredients all work together to create a rich, sweet, and tangy flavor profile.

And it's a flavor profile folks love. One Redditor sharing his thoughts said: "I have to say that Cane's coleslaw is probably my favorite coleslaw of all time."


popeyes coleslaw
Courtesy of Popeyes

Popeyes has a lot of great sides, like Homestyle Mac & Cheese with melted cheddar on top, Mashed Potatoes with Cajun Gravy, and Red Beans and Rice. But it's the humble coleslaw from Popeyes that might most impress you.

This "crisp and tangy" slaw, per Popeyes, has just 140 calories per serving, 10 grams of fat, a mere 190 milligrams of sodium, and a gram of fiber. In other words, it's a low-calorie food that's pretty good for you.

Of the slaw from Popeyes, a food writer with Dwell by Michelle said: "Popeyes Coleslaw is a refreshing and delicious side dish that is possibly the best option for anyone who wants a break from all the fried food."


Courtesy of KFC

Rather than the long, thinly-sliced strips of cabbage and carrot you find in most slaws (and yes, we could have just used the word "julienned," but we didn't), the coleslaw at KFC is more of a chopped affair. And it's got an X-factor ingredient: onions.

Alongside the onions, KFC's coleslaw also has cabbage, carrots, and the chain's "signature dressing," the ingredients of which we have not determined. What we have determined is that people absolutely love this stuff.

In one Reddit chain filled with general praise for coleslaw, one poster wrote: "KFC coleslaw is a gift from the gods," to which another replied: "FINALLY someone who gets it!"

El Pollo Loco

el pollo loco coleslaw
Courtesy of El Pollo Loco

Go to El Pollo Loco for the Classic Tostada Salad or Four-Piece Half Chicken Meal, but stay for the surprisingly good coleslaw. (And the corn, broccoli, red rice, mashed potatoes with gravy, and other few sides on offer there.)

The slaw is made with shredded green and red cabbage and shredded carrots combined with a creamy sweet and sour dressing, according to the site. It's s great accompaniment to any main course and will be especially welcome beside spicy food.

For some perspective on the slaw here, look no further than one Trip Advisor review of El Pollo Loco that read: "good chicken, great coleslaw." Another stated in part: "We particularly loved the coleslaw."


Culver's coleslaw
Courtesy of Culver's

What first comes to mind when you think of Culver's? If you live in the Northeast or the Pacific Northwest, the answer is probably nothing, as these regions are devoid of Culver's locations.

But folks in most other states that do have a Culver's or two (or dozens) likely think first of the freshly-made frozen custard or the "Butterburgers," the seafood sandwiches, or the Wisconsin Cheese Curds. But how about some love for Culver's coleslaw?

Like many of the other items at Culver's the creamy coleslaw is made fresh every day with cabbage and carrots and it's a darling of many online folk. One reviewer commenting on Trip Advisor said he visited a Culver's at least three times a month for the burgers, coleslaw, and fish sandwiches.


Zaxby's coleslaw
Courtesy of Zaxby's

Zaxby's has some unique, amazing sides and extras to offer its customers, like Fried White Cheddar Bites and Fried Pickles, so we get it if coleslaw doesn't immediately catch your attention. But the coleslaw from Zaxby's, a mere $1.09 add-on item (and that adds a mere 140 calories to your meal) is worth the order.

In a comically backhanded way, one Redditor praised the slaw from Zaxby's even as he admitted disliking all versions of the food himself, saying: "I hate coleslaw, but Zaxby's has always been a favorite of everyone else in my family that likes it."

You'll have to be in the South or a bit up into the Midwest to find a Zaxby's, FYI.

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Long John Silver's

Long John Silver's coleslaw and sides
Long John Silver's / Facebook

Do you know what goes great with fried fish or fried chicken? Yep, coleslaw. And Long John Silver's has plenty of fried chicken and even more fried fish to offer you, along with plenty of slaw.

Made with cabbage, carrot, onion, mayo, sugar, milk, and salt and pepper, per Just a Pinch, the coleslaw from Long John Silver's has a rather complex, nuanced taste as slaw goes.

And as far as customer opinion, the slaw is a winner. One commenter on Trip Advisor said in part: "I am a very picky coleslaw person and when I want a good dish of it Long Johns is the fast food place I pick gotta watch the fried stuff buy you can find a healthy meal here as well."

Steven John
Steven John is a freelancer writer for Eat This, Not That! based just outside New York City. Read more about Steven