Raw, Vegan Rainbow Slaw; My “Conversion Narrative”

raw vegan rainblow slaw

Hi all! Hope the week is going well.

Before I share the delicious “slaw” recipe pictured above, I wanted to encourage you all to head over to writer, historian, and activist James McWilliams’ wonderful blog today, where I’ve written a very honest account of why I became vegan, and how my motives have evolved. If you’re a regular CR reader, then you’ve heard this story before: the IBS, the quest for improved health, the love affair with raw food, and the ultimate move toward a lifestyle that is animated by compassion toward animals.

If you’ve just started reading, though, you might not really know why I went vegan in the first place! And it might surprise you to learn that my veganism today is quite different from my veganism four or five years ago. I’d love it if you’d read the post, and please feel free to leave a comment on it, sharing why you first became vegan, and whether or not your journey has expanded, evolved, or taken any unexpected turns. You guys know so much about me, and my experience with the vegan lifestyle, but I want to hear about you—and so does James, I’m sure!

By the way, if you’re not familiar with James McWilliams, now’s the time to get to know him. James, a historian of American history at Texas State University, is a brilliant and insightful champion of vegan lifestyle, but beyond that, he’s also a sharp analyst of food politics and agriculture. His books include A Revolution in Eating: How the Quest for Food Shaped America (Columbia University Press) and Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly (Little, Brown). Though I’m fascinated by his early work as a historian of the American colonies, it is Just Food—recommended to me originally by my friend Jasmin—that got me hooked on James’ hard hitting, tightly researched, and bold work. If you’ve ever found yourself stumbling over the question of “why don’t you just eat stuff that’s grass fed and local?”, I highly recommend subscribing to James’ blog.

I hope you enjoy my “vegan conversion” narrative!

And now, back to the usual CR subject matter: food! Today, in an attempt to clear out the produce I’ve filled my mother’s fridge with before I head south again, I whipped up a delicious, colorful lunchtime salad. I’m sure you’re quite familiar by now with the idea that we should “eat colorfully.” If you’re not, the idea is that the powerful antioxidants in various foods—the anthocyanins in blueberries, for instance, or the lycopene in tomatoes—are also what give these fruits and veggies their brilliant colors. If we take care to eat a diet with many shades of red, blue, orange, green, and yellow, we’re far more likely to get a broad array of antioxidants and phytochemicals in our diet. This means more protection against pesky free radicals, and consequently, against the aging process.

I tend to eat a very colorful diet. But it’s always nice when one particular dish seems to showcase the true range of plant-based dishes—their variation of color, texture, and taste. This slaw has it all: red, green, orange, purple, and, well, black-ish from the dulse, which isn’t the prettiest color I could have added, but remember: sea veggies are veggies, too. And if variety is your goal, it’s important to include them in your meals, too—especially since they add crucial iodine to your vegan diet! I love dulse, and I think it adds a wonderful, salty flavor to meals. But if you don’t have any on hand, this slaw will be delightful without it.


Raw, Vegan Rainbow Slaw with Creamy Dressing (vegan, raw, gluten free)

Makes 1 large or 2 smaller servings

1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup shredded red cabbage
1/2 cup shredded apple
1/2 cup slivered red bell pepper
1/2 cup packed, thinly sliced dinosaur kale
Small handful dulse strips

Gena’s Slaw Sauce:

1/4 cup tahini
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar or lemon juice (depends what kind of a taste you’re in the mood for!)
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp maple syrup (optional; I like the sweet/tangy combo)
1 tsp dried dill weed
1 tbsp tamari or nama shoyu

1. Whisk all dressing ingredients together with a fork.

2. Mix all slaw ingredients together. Dress to taste; you should need about 1/4 cup dressing for the whole salad. Dig in!


I’d serve the slaw with a half cup or full cup beans (depending on appetite), a cup of cooked whole grains (quinoa, millet, rice, etc.), a serving of raw crackers and hummus, or a slice of Ezekiel bread with a hummus or nut pate on top.



This slaw sauce is one of my simple home standbys. If you want to make it a little more authentic, you can use Veganaise, which I assure you will fool anyone who loves traditional mayo, in place of the tahini. If you do that, reduce the water to 2 tbsp. Hope you enjoy this tasty, antioxidant-packed slaw!

And hope you have a good evening, too.


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Categories: Salads, Side Dishes
Ingredients: Cabbage, Kale
Dietary Preferences: Raw

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  1. This is gorgeous! We love your recipes! Thank you so much for creating this blog, its truly inspiring and really encourages people to try a vegan diet, and helps us vegans become much healthier too!
    Ashley x

  2. Gena, This slaw is a FABULOUS!! I made it tonight with the intention of having it for lunch at work tomorrow and I almost ate all of it for dinner! Super yum!
    On a separate note, I love reading your blog! You are a real inspiration with work and school and creating all these great recipes and then blogging about them… I don’t know how you do it all! But keep it up because we love it!

  3. hi there! i made this salad this week and it was yummy!….even my girls (10 & 8) ate it!…i did not have dillweed and did no use apples, but i did add thin, thin, thin strips of raw beet (i have a new julienne-r tool that i love using!)….my girls do not like beets, so the julienne was so small they could not detect the beet…anyway, what a refreshing and healthy salad! thanks for your inpsiration!

  4. Yikes! I don’t like the summary I just read of McWilliams’ book, Just Food. It’s in support of GMOs and a global food production system. I understand that his views aren’t as general as that (like he’s in support of GMOs when they are in the “right” hands), but I know too many local farmers and the good work they are doing. I live in Illinois, one of the biggest agriculture states, yet we import over 90% of our food. No one’s book is going to tell me that buying organic Mexican strawberries is more fuel-efficient than driving to my farmer’s market or slightly outside of my town to get fresh strawberries from a farmer….or better yet getting them from my own backyard. It’s mind-boggling to me that someone would advocate a global economy over a local one. Supporting our friends and neighbors is better than supporting the big Ag companies that import our food. Even for developing countries. We need to teach them to feed themselves, not provide them with cheap GMOs. I’m just really surprised you would support a non-local food system, or rather, promote this book. I would love to read it just to see another point of view, but I definitely won’t buy it. Maybe it’s in my library…..

    • Hey Brooke,

      Thanks for your comment!

      To be clear, I’m not declaring what “I support” — I’m just mentioning a book that I found to be remarkably illuminating. And I think it’s illuminating not because I agree with every sentiment (rare is the book that precisely sums up my own personal views), but rather, because I learned a lot from it, and because I it gave me a new understanding of some of the complications and limitations of locavorism. I happen to shop as local as possible, and I don’t purchase GMO foods, which means I do not support them with my dollar or voice (you’ll notice that I always recommend, for example, non-GMO soy foods). But I do think that, when we’re talking about how to feed a planet in which a lot of people are starving right now, it’s probably wise to dissect the “dichotomies” that McWilliams is seeking to explore: that is, the idea that local *always* equals good, and imported *always* equals bad.

      Before I read the book, I just assumed–because of what I’d seen in the media and read so far–that local was *always* the right solution. I want local agriculture to work for everyone, and I actually think you’d find that McWilliams wants that, too; he simply thinks that, in this particular moment in global history, locavorism isn’t always the best answer, for reasons he articulates much better than I could by summarizing him. His critique is a response to immediate global issues; it’s not a wholesale disavowal of local agriculture as an ultimate possibility (and for the record, he’s very anti industrial ag, and he’s also very pro-sustainability). Because I read his book, I at least see that locavorism has some immediate disadvantages; possibly not for me, a person who has access to farmers’ markets and at least some means by which to support them, but rather, for everyone else on the planet. It doesn’t mean I have to agree carte blanche with everything McWilliams says–it just means that it was really interesting to hear a different perspective on the subject. Does that make sense?

      I’m glad you have a good farmer’s market option near you, and that you support it! I’m sure that sets an example within your community.


  5. This looks delicious, and very similar to what I just ate! Also, I came across a video and wanted to know you’re take on it.
    It’s from a fruitarian low-fat raw food girls’s youtube and in it, meant to be humorous, her “bad” side tries to convince her to eat the organic beans from the cabinet. Ultimately she ends up listening to her “good” side, the one telling her nooo! don’t you dare eat the non-raw food, eat watermelon. She then still feels light and good and dances around for making the “good” choice. After reading her bio I see she got into raw foods after having severe health problems, but she was also heavily overweight too. Does this seem like something akin to an eating disorder? I realize this is typical, for a raw foodist (at least early on; I know from experience) who has had such positive results from raw food to demonize cooked food, but organic beans? At what point do you draw the line? Just curious about what you thought because it reminds me of things you’ve touched on in the past. And what do you think of the “fruitarian” diet? Or the 80/10/10 diet? (If you’ve mentioned it before, my apologies.) Thanks!

    • Oh dear.

      My take on 80-10-10: I know some people who thrive on it, and if you do, and your health care provider is supportive, then rock on. My personal and professional opinion is that the diet is not high enough in essential fats, protein, and complex carbohydrates — but that’s only my perspective.

      I think that beans are an incredible and healthful source of protein, fiber, iron, and numerous other essential minerals. I think they’re invaluable in plant-based diets, and for the record, I personally find them to be much more digestible cooked, rather than sprouted/raw. I took know what the raw honeymoon phase feels like–all raw! all the time!–but I never demonized grains and legumes, and I don’t think there is any need to do so. The video may be intended purely as satire, and if so, that’s cool, but I wouldn’t put any stock in fear of organic legumes. Instead, I’d seek them out for their very real health benefits!


  6. i want a sweetgreen near me! this slaw is so pretty and chock full of nutrients. i made your raw brussel & apple slaw and it was great! looking forward to trying this slaw sauce ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Gorgeous slaw! I need a different red, though. Bell pepper and my baby belly are not getting along these days.
    Great post!

  8. This looks SO yum! And as a side note, my grandma has the exact same dishes as the one in this post! Corningwear? Is that what it is?

  9. I love it when veggies are put together like a rainbow! So beautiful. And I’m slowly, slowly getting into dulse after a weird first experience.

  10. I was excited to see that James McWilliams was a professor at the university I attend (UT Austin), but when I looked it up, I found that while he lives in Austin, he actually teaches at Texas State. Just thought you should know. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • That’s my bad! I knew he was based in Austin, and I mixed them up. I edited it right away. Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. This is a great idea for me! Thanks! I’ve been looking for something more vibrant, or denser than my usual raw fare I’ve been throwing in a Tupperware to work, and this seems perfect. Cheers!

  12. This looks fantastic as always!
    P.S. Just moved to DC and I’m already in love with Sweetgreen! And I just visited Java Green for the first time today! Even though you say that DC is moderately veg-friendly compared to NYC, I’m in heaven as an Arizonan! Thanks for the great recommendations!!

        • Welcome to the district, Molly! Make sure you also try out Everlasting Life cafe on Georgia Ave. If you’re a garlic lover, their kale salad is not to be missed. (But if you hate garlic, don’t even come near it!) They’ve also got fresh juice and a full vegan menu. If you’ve got a car (or a friend with one) you should also make the trip up to Great Sage in Clarksville, MD. It is SO worth the trip and way better than Cafe Green. Glad you’re here! ๐Ÿ™‚

          • I second the vote for Great Sage! Favorite restaurant by far in the area. I’m not as smitten with Everlasting Life, though their ginger drink is outstanding, and if I loved raw garlic, I’d probably love the kale salad. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Wow, thanks everyone! Does anyone have any suggestions about how to get to Great Sage? I’m staying at GW and Mapquest says the Metro doesn’t go that far.