These 15 Fast Food Places Have The Best Coleslaw

When you think of fast food sides, you probably think of french fries. But coleslaw should be just as present in your mind. You might balk at this, especially if your life has been filled with disappointing coleslaw. We're here to celebrate one of the most underappreciated fast food dishes of all time, and it's none other than this humble cabbage salad.

At its best, coleslaw is cool and refreshing, yet simultaneously satisfying and robustly flavored. In a fast food context, it also needs to pair well with juicy burgers and fried chicken, and remain tasty in a to-go bag. This might seem like a tall order, and indeed, many establishments fall flat when it comes to this veggie-centric side. But we're not here to focus on their limp piles of cabbage and mayonnaise. No — we're here to celebrate those fast food joints that have perfected all things coleslaw. In these hallowed halls, the cabbage is always crisp, and the dressing is always tasty. These are the 15 fast food places that have the best coleslaw.

1. El Pollo Loco

El Pollo Loco has built its brand on the idea that its chicken is among the best in the fast food universe. But we're not actually here to talk about El Pollo Loco's chicken. We're here to talk about its coleslaw. Word of this coleslaw's excellence has spread far and wide: As one Reddit user put it, "For fast food chain coleslaw, El Pollo Loco is the best." 

The secret is in its freshness. The cabbage snaps and crunches between your teeth, bursting with cool, verdant flavor. Shredded carrots add a potent hit of sweetness. The dressing is ever-so-slightly creamy and enjoyably tangy, without ever overwhelming the other elements. This coleslaw is basically the diametric opposite of the green, mayonnaise-heavy glop you've probably been unfortunate enough to endure at some point in your life. It's crunchy, bright, zesty, and flavorful — kind of like a garden in your mouth. And boy, does it go great with fire-grilled chicken.

2. Mrs. Winner's Chicken & Biscuits

Denizens of the southeast U.S. are a pretty lucky group — they get to enjoy the culinary delights of Mrs. Winner's Chicken & Biscuits. This fast food chain specializes in the titular foodstuffs, but that's definitely not all it does well. Its coleslaw is perhaps the best example of its all-around artistry.

Mrs. Winner's coleslaw is fairly standard, as far as coleslaw goes. It has cabbage, carrots, and a piquant dressing. On average, it tends to have fewer specks of carrot than most coleslaws, and it's a tad bit heavier on the dressing than other fast food coleslaws. But it's definitely not lacking in sweetness, or totally swamped by mayo. Sweet and sour flavors mingle wonderfully in this coleslaw, to the point that eating it by the spoonful is one of the best ways to enjoy it. But it shouldn't be the only one; its summery flavor does an amazing job of bringing out all the peppery, fatty, and umami-rich nuances of the chain's signature fried chicken. You can even eat it piled onto biscuits. 

3. Slim Chickens

As its name implies, Slim Chickens specializes in chicken. But one glance at the chain's extensive menu makes it clear that this is definitely not all it does. This establishment serves up chicken of all cuts and preparations, french fries, sandwiches, and more. You might assume, based on this extravagance, that Slim Chickens spreads itself a bit too thin, ensuring sides like coleslaw suffer. But no — its coleslaw is as good as everything else on its menu, which is to say, great.

Slim Chickens' coleslaw goes a little heavier on the carrots and red cabbage than many other entries on this list. That means it's more varied in texture, which is a major strength — even ardent green cabbage fans can get a little tired of coleslaw that's nothing more than that veggie, shredded and dressed. It also makes it a tad bit sweeter. It never verges on cloying, thanks to the dressing, which is on the sharper and tangier side of things. Pickle lovers will particularly enjoy this coleslaw as a result.

4. Swensons

Citizens of Ohio and Indiana are a blessed lot; they're the only people in the world who get to enjoy Swensons. This retro joint is about as close as you can get to traveling back in time to the world of sock hops and poodle skirts, from its drive-in concept to its menu. Amid its myriad milkshakes and impressive burgers lies its humble coleslaw. Well, maybe it's not so humble — it has an adjective of its very own. Swensons specifically sells "creamy coleslaw," and it lives up to that moniker.

Those who prefer their coleslaw light and zingy should probably eschew Swensons' rendition; its shredded cabbage is fully enrobed by a thick, rich dressing. This definitely keeps it from the bright crunchiness of many other coleslaws on this list, but if you can open your heart (and palate) to it, you'll be rewarded. Swensons' coleslaw is bursting with eggy, tangy, umami-tastic flavor. It isn't refreshing — it's satisfying. That's not the sort of word often used to describe coleslaw, but Swensons makes a good case that it should be. Pair it with one of the chain's jaw-dropping burgers for a seriously hearty meal.

5. Bojangles

For the most part, Bojangles is confined to the southeastern states. This joint's Cajun-style chicken, biscuits, and "fixins" are seriously tasty. These attention-grabbing items tend to obscure its coleslaw, which is a huge shame. Bojangles' coleslaw is among the best in the business.

This coleslaw sets itself apart by including more carrots than many other recipes — and by being quite a bit crunchier. It's not clear how, exactly, it achieves this textural success, though we suspect it has something to do with the fact that it's roughly chopped, rather than shredded. Smaller pieces keep the dressing from overwhelming the veggies, allowing each ingredient to shine. Said dressing is also good; it's a touch creamier than many other places' coleslaw, but not to the point of being unpleasantly thick. Bojangles' coleslaw is a lesson in harmony: Crunchiness, sweetness, sourness, tanginess, and richness are all impeccably balanced in this humble side.

6. Raising Cane's

Raising Cane's is all about chicken fingers. Know what goes great with chicken fingers? Coleslaw. This savvy chain is up on that knowledge, evidenced by its spectacular coleslaw. As Raising Cane's uses red cabbage, green cabbage, and carrots, its coleslaw is among the most aesthetically appealing on this list. This medley of veggies is impressively well-balanced and mixed; neither the taste of cabbage nor carrots predominates, leading to an appealing interplay between refreshingly vegetal flavors and earthy sweetness. Texturally, things are just as good: This coleslaw practically crackles between your teeth, full of garden-fresh crunch and snap.

It's the coleslaw's dressing, though, that really impresses. Raising Cane's coleslaw comes dressed in a zingy sauce that is somehow simultaneously creamy and light. It's full of rich flavor, with a tad bit more sourness than many other coleslaw's. Yet it still lets the carrots and cabbage come to fore in terms of both taste and texture. There's a reason one Reddit user felt moved to declare "I genuinely love coleslaw" on the Unpopular Opinion subreddit, naming Cane's as one of their favorites: It's just that good.

7. Popeyes

As the slogan goes, we all love that chicken at Popeyes. But the savvy Popeyes diner knows that its coleslaw is just as craveable as its poultry. Popeyes' coleslaw is a bright mixture of cabbage and carrots. It's obvious from a single glance that this chain goes lighter on the carrots than many others, which may disappoint those who like their coleslaw sweeter. But this ratio actually works in the dish's favor, thanks to its unique dressing. Popeyes dresses its coleslaw is a zingy mixture that's noticeably more acidic than many other chains' coleslaws. This throws the carrots' sweetness into sharp contrast, enhancing it even as it counteracts it. What results is a sweet-sour-tangy-zesty flavor that's as tasty on its own as it is with Popeyes' famous chicken.

This coleslaw has another major virtue going for it: It's one of the crunchiest out there. We're not sure how, exactly, Popeyes manages to keep it so crisp, but the proof is in the eating. Each bite practically bursts in the mouth, as though the cabbage and carrots were shredded only moments prior. It's hugely satisfying and a perfect complement to the coleslaw's bright, tongue-tickling flavor.

8. Pollo Campero

International chain Pollo Campero got its start in Guatemala. Decades later, the vibrant flavors of its native land continue to distinguish its food. Like so many chains on this list, Pollo Campero specializes in chicken. But the rest of its menu is quite a bit different, boasting treats like yuca fries, sweet plantains, and empanadas. In the midst of such delights, coleslaw might seem positively quotidian. But in fact, its a highlight of the menu.

Pollo Campero's coleslaw is immediately set apart by the fact that it doesn't include carrots. This is an all-cabbage affair, which might give some diners pause. But it makes up for the lack of carrot-filled sweetness with a killer dressing. Pollo Campero opts for a richly flavored, decadently lush, mayo-forward blend, which pairs marvelously with the cabbage's crisp texture and fresh flavor. It's a study in contrasts and a tribute to simple salads everywhere. The fact that the cabbage is chopped, rather than shredded, also makes a major difference by keeping each individual chunk of vegetable full of springy crunch. As it expands across the globe, Pollo Campero stands a good chance of converting the entire world into cabbage-centric coleslaw lovers.

9. Church's Chicken

Church's Chicken is all about vibrant flavor, quality ingredients, and Texas attitude. This is as evident in its coleslaw as it is in its famous chicken. This is impressive on its own, but even more so when you take into account the fact that Church's Chicken does not skimp on sides. In addition to coleslaw, the chain also offers mashed potatoes, honey butter biscuits, fried okra, mac and cheese, jalapeño cheese bombers, and a variety of other tasty treats.

Yet the coleslaw still manages to stand out from the pack. How does it do this? One Reddit user summed it up when they remarked that "Church's coleslaw is cleaner with more focus on just the crisp cabbage." Indeed, this slaw is all about verdant freshness. The dressing serves the cabbage and carrots, highlighting their crunchy texture and cool, sweet flavor with a pleasantly rich tang. Other coleslaws, in disappointing contrast, treat the veggies like dressing delivery systems. This can often seem like a chain's way of apologizing for forcing diners to eat their greens. But Church's Chicken understands the value of cabbage and carrots unto themselves, which means its coleslaw stands up just fine to such delights as mac and cheese and honey-glazed biscuits. Take note, other chains: Respecting the slaw will take you far.

10. Culver's

Much of Culvers' notoriety comes from a dessert — its utterly delicious frozen custard — as well as its butter burgers. These are two pretty disparate comestibles. But one glance at the menu reveals that's just how Culver's rolls: It offers everything from deep-fried cheese curds to cod sandwiches to chicken noodle soup. In the midst of this culinary cavalcade lies humble coleslaw.

One Reddit user summed this side up flawlessly in a thread discussing the best fast food coleslaw: "Culver's is really good. Made fresh in store too!" That freshness is apparent from the very first mouthful — these shreds of carrot and cabbage crunch like they've just emerged from the soil. This coleslaw boasts a slightly creamier dressing than is typical, which ups the dish's sumptuousness in a way that never becomes overwhelming. The veggies' freshness is a major part of that success, but so is the seasoning. Culver's coleslaw is a bit more piquant than many other chains. If we had to guess, it tastes like the chefs throw in a bit more onion and garlic powder — and perhaps more vinegar as well. Whatever it is, it's working. This coleslaw is both some of the most luxurious and the most purely flavorful around.

11. KFC

When a chain is big enough to go by an acronym alone, you know it's a big deal. So it goes with KFC. This long-running tribute to the power of poultry is an American icon, and for good reason — its golden-brown buckets of chicken are absolutely delicious. As it turns out, its coleslaw isn't bad either.

On a Reddit thread discussing the best fast food coleslaw, several users convened to hail KFC's effort. "I'm gonna have to go with the good ol' KFC on this one. Their coleslaw is fantastic IMO," remarked one user. "I agree. Every time we make homemade pork bbq we stop and grab one or two containers of KFC slaw," concurred another. 

KFC's coleslaw is heavy on the mayo, but connoisseurs know that this is, in fact, its strength. No, this isn't the lightest and brightest coleslaw around. But that isn't the measure of coleslaw quality. There's something to be said for a dressing-drenched coleslaw, full of rich flavor. The veggies in this coleslaw are mellow and sweet, which makes them a wonderful canvas for the dressing's flavorful interplay between sharp, tangy vinegar and plush, eggy creaminess. It's coleslaw with the volume turned up, coleslaw at its most decadent, and, many believe, coleslaw at its best. This makes it a robust match for the chain's fried chicken and biscuits, and a delicious dish on its own.

12. Zaxby's

Southern chain Zaxby's is known for its fried chicken (and its affection for the letter Z — see its menu of "zalads," "mealz," and even "zappetizers"). But it might be just as well known for its sides and condiments. Zaxby's dipping sauces are particularly attention-grabbing, from buffalo garlic blaze to their intimidatingly named "nuclear" hot sauce. Coleslaw might seem a bit lame in comparison — it is, after all, just veggies and dressing. But in fact, Zaxby's coleslaw is yet another example of its condiment mastery. 

This coleslaw goes a little heavier on the carrots than many others on this list, which proves to be a great idea. They bring enhanced sweetness into the mix, which pairs excellently with the salad's rich, tangy dressing. This is definitely a creamy coleslaw, but never too creamy — rather, it's smooth, umami-forward, and pleasantly eggy. This is delicious on its own or with any number of Zaxby's entrees. In fact, the chain's huge array of sauces make experimenting with coleslaw collaborations a whole lot of fun. Those of you who can handle the heat should try blending the cool, creamy crunch of coleslaw with the red-hot nuclear sauce.

13. Cook Out

Southerners, rejoice: You live in the land of Cook Out. This unique chain is all about classic American dining, and has received passionate acclaim for its Carolina-style barbecue, juicy hot dogs and hamburgers, and an enormous variety of ice cream-based beverages. But beyond Cook Out's milkshakes and bacon cheddar dogs lies humble coleslaw — and it's just as worthy of your attention.

One Reddit user hailed Cook Out's coleslaw as the best in all of fast food-dom, saying: "Not too heavy on the mayo, tangy, crunchy, perfect on their BBQ." Indeed, Cook Out's coleslaw is a lighter, leaner, and altogether more zippy affair than many others on this list. The veggies get to shine, here: They're crunchy, crispy, and firm, bursting with cool flavor and just enough sweetness. This is, as the Reddit user points out, a fantastic complement to Cook Out's robust barbecue; a heap of slaw is just the thing to crown a juicy, sauce-smothered hunk of pork.

But what makes Cook Out's coleslaw even more impressive is the fact that its light dressing is so flavorful. There's nowhere near as much of it as there is in other chains' coleslaws — and, as previously mentioned, it's a lot less creamily mayo-like than you might expect. But it still manages to pack a delightfully tangy punch. That's one heck of a trick.

14. Long John Silver's

Seafood mecca Long John Silver's keeps things relatively simple, compared to many other chains on this list. Its menu is extensive, but not overwhelmingly so, and it retains a firm focus on oceanic cuisine. This comparatively narrow expertise benefits all the food it serves, including coleslaw. A small scoop of this beloved side is just the thing to complete a plate of battered fish, shrimp, hush puppies, and rice.

"Honestly I'm at Long John silvers right now and I love their coleslaw," opined one Reddit user. It's no mystery as to why. This chain's coleslaw is among the most well-balanced in the world of fast food. Carrots and cabbage mingle in perfect proportion to each other. These carrots are uniquely light in flavor, lending an airy sweetness to the vegetal, almost grassy cabbage. Both are also deliciously crunchy and fresh-tasting. The dressing is what takes this coleslaw to the heights of quality, however. This punchy blend ups the vinegar and seasoning quotient, which brings entirely new life to its classic mayo-esque base. It all harmonizes into a zesty, creamy, crunchy take on coleslaw virtually nobody can resist.

15. Captain D's

Captain D's is all about seafood. It's also all about coleslaw. One look through the menu reveals plate after plate of maritime delights from grilled salmon to fried shrimp accompanied by a bright green pile of coleslaw (among other sides). Captain D's coleslaw more than earns this ubiquity; it's absolutely scrumptious on its own, and serves as a perfect side to pretty much everything the restaurant makes.

It's also an interesting departure from standard coleslaw recipes. Sure, it looks pretty normal: It's got cabbage, carrots, and dressing. The connoisseur might notice that it goes quite a bit heavier on the cabbage than the carrots, but this is a fairly standard choice. But this coleslaw's dressing is a whole different affair. It's distinctively sweet in a way no other coleslaw matches. This proves to be as great a choice as it is unique. Sweetness brings an entirely new dimension to the dish, contrasting the cabbage's cool flavor and the savory seasoning as it enhances the veggies' natural sugars. What results is something sour, creamy, tangy, sweet, and just the tiniest bit zesty. When combined with seafood, it gets even more interesting. In putting a unique spin on the classic coleslaw formula, Captain D's seriously succeeds.