Jan 31, 2024 - Food and Drink

Hot slaw vying to become an official state food of Tennessee

A pile of yellow coleslaw.

A slaw of a different color. Photo: Goran Kosanovic for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Push that plate of hot chicken aside. There's a new spicy dish vying for Tennessee's love.

What's happening: Lawmakers are considering a bill this year to make "hot slaw" an official state food in Tennessee.

  • "Many parts of Tennessee have foods that are very, very special to them," the bill's sponsor, state Sen. Adam Lowe, said Tuesday. "Cleveland, Tennessee, has for some time championed the hot slaw movement."

State of plate: Hot slaw is a well-established staple in Cleveland. The city's annual hot slaw festival is a top tourism draw, and local grocery stores stock the yellow-tinted delicacy.

  • But it isn't ubiquitous. Lowe (R-Calhoun) acknowledged he had never tried it until he took his first bite Tuesday during a Senate State and Local Government Committee hearing.

Driving the food: Hot slaw, made with yellow mustard, is a spicier take on classic Southern coleslaw.

  • Folks in Cleveland use it as an all-purpose condiment. It's not unusual to see it piled on top of hot dogs and burgers.

Zoom out: Lowe's bill was originally written to name hot slaw as the official food of Tennessee, but he amended the language so that hot slaw could be part of a growing table of official foods.

  • "This is an opportunity for other parts of the state to follow suit," he said, mentioning Memphis barbecue and Nashville's own hot chicken.
  • The Senate committee unanimously approved the bill, moving it one step closer to passage.

Go deeper: Venerable food writer Jennifer Justus traced the path of hot slaw in 2019.

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