Homemade coleslaw with shredded cabbage, carrots and a super-simple creamy dressing that makes for the perfect side for that backyard barbecue. Make it with just a few simple pantry ingredients and in less than 5 minutes.

There might not be a more essential side for a BBQ pulled pork or fried chicken than coleslaw. It brings the whole meal together, creating a refreshing balance between all the rich dishes.

Everyone seems to have their opinion on what makes the perfect coleslaw. Maybe you like it creamy or vinegary or mustardy, sweet or maybe even a little spicy. There’s no debate that making it yourself instead of buying premade from the store is going to be so much better. There’s just no comparison.

Coleslaw is a cabbage salad that most commonly consists of raw shredded cabbage and carrots combined in a dressing that includes vinegar and mayonnaise. There are many different types of coleslaw using different veggies and sometimes without mayo. The name is Dutch-influenced and translates to Cabbage Salad.

Once you make it a few times, you won’t even need a recipe. You just start mixing ingredients, taste, adjust a little if needed and enjoy!

What You’ll Need

creamy coleslaw recipe ingredients labeled

Salad Base Ingredients

  • Cabbage – Red, green or both for a variety of colors. A half head of each is great. They can be shredded in a food processor, with a mandoline slicer, box grater or even with a very sharp knife.
  • Carrots – Shredded. You can use a food processor, mandoline or julienne slicer or a box grater to shred the carrots or buy a bag of pre-shredded carrots.

Dressing Ingredients

  • Apple Cider Vinegar – This gives the best flavor to the slaw dressing, IMO. If you don’t have it, you can use white vinegar, rice vinegar or even lemon juice as a substitute.
  • Mayonnaise – For the creaminess, a bit of mayonnaise is needed. If you’re not using mayonnaise, olive oil can work as a substitute.
  • Sugar or Honey – To balance out the acidity from the vinegar.
  • Seasonings – Celery seeds (essential flavoring), kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

How to Make It

  1. Prep the veggies by finely shredding the cabbage and carrots. You can use a food processor, mandoline slicer or a box grater.
  2. Make the dressing by whisking the mayo, apple cider vinegar, sugar, celery seeds, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Taste test and make adjustments as needed.
  3. Combine the shredded veggies with about half the dressing. Add more dressing until the desired ratio is reached. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes to 1 hour before serving.


Traditional simple coleslaw is great, but there are a few easy variations and add-ins if you want to change things up.

  • You can use storebought pre-shredded cabbage or coleslaw mix.
  • Apples, raisins or dried cranberries, green onions, poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds, cilantro, thinly sliced broccoli and Italian parsley are all great options if you’re looking to upgrade the typical coleslaw recipe.
  • Swap the mayonnaise for 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard to make a mayo-free vinegar slaw.

A Case for Pre-Shredded Slaw Mix

The downside to buying whole heads of cabbage is they usually provide more than you will need to make the salad. Buying a packaged slaw mix can help solve this issue if you don’t have another use for the leftover cabbage. This reduces food waste and can potentially make it cheaper.

While pre-shredded slaw mix might be okay, definitely avoid buying premade coleslaw dressing. If you look at the ingredients on the label, you will freak out. Homemade dressing is so easy to make and has only a few ingredients.

Top Tips for Success

  • Let the mixed coleslaw chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours before serving. This gives the flavors time to come together and will make the veggies tender yet crisp.
  • Keep the dressing and veggies separate if you plan to serve the next day so they don’t get soggy.
  • Avoid soggy coleslaw by removing excess water from the cabbage. Cabbage naturally has a lot of water content. To pull some of that water out before making coleslaw with it, place the shredded cabbage in a colander, toss with a good pinch of salt and let it sit for about 10 minutes. Quickly rinse it to remove the salt and use paper towels to dry it off before using.
  • Start with a smaller amount of mayo and add more as needed. You want the creaminess from the mayo, but don’t want to actually taste it.
  • Always be tasting. If it’s too tart, add some more honey or sugar. If it needs a little more acid, add some more vinegar. The key to a good coleslaw is to taste as you go.
  • Tip for shredding in the food processor: Using a food processor makes for super speedy shredding work of the veggies. Quarter the cabbage so it easily fits into the food processor and use the round blade for the cabbage and the shredder for carrots.
  • Make ahead option: This slaw can be mixed up to 8 hours before you plan to serve it. Coleslaw is best when chilled, so store in the fridge before serving. Also, store any leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge for about 2 days. Any longer and the cabbage will start to become a bit soggy.
Creamy Coleslaw recipe overhead close up

What to Serve With It

Barbecued or fried chicken is probably what comes to mind most often, but there are so many dishes that pair well with coleslaw. Smoked pulled pork sandwiches can’t be as great without a scoop of coleslaw on top or on the side. A smoked brisket is heavenly when joined with a flavorful coleslaw. A few other recipes that work great with coleslaw are:

Creamy Coleslaw recipe overhead close up

Creamy Coleslaw

A beautifully delicious, bright, fresh and zesty creamy coleslaw salad that is the perfect balance of crunchy, creamy and sweet.
5 from 1 vote
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Course: Side
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 134kcal


  • 1/2 head green cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1/2 head red cabbage, finely shredded
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely shredded

For the Dressing

  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp sugar (or honey)
  • 1/2 tsp celery seeds
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • Black pepper to taste


  • Make the dressing in a small bowl by whisking all the dressing ingredients until well combined. Taste test for overall flavor and balance and adjust if needed.
  • Place the shredded cabbage and carrots in a large bowl. Combine with about half of the dressing and add more dressing until the desired ratio is reached.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours before serving.


  • This recipe makes about 8 cups of coleslaw, depending on the size of your cabbage.
  • Keep the dressing and veggies separate if you plan to serve the next day so they don’t get soggy.
  • Removing excess water from the cabbage to eliminate soggy coleslaw. Place the shredded cabbage in a colander and toss with a good pinch of salt and let sit for about 10 minutes. Quickly rinse to remove the salt and use paper towels to completely dry it off before using.
  • Pre-shredded cabbage or coleslaw mix can be used.
  • Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Refresh the slaw by mixing in a little more dressing or mayo. The dressing will last 2 weeks in the refrigerator.


Calories: 134kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0.03g | Cholesterol: 6mg | Sodium: 405mg | Potassium: 236mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 663IU | Vitamin C: 51mg | Calcium: 51mg | Iron: 1mg

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