Southern coleslaw is an easy cold side dish recipe that's prepared in minutes and made with simple ingredients. It travels well and makes the perfect addition to your next barbecue or summer party!
If you're looking for an easy cold side dish to take to your next potluck or barbecue, southern coleslaw is a great choice. This recipe makes a classic creamy coleslaw with a flavorful, not-too-tangy dressing.
Southern coleslaw starts with a blend of shredded green and red cabbage, shredded carrots, and red onion. Then, the vegetables are tossed in a creamy homemade dressing that's made with a handful of simple pantry ingredients. It's a little sweet, a little tart, and not too heavy.
Serve southern coleslaw at your next family gathering any time of year. It's especially popular during the summer months for picnics, barbecues, and the Fourth of July. Looking for more sides? Try my recipes for potato salad and pasta salad!
Ingredients and substitutions
- Cabbage and carrots- For ease of preparation, we're using a 16 ounce bag of shredded coleslaw mix. If desired, this can be substituted with 6 cups of green cabbage, 2 cups of red cabbage, and 3 shredded carrots.
- Red onion - Adds flavor and color to your coleslaw.
- Mayonnaise - The creamy base of your dressing.
- Dijon mustard - Enhances the flavor of your dressing, adding a vinegary, tart flavor. Can be substituted with yellow mustard if desired.
- Granulated sugar - Balances the tart flavors of the dressing. We're using a small amount of sugar, not enough to make your dressing "sweet" tasting. Sugar can be substituted with maple syrup or honey for a slightly different flavor.
- Apple cider vinegar - A small amount of vinegar adds tart flavor and thins the dressing slightly. Apple cider vinegar can be substituted with white vinegar.
- Seasoning - Celery seed, salt, and pepper add flavor to your coleslaw.
Coleslaw tips and tricks
My favorite tips for making a perfect batch of coleslaw!
- Don't dress your vegetables too far ahead - Dressed coleslaw softens over time and the vegetables release water as it sits. Coleslaw is best served within about 2 hours of preparing for best flavor and texture.
- If dressing begins to pool at the bottom of the bowl, give it a light toss just before serving.
- If shredding your own, pat veggies dry before tossing in the dressing. Once cut, vegetables "sweat" water as they sit. I find that by using packaged coleslaw mix this step can be skipped.
- Measure the dressing ingredients for best success. Proper measurements, especially for vinegar, mustard, salt, and sugar, are crucial for the best consistency and flavor.
- Vinegar and mustard add tart flavor to your dressing - too much can be overwhelming.
- Sugar is an important ingredient because it helps balance that tart vinegar flavor with a hint of sweetness. We're not using enough sugar to make the dressing "sweet", just enough to balance the flavor.
- Salt enhances the flavor of your coleslaw. Adding too much salt will not only make your coleslaw salty, but can also cause the vegetables to release excess water, creating a watery coleslaw.
I recommend serving your homemade coleslaw within about two hours for best flavor and texture. As your coleslaw sits, the vegetables release water and continue to soften, making the dressing watery.
If you'd like to make coleslaw more than a few hours ahead of time, store the shredded vegetables and dressing separately. Then, toss together within about 2 hours of serving.
Coleslaw should be stored in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator until ready to serve, and should not sit out at room temperature for more than two hours. After two hours, harmful bacteria can begin to grow and leftovers should be discarded.
Leftover coleslaw can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days, and will continue to soften as it sits. You'll want to give leftover coleslaw a quick toss before serving, as the dressing will settle in the bottom of the bowl over time.
- ⅔ cup (150 g) mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon celery seed
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon pepper
- 16 ounce (453 g) bag of coleslaw mix
- ½ small red onion, thin sliced
- In a large bowl, add mayonnaise, vinegar, dijon mustard, granulated sugar, celery seed, salt, and pepper. Whisk until smooth.
- Add shredded coleslaw mix and red onions, Toss until coated.
- Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes (up to 2 hours) to allow flavors to meld and cabbage to soften slightly. Toss once more before serving if needed.
- 16 ounces coleslaw mix can be substituted with 6 cups green cabbage, 2 cups red cabbage, and 3 shredded carrots.
- Coleslaw is best served within two hours of preparing for best flavor and texture. To make ahead, store dressing and shredded vegetables separately, then toss together about 20 minutes before serving.
- Leftover coleslaw will keep for 3-4 days in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator. Vegetables will continue to release water as they sit and dressing will get a little watery over time.