An easy-to-make classic southern coleslaw recipe made with shredded cabbage, carrots, and a deliciously sweet, creamy dressing. Serve this coleslaw with smoky barbecue or fried fish for a down-home southern meal!
I had no idea that there was more than one kind of slaw as a kid. All I knew was the creamy, sweet coleslaw my Grandma made when I was growing up in Mississippi.
We ate coleslaw throughout the year, but when summer hit it made a weekly appearance on the menu. No cookout, backyard fish fry, or seafood boil was complete without a big ol' bowl of creamy coleslaw!
For more authentic Southern recipes, check out our Southern Hush Puppies, Southern Fried Okra, and Southern Salmon Croquettes next!
Ingredients You Need to Make This Recipe
- Coleslaw mix. Dole Coleslaw Mix is my favorite brand but use any brand you prefer. You can also shred your own cabbage and carrots if you prefer. This is a great step-by-step tutorial on how to shred cabbage at home.
- Mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is the base for the creamy coleslaw dressing. If you ask any southerner, they'll tell you that Duke's Mayonnaise is a must in southern coleslaw!
- Granulated sugar. Southern coleslaw has a signature sweetness to it which is why it pairs so well with barbecue!
- Apple cider vinegar. The vinegar adds acidity and tanginess to the coleslaw.
- Yellow mustard. The mustard adds a tangy bite and additional acidity.
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice. Freshly squeezed lemon juice adds a nice brightness to the coleslaw and additional acidity to complement the sweetness.
- Salt. Salt brings out the flavors of the other ingredients.
- Celery salt. This ingredient adds a subtle peppery, grassy note that enhances the other flavors in the coleslaw.
- Cracked black pepper. The large pieces of peppercorn add bursts of peppery, woody, and piney flavors. I like to go a little heavy on the cracked pepper, but only use as much as you like.
How To Make This Recipe
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sugar, apple cider vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, salt, celery salt, and pepper until everything is combined.
- Place the coleslaw mix in a large mixing bowl and pour the dressing over the cabbage. Toss everything together with a wooden spoon or silicone-tipped tongs so that all of the cabbage is coated with the dressing. Serve coleslaw immediately or after refrigerating for a couple of hours.
What is Coleslaw?
Coleslaw is a cabbage salad dating all the way back to ancient Rome. Southern coleslaw first came about when mayonnaise was invented in the 19th century and has transformed into the creamy, sweetened coleslaw we know today.
Coleslaw is dressed with a creamy mayonnaise-based dressing and is made primarily with cabbage. Slaw, on the other hand, can be made with a number of different shredded vegetables, such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, fennel, and more, and is typically dressed with a vinegar-based dressing.
Coleslaw has the crispest, freshest texture when eaten fresh. I recommend refrigerating coleslaw for 2 to 3 hours to allow the flavors in the dressing to come together. After coleslaw sits overnight the cabbage will begin to soften, but it can be stored for up to 3 days.
To prep a head of cabbage for coleslaw, remove the thick outer leaves and cut the cabbage into wedges. Rinse the wedges under cold running water to remove any insects or dirt, then shred the cabbage in a food processor or with a box grater.
Variations and Substitutions
You can make this coleslaw with freshly shredded cabbage and carrots if you prefer. However, after making this recipe dozens of times, I find that the packaged coleslaw mix tastes just as fresh and saves a great deal of time!
Feel free to adjust the coleslaw dressing ingredients to your liking. You may prefer less sugar or more of another ingredient. You can also add different spices and herbs if you prefer. Just note that you'd be moving away from a traditional southern coleslaw, but by all means - have fun!
Make-Ahead and Storing Instructions
You can make the coleslaw dressing a day or two in advance and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve the coleslaw. Just toss the dressing with the cabbage mixture right before serving for a fresh, crispy coleslaw.
Leftover coleslaw can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days, but the cabbage will soften and become more watery the longer it sits.
What to Serve with Coleslaw
Coleslaw is one of the most popular side dishes served with barbecue in the south. It goes great with barbecued chicken, pork, and beef and many would say you can't have a pulled pork sandwich without a little creamy coleslaw piled on top!
Coleslaw is also a popular side to fried fish in the south. If you're ever a guest at a southern fish fry, you will probably see fried fish served with coleslaw and hushpuppies.
And if the fish fry you're attending is hosted by a Black family, we also throw in a little spaghetti and meat sauce as a side! Yep, you read that right!
But don't stop there! Southern coleslaw makes a tasty accompaniment to many other dishes. Try it with some of the following:
- Hot Honey Chicken Thighs
- Oven Fried Catfish
- Maple Glazed Carrots
- Jalapeno Cheddar Biscuits
- Southern Buttermilk Cornbread
- Old Fashioned Southern Tea Cakes
- Best Ever Bread Pudding
Recommended Tools for This Recipe
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- Louisiana Red Beans and Rice
- Cajun Shrimp and Grits
- Southern Smothered Chicken
- Homemade Biscuits and Sausage Gravy
- Southern Buttermilk Biscuits
- Southern Candied Yams
- Southern Mac and Cheese
- Southern Fried Green Tomatoes
Southern Coleslaw Recipe (Creamy Coleslaw)
- 14 ounce bag of coleslaw mix such as Dole Coleslaw Mix
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice freshly squeezed
- 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon celery salt
- Cracked black pepper to taste
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sugar, apple cider vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, salt, celery salt, and pepper until combined.
- Place the coleslaw mix in a large mixing bowl and pour the dressing over the cabbage. Toss everything together with a wooden spoon or silicone-tipped tongs so that all of the cabbage is coated with the dressing. Serve coleslaw immediately or refrigerate for up to three hours before serving.
- This coleslaw can also be made with freshly shredded cabbage and carrots.
- Leftover coleslaw can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.
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