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Coleslaw: the easy, refreshing recipe for a classic summer side dish

Total time: 20 Min + Chilling time
Difficulty: Low
Serves: 6 people
By Cookist

No get-together is complete without a side of homemade coleslaw. With its crunchy shredded red and green cabbage and carrots tossed with a delicious creamy dressing, coleslaw is a refreshing, colorful side dish to serve on just about any occasion.

The term coleslaw comes from the anglicisation of the Dutch word koolsla which means "cabbage salad". Nowadays, this recipe is also known as “cole slaw” or “slaw”, even if the word slaw means just a dish that includes any crunchy veggies in place of cabbage. Anyway, coleslaw is great at barbecues, picnics, and potlucks, but is just as delicious served as a topping on sandwiches, burgers, po'boys, grilled sausages, and more.

This easy creamy coleslaw is super easy to make, and can even be made a day or so in advance – in fact, preparing your coleslaw ahead of time will make it even tastier! You can customize your coleslaw in several ways, so you can make excellent coleslaw to go with your favorite main dishes.

Coleslaw Ingredients

To make this bright, colorful salad, you need red cabbage, green cabbage, and carrots.

The dressing is where coleslaw gets most of its flavor, but you don't need any fancy ingredients. For traditional coleslaw with a creamy dressing, you'll need mayonnaise, white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, sugar, and celery seeds, plus a dash of salt and pepper. The acidity of the vinegar cuts through the creaminess of the mayo, while the celery seeds add loads of flavor.

Can You Use a Coleslaw Mix?

You can use a store-bought coleslaw mix containing red cabbage, green cabbage, and carrots. You can also buy the cabbages and carrots separately and shred them at home as we did. Anyway, buying a mix will save you time.

How to Make Coleslaw

Making homemade coleslaw is a breeze and only takes a couple of minutes, plus chilling. Here's how to make the best-ever coleslaw, step-by-step.

How to Cut Cabbage and Carrots

Remove and discard the tough outer leaves of the cabbage. Using a mandolin to cut your cabbage and carrots is the easiest option. You can also cut the veggies with a sharp knife. Cut the cabbages in half, then chop them vertically into thin, long strips.

You can cut the carrots in half lengthwise, then slice them into matchstick-sized pieces. You can also grate the carrots with a wide-hole grater into even pieces.

How to Make Coleslaw Dressing

To make the creamy mayo dressing for your coleslaw, simply whisk the ingredients in a bowl until they're nice and smooth. You can also add all the ingredients directly into the bowl with the cabbage and carrots.

Adding the Coleslaw Dressing and Chilling 

Toss the cabbage and carrots with the dressing so that they're well coated, then pop your salad bowl in the fridge to let the coleslaw chill. Leave it for at least an hour or so. The longer you leave the coleslaw, the more flavorful it will get!

Coleslaw Variations

Not a fan of mayo? You can make a delicious homemade coleslaw with vinaigrette. Use your favorite or whip one up from scratch.

Asian-inspired dressings, tahini dressings, and dressings made with yogurt are all delicious alternatives.

You can also add mustard for extra flavor.

Coleslaw Salad Ideas

Add apple, raisins, pear, or sweetcorn for a sweeter flavor.

Jalapeños are great for adding a bit of kick to your coleslaw.

Broccoli, sliced bell peppers, fennel, and kale are great ways to add more veggies to your coleslaw and make it healthier.

For a keto-friendly option, use sweetener instead of sugar and Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise.

Tips for Making Traditional Coleslaw

You can replace the sugar with sweeteners if you're watching your sugar intake.

To prevent watery coleslaw, toss the cabbage with salt, then place it in a colander set over a bowl. Leave it for an hour or so and let the water drain out.

You can make your coleslaw the night before to save time and allow the flavors extra time to blend.

What to Serve with Coleslaw

Coleslaw goes great with all sorts of classic summer picnic and barbecue dishes. It's great with barbecue ribs, grilled chicken, fried chicken, beans and cornbread, pulled pork, burgers, or as a topping for sandwiches, sliders, and wraps.

How to Store Homemade Coleslaw

Keep your coleslaw in an airtight container and store it in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Can You Freeze Coleslaw?

Mayonnaise-based coleslaw doesn't freeze well. However, you can freeze the shredded cabbage and carrots for up to 2 months, then combine the mixture with the mayonnaise dressing after defrosting.

You can also make coleslaw with a vinaigrette dressing instead of a mayo dressing. Coleslaw with vinaigrette dressing will last up to 2 months in the freezer.

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for the coleslaw
3 cups
Purple cabbage
2 cups
1 cup
for the dressing
1/2 cup
White vinegar
1 tbsp
Apple cider vinegar
1/2 tbsp
1 to 2 tsp
celery seeds
1/2 tsp
salt and pepper to taste


Remove and discard the tough outer leaves of the cabbage. With a sharp knife, cut green cabbage in half, then slice it vertically into thin, long strips. Set aside.

Repeat with red cabbage, then set aside.

Grate the carrots with a wide-hole grater so that the pieces are the same size, then set aside.

Place the cabbage and carrot into a large bowl, then pour in mayonnaise.

Whisk in white vinegar, apple cider vinegar.

Add in sugar, celery seeds, salt, and pepper, the mix until completely combined.

Chill for at least one hour in the fridge, then serve and enjoy!


Make sure to refrigerate your coleslaw to allow the flavors to come together before serving it.

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