Southern Style Coleslaw Recipe: How to Make Coleslaw in 3 Steps?

June 2, 2023

Southern style coleslaw is one of my favorite ways to make this famous salad. It is incredibly delightful to combine the crunch of the slaw with the creamy, sour flavor of the dressing. Over the years, I’ve used this recipe as a side dish for most of my favorite barbecues, and the results are always amazing. In fact, my guests never seem to get enough.

This southern style recipe is a family recipe that has been passed down for many generations. I remember enjoying the tasty, and tangy side during Thanksgiving at my grandma’s.

Today, I’ll share how I make this coleslaw with a little twist I learned in cooking class. Fortunately, this southern coleslaw recipe is quick and easy to make. So without further ado, let’s get started.

Southern Style Coleslaw

How to Make Southern Style Coleslaw?


Here’s what you’ll need to make this delicious southern coleslaw:

  • 1 medium-sized green cabbage: You could use packaged pre-shredded cabbage mixture to save time. However, shredding the veggie yourself is cheaper and safer. For a more vibrant burst of color, buy one small red cabbage and use half for this recipe.
  • 2 carrots: Carrots provide sweetness and vibrant splashes of color.
  • ½ cup of mayonnaise. Mayo is the base for coleslaw dressing. You can use any mayo of your choice for this recipe. That said, I recommend Duke's Southern Style Mayonnaise.
  • ¼ cup of sugar: Sugar gives this southern coleslaw its distinct sweetness.
  • 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar: The southern coleslaw becomes tangier and more acidic thanks to the vinegar, balancing the sugar’s sweetness.
  • 1 teaspoon of yellow mustard: The mustard gives the dish an extra sour punch and sharpness.
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice: Freshly squeezed lemon juice gives the cole slaw a lovely brightness and more acidity to balance the sweetness.
  • ½ teaspoon of salt: Salt brings out the flavor of the other coleslaw ingredients.
  • Cracked black pepper: Large peppercorn chunks add intense peppery, woodsy, and piney flavor bursts.
Purple Cabbage Coleslaw with Other Ingredients


Step 1: Chop the Vegetables

Instead of using packaged coleslaw mix, I recommend chopping the cabbage and carrots yourself. Your coleslaw will taste so much better if you use fresh veggies. First, quarter the green and red cabbages, then slice them thinly.

Alternatively, you can use a mandoline or a food processor with a shredding function. When you’re done shredding the cabbages, grate the carrots and set them aside.

Step 2: Prepare the Dressing

Get another bowl for your dressing and add the mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, yellow mustard, salt, sugar, black pepper, and lemon juice. Next, mix these ingredients thoroughly to make the dressing.

The dressing should taste creamy, fresh, and tangy. Add a little extra apple cider vinegar if the coleslaw dressing seems too thick.

Step 3: Mix!

Lastly, mix your shredded cabbage and carrots and pour the dressing into the large mixing bowl. Ensure you stir thoroughly so the dressing properly coats the vegetables. The homemade coleslaw can be consumed shortly after preparation, but you can store it in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Southern Style Coleslaw Tips

  • If you have leftover dressing, you can add it to tacos, hot dogs, and barbecue meats, or serve it on the side and enjoy.
  • If you’re on a vegan diet, substitute the regular mayonnaise with egg-free vegan mayonnaise for a total vegan southern coleslaw.
  • On the other hand, if you’re not on a vegan diet but want a healthier version, use half sour cream and half regular mayonnaise.
  • For more spiciness, you can add thin slices of red peppers, green peppers, or jalapenos. You can also add green onions for a crunchier and more unique flavor.
  • For a better taste, make sure the coleslaw sits for a minimum of three hours. I would even suggest making the southern coleslaw the night before you plan to serve it.
  • Depending on your palate, you can season the coleslaw with a little additional salt and pepper just before serving. This will give the coleslaw more flavor after being refrigerated.
  • When serving the coleslaw, use tongs or a slotted spoon. It’s simpler to strain this coleslaw before scooping it onto a platter because the dressing is a bit on the runny side.

The Best Dishes with Southern Style Coleslaw

Cole slaw is typically eaten as a side dish with fried fish and barbecued meats. Personally, I love my southern style coleslaw with fish tacos, pulled barbecue chicken or brisket, barbecue chicken sliders, and sandwiches.

This coleslaw also tastes amazing with pulled pork. The way you serve pulled pork will never be the same after trying this slaw. Another entertaining way to eat this coleslaw is with some BBQ chicken nachos and grilled chicken. Yum! 

Turkey Meat with Coleslaw Salad Lunch Pack

How to Store Southern Style Coleslaw?

One thing I love about this recipe is that I can prepare the coleslaw dressing a day or two before I use it. Simply keep it in an airtight container and store it in the fridge. I recommend using the dressing within 3 days.

You can also store the sweet coleslaw in an airtight container for up to five days. Bear in mind that the cabbage may become more watery the longer it sits, so eat it soon.

Coleslaw may become watery after a few days because the water in the vegetables can leak into the salad. To reduce the possibility of water slaw, I advise shredding, salting, and allowing the cabbage to wilt. After that, dry them off in a salad spinner.

You won’t have to worry about your salad being soggy and watery because the cabbage will lose most of its water, allowing you to enjoy fresh and tasty slaw for longer.

Can You Freeze Coleslaw?

Though technically possible, freezing coleslaw doesn’t work well, especially if the dressing is made of mayonnaise or dairy.

Why? Because the dressing will separate from the veggies, and the vegetables will also soften. Additionally, there will be too much water in the storage container after defrosting.

So, it’s always a better choice to refrigerate your dairy coleslaw since it will freeze poorly. However, if you use a vinegar-based dressing, you could freeze your coleslaw, provided you don’t mind having mushy vegetables and extra water in the container.

Make sure the salad is properly wrapped when frozen and stored in an airtight container. When it’s time to defrost, leave it in the refrigerator overnight and eat the thawed coleslaw the next day.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I Prepare Southern Coleslaw Without Sugar?

While you can make this recipe without sugar, I wouldn’t recommend it. The sugar balances the recipe’s acidity, saltiness, and sweetness. Moreover, even though this recipe contains a fair quantity of sugar, it tastes more acidic than sweet, so imagine it without sugar altogether.

2. Coleslaw Vs. Cabbage Slaw: What’s the Difference?

There really is no difference between the two. Both coleslaw and cabbage slaw refer to side dishes made of shredded cabbage and other shredded or finely cut vegetables. While the other ingredients may vary, cabbage remains the only consistent ingredient in a coleslaw mix.

3. Where Did Coleslaw Come From?

The name “coleslaw” is an English translation for koolsla, which is a Dutch word for cabbage salad. In the late 18th century, Dutch settlers brought this tasty side dish to New York City.

Fast forward several centuries and slaw is now regarded as one of the nation’s favorite side dishes. It tastes fantastic when paired with most dishes.

4. Can I Get Sick From Eating Old Southern Coleslaw?

Yes, eating old Southern coleslaw can lead to illness. Coleslaw is perishable and spoils quicker than you might expect, especially if you don’t store it properly. Sometimes, illness-causing bacteria can grow in the salad even when there are no visible signs of storage.

So, even if the coleslaw still appears to be good, it is always safer to throw it away if it has been kept longer than the advised 5-day storage date.

Coleslaw Salad with Cabbage and Carrots


There you have it! The most delicious southern style recipe you’ll find on the internet. Serve with your preferred barbecue dish or enjoy with pulled pork sandwiches. Luckily, this mouthwatering southern coleslaw goes great with anything you’re grilling or smoking. So, buy the ingredients at a store near you and enjoy the creamy freshness of this recipe.

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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