The Only Coleslaw Recipe You’ll Ever Need

If you had met me in the early 2000s, I would have told you I hated roller coasters, expressways, family vacations to Wisconsin, and, with a burning passion, every kind of dog, big or small.

I didn’t like the texture of tomatoes until I grew my own. And I didn’t like hot weather.

But tastes change.

Vertical top down image of red and green cabbage and orange carrot coleslaw in a white square bowl, on a red checkered tablecloth with a folded blue cloth napkin and a small square dish of mayonnaise dressing.

For every example named above, when I was occasionally willing to step out of my comfort zone, my perspectives often changed, and so did my opinions:

An October weekend with some college friends taught me strapping myself into Batman: The Ride and letting it turn me upside down wouldn’t make me vomit. What’s more, it could actually be fun.

A year spent studying in Florida, hundreds of miles from my family and friends, would cure me of my fear of expressways, if only because they were the means to arrive at the white sandy beaches.

Four years away from my family made me appreciate them more, and the vacations that we went on together.

A tiny white Peekapoo named Bailey after my favorite movie character, who loves to sit on my lap while I work (which makes typing an adventure) changed my feelings towards dogs forever.

A square serving bowl of homemade coleslaw with a serving spoon sticking out of it, with a smaller square dish of white sauce, next to a bunch of green flat leaf Italian parsley, pieces of green and purple cabbage, and a folded blue napkin.

Just when I am sure I don’t like something, comfortable and certain in my beliefs, I am often proven wrong, my quick-draw character revealed. So it was with coleslaw.

Old habits die hard, though. And there are other examples of this learning process and the resulting expansion of my own palate – like artichokes, celery root, carrot soups, and kale.

I had always hated coleslaw. There’s this unwritten rule that people always have to bring it to picnics and summer parties; at restaurants, there’s often a tiny container thrown in with sandwiches or fried chicken, which I either throw away or generously offer to anyone willing to accept it.

I tried it once or twice, then wrote it off, uninterested, unwilling to look its way again.

Vertical top-down image of a white square bowl of coleslaw, a smaller square dish of white dressing, purple and green cabbage wedges, and a bunch of Italian parsley, on a white and red checkered tablecloth, with a blue and white cloth napkin.

That is, until the latest in a long line of dietary perspective changes.

I was craving something refreshing and light, high on the fresh produce scale but nutritious, without being all fruit (i.e., all sugar).

I remembered my carrot salad, which I half considered making again. But as its only fan around here, I’d be eating the whole batch alone. And then I saw a blog post online that really stood out to me.

It was pretty, and that is important, all decked out with bright purples and oranges, as colorful as the flower gardens outside my window.

Vertical top-down image of a square dish with rounded corners, filled with homemade cabbage slaw with a mayonnaise sauce, on a red and white checkered cloth background with a quarter of a head of purple cabbage at the top of the frame and a folded blue cloth napkin with white polka dots at the bottom.

(As a side note and just for the record, I have decided that should I ever have children, I will make the effort to make foods pretty because that is half the battle, and I assume this will be the case for any of my progeny as well. Though, if they still don’t want to eat it, I probably won’t force them.)

A square serving bowl of homemade coleslaw with a serving spoon sticking out of it, with a smaller square dish of white sauce, next to a bunch of green flat leaf Italian parsley, pieces of green and purple cabbage, and a folded blue napkin.

And so I set to work Sunday afternoon, cutting the original recipe in half, chopping half of a half of a purple cabbage and doing the same with a green one.

In the end, I surprised myself. I’d even say that I liked it: cold and crunchy, simple and sweet.

I ate some that night, alongside takeout, and now I’m off to repeat the process, with a homemade burger I’ll cook on the griddle. Then I’ll probably sit down on the sofa and see what’s on television, dog at my side, feeling happy.

Print
A square bowl of coleslaw is on a table topped with a red and white checkered cloth, with a stainless steel serving spoon atop a folded blue cloth napkin with white dots, and a smaller square dish of a white mayonnaise sauce, with half of a purple cabbage at the top right of the frame.

The Best Homemade Coleslaw


  • Author: Shanna Mallon
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours, 15 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings
  • Category: Salads
  • Method: No-Cook
  • Cuisine: Side Dish

Description

Need the perfect side for your barbecue? Make this delicious coleslaw. It’s bursting with fresh, tangy flavors and an addictive crunch.


Ingredients


Instructions

  1. Remove the cabbage cores and slice into thin pieces, or shred in the food processor. Place in a large bowl.
  2. Peel the carrots and chop or shred into pieces of the same size as the cabbage. Add them to the bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, celery seed, salt, and pepper.
  4. Pour half of the dressing over the cabbage and carrot mixture, and stir to combine. Add additional dressing as desired, depending on your preference and how wet you like your coleslaw. Add the parsley and toss to coat.
  5. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving, longer if you cut your vegetables into larger pieces, allowing the cabbage to wilt and the flavors to meld together.

Notes

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For a vegan version, try our recipe for aquafaba mayonnaise!

Keywords: slaw, coleslaw, cabbage, carrot, summer

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Chop Vegetables and Measure Ingredients

Wash all of your produce well, and remove the stems from the parsley.

Using a sharp chef’s knife and a sturdy cutting board, cut the green and purple cabbages in half, then cut them into quarters and remove the cores.

Chop one quarter of each cabbage head into thin pieces, and reserve the rest. You can easily chop them thinner or thicker depending on your preference for the texture of your coleslaw.

Three small piles of shredded purple and green cabbage and orange carrots, on a dark gray slate background.

Note: you can also use a mandoline to shred the cabbage if you like a fine shredded texture (see more on this below). And a box grater will work on the carrots, just try to hold them at an angle to get long strips. Use the side with the largest holes for this.

Get out your vegetable peeler and peel the carrots, then chop or shred into the same size pieces as the cabbage.

Finely chop the parsley.

Measure out the remaining ingredients, placing them out on the counter in order of how they are listed in the recipe.

Step 2 – Combine Vegetables

In a large bowl, stir together the cabbage and carrots.

A large stainless steel mixing bowl of shredded purple and green cabbage and carrots.

Set aside on the counter or in the refrigerator to chill.

Step 3 – Make Dressing

A large stainless steel bowl of mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, celery seed, ground black pepper, and vinegar.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, apple cider vinegar, celery seed, kosher salt, and black pepper.

Vertical oblique image of a large stainless steel bowl of shredded cabbage and carrots, and a smaller bowl of mayonnaise dressing.

Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking, if needed.

Step 4 – Dress and Chill

Pour half of the dressing over the salad. Toss to coat everything evenly.

A large stainless steel bowl of shredded cabbage and carrots, drizzled with a white mayonnaise sauce.

Add more dressing as desired, tossing until the coleslaw has the amount of dressing you prefer. If you have any left over, it makes an excellent dip for sliced veggies.

Cabbage and carrot slaw in a large stainless steel mixing bowl, with two small piles of finely chopped green Italian parsley on top.

Add the parsley and toss again to combine.

Top-down closeup of a stainless steel mixing bowl of homemade coleslaw with a white dressing.

Chill the mixture for at least 4 hours before serving. This is a necessary step to the process so all the flavors can meld together.

You Don’t Have to Chop By Hand If You Don’t Want To

As much as I love getting out my big knives and chopping up tons of vegetables for the various dishes that I make, sometimes I just don’t want to go through all the effort. This is when I turn to a variety of different appliances to make coleslaw a much easier recipe to prepare.

First up is the mandoline. This is a classic kitchen implement that I love to use to get a nice, fine shred on the cabbage and the carrots. If you like thinly shredded coleslaw, this is the tool to use.

Second we have the food processor. I love the magical little wheel that came with mine that shreds up veggies so well – and so quickly. Depending on the model that you have, you may be able to choose between two different sizes on the grating disc, making your shredded vegetables thicker or thinner as needed.

Oblique vertical view of a square bowl with rounded corners, filled with homemade cabbage slaw, with vegetables and a dish of dressing in the background, and a folded blue cloth napkin in the foreground.

Next, have you considered the mezzaluna? This curved, often double bladed knife is perfect for making chopped salads, and it can make short work of cabbage and fresh herbs.

Finally, there’s the blender. I know it seems odd, but a high-powered blender can totally do the job. Simply roughly chop the cabbage and carrots before adding to the blender, then pulse until the mixture is shredded. Note that this will finely shred the vegetables into tiny pieces rather than long strips.

A plus here is that the cell walls will also start to break down, releasing some water that you can then press through the holes of a colander or fine mesh strainer and then discard. No more soggy coleslaw, and this will result in less time required in the fridge as well – perfect if you’re short on time!

A square bowl of coleslaw is on a table topped with a red and white checkered cloth, with a stainless steel serving spoon atop a folded blue cloth napkin with white dots, and a smaller square dish of a white mayonnaise sauce, with half of a purple cabbage at the top right of the frame.

I’ve also heard that some chefs like to actually finely chop and then salt their vegetables, set them aside for about half an hour, then give them a quick rinse and press out the water. Experiment, and see what results in a texture that you prefer.

And for even more summertime cookout side dish goodness, try our recipe for the ultimate loaded potato salad.

Do you like your cabbage thick or thin in a homemade slaw? Are you a lifelong advocate, or do you tend to push this side dish aside? Tell us in the comments below, and be sure to come back to rate the recipe once you’ve tried it.


Don’t forget to Pin It!

A collage of photos showing different views of a superior coleslaw recipe.

Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on June 9, 2009. Last updated: August 28, 2018 at 15:37 pm. With additional writing and editing by Meghan Yager and Allison Sidhu.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

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About Shanna Mallon

Shanna holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her mantra? Restoring order and celebrating beauty through creative content, photography, and food. Shanna's work has been featured in Bon Appetit, The Kitchn, MSN.com, Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Houzz.com, Food News Journal, Food52, Zeit Magazine, Chew the World, Mom.me, Babble, Delish.com, Parade, Foodista, Entrepreneur and Ragan PR.

9 thoughts on “The Only Coleslaw Recipe You’ll Ever Need

  1. It is so funny how things change when you least expect it? I love shrimp and I grew up hating it.

    This slaw looks so refreshing!

  2. I love how your posts are always so beautifully written, and always with a sort of moral to them. I wish I had that kind of patience and talent. Also glad that you’ve warmed to cole slaw. Although, if we ever eat at KFC together, does that mean I can’t have your cup of creamy slaw?

  3. I understand this. I didn’t like lamb and now I love i Minds changed. I recently wrote that the farmer’s market ladies assured me that the brown pods held peas just as vibrantly green as the green pods and they were right. But, when I look at the brown pods, I immediately make a judgment and don’t want to buy them until I open them up and get to know them a little better. And, who would ever think I’d shell my own peas. Things change. Enjoyed your wrting.

    I like the mix of the two cabbages.

  4. I am terrible about judging people too soon, my bf said that is one thing he doesn’t like about me… funny thing is, I hate when people judge me so soon, yet I still do it. Btw, George Bailey is AWESOME 🙂

  5. I love your writing, it’s absoutely beautiful. 🙂

    I too am guilty of the eye rolling and extra loud sighing to show my displeasure to all around! I hate that I do it but sometimes it just comes out, almost like a reflex and I always feel like an ass afterward.

    I’ve always felt the same way about coleslaw as you did, but after reading this post, I’m going to try this recipe out. I’m a huge fan of Ina Garten and also of Deb’s from SK, so there must be something good here! I saw this recipe on her blog and briefly considered it, but remembered I strongly dislike coleslaw so moved on to other things.

    cheers 🙂

  6. I love your writing, it’s absoutely beautiful. 🙂

    I too am guilty of the eye rolling and extra loud sighing to show my displeasure to all around! I hate that I do it but sometimes it just comes out, almost like a reflex and I always feel like an ass afterward.

    I’ve always felt the same way about coleslaw as you did, but after reading this post, I’m going to try this recipe out. I’m a huge fan of Ina Garten and also of Deb’s from SK, so there must be something good here! I saw this recipe on her blog and briefly considered it, but remembered I strongly dislike coleslaw so moved on to other things.

    We’re going to have a barbeque this weekend, so I think I’ll make this for it 🙂

    cheers!

  7. Susan: Funny you mention shrimp. Usually I hate it, but, give me some coconut shrimp with pina colada sauce? I am a happy, happy girl.

    Jacqui: I promise to always give you any KFC cole slaw around! You deserve it, being so nice and all. The truth is, the moralizing in posts comes without my expecting it, and I don’t know what that means but that I tend towards the didactic? Often times, I feel like I’m coming very close to something without hitting it, if that makes sense, so I appreciate your kind feedback.

    Thanks, Angela! I love what you said about the brown pods (I didn’t know that!), and how true is it that our minds judge things by the way they look?

    Meeso, I fellow George Bailey fan! Have seen the movie so many times, I can almost quote it, but it makes me cry every year.

    Jayme, You are lovely. Thanks for your kind words and empathy! Hope your barbecue goes well and that the slaw is a hit!

  8. I tried this recipe with your tip on quartering the halves again. But it’s possible my knife wasn’t sharp enough or I tried to get the cabbage bits to be shorter/smaller/easier to chew – nowhere near as pretty but still edible. I tossed in green onions (tried to follow your lead in other vegetable recipes where you use up what’s left in the fridge) – tastes weird but raw brocolli was better and added some raisins.

    I figured after looking at the recipe a second time I forgot the mayo! I used apple cider vinegar/dijon mustard and it was too acidic. The mayo was the missing link and lots of it mixed together didn’t taste or look like the mayo-drenched coleslaws I disliked at KFC. Heh.

  9. Janet, so overall, was this a success for you? From the last comment, it sounds like it was at least better than KFC, which I say is definitely a victory of some kind! And three cheers for improvising and trying to use up what you have – it is the story of my life!

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