Say goodbye to the stale, mayonnaise-drowned grocery store coleslaw. This easy Coleslaw recipe is crisp and refreshing, with just enough creamy dressing to bring it all together. It’s a great side for dishes like Smoked Pork Butt and Fried Chicken, and it’s picnic and potluck friendly!
Coleslaw is one of those recipes that gets written off as nothing to get excited about, but I think much of the reason is because of how it’s typically encountered.
Many of the pre-made coleslaws you can buy are a couple days old, drowning in mayonnaise, and made of machine-cut confetti pieces of cabbage, instead of crunchy, thin, and long strands of fresh cabbage. These things all make a big difference.
Why This Recipe Is The Best
It went through many rounds of recipe testing – Over the years I’ve experimented with many different versions of homemade coleslaw, and I truly think this is the best. I know what aspects of this dish truly matter, such as how the vegetables are cut.
Minimal ingredients – Fortunately, I’ve figured out that the best coleslaw is actually pretty simple and minimal in ingredients.
Perfect texture – Many people don’t realize that with a dish like this, the texture is incredibly important. The thin, uniform ribbons here are delicious, and I think more enjoyable than confetti-style.
The natural sweetness of the cabbage comes through – Yes, there’s a creamy mayo-based dressing here, but the star of the show is really the freshness and flavors of the crunchy cabbage and carrots. This is how I think it should be. Traditional coleslaws use too much dressing, and though this is still a pretty classic coleslaw recipe, we use less mayo than typical, while still preserving flavor and crunch.
Tips for Best Results
Use a mandolin – While you can chop by hand, the best coleslaw is made using cabbage that’s sliced with a mandolin. This is because texture is a big deal for this dish, and using a mandolin ensures that the pieces are all evenly cut and consistent.
Let it sit for 30 minutes before serving – Ideally, you’ll want to let the coleslaw sit for a half hour before serving, to allow the flavors to meld together and the dressing to soak into the cabbage.
Use a quality mayonnaise and mustard – There’s a huge range of taste quality with mayonnaise, and also with mustard. I go homemade for the mayonnaise, but you may use a storebought option that has good flavor (I like Sir Kensington’s). For the mustard, skip the cheap yellow mustard and go for a good Dijon or whole grain mustard.
Step by Step Overview:
To take the coleslaw start to finish, we’ll need to prep and cut the vegetables, make the dressing, then toss it all together. Let’s get into it!
Cut the Vegetables
One of the most important elements of a fantastic cole slaw is how the vegetables are cut. I believe the best coleslaw is made using cabbage that’s sliced with a mandolin. It slices the cabbage into even pieces that are long and crunchy.
In my post for How to Cut Cabbage, you can see the difference between the hand cut cabbage on the left using a sharp knife, and the mandolin cut cabbage on the right:
It’s the exact same head of cabbage, but the eating experience between those two textures is quite different, all based on how it’s cut. I use an inexpensive mandolin (affiliate). I find this works better than a food processor for ensuring consistent thickness. That post will also walk you through how to core and prep the cabbage.
If you want to use purchased pre-cut coleslaw mix, I suppose that will work here too, but I really do think it’s worthwhile to cut your own cabbage if you have a few minutes to spare. It will taste so much fresher, and the texture will be better too.
Because the typical bag of coleslaw mix is machine cut, you can get a lot of “confetti” pieces.
You’ll also notice that I am using both green and purple cabbage here. This isn’t required, but it makes for a more colorful coleslaw.
Make the Dressing
Combine a good quality mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice, and an optional whole grain mustard in a small bowl:
I enjoy the little bit of pop from the mustard seeds, and mustard has a flavor affinity with cabbage, so I like adding it. If you don’t like mustard, leave it out. If you wish to add any other flavorings, like celery seeds, you can add them here.
Whisk that all together, then add salt and pepper:
It will have a very pourable texture, with a consistency between buttermilk and ranch dressing.
Combine the Dressing with the Veggies
Pour the creamy coleslaw dressing all over the prepped vegetables, in a large bowl that can accommodate easy tossing:
What vegetables should you include?
You’ll see that I only include three in my mix: green cabbage, red cabbage, and carrots. And actually, I really only use two types of cabbage because I think it looks pretty.
There are a lot of extras that I see people adding to cole slaw, like bell pepper, red onion, and heck, even parsley. If you want to add these things, I won’t stop you, but I really don’t think that adding them makes coleslaw better. I actually find their strong flavors to be a bit distracting.
Toss the vegetables and dressing together for a good minute or so, until combined:
Then I like to let the coleslaw rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving, so the flavors can meld.
Admittedly, there are plenty of times when I dive right in, and it’s still delicious.
How to Serve It
This coleslaw is the perfect side dish to bring to summer potlucks or a backyard barbecue, and it pairs well with recipes like Slow Cooker Pulled Pork, Spatchcock Chicken, and tacos (especially fish tacos). It adds so much freshness to pork sandwiches.
I don’t recommend it, as raw cabbage does not freeze well.
About 3 days in the fridge, then it starts to go downhill after day 4. It will still be edible, but the texture starts to break down too much. Make sure to store in an airtight container.
Yes, a few hours before is best, but a day ahead is the most I’d do for optimal texture.
Did you enjoy the recipe? Please leave a 5-star rating in the recipe card below and/or a review in the comments section further down the page.
- 6 cups shredded green cabbage
- 2 cups shredded red cabbage
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp whole grain mustard optional
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Place the cabbage and carrots in a very large mixing bowl.
- In a small bowl, whisk to combine the mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, mustard if using, salt, and pepper.
- Pour the dressing all over the cabbage, and toss well to combine.
- Let the cole slaw rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving, then enjoy!
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.