This classic creamy coleslaw recipe will become a family favorite. It’s easy to prepare, stores well in the refrigerator, and is perfect for picnics and barbecues.

Creamy coleslaw in a bowl, with a wooden spoon inserted into the coleslaw.

Sweet and tangy, creamy coleslaw is the ubiquitous side dish in restaurants, often served in a little plastic cup alongside fried chicken (think KFC!), fish ‘n chips, hamburgers, pulled pork, you name it. Why is that? Because it’s a perfect side kick to almost anything. It’s economical to make, it’s easy to prepare and serve, and it stays fresh for a few days in the fridge, unlike most salads. 

Those are the very reasons you should be making your own coleslaw to serve at home! This classic creamy coleslaw recipe is a favorite with my family and I’m sure it will become the same for yours. 

While there are literally hundreds of recipes for coleslaw, some with a vinegar based dressing, others that use less mayonnaise (check out this reduced fat coleslaw recipe), or other variations, this recipe is more in the classic Southern creamy style, typical of what’s usually served in restaurants. 

Did you know? Coleslaw began as a Dutch recipe for cabbage salad way back in the olden days and it was called “koolsla”? I have Dutch ancestors (along with Irish and Scottish) so I kind of like that it was a Dutch recipe originally. Isn’t it so interesting to find out that foods we consider so all-American have their roots in cultures around the world?

About this creamy coleslaw recipe:

I love this easy creamy coleslaw recipe! It’s such a cinch to make with only 6 ingredients.

Buying a bag of coleslaw mix from the grocery store, mixing it with a mayonnaise based dressing, and refrigerating for an hour. What could be easier than that?

What’s coleslaw mix? Shredded cabbage (green cabbage and sometimes mixed with red cabbage) and shredded carrots. If you want to shred your own cabbage, that’s fine, too. I love freshly shredded cabbage for the flavor, but I confess that I usually buy a bag of already shredded cabbage for this recipe. It’s just so convenient. You can whip this coleslaw up in 5 minutes using a 16 ounce bag of coleslaw mix. 5 minutes!

Tip: If you do want to shred your own cabbage, try using the shredder attachment of your food processor! You’ll have shredded an entire head of cabbage in seconds, and it works great for the carrots, too! 

Here’s how you do it:

Mix together a mayonnaise dressing, add the cabbage mix, and stir well until the cabbage is completely coated with the dressing. Cover the bowl, and put the coleslaw back in the fridge for an hour to marinate a bit. When you’re ready to eat, it’s ready to serve!

Overhead view of a bowl of homemade coleslaw.

How to make this coleslaw recipe your own:

This is a basic, Southern style coleslaw recipe, with a sweet creamy dressing. There are plenty of ways to personalize it. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Shred your own cabbage and carrots rather than buying a bag of coleslaw mix. You’ll need about six cups.
  • Add one (or more) of these: 1/4 cup finely chopped onion, 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley, 1/2 cup green or red bell pepper, or 1 cup shredded kale.
  • Instead of the celery salt, substitute 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon celery seed. This will result in a slightly stronger celery flavor. 
  • Not crazy about cabbage? Try homemade creamy potato salad!

A bowl of creamy homemade coleslaw with a wooden spoon in the bowl.

Frequently asked questions:

How do I stop my coleslaw from getting watery?

If you’re shredding your own cabbage, make sure the cabbage is totally dry before mixing with the dressing. Always stir the coleslaw well before serving.

What is coleslaw made of?

Basic coleslaw is made of shredded cabbage and a vinegar based dressing, sometimes creamy, and sometimes not. There are lots of variations. 

When should you put dressing on coleslaw?

One of the reasons I love coleslaw is that you can put the dressing on ahead of time and store the salad in the fridge, unlike many other salads. Put it on right away and let the shredded cabbage marinate in the dressing awhile. You’ll notice that the coleslaw kind of “shrinks” after it’s been refrigerated an hour or so. It looks like that because the cabbage has softened and settled a little. That’s good! It’s what you want it to do. 

How long should coleslaw sit before serving?

Coleslaw actually tastes better if you make it at least an hour before serving which makes it a perfect salad to serve if you’re in a rush.  That’s the reason it’s a perfect salad to serve if you’re in a rush or if you’re bringing it to a picnic or potluck. 

Can you freeze coleslaw?

Any creamy coleslaw recipe with a mayonnaise based dressing should not be frozen. You’ll end up with a watery mess.

You can freeze coleslaw made with a vinegar based dressing. Put it in an airtight resealable bag and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge for best results.

Make Ahead and Storage Tips:

Coleslaw can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator, tightly covered. Stir well before serving. If refrigerated, coleslaw should last 3-5 days. Recipe is easily doubled or tripled.

Super simple, easy, creamy coleslaw in a bowl with a blue and white linen next to it.

What goes great with coleslaw?

Pretty much everything! I love coleslaw with a sandwich but I also love it on a sandwich. Creamy coleslaw goes great with main dishes and it’s an easy side dish. Try it with (or on):

 

 
Simple, easy, creamy coleslaw in a white bowl.

Creamy Coleslaw Recipe

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Additional Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes

This classic creamy coleslaw recipe will become a family favorite. It's easy to prepare, stores well in the refrigerator, and is perfect for picnics and barbecues.

Ingredients

  • one (16 ounce) bag of shredded cabbage and carrots (about 6 cups)
  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise (or regular mayonnaise, if you prefer)
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, Dijon mustard, and celery salt until smooth. Add bag of coleslaw mix (shredded cabbage and carrots) and mix well, until the cabbage is completely coated with the dressing.
  2. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.  

Notes

  • You may shred your own cabbage and carrots rather than buying a bag of coleslaw mix. You'll need about six cups.
  • Add ins: you may want to add 1/4 cup finely chopped onion, 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley, or 1 cup shredded kale.
  • Instead of the celery salt, substitute 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon celery seed.
  • Make ahead tip: Coleslaw can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator, tightly covered. Stir well before serving. If refrigerated, coleslaw should last 3-5 days.
  • Recipe is easily doubled or tripled.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 3/4 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 86Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 3mgSodium: 301mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 2gSugar: 7gProtein: 1g

RachelCooks.com sometimes provides nutritional information, but these figures should be considered estimates, as they are not calculated by a registered dietitian. Please consult a medical professional for any specific nutrition, diet, or allergy advice.

Did you make this recipe?

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Verdict: I like it. Refreshing, classic coleslaw.
Husband’s take: Coleslaw isn’t really his favorite. He ate this until I accidentally told him that it had mayo in it. Then he stopped eating it.
Changes I would make: None.
Difficulty: Very easy.