Homemade Coleslaw

This homemade coleslaw recipe is simply the best! It’s quick and easy, cold, crunchy and creamy and the perfect balance of tangy and sweet!

 This best coleslaw recipe is the only one you’ll ever need and will be a go-to side dish for almost any occasion!  It comes together in minutes as crisp and colorful shredded cabbage is tossed in creamy, tangy coleslaw dressing with a hint of sweetness.  Best of all, it’s light yet creamy at the same time with an assist from sour cream so it’s not drowning in mayo!  This coleslaw recipe is the ideal cooling, comforting side to your barbecue favorites or piled on pulled pork sandwiches!

HOW TO MAKE Coleslaw VIDEo

top view of coleslaw recipe by showing coleslaw ingredients of cabbage, carrots and green onions
traditional coleslaw recipe with cabbage, carrots, green onions and coleslaw dressing

Coleslaw Ingredients 

This homemade coleslaw recipe combines traditional coleslaw ingredients with sour cream, Dijon, lemon juice, celery seed and dried dill for dynamic layers of texture and flavor! I’ve given an overview of the ingredients needed below, but the exact measurements can be found in the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post. 

Coleslaw: 

  • Cabbage: I like to use a mixture of green and purple cabbage when making coleslaw from scratch more for flavor and visual interest. You can use all green cabbage if you prefer, but please don’t use all red cabbage.
  • Shredded carrots: I highly recommend buying regular-sized carrots at the store and shredding them yourself rather than buying a bag of pre-shredded carrots. The pre-shredded stuff is often dry and flavorless, whereas hand shredded carrots are still moist, sweet, and flavorful. You need to shred just 3 carrots for this recipe. Use a box grater, or use your food processor if you have the proper attachment.
  • Green onions: Just 4 thinly sliced green onions add a subtle onion flavor to the recipe without overpowering the coleslaw dressing. Use use the entire onion — the white part and the dark green tops.

Coleslaw Dressing: 

  • Mayonnaise: This is the creamy base of the dressing and provides the classic coleslaw dressing flavor – but don’t worry, this easy coleslaw recipe is not drowning in mayonnaise!  This recipe uses less mayo than most and supplements with tangier, lighter sour cream.  Mayonnaise is important, however, for the rich flavor and it binds all of the dressing ingredients together and prevents it from separating.  Please use real mayonnaise and not Miracle Whip. 
  • Sour cream: This adds a delightful tanginess to the dressing and makes it much lighter than using all mayonnaise. 
  • Apple cider vinegar:  Please use apple cider vinegar and not another substitute for that classic fruity tangy.  Vinegar is crucial to cut through the creamy mayonnaise-based dressing and for that classic tangy flavor.
  • Lemon juice:  Just a kiss of lemon juice brightens the entire coleslaw dressing recipe. We are only using ½ tablespoon in this recipe, so bottled or freshly squeezed both work.  If you don’t have lemon juice on hand, just skip it and adjust the sugar or vinegar to taste.
  • Dijon mustard: A tablespoon of Dijon cuts through the richness of the dressing with a subtle depth of flavor without making it taste even remotely like mustard.
  • Sugar:  Traditional coleslaw should be tangy with a balancing touch of sweetness.  Some like their coleslaw on the sweeter side, some like it less so, so use more or less sugar to taste.   
  • Celery seeds: If you don’t keep celery seed on hand, it is worth investing in, even if just for this recipe!  It tastes like mild, earthy-sweet celery and really does elevate this recipe.
  • Salt and pepper: A must for every dressing or it will taste incredibly bland! 
showing how to make coleslaw recipe by adding green cabbage, red cabbage, carrots and green onions to a bowl

Coleslaw Ingredient Substitutions  

  • Mayonnaise: lite mayo, avocado mayo, olive oil mayo or vegan mayo like Vegainase.
  • Sour cream: nonfat or full-fat plain Greek yogurt should also work, noting that the coleslaw dressing will be a little tangier
  • Dijon mustard: any coarse ground mustard or even honey mustard will also work (reduce sugar if using honey mustard)
  • Lemon juice: omit and adjust sugar to taste or add additional cider vinegar if you don’t have any lemons on hand 
  • Sugar: maple syrup or honey both work great with slightly different flavor profiles
  • Vinegar: red wine vinegar is the best substitute; if you only have white vinegar, start with a little less and adding more to taste if needed
showing how to make coleslaw recipe by pouring coleslaw dressing over the cabbage, carrots and green onions

How to Make Coleslaw 

This traditional coleslaw is wonderfully quick and easy to prepare and is best chilled – so it’s also make-ahead friendly!  Let’s take a closer look at how to make it (full recipe in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post):

  • Step 1: Prep the veggies. Thinly slice the cabbage and green onions. Shred the carrots using a box grater or a food processor that’s been fitted with a grating blade. Add the veggies to a large mixing bowl. 
  • Step 2: Make the coleslaw dressing. Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a separate bowl.
  • Step 3: Assemble the coleslaw. Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss to coat evenly. 
  • Step 4: Chill the coleslaw.  The coleslaw tastes exponentially better if allowed to chill in the fridge for at least an hour which allows the flavors to meld and the cabbage to soften slightly. 
showing how to make traditional coleslaw by drizzling coleslaw dressing over the cabbage
  • Use two kinds of cabbage: green cabbage is delicious on its own, but for a multi-colored, multi-textured coleslaw, combine it with red cabbage or another favorite cabbage. 
  • Don’t skip the celery seed: it adds an earthy sweetness to this traditional coleslaw recipe.
  • Shred your own carrots: pre-shredded bags of carrots at the grocery store are often dry and tough, whereas hand shredded carrots are moist and sweet. 
  • Use full-fat ingredients: Real mayo and sour cream make for the richest, creamiest coleslaw dressing. 
  • Use real mayo, not Miracle Whip: If you absolutely MUST use Miracle Whip, omit the sugar from the coleslaw dressing, give it a taste, and then add the sugar a little at a time until the dressing is just right. 
  • Add dressing as needed:  This coleslaw recipe is already on the light side, but if you think you might want an even lighter coleslaw, start with about two-thirds of the coleslaw dressing, give everything a stir and then add more as needed.  You can use the leftover dressing as a sandwich spread or veggie dip. 
  • Season to taste: Taste and add additional sugar, vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste. You will need to taste again and adjust as needed after the coleslaw has chilled before serving.
  • Prep ahead: You can prepare elements of this recipe or the entire batch of coleslaw ahead of time. I’ve given detailed instructions on how to do so below. 
  • Serve within a few hours:   Homemade Coleslaw taste the best chilled, but not overly-chilled.  The coleslaw dressing will draw moisture out of the cabbage and carrots, eventually making it watery.  Hit that sweet spot by chilling the coleslaw for 1-3 hours before serving. 
showing how to make coleslaw recipe by tossing all of the coleslaw ingredients together
  • Use different varieties of cabbage. Different cabbages such as savoy cabbage or Napa cabbage have varying flavors and textures. Find a variety you like and experiment with it! 
  • Use bagged coleslaw mix. If you’re in a time crunch, substitute the cabbage and carrot blend with a bag of store-bought coleslaw mix. The texture will be slightly softer, but you’ll save some time to make the coleslaw dressing.
  • You don’t have to use cabbage!  Broccoli slaw is also a popular favorite.
  • Make it vegan. Use your favorite vegan mayo and sour cream to make the dressing. 
  • Add fresh herbs. Mix up the flavor profile depending on what you’re serving it with by adding herbs such as chopped fresh parsley, cilantro, mint, oregano, rosemary, etc. 
  • Use other shredded vegetables.  Try other shredded root vegetables with the carrots like beets, fennel, jicama, water chestnuts, parsnips, etc.
  • Add fruit.  Granny Smith apples, pineapple, strawberries, grapes, dried cranberries, etc. to play up that sweet and tangy dynamic.
  • Add nuts or seeds.  Sliced almonds, pecans or roasted, salted sesame seeds add a dimension nutty goodness.
  • Add cheese.  Crumbled blue cheese or feta would instantly change the flavor profile!
  • Make it tangy. Add extra vinegar to make the coleslaw dressing tangier. 
  • Make it sweet. Add sugar to taste if you like your dressing on the sweeter side. 
showing how to serve BBQ pulled pork by making BBQ pulled pork sandwiches with coleslaw and fried onion rings
traditional coleslaw recipe with cabbage, carrots, green onions and coleslaw dressing

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top view of coleslaw recipe by showing coleslaw ingredients of cabbage, carrots and green onions

Classic Coleslaw

his best coleslaw recipe is the only one you’ll ever need and will be a go-to side dish for almost any occasion.  It comes together in minutes as crisp and colorful shredded cabbage is tossed in creamy, tangy dressing with a hint of sweetness.  Best of all, it’s light yet creamy at the same time with an assist from sour cream so it's not drowning in mayo!  This coleslaw recipe is the ideal cooling, comforting side to your barbecue favorites or piled on pulled pork sandwiches!
Servings: 10 servings
Total Time: 25 mins
Prep Time: 25 mins

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Ingredients

SALAD

  • 4 cups thinly shredded green cabbage (approx 1 pound)
  • 4 cups thinly shredded purple cabbage (approx 1 pound)
  • 3 shredded carrots (approx 1 cup)
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced

DRESSING

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 tablespoons sugar, more or less to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard or coarse ground mustard
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1/2 tsp EACH salt, dried dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper, plus more to taste

Instructions

  • Add the cabbage, carrots and green onions to a large bowl.
  • Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a separate medium bowl. Taste and add additional vinegar for tangier or it it's too tart and you prefer a sweeter coleslaw, stir in additional sugar.
  • Pour the dressing over the coleslaw and toss to evenly combine.
  • Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, best if 1-2 hours after combining. Taste again before serving and adjust to taste. For a creamier coleslaw, stir in additional mayo/sour cream.

Video

Notes

Storage

Homemade coleslaw will last about 3 to 4 days in the fridge, but is at peak freshness within the first few hours of combining. The cabbage will soften over time and the dressing will become runnier. The carrots and red cabbage will also alter the color of the dressing the longer it sits.

Recipe Variations

  • Pre-shredded bagged coleslaw mix: If you’re in a time crunch, substitute the cabbage and carrot blend with two 16-ounce bags of store-bought coleslaw mix. The texture will be slightly softer, but you’ll save some time to make the coleslaw dressing.
  • Cabbage: Different cabbages such as savoy cabbage or Napa cabbage have varying flavors and textures. Find a variety you like and experiment with it! However, please don’t use all red cabbage.   
  • Mayonnaise: Lite mayo, avocado mayo, olive oil mayo or vegan mayo like Vegainase will all work great.
  • Sour cream:  Nonfat or full-fat plain Greek yogurt should also work, noting that the coleslaw dressing will be a little tangier.
  • Fresh Herbs: Mix up the flavor profile depending on what you’re serving it with by adding herbs such as chopped fresh parsley, cilantro, mint, oregano, rosemary, etc. 
  • Shredded vegetables: Try other shredded root vegetables with the carrots like beets, fennel, jicama, water chestnuts, parsnips, etc.
  • Fruit:  Granny Smith apples, pineapple, strawberries, grapes, dried cranberries, etc. to play up that sweet and tangy dynamic.
  • Nuts or seeds:  Sliced almonds, pecans or roasted, salted sesame seeds add a dimension nutty goodness.
  • Cheese: Crumbled blue cheese or feta would instantly change the flavor profile!

Make Ahead

  • Veggies: thinly slice the cabbage, shred the carrots, and slice the green onions. Store in separate airtight containers in the fridge for up to 5 days. 
  • Dressing: can be whisked together and refrigerated up to 5 days in advance. 
  • Prepared coleslaw: can be refrigerated up to 3 hours before serving. 

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