Creamy Southern Coleslaw

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Creamy Southern Coleslaw with vinegar is more than just a salad in the south. It's also a beloved side and condiment. Southerners love coleslaw so much, we slather it on everything from barbecue to hamburgers! It's the perfect side dish for picnics and cookouts.

white dish filled with creamy southern coleslaw on a blue napkin
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Why You'll Love It

  • fast and simple recipe
  • budget friendly
  • versatile and delicious side with excellent flavor

What's Special About This Recipe?

Making chili dogs tonight? You need this tangy vinegar coleslaw recipe. Ever had a Carolina Burger? This creamy coleslaw recipe tops it off. And, if you're making pulled pork sandwiches, 'ya gotta have vinegar-based coleslaw as a condiment!

This classic coleslaw recipe is a southern tradition. It's sweet, tangy and crunchy all at the same time. With just the right amount of mayonnaise, sugar and vinegar, homemade coleslaw is great for both outdoor barbecues and indoor events.

At your next cookout, this delicious side dish is the perfect addition to anything you can conjure up...including barbecue, hot dogs, and hamburgers! It's also great with fried chicken or pork tenderloin.

two hot dogs with creamy coleslaw and chili on top


There are only a few ingredients in this side dish, but each one is important. They blend together to create a delicious recipe with a sweet and tangy dressing.

See recipe card for quantities.

  • fresh slaw mix - (or shredded green cabbage and carrots) - Fresh Express works well
  • onion - vidalia sweet onion is recommended, but red onion is also a good choice
  • mayonnaise - Duke's mayonnaise (ad) makes the best dressing and doesn't contain sugar
  • white vinegar - the best vinegar for this recipe since it doesn't discolor the cabbage
  • sugar - use white granulated sugar or your favorite sugar substitute
  • celery seeds - this is a southern secret ingredient
  • garlic salt - just a little makes a big difference in taste
  • black pepper - a southerner's best friend
ingredients for creamy coleslaw

How to Make Southern Coleslaw

  • Whisk all the ingredients together (except coleslaw mix) in a large bowl to make the dressing.
  • Add cole slaw mix and toss in dressing until fully coated. If using fresh cabbage, shred it with a box grater or food processor.
  • Cover bowl and refrigerate cabbage mixture for a couple of hours. Stir well before serving. The mayo dressing will thin out as the sugar dissolves, so there's no need to add milk to the mix.
  • If you prefer not to use a mix, chop up a small head of cabbage and use a box grater to make shredded carrots. Mix in with the other ingredients as directed.
  • Some folks like their slaw finely chopped, so if desired, chop green cabbage in the food processor or blender before adding the dressing.

Make it Ahead of Time

It's recommended that you make this easy coleslaw recipe ahead of time so the flavors will have time to meld together. Simply mix it together and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until time to serve.

It's best when served the same day, but can be refrigerated at least a day in advance. Keep it cold at all times for best results.

barbecue sandwich with coleslaw and pickles on a bun

Recipe FAQS

Is coleslaw healthy for you?

Crunchy cabbage and carrots are packed with fiber and vitamins. However, when you add mayonnaise and sugar to the mix, it also adds fat and fructose.

How long does coleslaw last in the fridge?

Slaw usually lasts at least 3 days in the refrigerator if stored in an air tight container. It should never be left out in the heat due to spoilage issues.

Is coleslaw gluten-free?

Yes, coleslaw is gluten free as long as you use white distilled vinegar. Malt vinegar would add barley to the recipe, so avoid malt vinegar if following a gluten-free diet.

Is this a keto coleslaw recipe?

If you use a sugar substitute, this could be a keto coleslaw recipe as long as there is no sugar in the mayonnaise. The addition of sugar keeps it from being keto-friendly.


Traditional coleslaw recipes only use a few simple ingredients. But, if you're planning to serve Creamy Southern Coleslaw as a side, try these fun add-ins to 'sass' it up a little bit!

  • sweet pickle relish - adds a little sweetness and crunch
  • red cabbage - adds extra color and vitamins
  • green pepper - bell pepper diced in small pieces adds great flavor
  • lemon juice - can be substituted for vinegar
  • chow chow - a southern relish that adds a lot of sass
  • radicchio - great red color and crunch
  • green onions - can be substituted for sweet onions
  • chopped sweet peppers - the mini type are perfect for this recipe
  • diced cilantro - gives this recipe a Mexican vibe
  • chopped fresh broccoli - adds a completely different taste
  • diced cauliflower - great way to include extra vegetables
  • shredded brussels sprouts - no one will know they're there!
  • fresh dill weed, thyme or parsley - a little bit of herbs can add tons of flavor
  • blue cheese crumbles - a nice addition when serving wings or bbq chicken
coleslaw in a white floral dish with spoon

Storage and Freezing

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Stir before serving. This recipe does not freeze well due to the fragility of the cabbage.

Keep coleslaw over a bowl of ice when serving to make sure it stays cold. Since mayonnaise can spoil at high temperatures, make sure this salad is served cold and kept in a cooler or on ice for safety reasons.

What to Serve with Southern Coleslaw

The best coleslaw recipe is usually served alongside southern favorites like these recipes...


Recipe Card

white dish filled with creamy southern coleslaw on a blue napkin

Creamy Southern Coleslaw

Creamy Southern Coleslaw is more than just a salad in the south. It's also served as a beloved side and condiment for everything from hotdogs to barbecue!
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Sides
Cuisine: Southern
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Calories: 161kcal

*See notes in blog post for detailed tips, photos and instructions.


  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp. onion (minced)
  • 2 Tbsp. white distilled vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp. celery seed
  • ¼ tsp. garlic salt
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • 1 (14 oz) package of coleslaw mix (or shredded cabbage and carrots)


  • Whisk the first 7 ingredients in a large bowl until smooth.
  • Add coleslaw mix or shredded cabbage toss until fully coated.
  • Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and stir well before serving.


  • If you don't have pre-packaged slaw mix, simply shred a head of cabbage and add one shredded carrot to create your own. 
  • Store leftovers in refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • Keep coleslaw cold at all times to avoid spoilage. 


Calories: 161kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 194mg | Potassium: 19mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 9mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition info is an auto generated estimate.

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Looking for a slaw without mayonnaise? Try No Mayo Coleslaw from Smarty Pants Kitchen. It's a great alternative if you're not a mayo lover.


  1. 5 stars
    I’ve always wondered how to make creamy coleslaw. Wasn’t sure about the ingredients. Thanks for this recipe!

5 from 1 vote

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