Southern Style Coleslaw (Quick and Easy)

Sweet, creamy, and lightly tangy coleslaw that’s perfect for pulled pork (especially vinegar based). It’s the right blend of mayo (or vegan mayo) + vinaigrette and celery seed with some sugar to balance the tart. Make this easy side dish from scratch and enjoy for up to 3 days. Makes 6-8 side dish sized servings or 10-12 topping sized servings.

Southern coleslaw is on the sweeter and creamier end because our barbecue is tangy and typically vinegar based. This recipe is the best coleslaw for pulled pork because the creaminess of the slaw cuts through the fat of the pork and tang of the vinegar.

Southern coleslaw on jackfruit bbq

With mayo as the base, the other few ingredients add the sweetness and flavor. Celery seeds are crucial to getting the classic coleslaw ‘bite’ but adding sugar rounds everything out. This coleslaw recipe is also a little lighter in calories than most because it has less mayo. Not light mayo (unless that’s your thing)– but less of it overall.

How to serve coleslaw:

  • Serve on barbecue (or jackfruit bbq, if you’re vegetarian like me)
  • Top a chili dog or make a Carolina-style hot dog (hot dog chili, minced white onions, mustard, and slaw)
  • Make a Rachel sandwich– turkey, swiss, coleslaw, and Russian dressing on rye then griddled or pressed
  • Serve on a chicken or catfish plate with fries and coleslaw + hush puppies
  • Make a Southern vegetable plate: use any of the following for a great meal: mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, coleslaw, green beans, corn, macaroni salad, butter beans, and a biscuit (or cornbread)

How far ahead should you make coleslaw?

This recipe is ready in 1 hour so I make it for supper the night of, but for a cookout or party, make it ahead 1 to 2 days for convenience.

Homemade coleslaw keeps in the fridge for up to 5 days, but it’s best within 3 days. After that, the salt and sugar begin to break down the cabbage.

What type of cabbage should I use for coleslaw?

For convenience (to make this quick and super easy) — buy a package of pre-chopped or shredded cabbage with carrots. We prefer the green and white blend with no purple cabbage because unless eaten within a day, the purple will bleed into the dressing. It won’t affect taste at all, but the color is purple!

I have found different brands are shredded differently and I still end up chopping the cabbage a bit more to make smaller chunks (better for sandwiches). As a side dish, the larger shreds are fine.

To make this completely from scratch– buy a head of green cabbage and remove the outer leaves then shred or grate as desired (we use a box grater on the larger holes, but a sharp knife works well, too).

Southern coleslaw on jackfruit bbq

Southern Style Coleslaw

Emma J. Watling
Sweet, creamy, and lightly tangy coleslaw that's perfect for pulled pork (especially vinegar based). It's the right blend of mayo (or vegan mayo) + vinaigrette and celery seed with some sugar to balance the tart. Make this easy side dish from scratch and enjoy for up to 3 days. Makes 6-8 side dish sized servings or 10-12 topping sized servings.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 5 minutes
Chilling Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Course Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American, Holidays, Southern
Servings 8 2 ounce servings
Calories 94 kcal


  • 16 ounces pre-shredded cabbage with carrot blend or 7 to 8 cups freshly shredded cabbage*
  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 4 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 3/4 tsp onion powder
  • 3/4 tsp celery seed or more to taste
  • 1/4 tsp fine salt or to taste


  • Put cabbage blend/coleslaw mix in a large bowl.
  • In a separate medium bowl, add mayo, sugar, vinegar, mustard, onion powder, celery seed and salt. Whisk to combine.
  • Pour dressing over cabbage blend and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. Toss again before serving.
  • Store coleslaw in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to 3 days.


  • To make this with fresh cabbage and carrot (not from a bag):
    • use a medium head of cabbage and 1/2 to 1 medium carrot, shredded julienne style. You should aim for 7 to 8 cups shredded cabbage.
    • In a large colander set over a bowl or sink, sprinkle the cabbage blend with 1 tsp sugar and 1/2 tsp salt. Let sit for 15 minutes. Stir, and let sit for 15 minutes more (to bring out moisture from the cabbage).
    • After 30 minutes, rinse the cabbage under cold running water and drain well (a salad spinner works well here). Transfer drained cabbage to a serving bowl that can be covered. Proceed with dressing as above.
  • You can also use a tri-color cabbage blend if desired. Red cabbage can bleed over time but won’t affect flavor at all.


Serving: 2ouncesCalories: 94kcal
Keyword Barbecue, Coleslaw, Cookout, Party Food, Vegetable Plate
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