Need a classic side dish or a crunchy sandwich topping? This easy coleslaw recipe mixes colorful shreds of cabbage and carrots with a delicious creamy dressing.
It’s cheaper and tastes better from scratch
Homemade coleslaw delivers nutritious phytonutrients from the vibrant plant pigments. It’s also a quick and flavorful summer side dish that goes with your favorite barbecued foods. I personally love it on a pulled pork sandwich for extra crunch. My three-ingredient base includes chopping up two types of cabbage and shredding carrots.
What makes this salad amazing is the creamy coleslaw dressing. The goal is to create just the right texture to cling to the shredded vegetables but not be too heavy. The solution is to balance the mayonnaise base with tangy ingredients like sour cream, lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar. A touch of honey adds just a hint of sweetness.
How to make coleslaw
Use green cabbage as the base with a smaller amount of red cabbage to give a pop of purple color. Cut the cabbage into thinly sliced shreds about ¼-inch thick. You can use a chef’s knife or kitchen graters like a mandoline or box grater.
Peel and shred the carrots or purchase pre-shredded carrots. Combine the shredded cabbage and carrots in a large bowl. Whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, honey, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and celery seeds. Toss half of the dressing with the coleslaw mix. Add more or serve on the side.
Seriously the best creamy dressing
Learning how to make coleslaw dressing is easy! Mayonnaise is the base, it’s a permanent emulsion so it’s simple to add in the other flavoring agents and still have a luscious texture. I like to make my homemade mayonnaise for this recipe so I can use a healthier olive oil.
You can of course use store-bought products if you’re in a pinch for time. The acidic ingredients help to cut through the richness of the mayonnaise. For a more pungent taste, add some Dijon mustard to the dressing. Whole celery seeds also add a nice subtle contrast to the creamy and tangy taste. It can be omitted if you can’t find it at the store.
Can this be made ahead of time?
Yes! Coleslaw can be made up to 1 day ahead of time when mixed with the dressing. However, the mixture will become watery with a diluted flavor and the cabbage will not be as crunchy. Make sure to only toss half of the dressing with the vegetables, drain off some of the liquid that pools at the bottom of the bowl after sitting.
Drizzle the reserved dressing over the coleslaw right before serving for better taste and texture. You can also precut the cabbage and carrots, which are hearty and store very well when refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days, then toss it in the dressing, which can be made 3 days ahead of time, right before serving.
Preventing and fixing watery coleslaw
I cut the cabbage about ¼-inch thick so that it has a nice crisp bite without being too large in size. The thinner the cabbage, the more water will release due to the surface area and the more wilting that will occur. The water released is inevitable over time, so it’s best to wait to mix. That’s why I add only half of the dressing, then serve extra on the side.
Another option is to sprinkle some salt, about 1 teaspoon over the cabbage and allow it to draw out the moisture for about an hour, rinse, drain, and pat dry between paper towels before adding the dressing. This will season the cabbage and reduce seeping of the water, however, this technique loses some crunch factor.
What to serve with this
Why does coleslaw become watery?
When the salt in the dressing is combined with the shredded cabbage, it draws the moisture out of the cell walls of the exposed cut sections. That moisture moves out of the cabbage and overtime into the dressing, which gets watery and bland. This also dilutes the flavor of the salad if dressed too soon.
- 4 cups (230 g) shredded green cabbage, ¼-inch thick slices
- 2 cups (115 g) shredded red cabbage, ⅛-inch thick slices
- 1 cup (75 g) shredded carrots
- ½ cup (120 ml) mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) sour cream
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) honey
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon celery seed, optional
- Securely hold the green cabbage, and carefully cut down through the stem to create two halves. Place the cut side down on the cutting board. Cut each cabbage half into quarters by cutting down through the stem. Flip the quarters over and carefully remove the thick core with a knife. There should be four wedges. Repeat the process with the purple cabbage.
- Use a chef's knife to cut the green and green cabbage into ¼-inch thick slices, or use a mandoline to shred the cabbage.
- Peel and shred the carrots using a grater, peeler, or cut them into ⅛-inch thick slices. For convenience, pre-shredded carrots can be used.
- In a large bowl combine the green cabbage, red cabbage, and carrots.
- In a medium-sized bowl whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, honey, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and celery seeds if using.
- Right before serving, drizzle half of the coleslaw dressing and toss to combine. Add more dressing as desired or serve the rest on the side.
- Quicker Version: Use pre-shredded cabbage and carrots, and store-bought mayonnaise.
- Yield: The dressing makes ¾ to 1 cup.
- Make-Ahead: The dressing can be made ahead of time and stored for up to 3 days in an airtight container. Add right before serving for the best vegetable texture.