This easy homemade coleslaw recipe mixes crunchy shredded cabbage and carrots with a creamy dressing. The colorful combination of cool and crisp vegetables with sweet and tangy flavors makes for the perfect side dish or sandwich topping.
It’s officially summertime when a big bowl of colorful coleslaw hits the table. Although you really don’t need the overpriced store-bought variety when it’s so easy to make this crunchy salad at home. My three-ingredient base includes chopping up two types of cabbage and shredding carrots. I like to use one head of red and one of green for an eye-catching mix.
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.
Coleslaw delivers nutritious phytonutrients from the vibrant plant pigments. It’s also a quick and flavorful side dish that goes with your favorite barbecued foods or top it on a pulled pork sandwich for extra crunch.
How to make coleslaw
- Whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, honey, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and celery seeds.
- Cut the red cabbage and green cabbage into thinly sliced shreds about ¼-inch thick.
- Peel and shred the carrots.
- Combine the shredded cabbage with carrots in a large bowl.
- Toss half of the dressing with the coleslaw mix. Add more or serve on the side.
The creamy dressing
The basic ingredients are mayonnaise, vinegar, sour cream, lemon juice, honey, celery seeds, salt, and pepper to taste. Whisk together until smooth.
I like to make my homemade mayonnaise for this recipe so I can use a healthier olive oil. However store-bought product can be used if you are 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 coleslaw dressing. If you’ve never used whole celery seeds before, it adds an interesting slightly bitter taste with a concentrated celery flavor. It can be omitted if it’s hard to find but is a nice subtle contrast to the creamy and tangy taste.
The coleslaw dressing can be made ahead of time and stored for up to 3 days in an airtight container.
Can this be made ahead of time?
Coleslaw can be made up to a 1 day ahead of time when mixed with the dressing. However, the mixture will become more 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 more reserved dressing over the coleslaw right before serving for a nice burst of flavor.
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.
Fixing watery coleslaw
The best way to prevent coleslaw from becoming watery is to add the dressing right before serving and not to cut the cabbage too thin. 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 more wilting will occur.
The water released is inevitable over time, so its best to wait to mix. That’s why I add only half of the dressing, then serve extra on the side for maximum flavor.
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 coleslaw
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If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo #jessicagavin on Instagram. I’d love to see what you come up with. Cheers, friends!
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 cut sections of the vegetable. That moisture moves out of the cabbage and overtime into the dressing, which gets watery and bland. This dilutes the flavor of the salad if dressed too soon.
- 4 cups shredded green cabbage, (230g, 8 ounces) ¼-inch thick slices
- 2 cups shredded red cabbage, (115g, 4 ounces), ⅛-inch thick slices
- 1 cup shredded carrots, (75g, 2 ½ ounces)
- ½ cup mayonnaise, (120ml)
- 2 tablespoons sour cream, (30ml)
- 1 tablespoon honey, (15ml)
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar, (10ml)
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice, (10ml)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon celery seed, optional
- In a medium-sized bowl whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, honey, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and celery seeds if using.
- In a large bowl combine the green cabbage, red cabbage, and carrots.
- 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 coleslaw: Use pre-shredded cabbage and carrots, and store-bought mayonnaise.
- The dressing makes ¾ to 1 cup.
- Add dressing right before serving because the cabbage starts to release water when combined with salt.
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