Sweet tangy and delicious summer classic coleslaw recipe! Made with just a handful of ingredients this slaw recipe is sure to be a keeper!

prepared and dressed coleslaw in grey speckled bowl on white marble surface

I think coleslaw was the first salad I loved as a child. Never mind the fact that it was often weighed down with pounds of mayo. Both the KFC coleslaw and the one from Long John Silvers were a staple item to order whenever we ate out. 

A perfect coleslaw is creamy and cold and goes great with grilled meats or fried poultry or fish. There are only a handful of ingredients in homemade coleslaw, and it’s ideal for bringing to a bbq or potluck because you can make it ahead up to a day in advance. The flavors of homemade coleslaw are better as it sits!

side shot close up of coleslaw in speckled bowl on white marble surface

What is coleslaw?

Coleslaw is a side dish that is commonly served during the summer months during bbq or potlucks with grilled meat or poultry. It is also often found at restaurants that serve fried chicken or fish as well. Coleslaw is made with finely shredded cabbage, carrots, and dressed in a mayonnaise-based dressing. It’s essentially a sweet and tangy cabbage salad.

the process of preparing the dressing for coleslaw recipe

Ingredients for a classic coleslaw recipe:

  • Mayonnaise: I prefer and encourage you to use full-fat mayonnaise for this recipe. Lighter mayo won’t give it that same creamy flavor that coleslaw is known for!
  • Heavy cream: the cream is used to thin out the mayo to a dressing-like consistency. If you’re hesitant about using heavy cream, you can swap it for half and half in this recipe.
  • Sugar: adds sweetness and balances out the tartness from the apple cider vinegar.
  • Apple cider vinegar: for years I used white vinegar in place of the apple cider vinegar it works as a good substitute if you don’t have apple cider vinegar on hand. However, I do prefer the recipe with apple cider vinegar, so that would be my first choice if you have both!
  • Grated onions: Grating the onions on a box grater allows for the flavors to disperse more evenly throughout the cabbage salad via the dressing.
  • Prepared horseradish: though this ingredient is optional, it does add a well-balanced flavor and the babiest of zings to the coleslaw!
  • Seasonings: for the seasonings, I am using celery salt and white pepper powder.
  • Shredded cabbage: you can purchase store-bought shredded cabbage or shred your own cabbage for this recipe. If you’re looking to make KFC coleslaw, you may want to just buy a head of cabbage and pulse small chunks in a food processor to break the cabbage down into smaller pieces.
  • Shredded carrots: you can purchase store-bought shredded carrots or shred your own carrots for this recipe.
the process of dressing coleslaw. From pouring the dressing to tossing the salad

How to make the best coleslaw recipe:

  1. Prepare the cabbage and carrots: you can shred these by hand if you like. I usually buy shredded cabbage from the store in bags. For the carrots, I just shred whole carrots at home because I like a finer shred on them.
  2. Mix together the dressing: in a bowl, combine the mayonnaise, heavy cream, sugar, apple cider vinegar, grated onions, prepared horseradish, celery salt, and white pepper until smooth.
  3. Toss the coleslaw together: Add the shredded cabbage and carrots to a bowl and stir in the dressing until well combined.
  4. Refrigerate for as long as you can: Ideally, I suggest allowing this salad to sit covered for at least 6 hours. However, you can serve it in as little as 2 hours if you’re in a pinch!
coleslaw being lifted with a pair of tongs

Tips for making a better coleslaw recipe:

  1. Use good quality mayo; it makes all the difference! This is my favorite brand to use. 
  2. I suggest avoiding low-calorie mayo for this recipe, especially if you’re serving this for a potluck or bbq party. The full-fat stuff does give it the best flavor. If you swap it for a product such as Miracle Whip, keep in mind that it is much sweeter than traditional mayonnaise. To balance the flavors, you may need to play around with the sugar in this recipe.
  3. Prepared horseradish is optional. But I wouldn’t make this recipe without it! It adds such a nice little baby zing in the background. You can’t pinpoint what it is because we’re using such a small amount, but it adds to the overall flavor.
  4. After testing this recipe tons of times, I’ve found that shredding the carrots by hand does cause the coleslaw to have a yellowish tint. I suggest using pre-shredded carrots if the color is of importance to you. Use this tool if you want to shred by hand.
  5. Swap the black pepper for white. I don’t like to see specks of black pepper in my slaw. So I usually use white pepper for this recipe. However, you can use black pepper if that’s all you have on hand.
  6. Once you prepare homemade coleslaw, allow at least 2 hours to rest. Just cover and refrigerate so the flavors blend together. You can also let it go for up to 6-12 hours.
  7. If you want to boost the slaw in nutritional value, you can swap out some of the shredded cabbage for a broccoli slaw mix!
  8. Leftover slaw can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
plate with grilled corn, coleslaw, bbq chicken, and baked beans

If you like this recipe, you might also like:

side shot of prepared coleslaw recipe in grey speckled bowl with a spoon for serving
Yield: serves 6-8

Summer Classic Coleslaw

Prep Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 10 minutes

Sweet tangy and delicious summer classic coleslaw! Made with just a handful of ingredients this slaw recipe is sure to be a keeper!

Summer Classic Coleslaw


  • ½ cup full-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream (or half and half)
  • 1 ½ tablespoon EACH: sugar AND apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon grated onions
  • 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish (or more to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon celery salt + ¼ teaspoon white pepper (or black)
  • ½ cup shredded carrots
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) bag shredded cabbage


    1. DRESSING: Combine the mayo, cream, sugar, apple cider vinegar, grated onions, horseradish, celery salt, and black pepper in bowl using a whisk until smooth. Taste and adjust with additional sugar, horseradish, salt, or pepper as desired.
    2. TOSS: Add the shredded cabbage mix to a large bowl and toss with the dressing using a rubber spatula. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and ideally anywhere between 6-12 hours before serving.

Have you made this recipe?

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