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How to Make Coleslaw

Created October 23, 2017
Skip the deli! Making coleslaw at home is much more rewarding than buying it pre-made from the grocery store.

Fun fact: Coleslaw comes from the Dutch word koolsla, meaning “cool cabbage.” We know coleslaw as the quintessential summer side dish. It’s equally at home as a barbecue or picnic side, or on a pulled pork sandwich or taco at the dinner table. Coleslaw comes in many versions, from creamy to fresh to different flavor twists, and we’ll show you the way to making perfect coleslaw at home.

How to Make Coleslaw

Coleslaw is extremely versatile. You can choose a creamy or vinegar-based dressing, then add ingredients, like cabbage and carrots, or a flavor twist, like seeds or fruit, depending on what your family loves. If you haven’t already perfected your own coleslaw, this creamy version is a classic. It’s simple, delicious and takes just 15 minutes to throw together.

Creamy Coleslaw

Creamy Coleslaw

This is a delicious coleslaw to make for any occasion. For variety, you could add ¼ cup to ½ cup chopped red bell pepper. To serve, garnish with a lemon twist and a little fresh parsley.

What You Need:

  • Ingredients for Creamy Coleslaw
  • Large bowl
  • Large spoon, tongs or salad tossers

1. Mix all ingredients, except cabbage, carrot and onion, in large glass or plastic bowl.


2. Add remaining ingredients; toss until evenly coated.


3. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour to blend flavors. You can dress up this salad by adding salted sunflower seeds and raisins before serving. Cover and refrigerate any remaining salad.

Classic creamy coleslaw is as easy as that. If you’re interested in a flavor twist, Betty’s got that too!

How to Make Coleslaw Dressing

The dressing is one way to make coleslaw exactly how you like it. There are those who prefer vinegar-based dressing and those who like their slaw creamy. Whatever your family prefers, there’s a unique recipe for it!

Creamy Coleslaw

Creamy coleslaw can be made with several methods. The creamy element can range from mayonnaise or salad dressing to a combination with plain yogurt, sour cream or buttermilk. From there you add a little sweet, some tang from vinegar or lemon juice and spices.

Creamy Coleslaw Light Recipe

Creamy Coleslaw Lighter Recipe

Reduced-fat sour cream and fat-free mayo make this low-cal salad recipe a keeper!

Vinegar Coleslaw

Does your family prefer their coleslaw with vinegar-based dressing rather than creamy dressing? Vinegar-based coleslaw is more tart and fresh than traditional coleslaw.

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Slaw

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Slaw

Five ingredients and two steps is all you need to make sweet and sour cabbage slaw – a perfect side dish.

Type of Vinegar


Balsamic (white grapes)

Rich, sweet, dark brown or white

Cider (fermented apple cider)

Mild apple flavor, golden brown

Fruit (blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries steeped in cider or white wine vinegar)

Flavor and color of berry used; mildly sweet

Herb (basil, chives, dill weed or tarragon steeped in white wine vinegar or cider vinegar)

Flavor of herb used

Rice (fermented rice)

Plain and sweetened forms; delicate, sweet flavor

White (distilled grain alcohol)

Strong, pungent and clear

Wine (champagne, sherry, red or white wine)

Flavor of wine used

Tips for Crunchy Coleslaw

Soggy coleslaw is the last thing anyone wants, and there are a couple things you can do to ensure your coleslaw stays crunchy until you’re ready to serve it.

Pro Tip #1: Prep separately. If you want to prep ahead of time, it’s as simple as keeping the salad and dressing separate. You can make the salad and dressing up to eight hours ahead and keep them in separate containers in the refrigerator until one hour before you want to eat. Mixing up the coleslaw one hour ahead allows the flavors to mingle before it’s time to serve.

Pro Tip #2: Add fresh ingredients. If you have day-old coleslaw left over and it’s a bit soggy, there’s no need to throw it out. Add some fresh ingredients to bring life back into the slaw. You can toss in fresh cabbage, julienned carrots or broccoli slaw (found near the packaged cole slaw mix in the produce section of your local grocer), to help soak up some of the extra dressing that tends to run off as the coleslaw sits.

How to Cut Cabbage

Purchasing bagged coleslaw mix—found in the produce department next to the bagged lettuce—can be a huge time saver, but if you want a truly from-scratch coleslaw, you must be up for cutting the cabbage yourself!

There are two main ways to make your own homemade coleslaw mix: shredding or thinly slicing the cabbage.

  • To thinly slice cabbage, quarter a small head of cabbage and cut out the core from each piece.
  • Then, place a flat side of a quarter head of cabbage on a cutting board. Cut into thin slices with a large sharp knife. 
  • Cut slices several times to make smaller pieces. This is a better option for keeping coleslaw crunchy.

Thinly sliced cabbage

  • To shred cabbage, use a box grater or the shredding disk on a food processor.

Types of Cabbage

Cabbage comes in several distinctly flavored varieties. Green and red (or purple) cabbage are most common; look for compact heads of waxy, tightly wrapped leaves. Red cabbage takes longer to mature, so it’s usually not as tender as green cabbage. It also tends to have a slightly sweeter taste.


Savoy cabbage has sturdy, crinkled leaves and a milder taste than green or red cabbage. Savoy cabbage leaves are great for stuffing and using in salads and slaws or soups.


Napa Cabbage

Napa is one of several varieties of Chinese cabbage. This long, narrow variety is pale green with leaves that are very crinkly and thickly veined. It has a tender texture and mild flavor.

Napa Cabbage Slaw

Napa Cabbage Slaw

Not your ordinary coleslaw, this salad will go to the head of the potluck table.

What to Eat With Coleslaw

As we know, coleslaw is a perfect side dish at a picnic or backyard barbecue. But you can also serve it in sandwiches, wraps, tacos and more. Here are a few of our favorite recipes that feature slaw.

Leftover Coleslaw

Coleslaw is best consumed shortly after it’s prepared. But if you find yourself with leftovers, they’re not doomed to the trash just yet. Eat coleslaw leftovers within a day or two, tossed with fresh ingredients to help soak up some of the run off dressing that results from sitting in the fridge. When you add new cabbage, carrots or broccoli slaw, the fresh ingredients will help liven up the salad.

An excellent way to repurpose leftover coleslaw is by stuffing it into pita breads or wrapping it up in flour tortillas for a tasty vegetarian lunch or snack.

We’ve got more portable picnic recipes right this way.