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This quick and easy Classic Southern Coleslaw recipe comes together in minutes using only a handful of ingredients. The cold, tangy flavors are perfect for pairing with smoky BBQ meats as a side dish or piled on a sandwich.

This classic coleslaw is one of my favorite BBQ side dishes. It’s quick and easy to make, it’s crisp, creamy, and tangy. It pairs perfect with the rich smoked meats that Texas BBQ is known for. It’s great as a side dish to some smoked brisket, grilled chicken, or pulled pork.

Bowl filled with a creamy southern coleslaw served with wooden spoons.


 

Ingredients Needed to make Coleslaw

Ingredients needed to make a southern coleslaw laid out on the counter.
  • Cabbage: either red or green work well, or you can do a combination. If you’re using a pre-made mix from the store most likely it will be a mix with shredded carrots also.
  • Sour Cream & Mayonnaise: using a combination gives a nice creamy dressing with a slight tang.
  • Lemon Juice & Vinegar: adds tanginess and a light refreshing citrus flavoring.
  • Salt & Pepper: classic seasonings, add more or less to your preference.
  • Sugar: can use regular white sugar, or swap with honey to sweeten the coleslaw.

How to make Southern coleslaw

Mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar and seasonings in a large white bowl with a white silicone spatula.
White bowl with whisked together homemade coleslaw dressing.
  1. Shred the cabbage: You can slice your own cabbage, best results come from using a mandolin. Or save time by using a bagged coleslaw salad of precut cabbage. I prefer getting a Tri-Color coleslaw mix, which includes red cabbage, green cabbage, and carrots. 
  2. Prepare the dressing: combine all of the ingredients needed to make the dressing in a bowl or a jar. Stir or whisk together until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust seasonings, or vinegar as needed.
  3. Dress the Coleslaw: Drizzle dressing over the cabbage, stir together. 
  4. Chill: This salad needs to chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before being served. 
Fresh shredded cabbage with coleslaw dressing poured over the top.

Coleslaw dressing

The dressing for this coleslaw is classic and simple. Not too much to where our cabbage will be drowning and soggy. And not too little where our cabbage is sad and dry. This dressing makes the perfect amount for the amount of cabbage.

The dressing has just the right balance of creamy from the mayonnaise, the tang of the vinegar and sour cream, a hint of sweetness thanks to using some sugar, and lemon juice to brighten it all up. 

Up close view of mixed together coleslaw being served with wooden spoons.

How to Store

  • Refrigerator: store leftover coleslaw in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
  • Make Ahead: if you are preparing this dish ahead of time, you can store the cabbage and the dressing separately. Storing separately will prevent the coleslaw from becoming soggy before being served.
  • Freezing: with this mayonnaise based dressing it is not advised to freeze this coleslaw.

Variations

This is a great base recipe. However, if you want to add to yours feel free! Here’s a list of some great additions/substitutions you can make. Plus you can check out our Fish Taco Slaw which has cilantro and lime added to pair with the Tex Mex flavors of tacos.

  • Celery seeds
  • Grated onion
  • Mustard
  • Jalapeño or Serrano peppers
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Honey/Maple Syrup
  • Blue Cheese
  • Chili Powder
  • Fresh Herbs: Dill, Parsley

Classic Southern Coleslaw

5 from 52 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Chill Time: 30 minutes
Total: 35 minutes
Servings: 4
Author: Serene
This quick and easy classic Southern Coleslaw recipe comes together in minutes using only a handful ingredients. The cold, tangy flavors are perfect for pairing with some smokey BBQ meats.
Bowl filled with a creamy southern coleslaw served with wooden spoons.

Ingredients  

  • 14 ounces coleslaw mix or fresh cabbage
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 tbsp vinegar white or apple cider
  • 2 tsp sugar can sub with honey
  • ½ tsp salt
  • tsp lemon juice
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste

Instructions 

  • Add the coleslaw mix to a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
  • In a small mixing bowl combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, sugar, salt, and lemon juice. Stir to combine.
  • Drizzle the coleslaw dressing over the cabbage.
  • Stir to combine.
  • Cover and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes.*
  • Add fresh ground black pepper just before serving if desired.

Notes

  1. Storage: Leftovers can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. 
  2. Make ahead: this recipe can be made in advance, a couple hours is best, this gives time for the salad to chill and the flavors to meld. To keep the coleslaw crisp though, it is recommend to serve this dish the same day it’s prepared.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 | Calories: 157kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 13mg | Sodium: 409mg | Potassium: 189mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 187IU | Vitamin C: 36mg | Calcium: 56mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Like this? Leave a comment below!

Recipe first published March 3, 2020 updated July 17, 2023 with new images and information. Recipe is unchanged.

Photography by the talented ModernFarmhouseEats.com


Welcome to my kitchen!

Welcome to the House of Yumm!! My name is Serene. I’m the food photographer, recipe developer, and official taste tester around these parts.

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9 Comments

  1. I have made it several times. The most delicious coleslaw ever. And I am not anywhere near the South..
    Great recipe!! I also add a touch of relish and 1 tsp of yellow mustard.

  2. I have searched coleslaw recipes for years because I’m very picky. I get bored with the very basic and on the other hand don’t care for recipes with very odd ingredients or even 20+ average ones.
    This is my favorite so far. Classic enough that you taste the cabbage but “added” enough ingredients like sour cream, lemon and sugar that it’s a little elevated and different. (* I ran out of apple cidar vinegar and did add a splash of garlic vinegar instead and a quarter sized lemon and onion zest.)

  3. I made it  and my hubby loves it he is from the south and is very picky about coleslaw. I grew up in Wyoming raised on meat and potatoes so this was something I had never made from scratch before. It’s going in my recipe book. Thanks!!!!

  4. Excellent. Not too sweet, nice and creamy with just the right amount of tang. Very well received along with the smoked pork butt. Thank you

  5. I made cole slaw with cabbage I purchased while on the Blue Ridge Parkway last week. Mountain cabbage cannot be beaten as far as taste.
    I carried the cole slaw to a family gathering, thinking my grandmother wouldn’t like it. She makes cole slaw regularly with her mother’s recipe.
    What I’m about to say next is a testament as to this recipe (no additional variations added) My family always done buffet style get togethers and you find a seat where ever you can.
    Okay, my grandmother wanted to know who made the slaw and she ask me for this recipe!! We are from the south so the cole slaw is tangy! If we want sweet, we’ll eat a cookie! 😉

  6. This is the recipe I’ve been hoping/looking for since I left the South (Ga, FL,) and moved to New England. You can take the girl out of the South…
    Thanks so much!!