Classic Memphis-Style Coleslaw

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Sweet and Tangy Southern Style Coleslaw is nicely balanced with just enough tang from the vinegar and a sprinkling of sweetness from the sugar. The dressing is so simple, so sweet and tangy, this is a classic coleslaw recipe perfect for any occasion.

In case you’re wondering, THIS is the coleslaw we use for the ever-popular BBQ Sundaes. Lots of coleslaws will do in that recipe but this one is by far our favorite. Naturally, when I made the BBQ Pork Mac and Cheese last week, I made a batch of this coleslaw to serve with it. We love it that much!

Creamy Southern Style Coleslaw

I made this coleslaw recipe for the first time, at my husband’s request, along with the first batch of Memphis Style Ribs we ever cooked. We all loved it so much; I wound up making this slaw twice more with each subsequent batch of ribs.

Updated to add: I’ve been making this coleslaw at least once a month for the past six years. Every time someone tastes it (especially if said person is not already a fan of coleslaw) they ask for the recipe. This is the coleslaw that you’ll want to serve all summer long.

If you’ve never made coleslaw before, let me share a secret: it’s the easiest side dish in the world. (Check out the video to see just how easy it is to make it!)

I found this Southern Living recipe for Memphis Style Coleslaw over at Our Best Bites and gently adapted our version from that one. It takes about 3 minutes to stir it all together and then you’re done.

(Even if you shred your own cabbage instead of buying a bag of shredded cabbage, you’re only looking at maybe two minutes longer.)

It couldn’t be any quicker and easier to pull this tasty side dish together. Even grabbing a container of ready-made coleslaw from the grocery store takes longer than this coleslaw recipe.

Let me tell you, that homemade coleslaw is so much better than anything you can get from the deli section at your grocery store. Crunchy crisp shredded cabbage with creamy mayo and tangy mustard makes the ideal complement to so many savory main dishes.

Memphis Coleslaw is a terrific side dish for any occasion!

When we all happily eat the same dish three times in a week, that’s good evidence that the recipe was loved. Last night, I piled the last of this slaw over pulled pork sandwiches and pretty much solidified the fact that this the best southern style coleslaw I’ve ever tasted.

If you had a bad experience with a soggy, sloppy coleslaw that’s left you avoiding this side dish for years, now is the chance to discover how delicious great coleslaw can be. And if you’re an avid coleslaw fan already, be prepared to add a new favorite slaw recipe to the top of your list.

What To Eat with Coleslaw

This slaw is guaranteed to forever change how you serve pulled pork. The BBQ Sundaes I linked to earlier are still one of my favorite meals of all time. I promise you this is the BEST coleslaw to serve with pulled pork.

If you know me at all you know I don’t kid around when it comes to pulled pork. From Sweet and Tangy Pulled Pork to Pulled Pork Tacos, I don’t mess around when it comes to this southern dish.

I serve this southern coleslaw with Pulled Pork Tater Tot Nachos, Beer and Garlic Grilled Chicken, Pulled Pork Tacos and Tostadas, and so much more. Classic Southern Style Coleslaw is truly the ultimate side dish.

Another fun way to eat coleslaw is to pile the slaw on top of BBQ Chicken Nachos for an unforgettable treat.

Classic Memphis-Style Southern Coleslaw recipe by Barefeet In The Kitchen

Coleslaw

For more slaw ideas, check out this Sweet and Spicy Apple Coleslaw. That apple slaw gets rave reviews every single time I take it anywhere.

This Sriracha Coleslaw (for an unexpected spicy twist) and this Spicy Cabbage (for a lighter side dish perfect for tacos and snacking) are both winners.

I’m looking forward to trying Caribbean Coleslaw by A Spicy Perspective and Bacon Bleu Cheese Coleslaw by Taste and Tell later this summer as well.

You might also like this Sweet and Tangy Broccoli Slaw for a different take on a slaw recipe. We love traditional coleslaws with cabbage but sometimes it’s nice to mix it up!

Coleslaw Recipe

This slaw recipe, though? This tops the list as my all-time favorite. It’s a southern coleslaw without too many bells and whistles. What makes it so good is the exact right balance of creamy mayo, crunchy cabbage and vinegary tang.

Simply seasoned with celery seeds and onion powder (or grated onion, if you prefer) this classic coleslaw recipe is loved by everyone who tastes it. Even people who don’t usually like coleslaw enjoy this dish!

We love this coleslaw with pulled pork but it’s also delicious as a side dish with Perfect Pan-Fried Chicken ThighsOven Broiled Chicken with Barbecue SauceFilthy Burgers and almost any meat entree I can think of.

This really might be the BEST Coleslaw recipe you'll ever make.

How To Make Coleslaw

  1. In a large bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, sugar, salt, onion powder, and celery seeds.
  2. Add the shredded cabbage and toss or stir until well coated.
  3. Refrigerate for an hour before serving and up to 2 days. (I like to use these tongs to toss again right before serving.)

The refrigeration step not only chills the coleslaw but gives all those lovely flavors a chance to mingle and marry together.

This coleslaw is the ideal side dish but I’ve been known to catch more than one picnic-goer eating it straight from the container with a fork! You might even want to double the recipe if you’re hoping to have any leftovers to bring home. Memphis style coleslaw is just that good.

Southern Coleslaw

Looking for more southern-inspired recipes to complete your next barbecue? Everyone loves Corn Pudding Casserole and these Slow Cooker Baked Beans served alongside grilled or barbecued meat.

Southern Peach Cobbler topped with a scoop of Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream makes any meal complete.

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Memphis Coleslaw is a terrific side dish for any occasion!

Classic Memphis-Style Coleslaw

4.9 from 83 votes
Sweet and Tangy Southern Style Coleslaw is nicely balanced with just enough tang from the vinegar and a sprinkling of sweetness from the sugar. Recipe gently adapted from and with thanks to Our Best Bites
Pin Print Review
Prep Time: 5 mins
Total Time: 5 mins
Course: Side Dish
Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder or 1 tablespoon finely grated onion
  • 2 teaspoons celery seeds
  • 1 16 ounce bag of coleslaw mix plain cabbage or tri-color deli style

Instructions

  • In a large bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, sugar, salt, onion powder, and celery seeds. Add the shredded cabbage and toss until well coated. Refrigerate for an hour before serving and up to 2 days. Toss again right before serving. Enjoy!

Notes

This coleslaw can be made in advance. However, it will release more liquid the longer it is stored in the refrigerator. You'll want to drain off some of the excess liquid prior to tossing again and serving.

Nutrition

Calories: 228kcal · Carbohydrates: 8g · Protein: 1g · Fat: 21g · Saturated Fat: 3g · Cholesterol: 11mg · Sodium: 450mg · Potassium: 120mg · Fiber: 1g · Sugar: 6g · Vitamin A: 75IU · Vitamin C: 22mg · Calcium: 37mg · Iron: 0.6mg
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{originally published 5/30/14 – recipe notes updated 4/6/20}

Memphis Southern-Style Coleslaw - get the recipe at barefeetinthekitchen.com

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Mary Younkin

Mary Younkin

Hi, I’m Mary. I’m the author, cook, photographer, and travel lover behind the scenes here at Barefeet In The Kitchen. I'm also the author of three cookbooks dedicated to making cooking from scratch as simple as possible.

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  1. Gale says

    I Pinned this recipe months ago because it looked like the kind of coleslaw I love. But I did not get around to making it until the quarantine began and I couldn’t go buy the one coleslaw in my area that I like. I had all ingredients on hand so I made it and now I have a NEW favorite coleslaw and I think it’s even better than my old one. Thank you so much for this recipe. I used to eat coleslaw only with BBQ or seafood and I also like it on hotdogs with chili. But, we now eat it as a side dish all the time. I’ve made it at least 5 times in quarantine and just made it again today. I LOVE IT!!!!! My daughters love it too, so when I make it I have to make enough to share with them. Thanks again and stay healthy.5 stars

  2. Holly says

    No more store bought Maries dressing for me! I love this recipe and it sure reminds me of the slaw my mom used to make (a Virginia lady).
    I add broccoli florets and lots of grated carrots and maybe some green pepper. This sauce is perfect with all of it. Thank you!5 stars

    • HR says

      I love this recipe, but I do find it makes quite a bit more dressing than is necessary for the amount of grated cabbage. That’s not a bad thing – I mix the dressing up, then put half of it in a little jar for sandwich spread, veggie dip or putting on a salad another night.

      I would recommend trying the same if this is your first time making it, and then adding the extra back in bit by bit if you feel like it’s needed.5 stars

  3. Hillary L says

    Hi there! I am looking to take this for a weekend getaway. I am thinking I’ll mix the wet ingredients and the seasonings in advance (maybe in a clean dressing bottle) and then combine it with the cabbage later. How do you think that will hold up? Would there be any hurt in melding the flavors 2-3 days in advance?
    Looking forward to trying it!
    Thanks!

    • Mary Younkin says

      That is exactly how I prepare this when we are camping. The dressing will keep nicely when made several days in advance. Just shake it up and toss together when you’re ready to serve it.

  4. Jenn says

    I made this and it came out really good. My recommendation to anyone making it is to start with one TBS of sugar (recipe calls for 3), taste it, and then decide if it needs more. I prefer tangy slaw so mine was good with one TBS.5 stars

  5. Diane says

    Hi Mary,
    This is the best coleslaw we have ever eaten, and we are picky!
    The first time I made this I knew it would be a staple in our house
    and we have it at least once or twice a week. It’s fabulous and
    so easy. Thank you!5 stars

  6. Rodney says

    Very good I used real onion, real celery along with one carrot and followed the recipe closely. Once on my plate sprinkled raisins my first attempt at coleslaw I give it five stars I generally do not like it at the restaurants but I like this.

  7. Kelly McElwee says

    Delicious! I have been trying a few new coleslaw recipes to find the best one. I believe this is it…Perfect balance of tangy and sweet.5 stars

  8. Laura says

    This is the best and most simple coleslaw ever! Even if I have to get the ingredients if I don’t have them, it is always worth it! Everyone that has tried it has loved it. Thank you for sharing this recipe.5 stars

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