Classic Memphis-Style Coleslaw

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Sweet and tangy Southern 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.

Southern-Style Coleslaw

Coleslaw for Pulled Pork

This is the coleslaw we use for the ever-popular BBQ Sundaes and Pulled Pork Sandwiches. When I make BBQ Pork Mac and Cheese, I make a batch of this coleslaw to serve with it every time. We love it that much!

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.

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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.

Southern Coleslaw Recipe

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.

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.

Memphis Style Coleslaw

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

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.

Easy Coleslaw Recipe

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.

Best Ever Baked Beans add up to an awesome BBQ Sundae!

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!

And if you haven’t yet tried the above BBQ Sundaes piled high with pulled pork, baked beans, and tangy coleslaw, you’re missing out!

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.

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 Style Coleslaw

Classic Memphis-Style Coleslaw

4.80 from 198 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.
Pin Print Review
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
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
Tried this recipe?Mention @barefeetkitchen or tag #barefeetkitchen!

{originally published 5/30/14 – recipe notes updated 5/27/22}

Southern Coleslaw
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. Mike says

    I’m not a big fan of most coleslaw but this is bomb !!! I put this on my pulled pork sandwich’s and so good…5 stars

  2. Susan Rainsford says

    Very good! I cut some ingredients a bit. I used just 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon celery seed, 1 Tablespoon mustard & 1 1/2 Tablespoon cider vinegar per 1 cup mayonnaise; and I added 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, because my family likes that.4 stars

  3. Renee says

    I don’t like coleslaw much at all but my husband loves it IF it’s made a certain way. I decided 15 years of marriage entitled him to a wife who could make amazing homemade coleslaw lol. I figured this would be a trial and error process with multiple recipes bc he’s so picky. THIS is the first and only one I’ll use, even I liked it on our pulled pork! Amazing thank you for sharing.5 stars

  4. Kim says

    I made a double batch for a birthday celebration….it was AMAZING! A week later I was still hearing about how good it was! Thank you for sharing!5 stars

  5. Dan R says

    By far the best coleslaw I have had.I did however added more of the bagged slaw and reduced the salt but it was crispy,sweet and downright delicious.
    Thank you from myself and my wife.5 stars

  6. Abbey says

    The flavor of my coleslaw is fantastic but it’s a bit wet. I used a bag of precut cabbage and wish I had just a bit more! I also didn’t have celery seed so I omitted salt and used celery salt to taste. It’s really fantastic. I’ll just drain a bit of liquid off before we eat it on our pork that’s currently smoking!4 stars

  7. John Garner says

    Hello, just had to give you KUDOS for this slaw recipe. I have tried to replicate my Dad’s slaw over the years but could not quite get it right. This is it! Dad always added crushed pineapple to satisfy his (our) sweet tooth so I followed his lead on that one ingredient. That is the only change from your recipe. Thank you so much!5 stars

    • Mary Younkin says

      Adding pineapple is an interesting idea, John. I’ve had a few coleslaws with fruit that turned out very well; I may have to try your suggestion the next time I make the coleslaw. I’m glad this recipe’s been a hit!

  8. Todd says

    Great coleslaw recipe, and I’m sure it would be perfect on a pulled pork sandwich. As a side dish with other things, I might reduce the sugar to two tablespoons next time.5 stars

  9. Gina Johnson says

    I Love coleslaw, but it’s not always a hit with my family. I make fish tacos and that is one time my husband will eat it other than on pulled pork. This recipe is great I do add chopped green onions only the green ends, about 1/3 of a cup and it’s a great addition to your recipe. We Love onions. I also added 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. Definitely a hit with us!! Thanks for sharing your recipe.5 stars

    • Mary Younkin says

      You are welcome, Gina. It’s always good to hear that a recipe has become a hit in someone’s home. I hope you continue to enjoy the coleslaw, and happy cooking!

  10. Marianne says

    I posted in 4 months ago about how much I liked this recipe. I had mentioned that I thought the celery seed could be a little overpowering and Im not alone, there are others who down right just dont like the flavor. I’ve made your recipe many times since then and Im always careful with the celery seed. Recently I started to think maybe those of us that dont like it are using rancid /old celery seed. I bought a new bottle of it recently and made the recipe today with almost the full 2 tsp – I was still a little afraid of it. What a difference!!. I loved it. I’m throwing my old celery seed away and I recommend that those who think they hate celery seed buy a fresh bottle of it.5 stars

  11. Jessie says

    I’m 50 & have never left a comment on a recipe. For years I’ve played around with cole slaw recipes but it was just never quite right. This is. This recipe is now my go to & has been for a couple years. My kids both hate cole slaw & they both eat it. We use it for pulled chicken or pork sandwiches. I can’t imagine ever needing a different recipe!5 stars

  12. SGorham says

    After being disappointed with fast food coleslaw, i.e. Jack’s. I decided to Google search a recipe and you came up. I love it but had to use a smidgen of light brown sugar (didn’t have any regular sugar) – could not taste sweetness – perfect for me AND not use a full cup of mayo. I wish I could show you the picture? Are you on Instagram? Thx!5 stars