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

4.84 from 108 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
Tried this recipe?Mention @barefeetkitchen or tag #barefeetkitchen!

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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. Barb Tessier says

    I have tried so many coleslaw recipes, i was ready to give up eating this dish forever. The “KFC” recipe, the “Canadian” recipe, the “never fail” USA recipe, BLECH TO ALL! I found this Southern Style recipe not one hour ago, and I liked the way the ingredients were set out. I tried it. I used fresh grated celery instead of the seed though, (1 tspn seed = 3 tbspns grated or minced celery) and my God! I have already copied this recipe to my own collection, with full credit to this author, and my thanks.

    Coleslaw is back on the menu! (Especially Canada Day! Just wait until they taste this!)

    As a Canadian who loves to cook, I’m very happy to have found a recipe that meets my strict demands. Thank you again!5 stars

  2. Lori says

    This recipe was delicious! I’m on Weight Watchers, so I tweaked the recipe just a little bit. I only used 1 tablespoon of sugar, and used 1/2 cup Mayo with 1/2 cup Fat Free Greek Yogurt. Also added sriracha because I like it spicy. Fantastic! My boyfriend raved about it when I added it to our Pulled Pork sandwiches. It’s a keeper! Both the recipe and the boyfriend lol5 stars

  3. Dean Meadows says

    I normally add a little or subtract a little of one of more ingredients. Ya know, just to make it your own. As I went down the list of ingredients I was actually thrilled that all of the boxes were checked. This recipe needs NO deviation. It’s amazing! I will definitely be making this one from now on. Wow! So good!5 stars

  4. AC says

    Made this today for SB Sunday. I’m really picky with slaw– it seems it’s either far too sweet, or too harsh and vinegary. This recipe hits the perfect notes for me– slightly sweet with a tang that’s not obnoxious. Really good!! Thanks for sharing.5 stars

  5. Patty says

    Not just you Mary, but almost every recipe for slaw uses packaged, pre-cut cabbage. Can nobody buy beautiful fresh cabbages and use an actual knife?

    • Mary Younkin says

      Your comment made me grin, Patty. I use both coleslaw mix and cabbage that I slice. It typically just depends on what I have on hand. It works beautifully both ways.

  6. Linda says

    I’m not a huge fan of coleslaw but was asked to bring some to a BBQ. I came across this recipe and so glad I did. It is so good! Perfectly balanced between sweet and tangy.5 stars

  7. Elizabeth R. Harley says

    Waaaay too much celery seed. Like WOW. 1/2 or 1/4 what the recipe calls for. It tastes like STRAIGHT CELERY SEED. nothing else.
    I added white vinegar in addition bc it wasn’t tangy enough & only used 3/4 cup of mayo. But still too much mayo it neutralizes the tang. 😑 I gave this a good try though & some ppl seem to love it. Not my fave though.

  8. Helen says

    I literally just made this as I wanted to use up a bag of shredded cabbage/carrots etc that I have on hand just in case. I end up forgetting about them usually, so this was a good way to use them up. I really like the recipe but as you say any recipe can be tweaked, which I did. It was a little too sweet for me, so I added more ACV. Next time I’ll just do 1-2 tblsp of sugar and a little more ACV. Thanks for the recipe….love it!4 stars

  9. Patrick says

    I am interested in printing your Memphis Cole Slaw Recipe to make along with my Pulled Pork Sandwiches tonight. When I click on “Jump to the Recipe” and hit Print, it takes me back to the top of the article. I just want to print the recipe, not all 27 pages. Will just have to write it down and go from there.4 stars

    • Mary Younkin says

      Hi Patrick, I just double-checked the recipe. When you click the “print” button inside the recipe card, it should be opening a new window with a print option for just the recipe card itself.

  10. Tina Breeden says

    Made this last night, the family loved it. My “tweek” to the recipe, after reading other reviews, was using half the mayo and 2/3 of the apple cider vinegar (I did not have a full 16 oz. of shredded cabbage). I thought it turned out great. I was curious, after reading one review commenting on the celery seeds, is she must have used tablespoons instead of teaspoons. I used the full amount of celery seed as if I was making the full recipe (I happen to love celery seeds) and I thought it could use a little more…..definitely a recipe to save and use again.4 stars

  11. Chris says

    One of my favorite go-to recipes for sides. Definitely make it a few hours ahead of time to infuse the cabbage with the mix.5 stars

  12. Christine says

    This is crazy tasty coleslaw! I used half the sugar and it was perfect for our taste. This is my new favourite recipe because it’s creamy and tangy and delicious!5 stars

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