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 201 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.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 8 servings


  • 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


  • 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!


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.


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

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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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456 Comments Leave a comment or review

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    • Mary Younkin says

      I daresay you might be ultrasensitive to that flavor as this it not a complain I have had before. If it bothers you feel free to reduce it or omit it.

    • Joelle says

      Thanks for the heads up – I hate celery and the taste of it ruins anything in comes in contact with.

    • Justin says

      I’ve been trying to acquire a taste for coleslaw for years and slowly found variations I like. Recently I’ve started making it at home trying different recipes (mayo based, vinegar, etc) and this is by far my favorite mayo based coleslaw! I didn’t have any celery seeds on hand but reduced the salt and used 1/4″ tsp celery salt and still turned out wonderful. Just waiting for a nice weekend to fire up the smoker have the family over for ribs and pulled pork butts and this will definitely be a side.5 stars

  1. Lora says

    This is a keeper! Finally found a perfect coleslaw recipe. Made it my own with a squirt off lime juice – and caesars rimmer because I didn’t have celery salt .5 stars

  2. Linda says

    This is the BEST coleslaw! I have made it many times and it’s always a huge hit. I don’t always have Dijon on hand but 1tsp of mustard powder makes a good substitute. Thanks for a great recipe!5 stars

  3. Dana White says

    Hands down best coleslaw recipe. This is better than most restaurants. My family cooks alot of bbq and this is the coleslaw they request every time. As far as the celery seed goes, it really makes the dish.5 stars

  4. Cheryl says

    Excellent recipe! However, I made one adjustment by starting with 1⁄2 cup mayo to reduce the flavor loss by drainage, then adding more mayo as needed just before serving.5 stars

  5. darc says

    Very good, easy slaw dressing. I used poultry seasons I had no celery season, taste fine. I added some orange juice, about a q/4 cup to aBout a batch & 1/2 of slaw. Taste great.4 stars

  6. Heather says

    I’m always in search of a great coleslaw recipe, and this is it! I did reduce the sugar a bit and omit the celery seeds because my husband hates celery, but I thought the recipe was great without it. We’ll be enjoying this tonight with pulled pork sandwiches. Thank you!5 stars

  7. Mrs. Phelps says

    I had never made coleslaw before using this recipe. It turned out exactly as I wanted, and I will use it again! Thank you for a great recipe!5 stars

  8. Ben says

    I will build it tomorrow!

    My story with coleslaw is, as a young person, I hated it.

    In my late 20’s I went on a job to southern Alabama. (1991). Lunch time came around and they served bbq sandwiches. They had coleslaw on them. I asked if there were any plain ones. They looked at me like I had a third eye!

    It was absolutely delicious.

    So now, to this day, I try to show people up here in Washington state the magic of the coleslaw, and I again get the look as if I had a third eye. Also, don’t ask for iced tea up here expecting it to be pre loaded with sugar.

    I enjoyed my jobs down south. I do not do well with the humidity.

    Thank you for sharing your recipe!

    Ben5 stars

  9. Dean says

    I love this slaw, have made it so many times now, usually shredding the cabbage myself. Unfortunately it’s still a little bit of guesswork when it comes to how many carrots to put in as we don’t have ready made slaw mixes in Greece 😄 Do you have a rough idea? Thank you!5 stars

    • Mary Younkin says

      Hi, Dean! Depending on how prominent you want the carrot flavor to be, I would add one or two medium size carrots to the mix. I hope you continue to enjoy the coleslaw!

    • Mary Younkin says

      All a matter of taste, Mark. I’ve had readers comment that they added way more to the coleslaw than I would. I’m glad you’re enjoying the recipe! Happy cooking.

  10. Marianne says

    I have been searching for a coleslaw recipe that I would care to make again and I think I finally found it here. I really enjoyed your recipe. I was a little short on regular mayo so I used about half hellman’s light mayo, and I just sprinkled in the celery seed rather than using a full 2 teaspoons because the flavor can be a little overpowering for me but that being said I think its a necessary ingredient. I used the 1 lb bag of coleslaw as per the recipe but I did add about a 1/4 cabbage more slaw since I had it in the veggie drawer and wanted to use it up. I loved this recipe. I’m so glad my google search led me here. Thank you for posting it.5 stars

  11. Julie says

    I love this coleslaw. My husband specifically requested the coleslaw we had at his sisters house a few weekends ago. This was it! I made it and love it! We added a little honey and only used half the celery seed. IMO celery seed is a magical ingredient. But as with any recipe, each person needs to omit the parts they don’t like. It def doesn’t make it a bad recipe. This is a keeper for sure!! Thank you for sharing this recipe gift with us!5 stars

    • Mary Younkin says

      You are welcome, Julie! I’m so glad you and your husband have been loving the coleslaw. It’s been a keeper for us, too. Enjoy, and happy cooking!

  12. Claire says

    This is THE perfect coleslaw recipe! I’ve never really enjoyed coleslaw…too soggy, too mayonnaise-heavy, etc. This has a wonderful crunch and excellent tang without being gloopy. I’ve made it twice in a week. That’s how much we love it. 💜5 stars

    • Mary Younkin says

      I’m so glad that you’ve been enjoying the coleslaw, Claire. It’s been a classic in our house for years, and I hope it will be a classic in yours! Enjoy, and happy cooking.

  13. Lindsey says

    Absolutely delicious. We make this recipe every time we make brisket or pulled pork, and it compliments both perfectly. I reduce sugar slightly. Thank you for such a delicious and easy recipe!!5 stars

  14. Kelly S says

    Finally – a great coleslaw recipe that we’ll be making time and time again! I made it a day ahead of my event, and the slaw really turned out great. Allowed the cabbage to soften and the flavors to meld. I was worried, after reading comments, that the celery seed would be overkill. It’s not! The celery seed added another layer to the sweet and tangy. It’s a simple recipe but has some flavor depth. Thank you!!!5 stars

  15. Helga Bauer says

    Great recipe, we loved it! And can you tell me where you got the dish that the beans and coleslaw are in? Love that to:)5 stars

    • Mary Younkin says

      I wish that I could! I found that cute plate at a thrift store and haven’t had any luck finding more, Helga. I’m glad you enjoyed the slaw!