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.

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

4.79 from 176 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


  • 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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403 Comments Leave a comment or review

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  1. Lynn Lafleur says

    THis has been my go-to recipe for the past year. I am now in charge of the cole slaw at family picnics, taking my aunt’s place who passed last year. I consider that an honor:)5 stars

  2. Sonya A Heg says

    Just made it for 4th of July 2021 everybody loved it, thank you for your recipe!!!!!

    Will use again and so will my neighbor!!!!5 stars

  3. Imara says

    This is the best coleslaw recipe I’ve found online. My sister and I love it so much that we have even had this as a main dish with just meat as a side dish ;-). This will be my go to coleslaw recipe from now on.5 stars

  4. Becky says

    I have made this recipe for several years and my family calls it Becky’s special slaw. Can it be made with a sugar substitute? We’ve cut sugar out of our diet for health reasons and I make this so regularly I’m worried it may not work with Splenda or stevia. I’m worried it may get more watery from the beginning. I prefer it creamy so we make it no more than 1-2 hours before we eat it.5 stars

  5. Lisa says

    Hands down, the best coleslaw recipe! I’ve made it several times since finding this recipe for our family 4th of July celebration. It is so good! It doubles well, no modifications made.5 stars

  6. Nancy Riddlebarger says

    This recipe was a 10/10 for me!! Exactly what I want in a coleslaw that pairs some smoked meats! It had the right amount of “lightness” and not that slathered. The tangy zip was my favorite part, not overly sweet. I did (by mistake) add some garlic powder in addition to the dried onion when adding the spices but it was terrific!5 stars

  7. Tracy A says

    There was something in your blog post that stood out to me – that folks that normally don’t even like Cole Slaw raved about it. I made this recipe for a family dinner the other night. The only deviation in the recipe was that I used honey Dijon instead of Dijon because that’s what I had on hand. Everyone loved it INCLUDING someone that normally doesn’t like Cole Slaw – – just like you said!!! They demanded I share the recipe. I did! I have shared it a half dozen times since I made it 4 days ago! Thank you for posting!5 stars

  8. Gluten is not my friend says

    Never have been a huge coleslaw fan.. either too vinegary or too much Mayo..

    This is SO good!! I think the celery seeds are a key.. thank you for posting!!

  9. Teresa says

    This is a wonderful dressing for cole slaw, yet I had to make some changes, as I didn’t have some item on hand. I shredded my own cabbage, and added 3/4 of a large carrot, both shredded fine. (It came out a bit orange, lol) I did not have dijon mustard, so I used spiced. I also used a shallot instead of onion. Then added a scant of fresh ground pepper. This came out so Very Tasty! I shared with some senior gal friends in my apartment building. They Love it. I’m sharing recipe. Thank you for the basics. : )5 stars

  10. Pamela says

    Having tasted only two coleslaws ever that I truly liked, I have searched high and low for one that could be my go-to recipe. This is it! I eat it on barbecue or as a side. It’s great! And I always get requests for it!5 stars

  11. Randi H says

    This was amazing!!! We ate it with pulled pork sandwiches and it complemented it perfectly. The recipe called for a 16 oz bag of cabbage but my bag was 14 oz. I made it with the small bag anyway and when I brought it to my sister’s we felt like it was a little too liquidy. She happened to have some cabbage mix so we almost doubled the amount of cabbage mix that the recipe called for. Came out perfect for us. My husband added some extra onion powder, but it was fine without. I also did just shy of 2 tablespoons of sugar because I don’t like things too sweet. This will definitely be added to my rotation!! I would highly recommend!!! With the extra cabbage this only served for of us (with some leftovers) 🤣. Delish!!!5 stars

  12. Crystal says

    My got to recipe for Coleslaw. It is a huge hit at parties and so simple to make. I add just a few tablespoons of extra Mayonnaise to get the consistency we like. But would definitely recommend.5 stars

  13. Michelle Arndt says

    Flavor wise this is the best coleslaw ever! I may be in the minority but I think the proportion of dressing to coleslaw is off. I cut the dressing amount in half and then use either a 16 oz or 24 oz bag of coleslaw mix. After it sits for a couple hours it is perfect. For me, the original proportions make it too soupy. Thank you for the amazing flavor combo!4 stars

  14. Schiavi Riley says

    Perfect recipe when I added the 2 t of celery seed it was too much for me, other than that this recipe is perfect!

  15. Brian Spix says

    This really is something special. My wife loves coleslaw (any shape or form……doesn’t matter).
    I on the other hand do not. BUT, I always try any coleslaw hoping I could find one to enjoy.
    I made this and immediately took one bite and it was like BOOM!
    A winner. Will I eat the whole bowl? My wife will but THIS time I’ll be monitoring how much I get.
    Thanks a ton. I made it EXACTLY as recipe stated and couldn’t be more pleased.5 stars