My favorite classic creamy coleslaw stays crunchy, not soupy, and gets a bit of bite in this slightly sweetened, vinegar-spiked, homemade coleslaw dressing.
Potato salad. Baked beans. My favorite Burrata and heirloom tomato caprese salad. Those recipes have always made up my barbecue buffet table daydreams. But coleslaw? It was always on the bottom rung of my side dish desires. Show me the shredded cabbage bowl and watch me skip right on by.
My husband? He’s a coleslaw connoisseur. It’s usually the first thing he goes for. But that doesn’t mean the bites he gets are always good, and that puts our home’s king of slaw down in the dumps.
But this creamy coleslaw recipe always gets not just one, but two big, Big, BIG thumbs up from my man. And now me, too.
This coleslaw isn’t goopy. Nor is it soupy. And it’s far from overpowered by the bite of raw onion. This here coleslaw, folks, this is the best I’ve ever eaten. And the man agrees.
What’s in Coleslaw?
I stuck to many of the classic coleslaw ingredients, but made a few tweaks to make this the best coleslaw recipe ever.
- Coleslaw salad mix. Rather than buying a whole head of cabbage and carrots in need of peeling, I took the short cut and bought a bag of pre-packaged coleslaw mix. You might find it in your veggie aisle bagged with a combination of red and green cabbage, or green only. Either or all will work.
- Granulated sugar
- Kosher salt
- Apple cider vinegar
- Green onions
- Freshly ground black pepper
What Is Creamy Coleslaw Made Of?
There are two factors that distinguish a good coleslaw from the rest. First is the crunch. Second is the flavor of the dressing. Hand in hand they make one good salad.
Some creamy coleslaw dressings use a combination of sour cream and mayonnaise with flavorings that run the gamut of grated onion to Worcestershire sauce to mustard and lemon juice.
Why go through all those paces? Let’s keep this dressing simple.
My favorite coleslaw dressing is so good it deserves a post of its own. Basic mayonnaise is mixed with cider vinegar then seasoned with a little celery salt for the puckery punch I love. Sliced green onion and freshly ground black pepper add a little heat, with a bit of sugar to offset the vinegar pucker. Chopped Italian leaf parsley adds just the right amount of a fresh, herby taste.
How to Keep Coleslaw Crunchy
One of the things I find unattractive about many creamy coleslaws is when the crunch disappears and the cut cabbage becomes limp and lame, resulting in a soupy, drippy mess. We’ve all seen prime examples of this in the grocery store deli case, right?
This homemade coleslaw is not that.
After doing a fare amount of investigation, I found a solution to avoid the listless creamy coleslaw bite thanks to the folks at Serious Eats. Their suggestion? Draw out the water from the cabbage with a sugar and salt brine for a mere 5 minutes, then rinse well with cold water and put it through the spin dry of a salad spinner.
Don’t worry. Adding this simple cure won’t change your coleslaw into a bread and butter pickle, like this one. In fact, the result is a firmer cabbage crunch where the flavor, and color, is actually deepened.
How to Make Coleslaw Ultra Creamy
Add the pre-packaged coleslaw mix into a strainer and place in the sink. Sprinkle with a mixture of sugar and salt and toss to combine. Let that sit for five minutes to draw the moisture out of the cabbage, then rinse really well with cold water. Give the coleslaw mix a spin in a salad spinner to dry.
Next up: the homemade coleslaw dressing. If you’ve never learned how to make coleslaw dressing, don’t sweat, it’s easy. Simply whisk together the mayo, a little sugar, cider vinegar, salt and pepper, chopped onions, parsley, and some celery salt. Add part of the slaw dressing to the coleslaw mix and give it a good toss. Add more dressing as needed after tasting the creamy coleslaw.
Let the coleslaw chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving it. This gives the flavors time to come together (don’t worry, the cabbage won’t wilt before you’re able to serve it).
Can I Dry the Coleslaw Mix Without a Salad Spinner?
If you don’t have a salad spinner, there’s no need to run out and get one. You can also dry the coleslaw mix by spreading it onto a paper towel-lined baking tray and blotting it dry with more paper towels. You can also roll the wet cabbage mix in a clean tea towel and then gently squeeze it to soak up the extra moisture.
What Kind of Salt Should I Use for the Salt Bath?
Kosher salt is a must here. Kosher salt isn’t nearly as salty as table salt because of its larger flake size. If you use table salt for the salt bath, it’s likely that your creamy coleslaw will wind up being far too salty.
Tips for Making the Best Coleslaw Ever
If you prefer an even tangier coleslaw dressing, substitute 2 tablespoons of the mayo with sour cream. Personally, I don’t think this recipe needs it, but I know some people are fans of mayo-sour cream slaw dressings.
Also note that if you choose to shred the cabbage and carrots yourself, shred them a bit thicker, similar to those in a pre-packaged coleslaw mix. If the cabbage is too think, it will wilt after sitting in the dressing for a few hours.
If you’re sensitive to salt, whisk all of the coleslaw dressing ingredients together, except the two kinds of salt. Taste, then add more salt a little bit at a time. All palates are different, and the key to any good recipe is to taste and season as you go!
More Potluck Side Dishes
- Sweet Vinegar Coleslaw (No Mayo)
- Greek Pasta Salad with Cucumbers and Artichoke Hearts
- Asian Ramen Noodle Salad
- German Potato Salad
- Pico de Gallo
- Berry Fruit Salad
How to Make THE BEST Creamy Coleslaw
To prepare the coleslaw
- 1 pound package coleslaw mix
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
For the dressing
- 2/3 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon celery salt
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2-3 green onions chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves chopped
Pour the coleslaw mix into a strainer and place in the sink. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the sugar and 1/4 cup of the kosher salt and lightly toss. Let sit for 5 minutes to draw out the moisture from the cabbage and then rinse well with cold water. Spin the coleslaw mix in a salad spinner and place in a large bowl.*
For the dressing, in a medium bowl mix the mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons sugar, cinder vinegar, celery salt, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, chopped onions and chopped parsley. Whisk well and pour 2/3 of the dressing over the cabbage mixture, and toss to combine. Add more of the dressing as desired and season with more salt, pepper or parsley to taste.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes up to overnight and serve.
*You can also dry the coleslaw mix by spreading it onto a paper towel-lined baking tray and blotting it dry with more paper towels. Or you can roll the wet cabbage mix in a clean tea towel and then gently squeeze it to soak up the extra moisture.
What to Serve with Coleslaw
- Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Crunchy Slaw
- Bacon Double Cheddar Cheeseburgers with Caramelized Onions
- Pulled Chicken Sandwich with Creamy Ranch Sauce
- Grilled Ribeye Steak
- Homemade One-Pot Sloppy Joes
- The Best Juicy Grilled Pork Chops
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