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May 21, 2024

Classic Coleslaw

Creamy, a little sweet and a little tangy, this classic coleslaw recipe is a summertime must-have.


homemade classic coleslaw in a serving bowl with a wooden serving spoon on the counter
Photography by Gayle McLeod

We Give You, The Very Best Coleslaw Recipe

A total classic start to finish, this creamy coleslaw recipe is everything you want good coleslaw to be—crisp and crunchy and tossed in a totally traditional mayonnaise-based dressing. Yes, we are big on making our classic coleslaw recipe with mayo! It just seems like it’s a rule, you know? Truly simple, traditional, classic All-American coleslaw just has to have mayo in the dressing. Grab the ingredients—there aren’t many of them—and make (arguably) the most essential summer side dish ever! Oh, and did we mention that this coleslaw tastes best after a day in the fridge? That means it is ideal for making ahead of time and having on hand— along with our perfect Macaroni Salad! — next time you make Huli Huli Chicken.

shredded cabbage, shredded carrots, green onions, mayo, sugar, spices, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar in bowls

To Make the Best Coleslaw, Start With Great Coleslaw Dressing!

Good coleslaw is all about the dressing! And the best coleslaw dressing has a bit of creaminess—again, mayo is a must!—balanced out with a big of vinegar tang and a bit of sugar. Tie it all together with good old salt and pepper and you’ve got the best ever, most classic coleslaw dressing recipe we know of. To make the dressing, simply mix together:

  • Mayonnaise

  • Sugar

  • Vinegar

  • Lemon juice

  • Onion powder

  • Garlic powder

  • Celery salt

  • Salt

  • Pepper

mayonnaise, sugar, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice and spices in a glass bowl to make coleslaw dressing
shredded cabbage, shredded carrots and minced green onions in a glass bowl to make classic coleslaw

What Are the Ingredients of Classic Coleslaw?

You can totally buy a bagged coleslaw mix if you’re in a hurry and just toss the pre-prepped veggies with our coleslaw dressing. But the coleslaw will be a bit tastier if you chop the veggies yourself. Once you’ve mixed up the dressing, you’re most of the way there! To shred the cabbage, you can use a sharp knife or, if you really want to make it ultra-fine, you could break out a mandoline slicer. As for the carrots, grating them with a food processor’s grating attachment is probably the fastest way to do it. A box grater works well, though, too. To make classic coleslaw, all you’ll need is:

  • Green cabbage

  • Carrots

  • Scallions

shredded cabbage, shredded carrots and minced green onions being tossed with dressing to make classic coleslaw
homemade classic coleslaw in a serving bowl on the counter

How to Make Coleslaw

Making our coleslaw recipe is really super simple. It’s also inexpensive and—despite the mayo-based dressing—pretty healthy, too! If you’re looking for a mayo-free alternative, we have a Miso-Ginger Chicken Slaw recipe for that! Cabbage is super good for you, and the creamy dressing doesn’t undo that. Be sure to get good-quality mayo—Hellmann’s is sort of the classic coleslaw mayo choice—and veggies that look fresh. Beyond that, a little slicing and a little stirring and that slaw is done! Here’s how to make it:

  1. Prep the veggies!

  2. Whisk together the coleslaw dressing.

  3. Toss the cabbage, carrots and scallions with the dressing.

  4. Let time work a little magic. This salad isn’t just possible to make ahead of time, it actually needs at least an hour to sit in the fridge, and can benefit from up to a 24-hour fridge rest before serving. The flavors meld and the dressing makes the cabbage a bit more tender, which is a good thing. In other words, this is the ideal summer side dish or picnic food idea, because it’s made for making ahead!

homemade classic coleslaw in a serving bowl with a wooden serving spoon on the counter

Tools You’ll Need

More Summer Side Dish Recipes

homemade classic coleslaw in a serving bowl with a wooden serving spoon on the counter

Summer Grilling Season, Come at Us!

We’re so ready for a summer of BBQ-ing, and while we love grilled everything, we’re kind of all about those summer sides. And good coleslaw has always been top of the list! We just truly adore this classic coleslaw recipe in all its simple greatness, and we hope it hits the spot for you and yours, too! If you make it, let us know how you like it! Share a photo and tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper so that we can see your stuff! Happy eating!

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Classic Coleslaw

  • Serves: 8
  • Prep Time:  15 min
  • Cook Time:  0 min
  • Calories: 206



  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 large head of green cabbage, shredded (about 8-9 cups)
  • 1 large carrot shredded
  • 4 minced green onions


  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, onion powder, garlic powder, celery salt, salt, and pepper.

  2. Add the cabbage, carrots, and green onions to the bowl and toss to combine. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, up to 24. Toss again before serving.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories206
  • Protein3 g
  • Carbohydrates14 g
  • Total Fat15 g
  • Dietary Fiber4 g
  • Cholesterol8 mg
  • sodium392 mg
  • Total Sugars11 g

Classic Coleslaw

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

  • Nina

    Why so much sugar?

    It gives sweetness to the coleslaw. Feel free to experiment with less if you prefer. Hope you enjoy Nina!

  • Reema

    I know this is meant to be a traditional cole slaw recipe but would substituting mayo with Greek yogurt work?

    We wouldn't suggest that in a coleslaw recipe, it will drastically change the flavor.

  • Tiffany

    Came out so good! Waaay better than your average coleslaw.

    Thanks Tiffany!

  • Shannon

    I have already made this a couple of times and it is awesome. I used my food processor to make shredding the cabbage super easy. Love that it isn’t super sweet.

    Thanks Shannon, so happy you enjoyed it! Love not hear you've already repeated it, yay!

  • Jenn

    Absolutely delicious! Never going back to store bought!

    YAY! We love to hear that!