This Creamy Coleslaw salad is full of flavor and easy to make. It’s the best traditional coleslaw recipe, the perfect side dish for any casual gathering!

coleslaw with a creamy dressing in a large clear bowl

My Favorite Creamy Coleslaw Recipe

Can you feel it in the air? That wonderful season of backyard gatherings is nearly here!

Summer entertaining is my favorite entertaining. Family and friends gathered around the backyard table and fire pit, a tub of ice-chilled drinks, music and twinkle lights, plus tasty food from the grill. I absolutely love it!

Of course, for times such as these, I always have a few good salad recipes up my sleeve. When it comes to Creamy Coleslaw, I think this is the best coleslaw recipe. It’s quick and easy to make, and even works great if you want to make it ahead of time. Serve it alongside my famous Beer Can Chicken, these crazy-good Margarita Grilled Shrimp, or delicious easy Grilled Pork Chops!

a clear bowl of coleslaw salad

What is Coleslaw?

Coleslaw comes from the work koolsla, which translates to ‘cabbage salad’ in Dutch. Merriam-Webster’s definition says, “a salad made of raw sliced or chopped cabbage”.

Coleslaw is a fresh and crunchy salad, with a bit of a zingy flavor. So it goes great with heavy, fatty, and smoked meats. It’s also an excellent topper for tacos and is often served with Sloppy Joes.

A traditional coleslaw recipe includes a creamy coleslaw dressing, like the one I’m sharing here today.

But you know me – I love my vinegar. So also be sure to check out my mom’s recipe for Sweet Onion and Vinegar Coleslaw – it’s a longtime favorite of mine!

coleslaw ingredients in clear bowls: shredded cabbage, mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, ground mustard, salt, pepper, sugar, and half a yellow onion

Coleslaw Ingredients

For this coleslaw recipe, all you need are some very basic ingredients:

  • mayonnaise – Grab some good quality mayo…please do not use “salad dressing” (aka Miracle Whip).
  • sour cream – I prefer regular sour cream (not “light” or “reduced fat”), for the fullest texture and flavor.
  • white vinegar – This gives the dressing another level of tangy flavor.
  • granulated sugar – Just a little bit. You’ll love how the touch of sweetness plays with the other ingredients!
  • dry mustard – I often include some kind of mustard to amp up flavor in salad dressings. It’s one of my go-to ingredients.
  • salt & pepper
  • yellow onion – I love a little onion in coleslaw, just like my mom does. Scroll down to see how I incorporate it into coleslaw to make it totally blend in!
  • shredded cabbage – Of course, the star of a coleslaw salad! Shred/slice your own cabbage or just grab a bag of coleslaw mix in the fresh produce section – it’s what I do! I prefer the mixes that include a little red cabbage and carrots, but plain green cabbage is perfectly fine.
collage of photos showing how to make a creamy coleslaw salad

How to Make Coleslaw Dressing

This recipe could not be any easier!!

  1. Create the creamy dressing by combining everything but the fresh cabbage.
  2. Combine the dressing with the shredded cabbage, and fold to incorporate.
grating a yellow onion on a box grater

My Secret for Incorporating Onion Into Coleslaw

Now here’s that tip I promised you, to make the onion blend into the salad. I like some raw onion flavor in salad dressings, but I don’t like to bite chunks of it!

I learned this technique from my mom’s Sweet Onion and Vinegar Coleslaw. In that recipe, Mom grates the onion on a box grater, which results in small, fine pieces of juicy onion. These pieces add a ton of flavor to the dressing, without detectable bites of raw onion. Genious!

close-up photo of creamy coleslaw in a clear bowl

What to Serve with Creamy Coleslaw

I think it’s safe to say that I could serve this coleslaw salad at ANY backyard summer gathering, and it’d be a huge success. This fresh, tangy salad shines on every picnic menu. Besides burgers and brats, here are a few main entree ideas for you!

GRILLED ENTREES:

OTHER ENTREES:

fresh shredded cabbage and carrots dressed with a mayo and sour cream based dressing, in a clear bowl

Variations and Substitutions

A few of my thoughts for some ways to change up this traditional coleslaw salad:

  • veggies – Add extra shredded carrot. Or shredded broccoli or thinly sliced bell peppers. Some chopped celery would also give extra flavor and crunch.
  • onion – Don’t want to add shredded onion? How about adding some sliced green onion. Or sprinkle in some onion powder.
  • heat – How about some minced jalapeno, for those of you who love a little kick!
  • vinegar – White vinegar lends the cleanest flavor. But feel free to swap it out for another, such as apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar. Or just use an equal amount of fresh lemon juice.
  • sweetness – Add a little more sugar. Or delete it entirely, if you prefer a more savory salad.
  • mustard – If you reeeeeeally like mustard, try adding more mustard powder for a more pungent bite.
  • celery seeds – I LOVE the addition of celery seeds in my mom’s coleslaw – for both their flavor and texture. So I often sprinkle some into this creamy coleslaw as well.
  • black pepper – I’m also a big fan of black pepper, so I like to give a few extra cranks of freshly ground pepper to my own helping.

Make Ahead Tips for Creamy Coleslaw

The longer coleslaw sits, the softer its texture becomes. So here’s what I do, to offer this salad with utmost crunchiness for our guests.

Up to 3 days in advance of serving, I stir together the dressing and then store it in an airtight container in the fridge. I also make sure to have the freshest coleslaw mix I can find…just ask my kids how I flip through to the back of the offerings in the produce section, to grab the coleslaw with the furthest-out expiration date!

Then, 30 to 60 minutes prior to serving this salad, I simply fold together the coleslaw mix and prepared dressing. And then I pop it back in the fridge to stay cold until ready to eat. A super quick and easy plan when entertaining!

How Long Will Coleslaw Keep?

The salad will keep, stored in the refrigerator, for up to 5 days. Just know that it will soften more as time passes. It won’t have that super crunchy texture, but I also still really like it that way. Coleslaw leftovers are an awesome thing!

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salad of shredded cabbage and carrots with a mayo and sour cream based dressing

Creamy Coleslaw

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

A quick and easy salad that's perfect for all your casual gatherings. Seriously, who doesn't love a traditional creamy coleslaw recipe?!

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup good quality mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup grated yellow onion (use the large holes on a box grater for this)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 16 ounces shredded coleslaw mix (I like the ones that include shredded carrots!)

Instructions

  1. To a large bowl, add mayonnaise, sour cream, grated onion, sugar, dry mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.
  2. Add coleslaw mix and fold to coat evenly.
  3. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. I think this is best enjoyed when made 30 to 60 minutes prior to serving.

Notes

Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. The salad will soften more as time goes by.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 263Total Fat: 24gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 19gCholesterol: 17mgSodium: 391mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 1gSugar: 9gProtein: 1g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated by Nutritionix. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee accuracy. If your health depends on nutrition information, please calculate again with your own favorite calculator.

Did you make this recipe?

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salad of shredded cabbage and carrots with a mayo and sour cream based dressing