The Basics of Coleslaw

Basically, coleslaw is defined as a salad made with chopped or shredded raw cabbage as the main ingredient, usually mixed with shredded carrots and other vegetables and dressed with mayonnaise. My version, Southern Coleslaw, fits the basic definition of coleslaw but adds white wine vinegar to the dressing, as well as finely chopped onion, bell pepper and celery seed for seasoning. Occasionally a coleslaw recipe will include pineapple or apple, nuts, and grated cheese.

Many countries around the world have their own version of coleslaw – in fact the word coleslaw means “cabbage salad” in Dutch. I found it interesting that in Sweden coleslaw is served with pizza and they call it “pizza salad.”

In the Southern United States, coleslaw is traditionally eaten with fish, especially fried fish, and seafood. Restaurants that primarily serve fish and seafood are often called “fish camps.” Coleslaw is also served with BBQ Pork, as a side dish or in the case of a BBQ Pork Sandwich served right on the bun. There is even a Red Slaw, also known as BBQ Slaw, made to accompany Lexington-style North Carolina barbequed pork. Fried Chicken is yet another food with which Southern Coleslaw is served. (In fact I often see “copycat” recipes on the internet for KFC coleslaw!) Southern Coleslaw is also served with hot dogs and hamburgers.

When I was in elementary school, I was served coleslaw in which the cabbage and carrots were minced as finely as those vegetables could be minced. (I don’t know how they got the pieces of carrot and cabbage so small!) I’ve always remembered it and any time now that I’m served coleslaw of that consistency I refer to if affectionately as “elementary school coleslaw.” There is one seafood restaurant in Charlotte that has elementary school coleslaw and this particular restaurant does not call itself a “fish camp” for whatever reason!

The Recipe for Southern Coleslaw

Southern Coleslaw
Serves 10
A salad made with shredded raw cabbage, carrots, onion and bell pepper, dressed with mayonnaise and white wine vinegar and seasoned with celery seed.
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Prep Time
20 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
20 min
Total Time
20 min
  1. 1 medium head cabbage, shredded
  2. 2 carrots, peeled & shredded
  3. 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
  4. 1 bell pepper, finely chopped
  5. 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  6. 2 tablespoons sugar
  7. 1 cup mayonnaise
  8. 1 teaspoon salt
  9. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  10. 2 teaspoons celery seed
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Toss until mayonnaise and white wine vinegar are evenly coating the other ingredients. Chill for several hours before serving.
  1. I use a food processor to shred the cabbage and carrots, and chop the onion. However, I recommend chopping the bell pepper with a knife for best results.

Parting Comments

Celery Seeds are one of my favorite spices to use to flavor coleslaw, egg salad, potato salad and chicken salad. I really like the taste of Celery Seeds! Celery Seeds are found in the flowers of the celery plant, are very small, range from tan to brown in color, and have a strong, pleasant aroma. Celery Seeds were used in ancient medicine to treat colds, flu, water retention, poor digestion and arthritis. Unfortunately there are no recent human scientific studies that verify these claims. I was encouraged to learn that there have been studies that show that Celery Seeds act as a mosquito repellent! (Mosquitos love me – Ugh!) The studies didn’t say whether you had to eat the Celery Seeds or douse yourself with them! I’ll have to do a little more research on that one!

Make some Southern Coleslaw soon and serve it with anything – it’s a very versatile side dish! Remember cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable, which is important in cancer prevention. (See my recent post Scalloped Cabbage – Retro Recipe for information about cruciferous vegetables.)

Remember to Savor the Flavor!


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Southern Coleslaw – A Versatile Side Dish — 42 Comments

  1. Cabbage Slaw is excellent with the addition of curry powder and dry mustard. I always make it to serve with Spagetti.

  2. Hi Kaye, Thanks so much for telling me about adding curry powder and dry mustard to slaw – I’ll have to try it as I really like curry powder! Thanks for your comments and for stopping by! Blessings,Janet

  3. What a cool version of coleslaw! Thanks for sharing :]

    Edye |

  4. Thank you for posting this recipe right before summer. I will make this for our first cookout.

  5. Hi Sherry, I hope you enjoy the Southern Coleslaw! The weather should be right for a cook-out soon! Thanks for your visit! Blessings, Janet

  6. Coleslaw is one of my favorite salads for summer time. It goes great with bbqs. Thanks for linking up with us at Family Joy Blog Link Up this week.

  7. Hi Wendi, I’ve never heard of adding mandarin oranges either but I’d probably like it! Thanks for your kind comments and for pinning the recipe! Blessings, Janet

  8. Thank you so much for linking at #overthemoon! I look forward to seeing what you share every week. Please come back for #WonderfulWednesday or #ThursdayFavoriteThings. Don’t forget to comment your link #’s so I can be sure to visit and you get a chance to be featured! Pinned and shared.

  9. Oh yum, I love coleslaw. I have to try adding bell pepper and celery seed. Pinning for future reference. Thank you

  10. Yum! Thanks for sharing at Merry Monday, hope to see you again next week!

  11. Coleslaw is such an amazing summer dish! I want to try to make this for the next church event we have. Thanks for sharing with #SocialButterflySunday! Hope to see you link up again this week ?

  12. Hi Kelly, Hope you enjoy the coleslaw! Thanks for hosting #SocialButterflySunday! See you again soon! Blessings, Janet

  13. I’ve never actually made coleslaw before but your recipe makes it look so easy! Thanks so much for sharing with us at Share The Wealth Sunday! xoxo

  14. Though I enjoy celery very much, I haven’t come across celery seeds so far. Interesting addition to the coleslaw. Thanks for bringing this to the fiesta, Janet! ?

  15. Mmmh, this looks fresh and yummy! I know coleslaw with only vinegar and without the mayonnaise. I’d love to try this, I bet it’s delicious! Thank you for sharing at Sweet Inspiration #6! Happy Saturday!

  16. There are so many recipes for slaw and I like yours because it has simple ingredients in it. Making for our next barbecue.

  17. Hi Michelle, I hope you enjoy the Coleslaw at your next BBQ! Thanks for visiting today! Blessings, Janet

  18. Hi Katrin, I think the white wine vinegar and celery seed make this coleslaw tasty! Hope you enjoy it! Thanks for your comments and for stopping by! Blessings, Janet

  19. Hi Ahila, I hope you will try celery seeds in coleslaw, chicken salad and potato salad – I think it adds a great flavor! Thanks so much for your comments and for stopping by! Blessings, Janet

  20. Hi Lisa, Hope you have a chance to try making coleslaw soon! Thanks for your comments and for hosting Share the Wealth Sundays! Blessings, Janet

  21. Cabbage and apple really do complement each other wonderfully. I think this would make an excellent slaw, and I’m game to try it soon. I try to minimize the mayo, but some slaws need some, and I can surely see it working here. Being simply “me”, I would in my own kitchen leave out the sugar, but that’s a truly minor quibble. Thanks for sharing at Fiesta Friday!

  22. Oh coleslaw is my most favourite. And your recipe looks great. Saving this. Thanks for sharing this at the fiesta.

  23. Coleslaw is my favourite. and your recipe looks like a keeper. Thanks for sharing this at the fiesta friday.

  24. I’ve considered leaving out the sugar also, or at least decreasing the amount used. Thanks for your comments and for stopping by! Blessings, Janet

  25. Coleslaw is such a great summer food! It reminds me of picnics and BBQ suppers with my family. Thanks for sharing at the Healthy Living Link Party!
    Blessings, Leigh

  26. Such a classic recipe! Thanks for sharing on Throwback Thursday!


  27. This Coleslaw will be delicious! Thanks so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday and have a great day!
    Miz Helen

  28. Hi Miz Helen, The coleslaw recipe is one I adapted from my old hometown church cookbook. Thanks for the comments and visit! Blessings, Janet

  29. Hi Leigh, Coleslaw is just a Southern staple! Glad it brought back some great memories for you! Thanks for your kind comments and visit! Blessings, Janet

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