Creamy and Tangy Coleslaw


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Creamy and tangy coleslaw has a tart, fresh flavor and is made with mustard, apple cider vinegar, sugar, celery seed, onion powder, and a small amount of mayonnaise. It’s the perfect recipe to serve with summer meals and for topping pulled pork sandwiches (or pulled chicken)!

glass bowl of coleslaw with green cabbage

When you live in Kansas City, as we do, everyone has an opinion about what should be served with BBQ. You’ve got baked bean fans, potato salad die-hards, and coleslaw fanatics. My husband Frank’s Southern roots mean that no BBQ is truly BBQ unless it involves pulled pork and coleslaw.

And few side dishes are as simple and satisfying as a classic coleslaw with a balance of tart flavor and creamy texture.

The coleslaw you’ll find below is great in classic BBQ meals, but it’s also delicious on sandwiches or tacos. Best of all, it can be made up to 24 hours ahead. Here’s how to make it!

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ingredients for coleslaw on a white countertop


  • Mayonnaise – Adds a creamy base. Use your favorite store-bought brand. 
  • Dijon Mustard – This is the key ingredient for that classic, zesty flavor.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – This is both tart and naturally sweet for a balance of flavors.
  • Granulated Sugar – A little sugar helps to bring out the natural sweetness of the cabbage. You can completely omit the sugar for a sugar-free version of this creamy and tangy coleslaw or increase it if you like your slaw more sweet.
  • Celery Seed – Don’t skip these little seeds. They add flavor and a bit of texture to the slaw.
  • Onion Powder – This adds a savory flavor – a little goes a long way. Be sure to use onion powder, not onion salt (which will make the recipe too salty).
  • Salt – Wait to add salt until after the coleslaw has been refrigerated. Salt will draw out the moisture in the cabbage, so it’s best to add it right before serving. Like sugar, feel free to taste and adjust the amount of salt you use to your personal preference.
dressing for coleslaw in a glass bowl being mixed with a whisk

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How to Make It

  1. Whisk together the coleslaw dressing. Mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, sugar, celery seed, and onion powder. This can be made up to 3 days ahead.
  2. Add shredded cabbage. You can use your favorite – green or red cabbage, or a mix of both.
  3. Refrigerate. Chill the coleslaw for 2 to 24 hours to let the flavors come together.
  4. Salt and serve. Just before serving the coleslaw, add salt. Enjoy!

Green or Red Cabbage?

Shredded cabbage is the foundation of most coleslaw recipes, but there are ways to mix things up. Use green or red cabbage or a combination of both for the most color.

If you’re looking to mix things up, try adding shredded carrots for some crunch and added flavor. 

coleslaw in a glass bowl with red and green cabbage

Can Coleslaw be Made Ahead?

Yes! Coleslaw is actually better if made ahead because the flavors will develop over time. Ideally, make and refrigerate coleslaw at least 2 hours ahead and up to 24 hours ahead. Wait and add salt until right before serving.

overhead image of coleslaw with green cabbage in a cream celery seed dressing

What to serve with coleslaw

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creamy coleslaw in a glass bowl with
4.35 from 47 votes

Creamy and Tangy Coleslaw

This fast and easy coleslaw is tangy and tart with just enough mayo to give it a creamy texture. Don’t skip the celery seed – it gives the coleslaw great flavor and a bit of crunch.
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Prep: 10 minutes
Total: 10 minutes
Servings: 4


  • Mixing Bowl
  • Whisk


  • 1/4 cup Mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
  • 2 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 teaspoon Granulated Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Celery Seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon Onion Powder (optional)
  • 10 ounces Shredded Cabbage (see note)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt, to taste (see note)


  • In a medium bowl whisk together mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, sugar, celery seed, and onion powder.
  • Add shredded cabbage to dressing and toss everything well to combine.
  • Refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours before serving.
  • Just before serving, add salt. Toss the coleslaw well to make sure that any dressing that has settled in the bottom of the bowl gets mixed back in.


Shredded Cabbage – Use green cabbage, red cabbage, or a mix of both and slice them by hand or use store-bought coleslaw mix to save time. A mix with carrots included will add additional color. I love angel hair coleslaw mix (which is shredded more finely) for using in tacos or on sandwiches .
Salt – Salt will cause the coleslaw to release extra moisture as it sits. Wait to add the salt, to taste, until right before serving. Just don’t forget it!
Make ahead – Coleslaw is best if made at least 2 hours ahead and refrigerated before serving – this allows the flavors to come together. You can make it up to 24 hours ahead. Toss it well before serving.


Calories: 127kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 6mg | Sodium: 422mg | Potassium: 120mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 69IU | Vitamin C: 26mg | Calcium: 37mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Author: Jess Smith via Inquiring Chef
Cost: $3.50
Calories: 127
Keyword: bbq side dish, easy side dish, potluck recipe, vegetables, vegetarian
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About Jess Smith

Jess is the recipe creator and photographer at She spent nearly a decade as the Chief Recipe Developer for the award-winning meal planning app Cook Smarts. Her colorful, healthyish recipes have been featured in popular online publications including Parade, Hallmark, and HuffPost.

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  1. Hello,
    Just want to say, I LOVE this dressing. I do add some fresh cracked black pepper, but regardless, it’s delicious without. Thank you for this recipe!

  2. My question is about the salt. Usually I pre salt and grain cabbage. about 30 min over a colander. Squeeze out extra water them proceed to make the slaw. Would that work here, or did you compensate the dressing to accommodate the excess water from last minute salting? thanks!

    1. Hi Rita – sorry for the delay. You can absolutely salt ahead of time if you prefer. Salting ahead just as you described would tenderize the cabbage, adding it at the just adds flavor but prevents the excess water that comes out when the coleslaw sits. If you salt early in the process, no need to add salt at the end.