Classic Coleslaw


Your barbecue needs this cool and creamy classic coleslaw.

Classic Slaw
Photo: Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Torie Cox & John Somerall / Prop Styling by Audrey Davis
Total Time:
20 mins

"When you visualize a table loaded with barbecue items, I bet there is a heaping bowl of slaw," says barbecue expert Matt Horn. He’s right — coleslaw has been on dinner tables for centuries. Ancient Romans ate a dish of julienned cabbage with vinegar and eggs. More recently, the Dutch people who settled in what is now New York State in the 17th century served a shredded cabbage salad called koosla, typically dressed with vinegar. Other crisp cabbage salads are found in Russian, Swedish, and Southeast Asian cuisines.

Versions of coleslaw made with creamy mayonnaise and sour cream dressings began appearing on American tables in the 19th century. It became a popular side for smoked meats, with a cooling, tart-sweet dressing that cuts through the rich, fatty meats from the barbecue. You'll find regional preferences for coleslaw much like those for types of barbecue; Memphis slaw in Tennessee includes chopped green bell pepper, while the slaw in Lexington, North Carolina, uses ketchup instead of mayonnaise in the dressing.

At Horn Barbecue, his restaurant in Oakland, California, Horn keeps his coleslaw simple, using a mix of shredded red and green cabbage as the base. The mayonnaise dressing gets its tang from the apple cider vinegar and mustard. That tartness is tempered with a hint of sweetness from the honey, while dill gives the coleslaw herbal notes. This recipe is a perfect dish to bring to a picnic or barbecue. Make sure to mix the cabbage and scallions with the dressing just before serving the coleslaw, so it doesn't soak up too much dressing and get soggy or limp. If you'd like to add another pop of color and crunchy texture to the mix, throw in a shredded carrot or two.


  • 1 ½ cups mayonnaise

  • cup apple cider vinegar

  • 3 tablespoons honey

  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

  • 1 teaspoon dried dill

  • ½ teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste

  • 8 cups finely shredded green cabbage (from 1 small [3-pound] head cabbage) 

  • 4 cups finely shredded red cabbage (from 1 small [3-pound] head cabbage)

  • 5 medium scallions, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)


  1. Whisk together mayonnaise, vinegar, honey, mustard, salt, dill, and pepper in a large bowl until well combined. Add green cabbage, red cabbage, and scallions; toss to coat. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Make Ahead

Slaw can be stored in an air-tight container in refrigerator up to 4 days.

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