This creamy side dish is perfect with bbq, fried chicken, or pulled pork sandwiches. Best of all, it's made entirely from scratch for that delicious homemade flavor.
❤️ Why you'll love it
- Homemade coleslaw is crisp and creamy.
- Excellent flavor with a bit of sweetness and a little tang.
- The perfect side dish for almost anything—I'm not exaggerating!
Copycat KFC coleslaw is the secret ingredient that'll take your cookout or fish fry to the next level.
Follow the classic Southern recipe and prepare to have your taste buds wow-ed. Just don't be surprised if your family starts looking around to see where you discarded those red and white buckets—this coleslaw is a dead ringer for the Colonel's!
This is an overview of the ingredients. You'll find the full measurements and instructions in the green recipe card (printable) at the bottom of the page.
As is, this creamy coleslaw recipe tastes just like KFC's delicious side dish. Any changes you make will alter the flavor slightly, but if you're in a pinch, here are some swaps to consider:
- For easier prep, you can buy bags of pre-shredded carrots and mixes of chopped red and green cabbage.
- If you prefer red cabbage over green (or vice versa) feel free to use one or the other. Or, use a blend!
- Some people say that the original KFC Coleslaw used Miracle Whip. If you prefer that, just substitute the Miracle Whip for the mayo and leave out the buttermilk.
- Don't use any mayo alternative hacks like Greek yogurt, but if you prefer avocado/olive oil mayo or egg-free mayonnaise, those should work.
- Way back in the day, KFC Coleslaw had a little horseradish in it. Try adding about 1-½ teaspoons if you remember that version. (If you don't have horseradish, a bit of dry, dijon mustard can work, too.)
- Some classic coleslaw recipes include celery seeds. It's not how Colonel Sanders does it, but if you like the flavor, you can add a teaspoon of celery seed or so.
- White vinegar has less sweetness than cider vinegar, but you can swap it if you need to. Red wine vinegar is a better substitute.
- Use white onion, sweet onion, or even a red onion—whichever flavor you prefer. Otherwise, stick with the onion powder.
- You can make southern Caribbean coleslaw by adding a little bit of mango, pineapple, red pepper, raisins, jalapeno, and green onions to the mix!
This is an overview of the instructions. Full instructions are in the green recipe card at the bottom of the page.
- In a large bowl, whisk the mayo, sugar, and spices together.
- Add the buttermilk and vinegar.
- Mix the mayo dressing until smooth.
- Stir the shredded cabbage mixture into the tangy dressing.
Copycat KFC coleslaw is best served around the 4-8 hour mark after mixing it up. However, refrigerated and stored in an airtight container, you can usually squeeze another few days out of it.
Some people keep their coleslaw leftovers for 3-5 days, but if you prefer extra crunchy cabbage like me, you'll want to devour it by the next day. Anyway, it's not hard to use up coleslaw as tasty as this one!
Remember to keep the coleslaw chilled or on ice when you're serving it. Mayo-based coleslaw can spoil even after just a couple of hours in the Southern heat.
💭 Things to know
Expert Tip: Plan ahead! The 4-hour chilling time is essential to let the flavors of vinegar-based coleslaw all come together.
- When shopping, try to pick the package of shredded vegetables that looks the freshest! This is a simple coleslaw recipe, so you want really good flavors to shine through.
- You can use a large chef's knife to chop up the cabbage.
- However, I think the best way to shred the vegetables is in a food processor. Pulse the blades a few times until you're happy with the size.
- Use a box grater to quickly and finely dice the onion and shred the carrots.
- This is one recipe where you don't want to use a buttermilk substitute. Put the lemon juice and sour cream away, and just spring for some good ol' buttermilk.
- If you're worried about having leftover buttermilk, try one of these buttermilk recipes to finish it up!
- Old-fashioned coleslaw tastes best ice cold! Be sure to keep it chilled.
- At parties, I like to fill a large bowl with ice, then nestle the smaller serving bowl of coleslaw into it.
Beyond letting the flavors sink into the coleslaw mix, the extra time allows the sugar to dissolve. This contributes to the smooth texture of the creamy dressing. Waiting is hard, but it's worth it!
Yep, the main ingredients are all pretty close to what your grandma would've used back in the day: cabbage and a creamy dressing!
It's actually both! In my family's opinion, the best coleslaw dressing balances the tang from vinegar with the creaminess from mayo—and that's exactly what you get from this recipe.
A lot of creamy southern coleslaw recipes come close, but I can say that this one is Colonel-approved! Okay, maybe not that colonel, but a colonel nonetheless. It's just like the real deal!
Easy southern coleslaw goes with anything! We like it with pulled pork sandwiches, fried chicken, BBQ chicken, hot dogs, burgers—basically, all things barbeque or cookout related. See below for a more thorough list of serving ideas!
📚 Related recipes
- Cucumber Salad with Sour Cream is a super refreshing side dish on a hot summer day—the red onion and sugar give it a sweet, tangy finish.
- Use up the extra cabbage in this Southern Fried Cabbage recipe. With bacon and onions, this is one side that you'll crave as your main dish.
- Hot day forecast for your potluck? You need a cool, crunchy side that can withstand the heat. This Cucumber Salad doesn't have any dairy, so the only thing you need to worry about is getting sunburned.
- Broccoli Cauliflower Salad is creamy, crunchy, and lip-smackin' good—we love the subtle sweetness from dried cranberries, and the bacon? Can't forget the bacon!
🍽️ Serve with...
📞 The last word
True confessions: I have an addiction to pulled chicken sandwiches with a pile of coleslaw on top.
This is so easy and it just gets better and better overnight.
If you click on the number of servings in the recipe card you can adjust the measurements up or down for the exact number of servings you need. Don't forget that you can click on "add to collection" to save it to your own, private recipe box!
If you love this recipe please give it 5 stars! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Southern ColeslawPrint Pin Recipe Save Saved!
- ½ cup onion, chopped - optional
- 14 ounces coleslaw mix
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ½ cup cultured buttermilk, do not use milk + vinegar or lemon juice
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar, use less if you don't want it so tangy
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- ½ teaspoon onion powder, optional
Cabbage Mixture (if you're not using the coleslaw mix)
- 6-8 cups cabbage, shredded
- 1 ½ cups carrots, shredded
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- Stir cabbage and carrots together gently to combine. It's pretty to use some purple cabbage for some of the green cabbage.
- Whisk all the dressing ingredients together in a large bowl.
- Pour over the coleslaw mix.
- Stir well to be sure all the cabbage is coated with dressing.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
- Serve ice cold.
Nutrition information is estimated as a courtesy. If using for medical purposes, please verify information using your own nutritional calculator. Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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First published May 9, 2019. Last updated June 12, 2023 for better images and readability.