Coleslaw Dressing

Use it on fresh shredded cabbage, or give store-bought coleslaw mix a fresh pop by making your own homemade dressing.

Coleslaw Dressing
Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox
Prep Time:
5 mins
Total Time:
5 mins
1 1/3 cups

When it comes to summertime cookouts, family dinners, and holiday feasts, side dishes are just as important as the main course. Coleslaw , with its creamy, sweet, yet tangy dressing, adds the perfect cooling crunch when served alongside burgers , ribs , baked beans , and grilled chicken and fish. Making your own dressing is easier than you think, and tastes so much better than what you can buy at the store.

With just a few simple ingredients, that you probably already have on hand, and a few minutes of your time, you can turn regular cabbage into a side dish to amaze family and friends.

The best part about this homemade coleslaw dressing, besides the fantastic flavor, is that it is endlessly versatile.

Change the Base

Because mayonnaise is the main star of this dressing, reach for the best quality you can find.

Or you can swap out the mayonnaise for plain Greek yogurt (low-fat or regular fat). This gives the dressing a lighter flavor with a touch more tang. Just make sure you use plain yogurt, not flavored.

For a richer dressing, replace half or all of the mayonnaise with sour cream.

Adjust the Sweetness

To make the dressing sweeter, add a touch more sugar. We like to use granulated white sugar because most cooks have it on hand. However, ultra-fine white sugar will dissolve into the mayonnaise easier.

Or, you can use honey or maple syrup. Even if you don't like things too sweet, make sure to add a little bit of sweetener to help balance the acid.

Adjust the Tang

Some like their coleslaw sweet, while some prefer a little more "bite." Add a splash or two more vinegar, for a sharper flavor.

Stick with neutral-flavored vinegar, like apple cider, white, white wine, or Champagne vinegar. Using balsamic or red wine vinegar will give your dressing an unusual color and taste. Lemon juice also works great in this recipe. You can use half vinegar and half lemon juice, or use all lemon juice.

Coleslaw Dressing
Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Mix Up the Flavors

Poppy seeds are a fun addition to this dressing, giving a little added flavor and a fun texture. You can swap it out for a more traditional take with ground or whole celery seeds.

Instead of Dijon mustard, use yellow or spicy mustard. You can also keep it super simple and not add any additional flavors except salt and pepper.

Mix Up the Slaw

For the best flavor and texture, shred your own cabbage to go with your homemade coleslaw dressing. Traditionally, shredded green and red cabbage (with a few shredded carrots) gives the final dish a nice pop of color. Or, use a cabbage you may not be as familiar with, such as savoy or Napa.

For the best texture, remove any damaged outer leaves, quarter the cabbage, then remove the core. Slice the quartered cabbage into fine shreds, or run it through a food processor.

To add even more flavor and color, mix in some chopped fresh herbs, like parsley, chives, or green onions. And, of course, it's perfectly fine to grab a bag of pre-shredded cabbage from your grocery's refrigerated section to save on time and mess.

Use It on Everything!

Though it's technically coleslaw dressing, you don't have to use this sweet-tangy-creamy concoction on shredded cabbage alone. Use the dressing on your favorite salad greens, like kale or baby lettuce mix. Or, toss it into broccoli or pasta salad. This dressing makes a great dip for cut veggies or even as a sandwich spread (instead of plain mayonnaise). You can even grill up some chicken, chop it, and toss it in the dressing for an amazing chicken salad!

You can prepare the dressing up to two weeks ahead of time, and keep it stored in an airtight container in your refrigerator. It tastes best when chilled, so make sure to make it at least a few hours before you plan on serving it. Start with a little bit of dressing, give everything a good stir and a taste, then add more dressing to your preference.


  • 1 cup mayonnaise

  • 2 Tbsp. sugar

  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

  • 1 tsp. poppy seeds

  • ¼ tsp. table salt, or to taste

  • ¼ tsp. black pepper, or to taste


  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar, mustard, and poppy seeds. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Use the dressing the same day, or store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.


If you prefer a sweeter dressing, add more sugar; if you prefer a more acidic dressing, add a splash of vinegar.

Related Articles