This Creamy Southern Coleslaw recipe is one of my favorite side dishes. The sweet, tangy dressing combined with the fresh, crunchy cabbage is so simple, yet so flavorful.

I’ve tested so many different coleslaw recipes and honestly couldn’t find one that we liked. We just don’t like the flavor of celery seed in coleslaw and almost every traditional coleslaw recipe includes it. We tried the “best coleslaw recipe” that came up in a Google search and we really didn’t like it.

This coleslaw recipe is a restaurant-style coleslaw and it is as close as I have been able to get to the coleslaw from our favorite fast food restaurant Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers. (Which we love!)

This beloved side dish uses a secret ingredient and I’m confident it will become a family favorite for you too.

A big blue bowl of tangy southern coleslaw with shredded carrots up close.

This easy southern coleslaw uses a bag of coleslaw mix and some shredded carrots, so it is really easy to make and comes together quickly. (In fact, I made it today while talking on the phone!)

There’s just something about the small carrot pieces mixed with the shredded cabbage that really makes this coleslaw extra delicious. It is a classic southern side dish that goes great with fried chicken, fried fish, or on top of fish tacos.

🥘 Slaw Ingredients

The ingredients in creamy southern coleslaw, laid out and labeled.

Coleslaw Base

  • Coleslaw Mix – A 16-ounce bag of coleslaw mix (I just use the store brand) or a head of cabbage that is finely shredded – about 8 cups worth. If you shred cabbage yourself, try to use a mandolin or food processor to get it shredded pretty thin – this slaw is really soft and light and delicious. If you use your own, I would recommend using a mix of red/purple cabbage and green cabbage.
  • Shredded or Grated Carrots – Either store-bought or shredded with a food processor/grated with a cheese grater. Grating the carrots will make smaller pieces that can better absorb the dressing and it will be softer and more delicious.

Dressing Ingredients

  • Buttermilk – This is the secret ingredient! Combined with the lemon juice and vinegar, it gives this sweet southern coleslaw recipe a little bit of tang.
  • Sugar
  • Mayonnaise
  • Lemon Juice
  • Distilled White Vinegar
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper

Full measurements are in the recipe card at the bottom of the post.

🍽 Equipment Needed

  • A Large Bowl
  • A Small Bowl
  • Measuring Cups/Spoons
  • A Whisk

🥣 How to Make It

This coleslaw is so easy to make. It takes less than 5 minutes to mix everything together; then, you just have to wait patiently for the flavors to develop in the fridge.

The ingredients in southern coleslaw dressing in a yellow bowl.

In a small bowl, make the sweet coleslaw dressing. Combine sugar, buttermilk, vinegar, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and mayonnaise.

A yellow bowl of mixed coleslaw dressing.

Whisk to combine. (Give the buttermilk a shake before measuring it.)

A bowl of shredded carrots and cabbage.

In a large mixing bowl, combine a bag of coleslaw mix and the shredded carrots. Cut up any big pieces that seem to have missed the shredder.

A bowl of shredded cabbage drizzled in coleslaw dressing.

Drizzle the dressing over the shredded cabbage and toss to combine.

A bowl of shredded cabbage and carrots coated in coleslaw dressing.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. The longer the better. If you taste it right away, it will likely taste like lemon juice.

Mix well before serving as there will be some excess liquid that collects on the bottom of the bowl. This coleslaw is a little on the “wet” side, but that’s a big part of why it is so good!

Season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper “to taste” right before serving. (This is one of my biggest pet peeves in recipes, especially Instant Pot recipes. How do you salt to taste when something is going to pressure cook for 45 minutes!?)

In this case, though, it applies. Taste the coleslaw right before you serve it and see what you think. It might be perfect as it is, or it might need a little sprinkle of salt! (It also depends on what you are serving it with – if you are topping some salty pork, you might not want to add salt, but if you are eating some sweet sticky ribs, some salt might be nice.)

This tang of this coleslaw pairs so well with barbecue sauce, so it is a perfect side dish to bring to a summer picnic or southern bbq.

A big blue bowl of sweet southern coleslaw with shredded carrots and a pair of tongs.

How to Store Coleslaw

Coleslaw should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. It will probably last a little longer, but it will start to get really soggy and won’t be very good after a while. There will be excess liquid in the bottom of the container – be sure to give it a good stir before serving.

A big blue bowl of the best creamy southern coleslaw with shredded carrots.
Button linking to the Pinterest page for Southern Bytes.

🙋‍♀️ Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use apple cider vinegar instead of distilled white vinegar in coleslaw?

You can, but it will alter the flavor. If you like the taste of apple cider vinegar in your coleslaw, I would try a different recipe where it is the prominent ingredient.

Is this a copycat coleslaw?

Not officially, but it is a restaurant-style coleslaw, so you could say that it is a Copycat Raising Cane’s Coleslaw or a Copycat KFC Coleslaw.

Can you leave out the sugar in the coleslaw?

There are many coleslaw recipes that do not use sugar – this is not one of them. I tested this recipe several times to make sure that the acidity, sweetness, and saltiness were all balanced so I would not leave out the sugar. While this recipe does have a good amount of sugar in it, this is more of a tangy coleslaw than a sweet coleslaw.

Can I add sesame seeds to my coleslaw?

When researching coleslaw recipes, this question came up a lot, so I included it. If sesame seeds in coleslaw is something that your family likes, feel free to add them!

Can I use regular milk instead of buttermilk?

You can use regular milk if that is all you have, but it will make the dressing runnier, and you will need to add more vinegar to the recipe to balance out the tang in the dressing. I would cut the milk in half and add an extra tablespoon of mayonnaise with another splash of vinegar.

Make Yourself a Caniac

Two homemade raising canes chicken tenders, canes sauce, and canes coleslaw on a white plate.

Seriously, doesn’t this look just like the coleslaw from Raising Cane’s? Combined with my Buttermilk Fried Chicken Tenders and Raising Cane’s Sauce Recipe, you can have a Cane’s feast at home. (Raising Cane’s if you are reading this, Chattanooga, Tennessee would love a franchise!)

Raising Cane's Coleslaw (shredded carrots & cabbage covered in mayonnaise) up close.

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✏️ Helpful Tips

  • Be sure to let the coleslaw sit for at least three hours. If you are planning on serving it for lunch, I would even consider making it the night before. (If it doesn’t sit for long enough, it will taste like lemon.)
  • Finish the coleslaw with a little more salt and pepper right before serving based on your preferences and how the taste has developed after it sits in the fridge. Some people will like it as is and some might like it with more salt. (It will also depend on what you are serving it with!)
  • Use a slotted spoon or tongs to serve the coleslaw. Since the dressing on this coleslaw is on the runnier side, it’s easier to strain it before scooping it onto a plate.

Wondering What to Serve Creamy Coleslaw With?

As I’m sure you know, vinegar-based coleslaws and creamy coleslaws have different places where they shine.

Pass me a plate of this sweet southern slaw with some fried catfish and a big scoop of potato salad. This delicious recipe also goes great with:

A big blue bowl of tangy southern coleslaw with shredded carrots and a pair of tongs.

Have You Tried This Recipe?
Please rate it and leave a comment below. I would love to hear what you think!

Creamy southern coleslaw (shredded carrots & cabbage covered in mayonnaise) up close.

Classic Southern Coleslaw

5 from 12 votes
This Creamy Southern Coleslaw recipe is one of my favorite side dishes. The sweet, tangy dressing combined with the fresh, crunchy cabbage is so simple, yet so flavorful.
Author: Kari
Servings: 6
Prep: 5 mins
Total: 5 mins

Equipment

  • a small bowl
  • a large bowl
  • a whisk

Ingredients  

  • 1 bag coleslaw mix 16 ounces, or 8 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded or grated carrots

Coleslaw Dressing

  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste before serving
  • teaspoon black pepper plus more to taste before serving

Instructions 

  • In a small bowl, make the sweet coleslaw dressing. Combine sugar, buttermilk, vinegar, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and mayonnaise.
    ½ cup mayonnaise, ¼ cup buttermilk, ⅓ cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  • Whisk to combine. (Give the buttermilk a shake before measuring it.)
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine a bag of coleslaw mix and the shredded carrots. Cut up any big pieces that seem to have missed the shredder.
    1 bag coleslaw mix, 1 cup shredded or grated carrots
  • Drizzle the dressing over the shredded cabbage and toss to combine.
  • Cover and refrigerate. For best results, refrigerate for at least 3 hours. The longer the better. If you taste it right away, it will likely taste like lemon juice. Mix well before serving as there will be some excess liquid that collects on the bottom of the bowl.
  • Season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste right before serving. (*See notes.)

Notes

This recipe makes about 6 cups after it sits – the cabbage soaks up the dressing and gets softer so it kind of compresses. If you need to feed a group that is over 4 people, I would double the recipe.
*I say season to taste here because you may want to add more or less salt depending on what you are eating this coleslaw with or if you are like my family and have to watch your salt intake!

Recipe Tips

  • Be sure to let the coleslaw sit for at least three hours. If you are planning on serving it for lunch, I would even consider making it the night before. (If it doesn’t sit for long enough, it will taste like lemon.)
  • Finish the coleslaw with a little more salt and pepper right before serving based on your preferences and how the taste has developed after it sits in the fridge. Some people will like it as is and some might like it with more salt. (It will also depend on what you are serving it with!)
  • Use a slotted spoon or tongs to serve the coleslaw. Since the dressing on this coleslaw is on the runnier side, it’s easier to strain it before scooping it onto a plate.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 205kcalCarbohydrates: 18gProtein: 2gFat: 14gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 8gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 9mgSodium: 351mgPotassium: 219mgFiber: 2gSugar: 15gVitamin A: 3667IUVitamin C: 31mgCalcium: 51mgIron: 1mg

Nutrition information is approximate and is automatically calculated, so should only be used as a guide.

Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Southern
Keyword: easy coleslaw, southern coleslaw, the best coleslaw
Did you make this recipe?Mention @southernbytes or tag #southernbytes!

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Hi, I’m Kari!

I am a newlywed, food blogger, health coach, and mama to a hot mess of a border collie. I love to put a new spin on old family recipes and I try to make as many meals as possible with an Instant Pot.

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  1. 5 stars
    This is great! I’ve tried numerous coleslaw recipes, looking for one that we like. We really like Raising Cane’s slaw and this tastes the same. Thanks!!!