Recipe For Coleslaw Done Right

Bobbie sezBobbie says:

Several years ago, I developed this recipe for Coleslaw Done Right as a copycat of Marzetti’s Slaw Dressing (which you might find in your store’s produce department.) It’s creamy, tangy, and not overly sweet. Best of all, this simple coleslaw recipe can be put together with ingredients that are easy to have on hand all the time.

As a child, I felt quite coleslaw deprived. Now, it’s not that my parents never made coleslaw. They just didn’t make good coleslaw. Dad would mix cabbage with mayo and a dash of red wine vinegar and call it done. Mom would throw in some celery seed and perhaps a touch of sugar with the mayonnaise. The occasions when I got my hands on (and spoon into) decent coleslaw was a rarer-than-a-planetary-alignment visit to Kentucky Fried Chicken (that’s KFC to you young’uns), or when I convinced mom or grandma to splurge on a jar of Marzetti’s Slaw Dressing. It did not happen often, but to me, that was the Holy Grail of coleslaw: what all coleslaw yearns to be. I still feel that way, to be honest, but the price is a bit steep. I couldn’t find a copycat version on the internet, so I tinkered until I came up with my own.

Learn more: Why Does My Cabbage Taste Bitter?

I have family members who insist I bring some along when visiting. Every. Single. Time. I think they’d still let me in the house if I didn’t, but I wouldn’t take bets on it. If you’re cooking seasonally, winter is a perfect time to serve coleslaw instead of tossed salad, since cabbage is plentiful and bound to be a bargain when compared to lettuce.

Copycat recipe of Marzetti’s Slaw Dressing, the Holy Grail of coleslaw: what all coleslaw yearns to be.

Recipe for Coleslaw Done Right

(Marzetti’s Slaw Dressing copycat)

  • 1 pound green cabbage (smallish head – may not need it all)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (full fat so it’s creamy)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
  • 1 small carrot (or use a little more cabbage instead if you like)

Trim any discolored parts from the cabbage, discarding outer leaves if desired. Wash the cabbage, then get your very sharp chef’s knife (say that five times fast, but first put down the knife.)

Coleslaw recipe - safely cutting head of cabbage
Now, cut the head in half through the core to the top of the head, then cut each half in two. Carefully cut the core from each quarter and discard. Lay one of the quarters on a cutting board, flat side down, and hold firmly in place. Using the chef’s knife, carefully slice down the other flat side, making long, thin shreds. Move these into a large mixing bowl as they get in your way. Continue until you’ve got one pound, or slightly more, of thinly sliced cabbage.

Coleslaw recipe - carefully slice cabbage into long, thin shreds

Watch the fingers!

Sprinkle the salt over the cabbage. Using your hands, mix and squeeze the salt into the cabbage until it starts to give off some juice and feel slightly softer. Gather it all into a small mound, cover the bowl if you wish, then set it aside for about 20 minutes.

Now, this part is tough – pay attention: Combine the mayonnaise, sugar, white wine vinegar and mustard together in a small bowl, and stir until the sugar dissolves. If you didn’t get that, no problem. I’ll just wait here while you read it again. *whistles*

Are we good? Good.

Rinse the cabbage. I do this by adding water to the bowl until the cabbage is completely submerged, swishing it around well, then dumping it all into a colander. Let it drain very well, pressing down to get as much water out as possible. Dry out the cabbage bowl, then return drained cabbage to it. If you want to add carrot for a touch of color, now’s the time. Finely shred the carrot and add to the cabbage. Add the dressing and mix it all up. This can be served right away, but it’s much better if chilled at least an hour.

That’s it. [Well, except for some notes below the picture.]
This recipe for coleslaw is creamy, tangy, and not overly sweet. It can be put together with ingredients that are easy to have on hand all the time.

A few recipe notes:

Could you use a food processor instead of a knife? Sure, if you’ve got one with a slicing disc, go ahead. Unless you broke off that Tiny But Significant Little Plastic Thingy on your food processor the morning of your daughter’s wedding day, while you were trying to shred cheese for the nacho bar and now it won’t work unless you hold it together just so, which makes using it a complete pain, so you’d rather do it by hand. (Who, me?)

If you prefer your coleslaw in smaller bits, instead of the longer shreds, then use the shredding disc of the food processor, or a box grater with large holes. Salting and rinsing may not be necessary if you do this. Perhaps add just a bit of salt to the dressing instead. Not the whole teaspoon – maybe just ¼ teaspoon.

You may need to adjust the amount of dressing to suit your tastes. I like it to be rather drowning in the dressing, so the flavor permeates every bite, but then I serve it with a slotted spoon so the dressing doesn’t drown everything on my plate. Your Mileage May Vary.

Coleslaw can be made ahead and kept in the fridge for a few days. In fact, it’s best to make it at least several hours before serving, because the flavors have time to get all cozy with each other.

Besides being Full of Wonderful in its own right, and in my humble opinion, perfectly acceptable as a snack food, coleslaw really does go well with so many main courses. We’ve enjoyed it with chicken, barbecued ANYTHING, roast beef, burgers, sloppy joes or seafood, and it’s extra awesome with pulled pork sandwiches.

That does it – hungry now!

Here are some more great cabbage recipes you can try:


  1. Elizabeth Hansen on May 27, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    Just what I was lookinig for!  A recipe that comes close to the Marzetti”s Slaw Dressing…our alltime favorite…but I’d like to make it when I don’t have time to stop at the store.  I like to rough cut the cabbage to preserve the crunch, no resting with salt on it, just use fresh, chop, add a bit of grated carrot, maybe a dash or two of celery seed, fold in the dressing, chill for 1 hour….BAZINGA!!!!  World’s best slaw!  Cruncy, flavorful, creamy, not vinegary, delightful!  Gonna try your recipe!  Thanks!

  2. Fantine on May 3, 2011 at 6:11 am

    Hey, sublte must be your middle name. Great post!

  3. Jeannine Q on February 15, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    Just made this for dinner and it was excellent!
    Thanks for the recipe

  4. Karen L on February 8, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    I’ve been eating a lot of coleslaw lately – but from a bag with a bottle of store-brand (actually, pretty tasty) coleslaw dressing. I’ve been doing the convenience version because I was dog-tired and sick during my first trimester with number three. Reasonably inexpensive and helps the veggie intake counter. Now I’m feeling better and wondering if I can make homemade “convenience” coleslaw. So I’m wondering about shelf-life.

    Could I make the parts ahead of time and use them over the course of the week?
    What are the best-befores on the shredded cabbage and on the dressing separately?
    What if I jar and refrigerate the dressing?
    Could I cook and jar the dressing, kinda like soup or jam for extra shelf-life on the salad? (with mayo, I’m thinking no, but just askin’)
    Any other tips?

    • carolyn on March 20, 2016 at 3:45 pm

      Mine kept in the fridge for over a month. Just used the last of the last batch and it was 5 weeks, still good, it will keep as long as mayo does as long as it is refrigerated. And the slaw keeps longer too, when I used the bottled dressing the slaw would only keep for a few days, this keeps longer. No throw aways. great recipe.

  5. Bobbie Laughman on February 6, 2011 at 9:41 am

    Wow, really? I'll have to try that one sometime, too. **starts making a list**

  6. Bobbie Laughman on February 6, 2011 at 9:38 am

    Hmmm…..sounds like a possibility….

  7. Sophie on February 5, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    This recipe is such a perfect illustration of “different strokes for different folks” that I had to comment. I can’t stand coleslaw that’s been salted and allowed to sit – so limp and soft! Bleah! I make our coleslaw right before I serve it so it stays crispy and crunchy, and if there is any leftover (rare) — out it goes!

    • Bobbie Laughman on February 6, 2011 at 9:54 am

      You're right about different strokes. I seriously can't stand this kind of salad it freshly mixed! Flavors must blend — I think that's another reason I didn't like what my parents made. It never got to sit long enough.

      I do, however, make a red cabbage salad with a vinegar and cumin dressing (no mayo!) that simply MUST be served immediately. I try to make only what we'll finish up as it becomes rather dreadful upon standing — not so much the cabbage part for me, but the other ingredients that are chopped up and tossed in as well. (It's a Summer Only recipe, as it calls for fresh tomatoes, and you cannot get decent (read: REAL) tomatoes out of season.

  8. Paula @ Home Decor on February 5, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    My mom always made great tasting coleslaw, but I never made it. I'm now going to take your recipe and make it. I just was never sure if I could make it as good as mom's. I think her's was similar to yours. My husband loves coleslaw, so I"m going to surprise him on Valentine's day with a bowl of coleslaw to eat with our dinner that night.

  9. Prova del Cuoco on February 5, 2011 at 9:58 am

    i love it!!!

  10. Debbie Weber on February 5, 2011 at 12:21 am

    I love this recipe! You are welcome in my home anytime you bring me some of your coleslaw 😉

    • Bobbie Laughman on February 6, 2011 at 9:46 am

      HI Sis — I know you're one of the biggest fans. Come visit me and I'll make bunches of it for you!

  11. Shelley on February 4, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Sounds wonderful! We never had cole slaw that I remember. I liked KFC as well, but maybe not as much as some of the other side dish options. Fast forward 40 years and here I am in Britain where cabbage is dirt cheap. I love cabbage rolls, I don't even mind steamed cabbage (but not too much and maybe not with beans…a tummy can only take so much). I need to do more cole slaw. Thing is, cabbage is a winter veg and cold cole slaw says 'summer' to me. What if you warm it up? The mayo probably wouldn't like that, would it? Hmmmm.
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    • Bobbie Laughman on February 6, 2011 at 9:45 am

      Well, I've made a few "hot" recipes that used mayonnaise, but they weren't salads, really. Warmed up coleslaw….I dunno.

      But, what's wrong with having a touch of summer in the midst of a dreary winter? Make coleslaw and some barbecue or fried chicken, spread a tablecloth on the living room floor and have an indoor picnic! (I know a family who has a New Year's Day floor picnic as their family tradition!)

  12. crackerjackheart on February 4, 2011 at 10:42 am

    I love coleslaw and make it pretty regularly. I live in Tennessee where we put it right on our BBQ sandwiches, which really is the only way to do it as far as I'm concerned.

    My coleslaw dressing recipe nearly matches this but I substitute the sugar for 3 tbl of honey and add a tbl or so of celery seed and some cracked pepper. YUM!

  13. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Heather Solos, candice marie. candice marie said: Ha! How about put "at least taste it before you serve it" RT @HeatherSolos: New on Home Ec 101: Coleslaw Done Right […]

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