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This classic Southern slaw recipe will be delicious with brisket and a side of baked beans.

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Credit: Photo: Will Dickey

Recipe Summary

active:
10 mins
total:
2 hrs 10 mins
Servings:
8
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Summer cookouts and barbecues aren't quite complete without a slightly sweet and tangy coleslaw served alongside ribs or on top of hotdogs or tacos. This classic coleslaw recipe is boosted with the addition of buttermilk, a slightly sour and fermented cow's milk that is easy to find in the chilled section of the grocery store. Whip up this super simple recipe in 10 minutes. 

What Is Coleslaw?

From the Dutch word "koolsla," roughly translating to cabbage salad, the word has been in the American vernacular since the late 1700s with the immigration of the Dutch to New York. Today, backyard barbecues and summer cookouts aren't quite complete without a bowl of this creamy and crunchy side dish. 

What Is Coleslaw Mix?

A mixture of finely shredded green cabbage, red cabbage, and carrots, coleslaw mix is a quick and convenient way to bring together this side dish. It's beneficial for those who don't have a food processor with a slicing attachment or other fancy kitchen equipment like a mandoline, as the bagged version provides uniformly grated cabbage without the fuss and elbow grease. 

Alternatively, slice half a cabbage and use a box grater or your food processor to make quick work of fresh ingredients. You could add green onions, radish, and some red or yellow peppers.

ingredients for coleslaw on a white marble surface
Credit: Will Dickey

What Are the Ingredients in Buttermilk Coleslaw?

Made with mostly pantry items, this buttermilk coleslaw is a snap to prepare with coleslaw mix, buttermilk, mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, and salt and pepper. The recipe calls for whole buttermilk, which provides a slightly sour and tangy flavor. Buttermilk can be found in the chilled section of the grocery store, beside the other milk products.

How to Make Buttermilk Coleslaw

With just 10 minutes of work (and 2 hours of chilling), this coleslaw recipe will be ready to serve at dinner or a backyard barbecue. You can make it even further ahead, but keep in mind the cabbage will lose some of its bite the longer it sits in the dressing. If you need to make it a day before you plan to serve it, consider making the dressing ahead, then just tossing everything together a few hours before it's time to serve.

Step 1. Make the dressing

In a bowl, combine the coleslaw dressing ingredients: buttermilk, mayo, sugar, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Whisk well until it's combined.

making a coleslaw dressing in a bowl
Credit: Will Dickey

Step 2. Toss the cabbage

To the bowl with the coleslaw dressing, add the two packages of prepared coleslaw mix. Alternatively, you can add the cabbage and vegetables you shredded yourself if you went that direction.

Fold the cabbage several times, distributing the dressing throughout the coleslaw.

stirring coleslaw into dressing
Credit: Will Dickey

Step 3. Chill

Finally, wrap the bowl with plastic wrap or a bowl topper, and place it in the fridge. Chill the buttermilk coleslaw for 2 hours minimum. If you don't have 2 hours until it's time to eat, that's OK. The coleslaw will still be delicious, but the cabbage might not be quite as tender as it would be had it been able to chill longer.

Give the coleslaw a few quick stirs and folds before serving to your hungry guests.

coleslaw in a bowl after chilling for 2 hours
Credit: Will Dickey

How Do You Store Buttermilk Coleslaw?

Buttermilk coleslaw will last in the fridge for 3 to 5 days in an airtight container, though it is best on the first day. Coleslaw will get watery after a few days as the cabbage releases water. Buttermilk coleslaw should not be frozen. 

How Do You Keep Coleslaw From Getting Soggy?

Achieving crisp cabbage with a creamy dressing is a delicate balance when making coleslaw, so soupy coleslaw is a no-go. Cabbage loses water whenever salted; this recipe, like most, calls for salt in the sauce.

Try salting your coleslaw mix before adding the dressing to prevent the coleslaw from getting soggy. Place the coleslaw mix in a colander over a bowl and sprinkle a tablespoon of salt over the top. Leave the coleslaw mix for an hour and rinse well. You should find that the bowl contains excess liquid, and once you make your buttermilk coleslaw, it stays crisp for longer. 

What Do You Eat With Coleslaw?

Enjoy this buttermilk coleslaw alongside fried chicken or baby back ribs, or top your favorite hotdog or barbecue sandwich to add some creamy sweetness. Buttermilk coleslaw is a great side dish for picnics, lunches or barbecues, and the creamy and slightly sour slaw contrasts nicely with grilled meats or fish. 

Editorial Contributions by Alexandra Emanuelli.

Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Whisk together buttermilk, mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper in a large bowl until well combined and sugar is dissolved.

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  • Fold coleslaw mix into buttermilk mixture until evenly coated. Cover and chill until cabbage is slightly wilted and flavors meld, about 2 hours.

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