South Carolina Slaw

A good Carolina slaw has a sweet and tangy vinegar dressing, not a mayo-based one. This slaw uses apple cider vinegar and two kinds of mustard for extra tang.

a plate of south carolina slaw on a blue linen
Photo: Will Dickey
Active Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
15 mins
6 cups

What is Carolina coleslaw? It's a delicious alternative to mayonnaise-dressed slaws. Sweet, tangy and ultra-refreshing on a warm day, this is one of our favorite summer side dish recipes to share at picnics, potlucks, and cookouts.

This South Carolina Slaw features the best flavors from the eastern side of the state. South Carolina is home to four barbecue sauce regions: ketchup and tomato on the west; and vinegar, pepper, and mustard on the east.

When prepared as a sandwich, Carolina-style barbecue is usually served with slaw as a garnish atop the meat. It also makes for a tasty accompaniment to any entree.

Don't just save this Carolina Coleslaw for summer, though. It's always a hit when we share it on our at-home tailgate menus, too.

Ingredients for South Carolina Coleslaw

ingredients for South Carolina Slaw in bowls on a marble counter
Will Dickey

Fresh vegetables meet a hot dressing in this unique and crowd-pleasing Carolina coleslaw recipe. Here's what you'll need to toss it together at home.

Thinly-Sliced Cabbage
Green cabbage is a classic, and is budget-friendly to boot. A sharp knife can help you make quick work out of the slicing. Or for a speedier prep, use a food processor with the shredding blade.

Grated Carrot
You could also use a spiralizer or vegetable peeler to create vegetable ribbons, if you'd rather have longer, thinner carrot pieces. We prefer the texture of freshly-grated carrots (using a box grater), but feel free to use store-bought pre-grated carrots to save time.

Apple Cider Vinegar
This is the key ingredient that makes this coleslaw recipe a Carolina coleslaw. If you don't have or can't find this type of vinegar, swap in white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar.

A small scoop of this baking staple lends just enough sweetness to balance out the tang from the vinegar and mustard in this coleslaw dressing recipe.

Vegetable Oil
Any other neutral oil (canola, safflower, peanut, grapeseed) can also be used in this homemade salad dressing recipe.

Dijon Mustard
Stone-ground or spicy brown mustard would also be dreamy in this Carolina coleslaw, if you prefer one of those varieties instead.

Dry Mustard, Celery Seeds, Kosher Salt and Black Pepper
These spice cabinet stars team up to ensure the slaw dressing is seasoned to perfection.

How to Make South Carolina Slaw

It takes a mere 15 minutes to prepare this easy coleslaw recipe. Unlike most of its slaw competition, there's no need to chill and allow this to "marinate" in the fridge. Since the dressing is warm, tossing it with the fresh veggies will wake 'em up just enough, and serving it right away will ensure the cabbage and carrots don't wilt too much.

Step 1: In a large bowl, toss together cabbage and carrots.

Step 2: In a saucepan over medium-high heat, add the apple cider vinegar, sugar, vegetable oil, Dijon mustard, dry mustard, celery seeds, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper until sugar dissolves. Bring this dressing blend to a boil.

dressing for south carolina slaw in a saucepan
Will Dickey

Step 3: Pour this slaw dressing over the cabbage mixture (yes, while it's still hot!), then use tongs to toss to coat it well. Serve the Carolina Coleslaw recipe immediately.

cabbage and carrot with slaw dressing being added
Will Dickey

How to Serve South Carolina Slaw

A wide variety of main dishes can be made better by being paired with this tangy, crunchy side. A few of our favorite Carolina slaw counterparts:

* BBQ Brisket
* Cast-Iron Cowboy Steak
* Easy BBQ Ribs
* Top-Shelf Chicken Under a Brick
* Barbecue Mac and Cheese
* Slow Cooker Barbecue Pork
* BBQ Chicken Burger

How Long Does Coleslaw Last?

We recommend serving all of this Carolina slaw immediately. If you need to make it in advance, allow the dressing mixture to cool before tossing it with the shredded carrots and sliced cabbage. Combined with a cool dressing and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, this Carolina slaw should last three to five days.

We do not recommend freezing this or any salad or slaw recipe.


Where does the name "coleslaw" come from?

This recipe name originates from the Dutch word "koosla," which translates to English as "cabbage salad." Based on cookbooks and recipe records, Americans have been whipping up some sort of coleslaw stateside since about 1770.

Is there a difference between "coleslaw" and "slaw?"

Great question! Since the "cole" in slaw refers to cabbage, that gives you a major clue. Coleslaws all feature some cabbage family member, be it Napa cabbage, red cabbage, savoy cabbage, or bok choy. Slaws, sans-"cole," can be made with any other crunchy vegetable, such as snow peas or shredded broccoli stems, Brussels sprouts, beets, jicama, or carrots.

Editorial contributions by Karla Walsh.


  • ½ head thinly sliced cabbage (about 1 lb.)

  • 1 cup grated carrot

  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar

  • ¼ cup sugar

  • ¼ cup vegetable oil

  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard

  • 2 tsp dry mustard

  • 1 tsp celery seeds

  • 1 tsp kosher salt

  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper


  1. Place cabbage and carrot in a bowl. Whisk together vinegar, sugar, vegetable oil, Dijon mustard, dry mustard, celery seeds, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper in a saucepan until sugar dissolves; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Pour over cabbage mixture; toss to coat. Serve immediately.


This recipe originally appeared in our June 2013 issue.

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