This creamy coleslaw recipe is irresistibly bright, lemony and tangy. It’s easy to make with simple ingredients: cabbage, lemons, mayo, salt, and celery seeds. Vegan-adaptable and Gluten-free.

creamy coleslaw in a large bowl with wooden spoon and lemon halve.

This creamy coleslaw recipe was given to me by my Aunt Dee, and in my mind I always call it Aunt Dee’s Lemony Coleslaw. I hope you call it that too, because she taught me how to make it, and every time I do, I feel a little of her bright and spunky spirit in the kitchen.

It’s the perfect marriage of crunchy cabbage and creamy lemony goodness. It’s an old-fashioned coleslaw recipe, one she inherited and one to be passed on. Though you may be tempted, resist the urge to add carrots or red cabbage or to doctor it up in any other way because the synergy of flavors is truly magical. It literally glows in the bowl!

Why You’ll Love This Coleslaw!

  1. Irresistible flavor. Perfectly creamy, bright, zesty, and tangy!
  2. Made with simple ingredients. Just six ingredients-cabbage, lemon, mayo, salt, sugar and celery seeds.
  3. Vegan-adaptable. Simply use our Vegan Mayo or Vegenaise.

Coleslaw Recipe Ingredients

ingredients laid out for creamy coleslaw- mayonnaise, lemons, green cabbage, celery seed, sugar, and salt.
  • Green cabbage: Buy a medium green cabbage and slice it thinly.
  • Mayo: Use store-bought or homemade mayo, or for a vegan variation, use Vegan Mayo or Vegenaise.
  • Salt: Enhances the flavor, particularly bringing out the tanginess of the mayo and the citrusy lemon!
  • Lemon: You’ll need fresh lemon juice from 2-3 large lemons, along with lemon zest from just one. The lemony flavor makes this coleslaw so summery and refreshing.
  • Sugar: To balance the acidity of the lemon, reduce the bitterness of the cabbage, and add a touch of sweetness.
  • Celery seeds: To add aromatic, astringent flavor- plus they’re pretty!
  • Garnish: Top with chives or sliced green onion.

How to Make Coleslaw

Step 1: Shred cabbage. Start by cutting the cabbage into quarters through the stem end, and then remove the core along with any wilted leaves.

Slice the cabbage very thinly, then slice through the slices to chop it up a bit. Toss the cabbage mixture into a large bowl.

Step 2: Make the coleslaw dressing. In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayo, kosher salt, sugar, and lemon juice.

Step 3: Mix the coleslaw together. Pour the coleslaw dressing over top of the cabbage and toss to create a coleslaw mix. Add lemon zest and sprinkle in celery seeds, mixing well.

Step 4: Taste and adjust for salt and lemon juice. For richer flavor, add more mayo. It should taste bright, zesty and tangy!

lemon zest and celery seeds on top of bowl of shredded green cabbage.

Step 5: Refrigerate. Place the coleslaw in the fridge until ready to serve. Garnish with chives or scallions and black pepper. Serve it nice and cold!


What is the difference between coleslaw and slaw?

Coleslaw is primarily made with cabbage, but it can also be made with any crunchy ingredients, like shredded carrots, broccoli, or snow peas.

How long does creamy coleslaw keep in the refrigerator?

You can store coleslaw in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Can I freeze homemade coleslaw?

Only slaws with oil and vinegar based dressings can freeze. Mayonnaise will separate when frozen and will not thaw well.

Coleslaw Serving Suggestions

Creamy Coleslaw is the perfect side dish for summer potlucks and barbecues. Here are some recipes it pairs well with:

For more ideas check out our 50 Best Grilling Recipes for Summer!

Storage & Make Ahead

Leftover creamy coleslaw will keep up to 4 days in an airtight container in the fridge.

If making this ahead, make the dressing, and chop the cabbage up to 3 days ahead, and refrigerate separately until the day of serving.

bowl of creamy coleslaw with wood spoon holding up a spoonful.

I hope you enjoy Aunt Dee’s Lemony Coleslaw. It has brought me so much joy through the years and is truly the BEST coleslaw recipe!



More Coleslaw recipes to Enjoy!

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Creamy Coleslaw Recipe

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This creamy coleslaw recipe is irresistibly lemony and tangy. It’s made with simple ingredients: cabbage, lemons, mayo, salt, and celery seeds. Vegan-adaptable and Gluten free.


Units Scale
  • 1 medium green cabbage (22 1/2 pounds), sliced thinly (67 cups, packed)
  • 3/4 cup mayo– or use vegan mayo or homemade mayo, more to taste
  • 1 1/41 1/2 teaspoon salt, more to taste
  • zest from one lemon (set aside)
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice, more to taste (2-3 large lemons)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
  • Garnish- 1-2 tablespoons chives or sliced green onion


  1. Cut the cabbage into quarters, through the stem end and cut out the core. Remove any wilted leaves. Slice the cabbage as thinly as you can, then slice through the slices, chopping it up a bit.
  2. Place all the cabbage in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Whisk the mayo with the salt, sugar, and lemon juice.
  4. Pour the coleslaw dressing over the cabbage and toss well.
  5. Add the lemon zest and celery seeds and mix to combine.
  6. Taste, adding more salt and lemon juice to your liking. For richer flavor, add more mayo if you like. It should taste bright, zesty and tangy!
  7. Refrigerate until ready to serve- garnish with chives or scallions and serve this really cold!


This creamy coleslaw pairs incredibly well with salmon- in fact, when my aunt made it, it was always served with salmon!

Creamy Coleslaw will last up to 4 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Some coleslaw recipes suggest salting the cabbage to release and drain the liquid—yes, you can do this—but to stay true to my aunt’s recipe, I personally do not do this and love how it gets a bit watery. The juices are so flavorful, and I use it as a dressing for whatever else is on the plate.

If you insist on salting the cabbage, toss it with 1 tablespoon of salt until it softens and releases its liquid, about 45 mins.  Rinse well, drain well, and wring out the cabbage in a kitchen towel to dry it a bit before tossing it with the dressing- you may need less dressing at this point.


  • Serving Size:
  • Calories: 455
  • Sodium: 2329.6 mg
  • Fat: 1.2 g
  • Carbohydrates: 95.4 g
  • Protein: 12.9 g

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