Calabash Coleslaw

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes

    6 to 8


Appears in

The Glory of Southern Cooking

The Glory of Southern Cooking

By James Villas

Published 2007

  • About

Deriving from the Old English word for cabbage (cole), “cole slaugh” was mentioned as early as 1839 in Lettice Bryan’s The Kentucky Housewife and is, without question, the most popular form of salad in the South. It would be inconceivable to eat any style of pork barbecue without coleslaw; it is traditionally served at fish fries and oyster roasts; and crab cakes or barbecued ribs without a mound of fresh slaw on the side would be like hot blackberry cobbler without a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Coleslaw can be made with green or red cabbage, shredded or grated, enhanced with carrots, onions, sweet pickle, seeds, a little mustard or sugar, and even pineapple, and bound with mayonnaise, vinegar, sour cream, or a combination of all three. (In the old days, slaw in the South was always made with a boiled vinegar dressing, but you rarely find this today.) At the many fried fish houses that constitute the hamlet of Calabash, North Carolina, coleslaw is almost a religion, and the best, in my opinion, is served in almost unlimited quantities at a venerable place called Ella’s. Like potato salad, coleslaw loses most of its character (and becomes soggy) after just a day, so I always make it fresh, and suggest you do the same. As for these more innovative creations today, which substitute various bell and chile peppers, exotic root vegetables, and strange leafy greens for the cabbage, they might taste good, but that ain’t coleslaw.


  • 1 medium head green cabbage (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 large carrot, scraped
  • 1 small onion, peeled
  • tablespoons cider vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon celery seeds
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise


Remove and discard the outer loose leaves of the cabbage, cut the head into quarters, cut out and discard the hard center core, and shred the quarters into a large glass bowl. Shred the carrots into the bowl, then the onion, and mix to blend.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and mix till well blended and smooth. Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture, toss till well blended, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and chill 2 hours before serving.