This is not your average coleslaw! It is brightened up with some lemon juice and tons of fresh herbs (like dill, parsley, thyme, and chives). It’s not overly sweet like so many recipes are. It’s my absolute favorite for BBQs and potlucks! Originally published May 2, 2017.

a bowl of coleslaw with herbs.
Table of Contents
  1. This is truly the Best Coleslaw Recipe in the World
  2. Why you’ll love this Fresh Coleslaw Recipe
  3. What goes in Coleslaw?
  4. How to make the Best Coleslaw
  5. Best Coleslaw Recipe tips
  6. Fresh Coleslaw Variations
  7. What goes with Coleslaw?
  8. How to store Fresh Coleslaw
  9. Can you freeze Coleslaw?
  10. This Fresh Coleslaw Recipe will be the star of the summer potluck
  11. My Favorite Coleslaw (With Lemon and Fresh Herbs) Recipe

Last summer I went on a girls trip with my mom and sisters. It was super fun. One of the things on our to-do list was “go to bed early every night” (because we’re all tired moms) but it never happened. Sign of a good time!

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close up shot of coleslaw with fresh herbs.

We took a cooking class together at a fancy cookware store. It was TERRIBLE! It was great hanging out together of course, because we always have fun no matter where we are, but the class itself was a total bust. We were supposed to learn how to make fried chicken, coleslaw, and biscuits. We showed up and the chef teaching the class had made the coleslaw ahead of time. (I get that coleslaw needs to sit, but that’s when you pull a Martha Stewart: make it together as a class, and then pull out the one you made yesterday for us to eat.)

We made biscuits but the recipe didn’t make enough for all the attendees. This is judging by Karen’s Biscuit Standards, calculated to allot at least 3 biscuits per person. (Okay, maybe I’m being greedy, but I paid 70 bucks for this class. Seventy dollars for 1 biscuit? uh uh.)

thinly sliced ingredients for homemade coleslaw.

Then we fried chicken. A CHEF was teaching this class, and I was really excited to discover the secrets to not getting greasy, over-cooked on the outside, raw in the middle chicken that you have to bake after frying to get the center up to temperature. Well you guessed it, we had to bake the chicken after frying to get the center cooked.

We were feeling like we had totally wasted our money by the end of the class, so we asked if we could bring some of the (mountains) of fried chicken home with us to eat later. AND THEY SAID NO. “The store employees like to eat the leftovers from the cooking classes.” Oh really? DID THEY PAY 70 BUCKS FOR THOSE LEFTOVERS??

a fork dipping into a bowl of fresh homemade coleslaw.

This is truly the Best Coleslaw Recipe in the World

But guys. It was all worth it. I would pay $70 again for this coleslaw recipe. (okay maybe not. I’m pretty cheap. But it’s so good!!) Like I said, it was already made when we got to class, so I had plenty of time to just sit over the bowl and nab forkful after forkful.

It’s the lemon and the fresh herbs that makes the difference. I’m not really that into coleslaw. In fact, I just decided to give it another shot a few years ago after an entire childhood of hating it. I like it, but I won’t eat bowlfuls of it. But I will with this lemony goodness.

Why you’ll love this Fresh Coleslaw Recipe

Normal coleslaw bums me out. I never understood why people even like it! Then I tried this coleslaw and now I’m a huge fan. Here’s why:

  • The RIGHT amount of sweetness. Who wants to eat cabbage in straight up sweet mayo?? Not me. This coleslaw has just a little sweetness.
  • The perfect tang. I love lemon, this is not a secret. And lemon is perfect for brightening up this slaw.
  • The freshness of herbs. If you’re not a huge convert to fresh herbs this coleslaw is gonna do it for you. If you have to skip one of them, DON’T skip the dill. It’s essential.
  • The ideal flavor combo. Whole grain mustard. Caraway seeds. Celery seed. We are talking FlavorTown, population you. Normal coleslaw is never going to cut it again.
a wooden bowl of coleslaw with a fork.

What goes in Coleslaw?

Coleslaw can be made in soooo many different ways. Usually, coleslaw doesn’t include a lot more than cabbage, carrots, mayo, sugar, and salt. I love all the fresh herbs, tangy citrus, and seasonings in my coleslaw – here’s a complete list of everything you’ll need to make it! Scroll down to the recipe card below for more information. 

  • Cabbage (red or green)
  • Carrots
  • Shallot
  • Flat-leaf parsley
  • Fresh dill
  • Chives
  • Fresh thyme
  • Buttermilk
  • Mayonnaise
  • Sour cream
  • Lemon
  • White sugar
  • Whole grain mustard
  • Caraway seeds
  • Celery seeds
  • Kosher salt
  • Cracked pepper

How to make the Best Coleslaw

Here’s a quick overview of how to make this coleslaw. Scroll down to the recipe card below for complete instructions!

  1. In a large bowl, toss together cabbage, carrots, shallot, parsley, dill, chives, and thyme. 
  2. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, add the buttermilk, mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon zest and lemon juice, sugar, whole grain mustard, caraway, celery seeds, salt, and pepper. Whisk to combine.
  3. Pour the dressing over the tossed salad. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes, or up to 3 days.
a wooden cutting board with a knife slicing a green cabbage in half.
a purple cabbage being sliced on a wooden cutting board.

Best Coleslaw Recipe tips

I definitely recommend zesting your lemon with a microplane grater. Sure, you can use the small holes on a box grater, but once you microplane you never go back. 

Make sure that you chop your herbs nice and small; they add incredible flavor but you don’t want to have a piece of dill sticking out of your mouth like a cow chewing its cud. 

Let your coleslaw flavors marry in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes, but ideally several hours. They need time, be patient!

fresh herbs on a wooden cutting board.

Parsley, green onions (or chives), dill, and thyme. I bought a live thyme plant because it was the same price as the cut herbs! Have you seen living herbs in stores lately? I love it. I’ll plant it in my garden soon. Sweet.

measuring fresh chopped dill into a measuring cup.

See all that dill? That’s how much a quarter cup minced is. Fresh dill is just the best! Throw in some extra!

zesting a lemon with a microplane grater into a measuring cup with coleslaw dressing.
mixing and pouring dressing for homemade coleslaw.

The lemon makes this coleslaw so bright and fresh. Do you have a microplane grater? They makes zesting lemons SO easy. (And your palm. Don’t do that. They’re super sharp.) It’s my favorite kitchen gadget and they’re only 12 bucks.

Fresh Coleslaw Variations

I love this coleslaw exactly the way it is, but if you want to add your own spin here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

  • Switch your citrus up. Try lime or orange juice in place of the lemon.
  • Experiment with cabbage. I like using half red and half green, but of course you can use all red, all green, or even consider another type of cabbage, like Napa or Savoy.
  • Try a different mustard. Whole grain mustard has little pops of mustard seed in it, which is delightful, but you could use dijon, hot mustard, even honey mustard.
  • Play with herbs. Parsley, dill, thyme, and chives are my favorite combo here. If you’ve got fresh cilantro, rosemary, or tarragon, give those a try!
a bowl of fresh homemade coleslaw.

What goes with Coleslaw?

Coleslaw makes an amazing side dish for so many mains – BBQ, chicken, you name it. Here are some of my favorite entrees to pair coleslaw with:

Nana’s Fall-Off-The-Bone Ribs << these are a family tradition for a reason!

Simply Amazing Grilled Chicken << once you try this, it’s going to be a summer staple. 

Slow Grilled Mustard Chicken << I love the flavor in this recipe, perfect with coleslaw!

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork << make this into sandwiches or just plate it up with sides.

Cuban Roasted Mojo Pork << I’ve never tried serving this with coleslaw but I bet it would rock!

Honey Balsamic Pork Ribs << another fave rib recipe of mine, so sweet and tangy!

How to store Fresh Coleslaw

Coleslaw does great hanging out in the fridge. You absolutely need to let the flavors mingle for at least 30 minutes, but it’s even better after a few hours. After 3 days it starts to separate a little more, liquid from solids, and the texture isn’t as fresh. Keep it in an airtight container.

Can you freeze Coleslaw?

Noooo! Why??? Cooked cabbage, like in a soup, does just great in the freezer, but you can’t freeze fresh cabbage and expect the texture to remain the same. This recipe is all about freshness. It comes together quickly, so if you want more, just make a fresh batch.

This Fresh Coleslaw Recipe will be the star of the summer potluck

This coleslaw would make a great side to bring to BBQs, block parties, and potlucks this summer! Eric and I were snacking on it today and dreaming about putting it on burgers. Or pulled pork sandwiches. Or pairing it with grilled chicken. So many options!

If you make any of my recipes, share it on Instagram using the hashtag #TheFoodCharlatan so I can see it! I love that.

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My Favorite Coleslaw (With Lemon and Fresh Herbs)

5 from 22 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Chill Time: 30 minutes
Total: 40 minutes
Servings: 6
This is not your average coleslaw! It is brightened up with some lemon juice and tons of fresh herbs (like dill, parsley, thyme, and chives). It's not overly sweet like so many recipes are. It's my absolute favorite for BBQs and potlucks!
 

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cabbage, about 6 cups, red or green*, shredded
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 1 small shallot, minced (2 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chives, finely chopped**
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 large lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • cracked pepper, to taste

Instructions

  • In a large bowl, toss together cabbage, carrots, shallot, parsley, dill, chives, and thyme. See photos for how to shred cabbage, and how much dill to use.
  • In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, add the buttermilk, mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon zest and lemon juice, sugar, whole grain mustard, caraway, celery seeds, 1/2 teaspoon salt and black pepper to taste. (Use a microplane grater to zest your lemon.So much easier.)
  • Whisk to combine.
  • Pour the dressing over the tossed salad. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes, or up to 3 days. The cabbage will release moisture and create even more dressing the longer it sits. YUM!

Notes

*I used half a red cabbage and half green.
**I couldn’t find chives; green onions made a great substitute.
Source: this recipe is adapted from a cooking class I took at at Sur La Table.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 132kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 10mg | Sodium: 330mg | Potassium: 280mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 4003IU | Vitamin C: 39mg | Calcium: 76mg | Iron: 1mg
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Calories: 132
Keyword: coleslaw, fresh herbs, lemon
Did you make this? I’d love to see it!Mention @thefoodcharlatan or tag #thefoodcharlatan!

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Comments

  1. I ABHOR sour cream. I hate Greek yogurt, too. Whenever I make a dip or sauce with these ingredients, I can’t eat it. I KNOW too much about it. Can I leave it out?? Please say yes. I love coleslaw. But sour cream is of the devil.

    1. Hey Hannah! So sour cream is a no, but mayo is a yes? I would just increase the mayo and buttermilk called for! Tell me how it goes!

  2. 5 stars
    Recipe is everything the description said! It’s several levels above ordinary coleslaw. The acidity is perfect. The fresh herbs and spices are very flavorful. Glad I tried it and will be making it frequently, especially for pot lucks.

    1. So glad you love it Cindy! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and leave a review. It means a lot!

  3. Do you always use fresh herbs when making this or have you tried it making it with dried spices? I have all the dried places on hand, but I don’t want to ruin the recipe on my first go at it if you think it’ll make a big difference. I just hate the waste of buying so many fresh herbs only for them to spoil/wilt before I can use them again.

    1. Hi Melissa! I hear what you’re saying, I hate wasting fresh herbs too. I recommend substituting green onions for the chives (add the rest to baked potatoes or as a garnish for almost anything!) and it would be fine to use a teaspoon of dried thyme instead of a tablespoon of fresh thyme. I do recommend buying the fresh parsley and dill and then planning to use them in other dishes (like this Easy Chimichurri Sauce for the parsley and these Roasted Carrots with Dill). Enjoy!

  4. 5 stars
    Delicious!  I didn’t have the dry mustard and not enough cumin but it came out perfectly!  Thank you for this delicious recipe!  I going to try more of your recipes!😊

  5. Fresh. Bright. So good!! Coleslaw is a warm weather staple at a bbq or block party for my family so when my Mom asked me to bring coleslaw to go along with my Dads bbq ribs I knew I wanted something bright and fresh. This was perfect!! It was light, tangy, crunchy and the brightness from the lemon and herbs gave it such a POP! 

  6. I’ve been making coleslaw with lemon juice and zest for years. I stopped using any sour cream or mayonaise in mine after I saw multiple people get sick from someones recipe using those ingredients. I use only oil, lemon and fresh herbs. It is so much brighter and more flavorful. I have also experimented with not only cabbage, but fennel, red onion, carrots, scallions and anything else I can get my hands on ! Win, win.

  7. I read your adventure of the chef not telling you how to fry perfect chicken. Well, here goes. Roll in flour, salt and pepper. Put in a heavy (cast iron) skillet that has a mixture of vegetable oil/shortening and bacon grease. Cover with tight fitting lid. Medium heat. Cook 20 – 25 minutes. Remove the lid from the skillet and continue to cook until the chicken is brown. The chicken will brown and crisp up and be perfect. The secret is to cook the meat , partially steaming it in the covered skillet. The grease should just barely cover the chicken. Lift the lid briefly to see if the chicken pieces need to be turned. If so, do it quick and put the lid back on the skillet.

    1. These are awesome tips Carol!! I will have to give it a try. Fried chicken is totally intimidating to me!! Thanks for commenting!!

  8. Yummy. Coleslaw is always a hit at our house, I will be trying your version very soon! Thank you, Karen!

  9. Made this for dinner tonight with burgers and dogs. So good! I love that’s it’s not super sweet and the dill makes it so good.

    1. Dill is the BEST right?? Makes this coleslaw pretty magical. Thanks for the review Kris!

  10. Haha it’s so ironic that you posted a coleslaw recipe cause I’m working on a post for that! Mine is more of a Mexican-inspired slaw, though. I love that you used buttermilk in you coleslaw. I use a mix of plain yogurt and light mayo. Love the pics!

    1. Ooh can’t wait to see your Mexican version Lily! That sounds totally delicious! With tons of cilantro right??

  11. This coleslaw recipe looks awesome! I can’t wait to try it the next time we get together with our friends for a bbq!!! ….and yeah, I think I’m finally going to spring the 12 bucks for a microplane!

    1. Do it Genny!! You will never regret your microplane purchase!! I hope you love the coleslaw as much as we do! It’s a winner :)

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