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Classic Coleslaw with Buttermilk Dressing in a white bowl on a green and white checked napkin

Classic Coleslaw with Buttermilk Dressing

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This classic coleslaw with buttermilk dressing is close to my mom’s copycat Kentucky Fried Chicken recipe.  I could eat a whole batch in one sitting, but I paced myself and enjoyed it over pulled pork and more!

This coleslaw dressing is a simple mixture of buttermilk, mayonnaise, cider vinegar, sugar and a few seasonings. Whisked and added to shredded cabbage makes for the best coleslaw recipe

The Best Coleslaw Recipe with Buttermilk Dressing in a white bowl on a green and white checked napkin

Classic Coleslaw with Buttermilk Dressing

Growing up, we seldom were treated to a fast food dinner. What a tortured childhood. My mom did succumb every now to our pleas and would send my dad out for carry out Kentucky Fried Chicken. She adored the KFC coleslaw recipe.

She tried to recreate it numerous times. Back before we had the Internet, she relied on the food section of the Des Moines Register and her network of friends for new recipes. I think she came pretty close but I haven’t been able to locate that recipe in her vast collection of cards and clippings. This Classic Coleslaw with Buttermilk Dressing reminds me of that childhood buttermilk coleslaw, whether carry out or homemade!

Classic Coleslaw with Buttermilk Dressing in a white bowl from above

Creamy Coleslaw Recipe

When one of my foodie friends shared this copycat KFC coleslaw recipe, I thought of my sweet mom and all the amazing non-fast food recipes she’s shared with me over the years. More commonly seen as a summer side salad for picnics or the topper for a pulled pork sandwich, there is no reason to wait until July to put this best coleslaw recipe on your menu.

I followed the recipe as directed except for adding a bit of celery seed as a personal preference. I must confess that I had no competition for this slaw from my family. From polite no thank yous, to eewwwws when I suggested it as a sandwich topper, I was perfectly content having the whole batch to myself. Sometimes having a picky family works in one’s favor.

Tips for Making the Best Coleslaw Recipe

You can make this creamy coleslaw recipe with a couple of packages of coleslaw mix from the grocery store or  shred your own cabbage. I like adding some shredded carrots and/or purple cabbage to the mixture to provide some color. 

Combining buttermilk and mayonnaise makes for a lovely, creamy coleslaw dressing. PRO-Tip: If you don’t have any buttermilk on hand, you can make your own. Place one tablespoon of either vinegar or lemon juice into a one cup liquid measuring cup. Fill to the one cup mark with milk and let rest for a minute or two. The mixture will curdle slightly and work well as a buttermilk substitution.

If you’re not a fan of raw onions, soak them in ice water for about 15 minutes. Drain, then add to the recipe. This process removes a bit of the sharpness, but still adds the flavor needed for a classic coleslaw recipe.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Celery seed adds another lovely flavor component.

Refrigerating for at least an hour before serving allows the flavors to meld. Toss again before serving.

More Slaw Recipes You’ll Love:

You may need these supplies to make this classic coleslaw recipe with buttermilk dressing:

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Yield: 8 servings

Classic Coleslaw

Classic Coleslaw

Classic Buttermilk Coleslaw that tastes like the KFC version!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes


  • 8 cups finely chopped cabbage (about 1 head)
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrot (1 medium carrot)
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed


  1. Shred carrots and cabbage to the size of your choice (KFC's version is finely shredded). Alternatively, you can buy a bag or two of the cole slaw veggies ready to go.
  2. Combine the sugar, salt, pepper, mayonnaise, buttermilk, vinegar, and celery seed in a large bowl and whisk until smooth.
  3. Add the cabbage, carrots, and onion, and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour before serving.


Recipe courtesy of my friend, Mile High Baker.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 169 Total Fat: 11g Saturated Fat: 2g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 9g Cholesterol: 6mg Sodium: 249mg Carbohydrates: 18g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 3g Sugar: 13g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 2g
Best Buttermilk Coleslaw Pinterest collage
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27 comments on “Classic Coleslaw with Buttermilk Dressing”

  1. Don’t all kids want junk food growing up? I was dying for bought stuff instead of the same (few) recipes on my mom’s calendar! No wonder I ended up cooking and baking I adore coleslaw, and the traditional one is still a winner. Gorgeous recipe Liz! And a way to use a jar of celery seeds languishing in my pantry

  2. Cole slaw is a family favorite here! This one sounds good with the buttermilk and onion:@)

  3. Thanks for sharing about your mom. I haven’t been able to make a great cole slaw, but this recipe looks great. I can’t wait to try 🙂

  4. It’s funny how we think we were deprived of growing up. We lived in the country away from any town big enough for fast food anything. We even had friends whose dad was so in love with Pizza Hut that he would buy a huge stack of them whenever he went to the city and bring them home to freeze. (That was a little OCD if you ask me.) A good cole slaw is hard to beat. This sounds great!

  5. We hardly ever ate at fast food joints either. I remember when our McDonalds only had ‘10,000 hamburgers served’ on their marquee. We would be so excited that we’d go and make it 10,006. I love, love, love cole slaw … either creamy or vinaigretty. I’d probably eat that entire bowl.

  6. I love coleslaw on a hot sandwich- like a Turkey “Rachel” instead of a Rueben! So good at diner restaurants when they fry it up on the flat top with the turkey, it’s making me hungry just thinking about it! And i love that you added celery seed, it’s always such a refreshing spice to use.

  7. KFC was always a special treat for a family picnic – rarely ever went “out” to eat at a restaurant. We lived on a farm with huge gardens, chickens, cows, and pigs. Coleslaw is always a salad we love – especially with chicken and pork meals. Your slaw looks wonderful!

  8. Oh mine…I miss cole slaw. Plenty of cabbage around here. Thanks for a classic recipe, definitely on my to-do list. Happy New Year 🙂 ela

  9. Just how much will it date me if I tell you there WAS no fast food when I was a kid?! Good sounding slaw recipe for my next pulled pork endeavor and I love the celery seed addition. They’re great tossed into potato salad, as well. Thanks to you and MHB!

  10. I really like your recipe for cole slaw. All your recipes are always refreshing.

  11. It took me a long time to like cole slaw but now i love it! this looks like a great recipe and a recipe is what I’ve never had. I always just wing it, so it is always a surprise. No one seems to mind though!

  12. We adored the KFC coleslaw growing up too, our parents would usually get the family bucket whenever we had outdoor picnics at the park. Your classic coleslaw looks wonderful, thanks for sharing Liz 🙂

  13. Dear Lizzy,

    My childhood was quite similar to yours! I remember when I wantedto try the Swanson t.v. dinner, with the dessert and the little compartments of food. It was a real treat when my mom said o.k..
    She was such a good cook and she would try to recreate dishes too.

    These are fond memories as I know yours are too.

    I know what you mean when picky eaters don’t even want to try something and it is all to yourself.
    I love coleslaw and it is healthy.

    Blessings dear. Catherine xo

  14. Always great to have a classic coleslaw recipe!

  15. Funny thing about picky eaters…they don’t fully understand how happy we foodies are when we get to eat more of a delicious dish and don’t have to share!

    I have been craving coleslaw lately and look forward to giving this one a try!

  16. Hi Lizzy, Happy New Year to you and yours:) I am not a fan of coleslaw but would eat it if it is placed in front of me..Kentucky Fried Chicken is my favorite fast food though, just love it!

  17. My mother cooked everything from scratch except bread. It was delivered every day from the bakery. My father made bread when he felt crafty.

    We did have KFC once and it was a huge thing. I remember telling my friends about it. LOL

    I’m going to make your mother’s cole slaw. 🙂

  18. Yummy yummy yummy! One of the American salads we really love. Since buttermilk isn’t sold here in Greece Liz, can we make it ourselves adding vinegar to milk as we read some time ago? Should we skip it and add something else like Greek yogurt instead?
    Thank you for sharing!

  19. Our favourite everyday salad! Yours looks fantastic, Liz.

  20. My family never went out to eat at restaurants… we ate at Chez Mom almost every night. I only got into McDonald’s and KFC in high school when my friends showed me the light LOL! Funny thing is I am doing the same thing to my kids… but we have let them try KFC or Popeye’s a few times. Those small side dishes they give for my cole slaw is never enough…. so making it at home like this sounds like a winner because I can eat more slaw. 🙂

  21. Funny, when I saw the pic, I thought of the KFC coleslaw, before I read your post…hahaha! Cool.

  22. During one of my shortcuts over the holidays I bought some ready made coleslaw. I read labels on everything and I’m pretty sure that will be the last time I buy coleslaw. Apologies to my family and thank you for this recipe!

  23. I absolutely adore coleslaw AND buttermilk dressing but I don’t believe I’ve ever had them together. I can’t wait to try this!

  24. I’ve only just recently started eating coleslaw so I’m testing out lots of different recipes and combos to get just the right flavors. Thanks for a winner!

  25. I love the dressing! Perfect for all summer grilling!

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