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Cabbage slaw in a white bowl with a bamboo handle fork

KFC Coleslaw Recipe with Buttermilk Dressing

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This easy KFC Coleslaw Recipe with Buttermilk Dressing tastes just like the restaurant version. Plus it’s the ultimate picnic or barbecue side dish! You’ll find an excuse to make it again and again!

You’ll go crazy for this light, creamy, sweet, and tangy coleslaw dressing which 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

KFC Coleslaw Recipe with Buttermilk Dressing in a white serving bowl

KFC Coleslaw Recipe with Buttermilk Dressing

Growing up, we were seldom treated to a fast-food dinner. What a tortured childhood. My mom did succumb every now to our pleas and would send my dad for carryout Kentucky Fried Chicken. Though she enjoyed their chicken, her ulterior motive was to indulge in their refreshing cabbage salad!

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 is the best coleslaw recipe of all I’ve tested. It reminds me of that childhood cole slaw, whether carryout or homemade! I could eat a whole batch in one sitting, but I paced myself and enjoyed it over pulled pork and more!

What is the origin of coleslaw?

Most of us have heard of coleslaw or slaw recipes, but have you ever thought where the name came from? It actually has a Roman origin, as the ancient  Romans served a dish with vinegar, cabbage, and eggs. But the name comes from the Dutch who settled near the Hudson River in New York state according to NPR. The Dutch word koosla translates to cabbage salad and sounds very much like today’s dish, coleslaw (sometimes spelled cole slaw). Since mayonnaise hadn’t been invented in the late 1700s, the dressing was made of melted butter, oil, and vinegar.


KFC coleslaw recipe in a white bowl with two spare bowls in the background

Creamy Cabbage Salad 

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 this cabbage salad 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. Use what you need for the recipe, then refrigerate the leftovers.

PRO-Tip: If you’re not a fan of raw onions, soak them in ice water for about 15 minutes.  Drain, or with grated onions, squeeze dry in a paper towel, 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, though this is my addition, not in KFC’s coleslaw recipe.

Refrigerating for at least an hour before serving allows the flavors to meld. Toss again before serving. Coleslaw is best on the day it is made as it will lose its crunch the longer the cabbage sits in the dressing. Personally, that never stops me from eating the leftovers!
Collage of step by step photos for making coleslaw

How to make coleslaw:

Step 1: Put your veggies in a large mixing bowl and measure out ingredients for the dressing in another bowl.

Step 2: Whisk the dressing ingredients together until the mixture is smooth.

Step 3: Add the dressing to the vegetables and toss well.

Step 4: Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour before serving. 

How to tweak your homemade coleslaw

Cabbage and dressing are the two main components of a slaw, but with additional ingredients and flavorings, the options are endless. Here are some suggestions of how to shake up your coleslaw recipe:

  • Add some mustard or herbs like thyme or dill to the dressing.
  • Add some julienned fruit (cut into thin strips) like apples, pears, even mangoes
  • Toss in crumbled blue cheese to add a salty creaminess
  • Nuts or sunflower seeds provide a nice crunch
  • Crisp, homemade bacon bits also add salty umami. 
  • Dried fruit like raisins, dried cherries, dried cranberries or dried apricots balance the crunchy with some chewiness.
  • A Southwest (add some peppers for heat) or Asian twist (add snow peas) is as easy as tweaking the dressing. Even a bottled Asian dressing will work in a pinch.

More Slaw Recipes You’ll Love:

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This recipe was first shared in January 2014.  Photos and text were updated in 2020.

Bowl of cabbage slaw

Classic Coleslaw

Classic Buttermilk Coleslaw that tastes like the KFC version!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Yield 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 cups finely chopped cabbage, about one head (may use bagged coleslaw mix, too)
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrot (1 medium carrot)
  • 2 tablespoons grated or 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, optional, but I highly recommend it!

Instructions

  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 coleslaw 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 at least 1 hour before serving.

Notes

Recipe courtesy of my friend, Mile High Baker.

Use a bag or two of coleslaw mix instead of shredding your own cabbage and carrot for a shortcut.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 169Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 6mgSodium: 249mgCarbohydrates: 18gFiber: 3gSugar: 13gProtein: 2g

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