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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


  • 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!


  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.


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:



Serving Size:


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


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36 comments on “KFC Coleslaw Recipe 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!

  26. I love this recipe! I enjoy this more and more every time I make it! Thanks.

  27. This coleslaw was a total hit! This recipe will now be my go-to!

  28. I am always wanting to try to make slaw myself and this is perfect timing trying to prepare for both sons birthdays social distancing of course! We always celebrate on fathers day so this will be served for all 3 occasions thanks Liz! Sure hope you are all doing well much love sent !

  29. While I’m not sure about KFC recipes (I haven’t been there for many years!), but this coleslaw variation looks and sounds delicious. I am digging the buttermilk dressing (It must give an extra lovely tang) and even the celery seeds.

  30. We’re doing take out fish and chips tonight and although it comes with a tiny dish of coleslaw, I make my own! Wish I had seen this before I cobbled my slaw together but I’ll bookmark this for next time.

  31. I’ve only been to KFC once in my life, and that was during one of our moves. I guess I wasn’t impressed. Actually I’m just not into fast food. I don’t even think about it. there have been a couple times when I was going to force myself to go to some kind of fast food place and I could never follow through!  When raising my kids I pretty much made every single meal. Life would have been easier with fast food but I coulcn’t bring myself to do it. And I wasn’t raised on it. In any case, I don’t remember if we had KFC cole slaw, but this looks good. I’ve made it with vinegar and sour cream before, but not buttermilk. I think that makes a lot of sense. Can’t wait to try it. It would be great on fish tacos!

  32. We are craving a delicious bowl of coleslaw. This is a perfect side dish for all of our summer grilling and chilling.

  33. I used the celery seed option and it was delicious. Since my grocery store does not carry liquid buttermilk, I used powdered (Saco brand), with no problem. I used sixteen ounces of bagged shredded coleslaw mix for the eight cups indicated in the recipe and it was very good, though I could probably have added another 8 oz bag without problem.

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