Find out how to make the perfect coleslaw for pulled pork and get tips for keeping it crunchy when you make it in advance.
This coleslaw has the perfect combination of flavors – it’s creamy, tangy, sweet, AND savory. It pairs perfectly with pulled pork because of the kind of sugar used, and the savory notes. But it’s also amazing alongside so many other dishes too. I’ve got tips below for making it ahead as well, so that it doesn’t end up soggy.
Scroll down to read more about how it all comes together or click here to jump straight down to the recipe.
How To Shred Cabbage For Coleslaw
The first step in making coleslaw is to shred your cabbage. To do that, put a head of cabbage onto a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to carefully cut it in half. Then cut out the core and discard it. Put a cabbage half cut-side-down so that it’s lying nice and flat on the board, making it more stable and therefore safer to cut. Use your sharp knife to slice it very thinly.
If you want to save yourself some time and effort, you can always grab a bag of shredded cabbage (sometimes called “coleslaw mix”) from the grocery store instead.
How Much Cabbage Do You Need
The recipe below calls for the equivalent of one small head of cabbage. From a small head of cabbage you’ll typically get about 6-7 cups of those thin shredded slices. So that’s the amount we’re going for in this recipe. Conveniently enough, that’s the same amount that you’ll find in a 16 ounce bag of shredded cabbage. So, if you’d like to skip the slicing and shredding, just grab a bag of that slaw mix.
What Kind Of Cabbage To Use In Coleslaw
Any kind of cabbage will work. I’ve used half a head of green cabbage and half a head of purple cabbage in the recipe, but feel free to just use a full head of one color. Napa cabbage is also a nice choice for coleslaw and it has a more delicate texture which can be a nice change.
Ingredients In Coleslaw
Speaking of color, I like coleslaw to be nice and colorful, so I use those two colors of cabbage, and also some shredded carrot. You can shred your own carrot by peeling it and then grating it on a cheese grater, or buy carrot already shredded or in matchsticks at the grocery store. Note that often the bags of coleslaw mix already contain carrot so if you’re using a bag, then you don’t need to get carrots separately.
Other than that, you’ll need the dressing, which I’ll tell you about below. And then, there are some other things that people sometimes put in coleslaw. Some sliced green onion is common, as is thinly sliced onion and minced garlic. You can also do other finely shredded veggies. Broccoli slaw and shaved Brussels sprouts are great additions. Having said all of that, I’m kind of a coleslaw purist and I don’t actually put any of those in my slaw. I just use the cabbage, carrot and dressing. But go ahead and add them in if you’d like.
The Coleslaw Dressing
Coleslaw dressings fall into two types. There’s a vinegary dressing that has a clear color and very acidic flavor, and there’s a creamy dressing that is white and, well, creamy. I tend to prefer the creamy kind, especially with pulled pork, and also especially in pulled pork tacos. The reason is that I find the sauce that is usually mixed with pulled pork to already be quite tangy. More really tangy slaw isn’t needed. Instead, a nice creamy slaw provides some balance to the pulled pork’s tang.
For this coleslaw dressing recipe, we’re therefore using mayo. That’s where the creaminess comes in. To that we’re adding brown sugar, white vinegar, some salt, and garlic powder to season it. You can absolutely use regular white sugar if you prefer, but I find that the brown sugar is the perfect complement to BBQ sauce. That’s one of the reasons this is the best coleslaw recipe for pulled pork – the brown sugar really ties it all together. The garlic powder in the dressing is also great with the pork, but then, I think garlic is great with everything!
Mix up those creamy dressing ingredients a bowl big bowl. Then add in the shredded cabbage and grated carrots and toss well to evenly coat the veggies. That’s it, it’s ready to enjoy!
Can I Make Coleslaw In Advance?
Coleslaw that is made ahead of time can end up watery as some of the liquid from inside of the cabbage and carrots escapes. It’ll still have some crunch after 24 hours and taste good, but it’ll be softer and the dressing ends ups all watery. So how do you prevent this if you need to make coleslaw in advance (or know that you’ll have leftovers you want to enjoy for a few days)?
Prior to making the coleslaw, mix the shredded cabbage and the carrots together and then mix in a teaspoon of salt. Let them sit for 30 minutes at room temperature. The salt draws out the moisture so that there’s less to come out into your dressing later. Drain any liquid away. Then make your dressing, but be sure to omit the salt. Toss your unsalted dressing with the drained cabbage and carrots. Taste and add more salt if needed.
The reason we’re adding the salt at the end is that we can’t know ahead of time how much salt will rinse off in the liquid we pulled from the cabbage. By adding the salt at the end, we are better able to control the saltiness level.
If you don’t do the pre-salting trick, or even if you do, you may have some watery dressing in the bottom of your coleslaw bowl after a day or two in the fridge. Give the whole bowlful a good stir, then use tongs to pick up the slaw and kind of shake it, then transfer it to a new bowl. In this way, you’ve stirred most of the good flavor back into the slaw, and then shaken off some of the more liquidy dressing.
What To Serve With Coleslaw?
The following recipes are extra-delicious with this coleslaw. They’re mostly pork recipes, but the slaw will work well with other proteins too, especially if in tacos. So, pile the slaw into tortillas or onto buns, or put it on the side of the plate, and dig in!
- Classic Pulled Pork In The Oven
- BBQ Pulled Pork Loin
- Instant Pot Pulled Pork
- Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
- Pulled Chicken Sandwiches
- Country-Style Pork Ribs
- BBQ Pulled Pork Tacos
- The Best Roast Pork
- Instant Pot Chicken Tacos
- Easiest Shrimp Tacos
Podcast Episode About Making Coleslaw
Listen to me explain briefly about how to make this coleslaw, along with some other great tips, by clicking the play button below:Print
This coleslaw has the perfect combination of creamy, tangy, sweet, and savory flavors. If you want to make it ahead and want to make sure your coleslaw doesn’t end up watery from sitting, see the note below.
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 tsp. white vinegar
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 small head green cabbage, shredded*
- 1/2 small head purple cabbage, shredded
- 2 large carrots, grated
- To a medium bowl add mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar, garlic powder, and salt. Stir well.
- Add green cabbage, purple cabbage, and carrot. Toss to coat.
- Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered, up to 1 day.**
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*You can use 1 small head of either color cabbage instead of the two halves, if desired. The two are used here mostly for color. Alternatively, a 16 oz. bag of shredded cabbage/coleslaw mix will work perfectly in this recipe. You need about 6-7 cups of shredded cabbage total, which is what is in the 16 oz. bag.
**Coleslaw that is made ahead of time can end up watery as some of the liquid from inside of the cabbage and carrots escapes. To prevent this, prior to making the coleslaw, mix the cabbages and carrots with a teaspoon of salt and let them sit for 30 minutes at room temperature. Drain any liquid away. Then make your dressing, omitting the salt, and toss it with the drained cabbage and carrots.