Creamy Buttermilk Coleslaw

serving up buttermilk coleslaw with tongs

Buttermilk coleslaw is the real deal, made with shredded cabbage and carrots in a creamy old fashioned buttermilk dressing. Oh, and my secret ingredient will make your slaw best on the block.

dishing up buttermilk coleslaw

buttermilk coleslaw is a bbq favorite

It just seems to make everything taste better, and it’s hard to stop eating once you start. It’s a summer cookout basic that we all too often default to the supermarket deli counter. But those plastic tubs don’t hold a candle to homemade.

buttermilk coleslaw in a bowl with tongs

why put buttermilk in your coleslaw?

Buttermilk is a classic Southern ingredient, but maybe not so much in other parts of the country. I’m doing my best to change that, it’s always in my fridge because I use it every chance I get.

  • Old fashioned buttermilk was the thin liquid, or whey, leftover when you churned butter.
  • Today, buttermilk is a cultured milk product, sold in the same place you find regular milk.
  • There’s no butter in buttermilk ~ it’s a healthy lowfat milk that has a wonderful tangy flavor and makes so many recipes, from biscuits to coleslaw, so much better!
  • Buttermilk contains healthy active cultures just like yogurt, kefir, and kombucha.
  • Don’t worry about having leftover buttermilk, you can freeze it for later use ~ measure out 1 cup servings and freeze in heavy duty zip lock freezer bags or small freezer safe container.
coleslaw in a small bowl, with fork

ok, so what’s the secret ingredient??

It’s. …..horseradish! The kind you’ll find in a jar in your supermarket. You can use creamed horseradish, or regular, which is a little stronger. Look for them where you find the mustards and other condiments. Horseradish gives this salad that extra kick that sets it apart from the others. It doesn’t make it hot or spicy, but gives it a nice edge.

Did you know that you can easily make your own horseradish sauce? If you want to buy it instead, I love this one.

serving buttermilk coleslaw with tongs

Note the long luxurious shreds!

No soggy grated bits for me, I slice my cabbage by hand with a sharp knife or on my mandoline, which allows me to get nice longs shreds that keep their crunch longer. When you shred cabbage too finely, say on a box grater, it will turn to mush quickly.

buttermilk coleslaw in a metal bowl

coleslaw troubleshooting

Why is my coleslaw is watery?

Cabbage is 92% water, and once it’s shredded and dressed, it slowly starts to weep out some of that moisture.
Solution #1 Enjoy your slaw within a few hours of being made, before it has a chance to get soggy.
Solution #2 Slicing your cabbage rather than grating it helps keep it crisp.
Solution #3 Partially drain excess moisture just before serving, and toss with more dressing, if needed.
Solution #4 Some recommend salting/rinsing/drying the cabbage ahead of time, as a way to reduce sogginess, but I think that’s way too much trouble.

How long can my coleslaw sit out?

The general rule for most food is no more than 2 hours, especially if your slaw is made with mayo, sour cream, or other dairy. If you need to have your slaw out for longer, consider placing the bowl in another bowl of ice to keep it cool, and maybe serve a non-dairy vinegar slaw instead of a creamy one.

Help ~ I need to make my coleslaw ahead of time, will this work?

I don’t recommend making coleslaw more than several hours ahead, (the sweet spot is 2 hours ahead) but you can shred all your veggies (keep them wrapped in plastic in the fridge) and make your dressing up to 2 days ahead. Just toss and serve when ready.

I need a low calorie coleslaw!

You’re in luck, the veggies in slaw are extremely low cal, all the calories are in the dressing: in the mayo, specifically. Buttermilk is a naturally low fat product. You might try substituting yogurt for the mayo in this recipe. If you want a super healthy lean coleslaw consider dressing it with vinegar alone, or vinegar with just a touch of oil. I consider this the ultimate diet food ~ it’s satisfying and delicious.

Is coleslaw keto?

It can be ideal for a keto diet ~ cabbage is low in carbs, and you can make a luxurious dressing with mayo and sour cream. Just omit the sugar.

more barbecue sides to try

serving up buttermilk coleslaw with tongs
5 from 9 votes

Creamy Buttermilk Coleslaw

Buttermilk coleslaw is the real deal, made with shredded cabbage and carrots in a creamy old fashioned buttermilk dressing. Oh, and a secret ingredient that will make your coleslaw the best on the block.
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Yield 8 servings
Calories 157kcal
Author Sue Moran


  • small head green cabbage, shredded
  • 3 carrots, peeled and shredded


  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp sour cream, optional
  • 1-2 tsp prepared horseradish


  • To shred the cabbage: remove loose outer leaves from the cabbage. Slice in half, vertically, through the root.
  • Remove the core from each half. Set the halves, cut side down, and slice in half again, vertically. Slice as thinly as you can with a large sharp knife.
    shredded cabbage
  • I like to shred my carrots in a food processor fitted with the shredding disk because it makes thicker, dryer shreds.
  • Put the shredded cabbage and shredded carrots in a large bowl and toss to combine.
    buttermilk slaw
  • Whisk the dressing together and taste to adjust any of the elements.
  • Toss the slaw with enough dressing to moisten thoroughly, but not drench (save the rest for freshening up the slaw later, if necessary.)
    making buttermilk slaw in a metal bowl
  • Chill the slaw until ready to serve. For best texture, serve the same day it is made.
    serving up buttermilk coleslaw with tongs


Calories: 157kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 8mg | Sodium: 445mg | Potassium: 359mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 4980IU | Vitamin C: 36mg | Calcium: 66mg | Iron: 1mg
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.
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    Leave a Reply

    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    Nancy Shaw
    May 21, 2022 at 1:16 pm

    Hi Sue, which mandoline specifically do you use. The link to the Amazon page has several. Also do you use gloves?
    Many thanks for all that you do!

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      May 21, 2022 at 2:58 pm

      I’ve gone through multiple mandolines, Nancy, and I use ones that have guards. I’m still undecided on the best one, but this Oxo model is good.

  • Reply
    Gordon W. Subject
    June 17, 2021 at 12:25 pm

    5 stars
    Awesome recipe Sue. I love buttermilk and never thought of using it in coleslaw, and the horseradish adds a little spice to life and the coleslaw. I’m also looking for new recipes to add horseradish to. (great sinus clearing agent) Oh Yes!! Thanks!!

  • Reply
    desiree northend
    June 15, 2021 at 9:32 pm

    5 stars
    I just made a batch of this. So delicious! I’ve made lots of slaw before, but I think it’s the buttermilk that makes the difference.

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      June 16, 2021 at 8:13 am

      I think so, thanks Desiree.

  • Reply
    June 14, 2021 at 11:34 pm

    I’m confused. The cabbage in the photos of the coleslaw does not look like Savoy cabbage.

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      June 15, 2021 at 3:55 am

      So sorry Debra, I used green cabbage. I’ve ben on a coleslaw tear lately, testing and tasting, and I often use Savoy, but not for this classic recipe. Thanks for catching that!

  • Reply
    June 14, 2021 at 5:36 am

    This sounds wonderful but for some reason, horseradish makes me break out in a rash! And I love it. But is there a substitute for it? Dijon?

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      June 14, 2021 at 5:49 am

      Yes, mustard is a classic ingredient in this kind of coleslaw, so use your favorite.

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