Delicious Classic Memphis Style Coleslaw Recipe

Are you craving a taste of the South? Look no further than this Delicious Classic Memphis Style Coleslaw Recipe! This traditional coleslaw hails from Memphis, Tennessee, and is known for its tangy and creamy dressing that perfectly complements the crisp cabbage and carrots. Whether you’re planning a backyard barbecue or simply want to enjoy a side dish bursting with flavor, this coleslaw recipe is a must-try. So, gather your ingredients, put on your apron, and get ready to make a Southern classic that will have your taste buds dancing with delight!

Delicious Classic Memphis Style Coleslaw Recipe | 101 Simple Recipe
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The Origins of Classic Memphis Style Coleslaw

Discover the rich history and cultural significance behind the classic Memphis style coleslaw.

The Roots of Memphis Style Coleslaw

Classic Memphis style coleslaw has a deep-rooted history that dates back several decades. It originated in Memphis, Tennessee, a city known for its vibrant food culture and strong barbecue traditions. The people of Memphis take great pride in their coleslaw, considering it an essential side dish to accompany their famous smoked meats.

The roots of Memphis style coleslaw can be traced back to the early 20th century when the dish was first introduced as a simple cabbage and mayonnaise salad. Its popularity grew rapidly, and it became a staple at picnics, barbecues, and family gatherings.

Memphis style coleslaw was traditionally prepared in homes and shared among neighbors and friends. As the recipe spread through word of mouth, it became a symbol of community and togetherness.

️ This homemade coleslaw was often served alongside various grilled and smoked meats, such as pulled pork, ribs, and chicken. The tangy and creamy combination of flavors complemented the richness of the barbecue and provided a refreshing contrast.

Influences from Southern Barbecue Traditions

Memphis style coleslaw draws influences from the vibrant Southern barbecue traditions, which are deeply ingrained in the region’s culinary heritage. The flavors and techniques used in Memphis barbecue have greatly influenced the development of the coleslaw recipe.

The slow-cooking method commonly used in Memphis barbecue, known as “low and slow,” has had a significant impact on the coleslaw’s flavor profile. The smoky and tender characteristics of the meat are reflected in the coleslaw, creating a harmonious balance of textures and tastes.

Traditional Memphis coleslaw features a generous amount of finely chopped onions, adding a distinct sharpness to the dish. This ingredient reflects the strong influence of Southern cuisine, where onions are a common staple.

️ Another key aspect of Memphis style coleslaw is the addition of hot sauce or hot pepper flakes. This element adds a touch of heat and a layer of complexity to the overall flavor. It is a nod to the Southern preference for spicy and bold tastes.

The Unique Flavor Profile of Memphis Style Coleslaw

Memphis style coleslaw stands out from other coleslaw variations due to its unique flavor profile. The combination of ingredients creates a balance of tanginess, creaminess, and crunch.

One of the distinguishing features of this coleslaw is the use of finely shredded cabbage. This texture allows the dressing to coat each strand of cabbage, ensuring a consistent and flavorful bite with every mouthful.

The dressing for Memphis style coleslaw is typically a blend of mayonnaise, vinegar, and a touch of mustard. This combination provides a tangy and creamy base, perfectly complementing the flavors of the smoked meats.

To add depth and freshness, chopped celery seeds or fresh celery are often incorporated into the coleslaw. This addition contributes a subtle herbal note, enhancing the overall taste experience.

Finally, the coleslaw is seasoned with salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar. These ingredients help to balance the flavors, ensuring that the coleslaw is neither too sweet nor too salty.

As you embark on your culinary journey to create a delicious classic Memphis style coleslaw, remember to honor its rich history and cultural significance. Enjoy the process of making this beloved side dish and savor each bite alongside your favorite barbecue delicacies.

Key Ingredients for Authentic Memphis Style Coleslaw

When it comes to creating a truly authentic Memphis style coleslaw, the key ingredients are what set it apart from other variations. From the perfect cabbage variety to the secrets of the creamy dressing and the essential spices and seasonings, each component plays a vital role in achieving that classic taste that Memphians know and love.

The Perfect Cabbage Variety

The foundation of a great coleslaw starts with the cabbage. In the case of the Memphis style, the ideal choice is a firm and crunchy cabbage. Look for varieties such as green or white cabbage, which have a mild flavor that complements the other ingredients. This type of cabbage adds a refreshing crispness to the coleslaw and holds up well to the creamy dressing.

It’s important to shred the cabbage finely to ensure that it blends harmoniously with the dressing. A sharp knife or a mandoline slicer can be used to achieve the desired thickness. Some prefer a slightly thicker cut for added texture, while others prefer a thinner shred for a more delicate mouthfeel.

Secrets of the Creamy Dressing

One of the hallmarks of Memphis style coleslaw is its creamy dressing. To achieve the perfect consistency and flavor, mayonnaise forms the base of the dressing. It provides a rich and smooth texture that coats the shredded cabbage beautifully.

But what makes the dressing truly special are the additional ingredients that are combined with the mayonnaise. Making use of buttermilk adds a tangy and slightly acidic taste that elevates the overall flavor profile. To balance out the tanginess, a touch of sweetness from sugar is added. This combination creates a unique and irresistible taste that keeps people coming back for more.

A hint of vinegar is often incorporated into the dressing as well, providing a subtle tang and enhancing the flavor complexity. Some prefer using apple cider vinegar for its fruity undertones, while others opt for white distilled vinegar for a sharper and more pronounced zing.

The Essential Spices and Seasonings

Lastly, the secret to a truly authentic Memphis style coleslaw lies in the careful selection of spices and seasonings. Balancing the flavors with a blend of spices adds depth and complexity to the dish.

A common spice found in Memphis style coleslaw is celery seed. This small but mighty ingredient imparts a distinct flavor that enhances the overall taste. Other spices such as mustard powder, black pepper, and paprika are also often included to add a subtle kick and a hint of smokiness.

To bring the flavors together, a sprinkle of salt is added to taste. This not only enhances the overall seasoning but also helps to draw out the natural flavors of the cabbage and the dressing.

By combining the perfect cabbage variety, a creamy dressing with a balance of tanginess and sweetness, and a selection of carefully chosen spices and seasonings, you can create an authentic Memphis style coleslaw that will transport your taste buds to the heart of Tennessee. Whether you’re enjoying it alongside barbecued ribs or as a refreshing side dish at a summer picnic, this classic coleslaw is sure to impress.

If you’re looking for more delicious recipes, check out our Classic Memphis Style Coleslaw. It’s a crowd-pleasing side dish that perfectly complements any barbecue or picnic spread.

Preparing and Assembling the Perfect Classic Memphis Style Coleslaw

When it comes to classic Memphis style coleslaw, the key to perfection lies in the preparation and assembly. Follow the step-by-step process below to create a mouthwatering coleslaw that will satisfy your taste buds like never before.

Shredding and Preparing the Cabbage

To start off, you’ll need a head of fresh green cabbage. It’s important to choose a cabbage that is firm and crisp. Begin by discarding any wilted or damaged outer leaves. Use a sharp knife to cut the cabbage into wedges, then carefully slice out the tough core.

Next, it’s time to shred the cabbage into thin, uniform strips. You can do this by hand using a sharp knife, but for a quicker and more consistent result, a mandoline or a food processor with a shredding blade is highly recommended. Make sure to keep your fingers safe while shredding!

Once you’ve shredded the cabbage, transfer it to a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle some salt over the shredded cabbage and massage it gently for a few minutes. This will help to tenderize the cabbage and draw out excess moisture, resulting in a crisper coleslaw.

Note: Feel free to add thinly sliced onions or grated carrots to the cabbage for added flavor and texture.

Mixing the Creamy Dressing

The creamy dressing is what gives Memphis style coleslaw its signature tangy and creamy taste. In a separate bowl, combine mayonnaise, white vinegar, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Whisk the ingredients together until they are well blended and smooth.

Tip: For an extra kick of flavor, you can add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard or a splash of hot sauce to the dressing.

Once the dressing is ready, pour it over the shredded cabbage. Use a large spoon or spatula to gently toss the cabbage, ensuring that every strand is coated with the creamy goodness. Make sure not to overmix, as this can cause the coleslaw to become mushy.

Incorporating the Spices and Seasonings

Now it’s time to add the final touches to your classic Memphis style coleslaw by incorporating the spices and seasonings. Start by adding a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper for a subtle heat.

Next, sprinkle in some celery seed to give the coleslaw its distinctive and aromatic flavor. The celery seed adds a subtle hint of celery without overpowering the other ingredients.

Pro Tip: If you prefer a spicier coleslaw, you can also add a pinch of cayenne pepper or a dash of hot sauce.

Finally, mix everything together once more to ensure that the spices and seasonings are evenly distributed throughout the coleslaw. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary, adding more salt, pepper, or vinegar according to your personal preference.

In just a few simple steps, you’ve created a delicious classic Memphis style coleslaw that can rival any restaurant’s version. Serve it as a side dish at your next barbecue or picnic, and watch as your friends and family go back for seconds!

Pairing Suggestions for Memphis Style Coleslaw

When it comes to enjoying classic Memphis style coleslaw, finding the perfect food and drink pairings can take your culinary experience to new heights. The sweet and tangy flavors of this iconic dish can be complemented by a variety of options, ranging from barbecue favorites to refreshing beverages to international fusion flair. Here are some pairing suggestions that will enhance the flavors of your coleslaw and leave your taste buds satisfied.

Barbecue Pitmaster’s Favorites

For the ultimate Memphis style coleslaw experience, pair it with your favorite barbecue dishes. The creamy texture and zesty flavor of the coleslaw make it a perfect match for smoky meats such as pulled pork, ribs, or barbecue chicken. The coolness of the coleslaw cuts through the richness of the meat, creating a delightful balance of flavors.

If you’re feeling adventurous, try adding a scoop of coleslaw on top of your pulled pork sandwich or as a topping for your barbecue nachos. The crunchy cabbage and carrots will add a refreshing twist to your favorite barbecue indulgences.

Refreshing Beverages to Accompany Coleslaw

No meal is complete without a refreshing beverage to wash it down. When it comes to pairing beverages with classic Memphis style coleslaw, you have plenty of options to choose from.

One classic choice is an ice-cold glass of sweet tea. The sweetness of the tea provides a pleasant contrast to the tanginess of the coleslaw, creating a harmonious balance of flavors. If you prefer something with a little kick, you can opt for a glass of crisp and hoppy beer, such as a pale ale or a lager.

For those who prefer non-alcoholic options, a glass of lemonade or a fruit-infused water can be a refreshing choice. The citrusy notes of these beverages complement the flavors of the coleslaw, making each bite even more enjoyable.

International Fusion Flair

If you’re feeling adventurous and want to take your classic Memphis style coleslaw to a whole new level, consider adding an international fusion flair to your pairing options.

For example, you can serve the coleslaw alongside a plate of crispy fish tacos for a delightful fusion of Southern comfort food and Mexican flavors. The creaminess of the coleslaw and the crunch of the cabbage provide a refreshing contrast to the spicy flavors of the tacos.

Alternatively, you can pair the coleslaw with a plate of tangy barbecue chicken sliders served on toasted Hawaiian rolls for a fusion of Memphis and Hawaiian cuisines. The sweetness of the rolls complements the flavors of the coleslaw, creating a mouthwatering combination.

No matter which pairing option you choose, the key is to experiment and have fun with different flavors. Classic Memphis style coleslaw is versatile and can be enjoyed with a wide range of dishes from various cuisines.

So, next time you whip up a batch of delicious classic Memphis style coleslaw, be sure to consider these pairing suggestions. Whether you stick to barbecue favorites or venture into international fusion, you’re bound to have a memorable and tasty dining experience.

If you’re in the mood for some comfort food, try our White Castle Recipe. It’s a homemade version of the iconic fast food slider that will satisfy your cravings.

Putting a Twist on Classic Memphis Style Coleslaw

When it comes to coleslaw, the classic Memphis style is hard to beat. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t put your own twist on this beloved recipe. By adding variations and unique additions, you can take your coleslaw game to the next level. Get ready to tantalize your taste buds with these creative ideas:

Decadent Bacon and Cheese Coleslaw

If you’re a fan of savory indulgence, this variation is perfect for you. Add a decadent twist to your classic Memphis style coleslaw by incorporating crispy bacon and tangy cheese. The smoky flavor of the bacon pairs wonderfully with the creamy coleslaw dressing and adds an irresistible crunch. And who can resist the ooey-gooey goodness of melted cheese? This mouthwatering combination is sure to be a crowd-pleaser at any gathering.

Spicy Jalapeno and Lime Infusion

If you like a little kick in your coleslaw, this spicy variation will hit the spot. Infuse your classic Memphis style coleslaw with the fiery flavor of jalapenos and the refreshing zest of lime. The heat from the jalapenos adds an exciting twist to the cool and creamy coleslaw, while the lime adds a tangy brightness. This vibrant combination will wake up your taste buds and bring a burst of flavor to any meal. ️

Vegetarian and Vegan Coleslaw Options

For those following a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, there are plenty of options to enjoy a delicious twist on the classic Memphis style coleslaw. Replace the traditional mayonnaise-based dressing with a vegan-friendly alternative, such as cashew cream or tahini. Add a variety of vegetables like shredded carrots, bell peppers, and red cabbage to enhance the nutritional value and add a pop of color. You can also experiment with different herbs and spices to create your own unique flavor profile.

With these creative variations and additions, you can elevate the classic Memphis style coleslaw to new heights. Whether you crave the indulgence of bacon and cheese, the fiery kick of jalapenos and lime, or the freshness of vegetarian and vegan options, there’s a twist for everyone to enjoy. So go ahead, get creative, and make your coleslaw a standout dish at your next gathering. Your taste buds will thank you! ️

Looking for a refreshing beverage to serve at your next gathering? Our Punch Bowl Recipe is the perfect choice. It’s a fruity and fizzy drink that will impress your guests.

Thank you for taking the time to read about the classic Memphis-style coleslaw. We hope you found this article informative and inspiring for your next cookout or family gathering. Remember, the key to achieving that authentic Memphis flavor is to balance the tanginess of the vinegar with the sweetness of the sugar, and to add a hint of smokiness with a touch of paprika. The creamy and crunchy texture of this coleslaw makes it the perfect side dish for any barbecue or sandwich. Don’t forget to come back for more delicious recipes and cooking tips. Happy cooking!

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about classic Memphis-style coleslaw:

No. Questions Answers
1. How long does the coleslaw need to chill before serving? It is recommended to let the coleslaw chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving. This allows the flavors to meld together and the cabbage to soften slightly. However, if you’re in a hurry, you can serve it immediately after preparing.
2. Can I use a different type of cabbage? Yes, you can use different types of cabbage for this coleslaw. However, the classic Memphis-style coleslaw typically uses green cabbage for its crispness and mild flavor. Feel free to experiment with red cabbage or a mix of different cabbage varieties for a unique twist.
3. Can I make the coleslaw ahead of time? Yes, you can make the coleslaw ahead of time. In fact, it is recommended to let it chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving to allow the flavors to develop. You can store it in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
4. What can I serve with classic Memphis-style coleslaw? Classic Memphis-style coleslaw is a versatile side dish that pairs well with various grilled meats, such as pulled pork sandwiches, smoked ribs, or barbecue chicken. It can also be enjoyed as a topping for burgers or hot dogs.
5. Can I add other ingredients to the coleslaw? Yes, you can customize the coleslaw by adding additional ingredients to suit your taste. Some popular additions include shredded carrots, diced onions, or chopped pickles. Get creative and experiment with different flavors!
6. Is classic Memphis-style coleslaw gluten-free? Yes, classic Memphis-style coleslaw is gluten-free. The ingredients used in this recipe do not contain gluten. However, always check the labels on store-bought mayonnaise and mustard to ensure they are gluten-free if you have dietary restrictions.

Closing Thoughts

Thank you once again for reading about the classic Memphis-style coleslaw. We hope you’ve gained some valuable insights and are excited to recreate this iconic dish in your own kitchen. Remember to balance the flavors, let it chill before serving, and don’t be afraid to add your own twist. Stay tuned for more delicious recipes and culinary inspiration. ✨

Jump to Recipe

Delicious Classic Memphis Style Coleslaw Recipe | 101 Simple Recipe

Classic Memphis-Style Coleslaw

A recipe for classic Memphis-style coleslaw, a tangy and sweet side dish with a hint of smokiness. Perfect for barbecues and sandwiches.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 6 servings
Calories 220 kcal


  • 1 small head of green cabbage finely shredded
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • In a large bowl, combine the shredded cabbage, mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, sugar, Dijon mustard, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper. Mix well to coat the cabbage with the dressing.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to meld together and the cabbage to soften slightly.
  • Before serving, give the coleslaw a good stir to recombine the dressing. Adjust the seasoning if needed.
  • Serve the classic Memphis-style coleslaw as a side dish for barbecue or sandwiches. Enjoy!
Keyword coleslaw, classic coleslaw, Memphis-style, side dish, barbecue, recipe