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My Mom’s Secret Coleslaw Recipe

This is my mom’s special coleslaw recipe. She always made it with purple cabbage, sugar and celery seed. What can I say? This is pretty special coleslaw!

Purple cabbage coleslaw

(This is an updated post from July, 2014)

My mom’s homemade coleslaw is unlike any cabbage salad I’ve ever made. And that’s exactly what coleslaw is. The term coleslaw derives from the Dutch word meaning cabbage salad.

Every country has their own coleslaw recipe. Some have more than one traditional coleslaw recipe! In the US there are traditional mayo coleslaws and those with just a vinaigrette. Others are tossed with bbq sauce, such as those in the South. 

It would suffice to say that coleslaw can be made in most any version. Personally, I love what one can do with cabbage. I have sriracha versions and a Brussels sprout version and then there is this one. I hope you are totally cool with sugar.

My mom’s coleslaw contains sugar. In fact, the shredded cabbage is tossed with sugar before the hot dressing is poured over. I think when I was a tyke I didn’t like the celery seed in the dressing but now I just love the subtle flavor it gives. However, if you don’t like celery seed, just leave it out.

Another note: This makes a lot of dressing. Enough for a very large cabbage. A two pound cabbage can be shredded into about 10 cups. If you buy a bag of pre-shredded cabbage in the grocery which is usually 1 lb, that contains about 4 cups.

So stir in the homemade coleslaw dressing carefully. If you have leftovers, it is great refrigerated and tossed with lettuce.

How do you make the best coleslaw? Well, first it starts with a good fresh cabbage. Sometimes the bagged variety has a taste to it and so I grate my own. If it is a big batch I use the food processor and the shredding blade.

I think coleslaw should have onion, but you can also mix together green and red cabbage and shredded carrots if you like. Fro that matter I’ve also used Broccoli slaw and Brussels Sprouts that are shaved. For this coleslaw recipe, I just use purple because that’s what my mom used!

Purple Cabbage Voleslaw

Oh my my.

My head is in a tizzy and my mom’s secret recipe is no longer a secret. But then if you read the last post her ice cream habits are not either!

What isn’t a secret is that Alex is finally off to China. After two years of working hard, he has finally flown away. For a brief 15 minutes we worried that he wouldn’t make his flight leaving from Denver, as Southwest had cancelled flights last night due to heavy storms.

At 5AM this morning the lines were incredible, but due to Manservant’s savvy in negotiating lines at airports, Alex managed to check his bags and make his flight. Currently, he is over the ocean on his way to Hong Kong with his final stop in Shanghai. I think he knows his way.

Alex and friend with skis

He is not taking the “Odesmobile”.

Odie with Odesmobile

He is not taking a boat.

Odie on a boat with American flag

Oh my my. I can still boogie if I try.

How long he will be gone is anybodies guess but he is hoping it will be for an “extended period”. I am not good with the word, “extended period”.

I like dates and times and conclusions. But Alex’s life just has chapters and that suits him fine. It actually is OK with me, but I am not good with open books especially when I don’t have a date that I will see him next.

And therein is the quandary with the word “extended period”. I am sure I will see him several times during the “extended period”, but not knowing when is my dilemma.

Oh my my. Before Odie San left Vail he threw himself a party. An oyster party. I have never seen a 23 year old throw himself an oyster party, but this was the photo he posted on Facebook.

Oyster party by stream

I wish I would have gotten some photo tips from him. Yes, my boy likes to go out with style. He certainly did not learn how to eat oysters from me, as I am not an oyster eater.

He did leave some for Manservant in his Odie ice chest, that I hope are still alive and that I can throw on the grill tonight. That means I must open the ice chest to check to see if they are still alive, and I am a bit leery of what I might find! Oh my my.

My intention was to give you this fabulous coleslaw recipe before said boy arrived home with all his home contents in his car. That home is now spread throughout THE HOME, and to say I have been distracted since 4th of July is not an understatement; which is why this secret coleslaw recipe has been secret since then.

Well, really since way before then, but you wouldn’t know that would you? Oh my my.

And so it is. Off he goes, as the world still spins. Babies are born. Missiles land. Parents move. Daughters get interviews.  And life goes on. Chapter by chapter. Oh my my. Please pass the coleslaw.

This was written in 2014. My boy is now living in Taiwan. Extended visit must mean at least 6 years in his vocabulary. I am quite beside myself if I think about this!

Another Note: My mom made this coleslaw – a lot! She always used purple cabbage for as long as I can remember. She sometime used too much celery seed, but that is up to you to determine. People loved her coleslaw. My mother in law requested this recipe some 32 years ago. Here it is, Maw. Enjoy.

This keeps its crunch for at least a few days in the fridge. It seems like a lot of sugar and it is, but in my opinion is not too sweet. It is great on a hot dog. It is great next to fried chicken. Or next to corn on the cob. It is great in a boat or on a plane. In a car or on a bus. Oh my my. You can boogie if you try!

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Purple Cabbage Coleslaw
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Purple Cabbage Coleslaw

My Mom’s Secret Cole Slaw Recipe

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 1 review
  • Author: Abbe Odenwalder
  • Prep Time: 20 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 Minute
  • Total Time: 21 minutes
  • Yield: 10 - 12 Servings 1x
  • Category: Salads
  • Cuisine: American


This is a great homemade coleslaw and no mayo required! Everyone always asks for mom’s recipe so here ya go!



1 large head shredded, purple or green cabbage (Buy in a bag or grate your own. Mom  used to chop it in the food processor.)

1 large chopped onion

1 c sugar

Dressing Ingredients:

1 c apple cider vinegar

3/4 c salad oil (I used canola)

2 T sugar

1 t celery seed or to taste

2 t dry mustard

1 t salt


Shred cabbage if you are shredding your own.

Pour sugar over cabbage and onion and mix well. Let stand while you make the dressing.

Bring dressing ingredients to a boil and boil for one minute. Pour over cabbage mixture and stir well. Let marinate for several hours before serving – or not. This tasted great even within an hour!

Oh my my!


This makes enough dressing for 1 large head of cabbage. If you are just using 1 bag of shredded cabbage, I would recommend using only 1/3 cup of sugar and 1/3 of the dressing.

Other Salads to try:

Kale Salad with Cherries, Almonds and Feta

Farro Summer Salad with Grilled Vegetables

Kohlrabi, Fennel, Cabbage Salad with Lemon Maple Dressing

Spinach Salad with Za’atar, Dates and Almonds

Macho Salad

 Summer Salads

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star


Wednesday 15th of July 2020

Coleslaw is one of my favorite side dishes and there are so many different ways it can be made. I love tht this is mayo free. I'll have to give your mom's coleslaw a try.

Lea Ann (Cooking On The Ranch)

Sunday 13th of July 2014

I'm impressed about that oyster party Abbe. And thanks for sharing your Mom's secret recipe. I really like the addition of dry mustard. I don't think I've every made a non-mayo based cole slaw. I look forward to giving it a try. Pinned

Cheri Savory Spoon

Friday 11th of July 2014

Hi Abbe, thanks for sharing your mom's slaw recipe, looks wonderful. When my son moved I went out and picked up my sweet chocolate lab Olive, she helped me through.

Maureen | Orgasmic Chef

Friday 11th of July 2014

What a unique slaw. I'm eager to give it a try. I hope the China visit is a huge success and extended isn't too long. :)

Tricia @ Saving room for dessert

Thursday 10th of July 2014

Oh Abbe - on everything. Your son moving on to the next great adventure, not knowing the next time you can give him a squeeze - my heart hurts for you! Women are strong wonderful creatures - how could we NOT be? Love the slaw too - and hope your secret is well loved. Beautiful post :)