Carolina Coleslaw on My Mind
Marty Martindale

“We always had barbecue slaw or red slaw served with our pulled pork,” says Robin Lee Starnes. “Growing up in the foothills of North Carolina and enjoying Eastern North Carolina BBQ, the spicy, crunchy texture of the marinated cabbage took BBQ to the next level.” This mayonnaise-free, deli-tasting, slaw is also great with fish and chips, burgers, sandwiches and in tacos. Carolina Slaw is rather like an American kimchi, easier and quicker, without the fermentation process and the heat, if used, which is added separately.

We found these variations in recipes for the slaw:

  • Some add garlic, ketchup, dry mustard, Dijon mustard, hot sauce or Siracha, crushed red pepper flakes, cayenne, shallots, red wine vinegar, lemon juice or white vinegar.
  • Celery seeds seem universal, especially for their texture, so is equal parts apple cider vinegar and sugar. Oil is usually used, around 3 tablespoonsful and a small amount of water.
  • Most common veggies are green or red cabbage, or a combination of both, peeled carrot sticks, onion and bell pepper.
  • Make the salt kosher.
  • Some will heat to boiling, to dissolve the sugar in the vinegar and add any spices. Cool to medium warm then pour over vegetables for a slight, desired wilting. Some cool the sugar-vinegar mixture completely. Others use a layering technique with rinsing, or simply tossing. We prefer the boiling and partial cooling.
  • A safe mandolin is very useful, and one with a container below to catch the sliced items is great.
  • This is the recipe we like most from

1 lg. cabbage, trimmed, quartered and cored
1 med. green pepper, minced
1/2 red pepper, minced
1 med. sweet red onion, chopped


1 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. celery seeds
1 c. cider vinegar
2/3 c. vegetable oil

Slice each cabbage quarter very fine. Combine with peppers and onion. Toss.

Mix sugar, salt, mustard and celery seeds in a small saucepan, add vinegar and oil and let come to a boil until sugar dissolves. Pour over cabbage and toss well to mix. Cool.

Below are foodsites with other Carolina Slaw recipes:

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