Can You Freeze Coleslaw? The Answer May Surprise You

Can You Freeze Coleslaw? How to Store Coleslaw Properly

Coleslaw is a great appetizer or side dish for many meat-based dishes like fried marinated pork. It is also easy to make, as you would only need cabbage and some dressing. As such, you could find yourself making too much of it which will likely lead you to ask—is it OK to freeze coleslaw?

I love coleslaw because it is very delicious. It’s always present in our BBQ parties. I also like to prepare coleslaw during the summer months as it can be a very refreshing side dish to just about anything.

What is coleslaw?

Coleslaw on the plate

Coleslaw on the plate

Coleslaw is one of the more frequently served side dishes in major fast food chains. It is made with shredded raw cabbage, vinegar, salt or mayonnaise.

The name came from the Dutch word koosla, which means cabbage salad. It is said that coleslaw was mentioned in a recipe book published in 1770. Titled “The Sensible Cook: Dutch Foodways in the Old and New World,” the book featured a recipe which had thin strips of cabbage mixed with vinegar, oil and melted butter.

There are many variations of coleslaw. In Germany, onions or apples are usually added. Carrots and onion are commonly added in the UK version of this salad. In the US, buttermilk or mayonnaise substitutes are also used.

Is it OK to freeze coleslaw?

A pot of Coleslaw and carrots on the chopping board

A pot of Coleslaw and carrots on the chopping board

The short answer is yes. You can freeze coleslaw as long as it doesn’t have mayonnaise. Coleslaw which has oil and vinegar-based dressing is the best suited to freezing.

Why is freezing coleslaw with mayonnaise not recommended? Well, it is because mayonnaise just doesn’t freeze well. Mayonnaise tends to separate after being frozen. You’d end up with a dressing that is watery when you freeze coleslaw with mayonnaise. The coleslaw also loses its crunch when you freeze it.

Refrigerating coleslaw isn’t a bad idea especially if you are to use it in a few days. When properly stored, cold coleslaw left in the fridge is still safe for consumption for 3-5 days.


How to freeze coleslaw?

A plate of Coleslaw and slices of lemon

A plate of Coleslaw and slices of lemon

As I mentioned earlier, oil and vinegar coleslaws freeze well. I’ve learned through experience that coleslaws with celery seed, mustard seed or lemon juice can be frozen and thawed without any effect on their flavor and texture.

In freezing coleslaw with vinegar-based dressing, simply place the mix in a freezer bag. Remove the excess air, seal the bag and label it. You can now use frozen coleslaw up to 3 months when kept in the freezer.

When it is time for you to use the coleslaw, simply remove it from the freezer and thaw in the fridge overnight. Expect the thawed coleslaw to be more watery than when it was fresh. Thus, drain the excess water off before serving.

You can use previously frozen coleslaw in 2-3 days after thawing. Just don’t let it sit at room temperature for more than two hours as coleslaw has a tendency to get easily spoiled.

What to do with leftover coleslaw?

But what can you do with leftover coleslaw? Here are my top suggestions:

  • Turn it into a main dish. Add leftover cooked meat, frozen peas, and sliced vegetables to coleslaw to make it into the main dish. You can also use leftover cooked salmon or chicken for this purpose.
  • Add it to tacos. You can also add leftover coleslaw to tacos. It’s a great substitute to shredded lettuce. I suggest that you add cold coleslaw to warm taco shells. It makes for a great combination.
  • Use it in sandwiches. You can add cold and crisp coleslaw to grilled sandwich to extend the meat and add flavor and nutrition to the snack. I would usually grill the sandwich first before adding the cold coleslaw. I love the contrast of temperature and texture that grilled sandwich and cold coleslaw bring.

South Carolina coleslaw recipe

Before I end, let me share with you this simple South Carolina coleslaw recipe.



One large cabbage head, chopped, red bell pepper, sweet onion, carrot, mayonnaise, dry mustard, sugar

sweet onion, carrot, mayonnaise, dry mustard, sugar

Step by step guide

Chop the cabbage and onion into thin pieces

Chop the cabbage and onion into thin pieces

  • Combine the mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, oil, mustard, salt and pepper in a pan placed over low heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Refrigerate the dressing for half an hour.
  • Chop the cabbage and onion into thin pieces. Slice the bell pepper into thin strips. Place them in a serving dish with the cooled dressing. Toss vegetables with the dressing until well coated.
  • Transfer to a bowl, then cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate this for at least two hours before serving.


Coleslaw can be frozen as long as its dressing is not mayonnaise. When you freeze coleslaw, store it in an airtight container. Freezing can extend its shelf life to several months.

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