Lexington-Style Red Coleslaw Recipe

Ketchup and hot sauce combine for a tasty (and red) slaw that is perfect with pulled pork.

A cup of red Lexington-style coleslaw.
Ketchup provides the "red" in this slaw, which has a tangy, sweet, and spicy barbecue flavor.

Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

Why It Works

  • A sugar-and-salt mixture purges the cabbage of excess moisture, leaving it tender, but still crunchy and well-seasoned.
  • Using ketchup instead of mayonnaise gives this slaw its red color and Lexington roots.
  • Hot sauce adds a touch of heat that makes this slaw really stand out.

When made properly, coleslaw is not just a bit of soggy, sweet cabbage in a paper cup alongside your main dish. It’s a crunchy, bright, tart salad that balances the fatty richness of barbecued meat. 

Making the best coleslaw relies on a few specific techniques, like getting excess moisture out of the vegetables prior to dressing, as first written about by Kenji in his classic creamy coleslaw recipe.

After that step, it’s all about the seasoning and dressing–be sure to try my mustardy coleslaw, this zippy vinegar version, tangy apple slaw, and a spicy Tex-mex inspired side.

Five different coleslaws.

Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

Lexington-style slaw is famous for its unique color. When I first heard the term "red slaw," I thought it meant coleslaw made with red cabbage, but in the Lexington area of North Carolina, that's not the case. "Red" refers to the color of the dressing, which uses ketchup in place of the standard mayo.

Mimicking the barbecue sauce also common in that region, Lexington-style red slaw relies heavily on vinegar, with ketchup and sugar used to take a bit of the edge off, along with pepper and hot sauce to add a little heat. It's a combo that's great alongside a pile of smoky chopped hog, with the slaw adding a complementary sweetness, tang, and spice.

June 2014

Recipe Facts

Active: 30 mins
Total: 35 mins
Serves: 10 to 12 servings

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Ingredients

For the Dressing:

  • 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 1/2 cup ketchup

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce, preferably Texas Pete

For the Slaw:

  • 1 large head green cabbage (about 3 1/2 pounds), finely shredded on a mandoline or by hand

  • 1 large carrot, peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater

  • 2/3 cup sugar

  • 1/3 cup kosher salt

Directions

  1. For the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, ketchup, sugar, black pepper, and hot sauce.

    Whisking together the dressing for Lexington-style red coleslaw.

    Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

  2. For the Slaw: Combine cabbage and carrot in a large bowl. Sprinkle with sugar and salt and toss to combine. Let stand five minutes, then transfer to a large colander and rinse thoroughly under cold running water.

    Grated vegetables for coleslaw in a bowl.

    Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

  3. Transfer vegetables to a salad spinner and spin dry. Alternatively, transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet lined with a triple layer of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel and blot mixture dry with more towels. Return to large bowl.

    Grated vegetables in a salad spinner for draining.

    Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

  4. Pour dressing over vegetables and toss to coat. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt, pepper, and/or sugar.

    Tossing vegetables with Lexington-style dressing for coleslaw.

    Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

Special Equipment

Mandoline (optional)

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
62 Calories
0g Fat
15g Carbs
2g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 10 to 12
Amount per serving
Calories 62
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 262mg 11%
Total Carbohydrate 15g 5%
Dietary Fiber 3g 10%
Total Sugars 10g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 50mg 252%
Calcium 69mg 5%
Iron 0mg 2%
Potassium 316mg 7%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)