New York Deli Coleslaw is a creamy side dish consisting of shredded cabbage that’s mixed with a sweet vinegar brine and mayonnaise.  This is the quintessential coleslaw you’ll find in almost every deli in the New York metro area and while it may look simple, to many it tastes like home.

Hands holding small bowl of New York deli coleslaw.


Walk into any deli on Long Island, and the greater NY metro area, and you’re sure to find an array of cold salads.  

You’ll see variations of pasta salads and chicken salads, but the 3 master salads that remain constant are macaroni salad, potato salad, and New York deli coleslaw. 

The key to these 3 salads is the vinegar brine – this is what provides that NY deli flavor. 

New York deli coleslaw is wonderful as a side dish to grilled chicken thighs, burgers, and more.  It’s also great to serve on top of pulled pork sandwiches, although often it’s a mustard and vinegar coleslaw you’ll pair with that.

And while sauerkraut is the cabbage of choice for a Reuben sandwich, deli coleslaw is also awesome!

Ingredients shown: cabbage, sugar, vegetable oil, onion, vinegar, mayonnaise, and carrots.

How to make it

Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.

  1. In a large bowl whisk together 1/3 cup of white vinegar, 1/3 cup of water, 1/3 cup of sugar, 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil, 1/2 cup of grated onion, 1 1/4 teaspoons of fine sea salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper.  Set aside.
New York deli coleslaw recipe process shot collage group number one.
  1. Remove the core from 1 medium green cabbage.
  2. Cut the cabbage into quarters.
Recipe process shot collage group number two.
  1. Set a mandoline to about 1/16-inch or thinner and place it over a large bowl.  Attach the plastic guard to one of the cabbage quarters and run it over the mandoline to shred the cabbage. If you don’t have a mandoline, use a sharp knife to slice the cabbage into ultra-thin strands. Repeat the process for the remaining quarters.  Using a vegetable peeler or shredder, slice a medium-sized carrot.  Alternatively, you can use a knife to julienne the carrot.  Note: the carrot is mainly for color and can be omitted if you prefer.
  2. Add the brine to the cabbage and carrot mixture and toss to coat it well. 
Recipe process shot collage group number three.
  1. Cover the coleslaw with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours, but ideally overnight.  Halfway through the refrigeration process, mix the cabbage again to achieve an even coating.  Note: A 4-quart mixing bowl will hold all of the cabbage though it might be tight.  Don’t worry.  The cabbage will shrink and release much of its water in the hours to come.
  2. The next day, drain the cabbage to remove the excess liquid.  Save the liquid for use later on (if needed).
Recipe process shot collage group number four.
  1. Add 3/4 cup of mayonnaise to the cabbage and mix until smooth.  If needed, add more mayo to get the perfect consistency.  Taste test and adjust salt and pepper to taste. If the coleslaw dries out at all, add a touch more of the liquid previously reserved, though if anything the cabbage will continue to most likely release more water over the coming days when stored in the fridge.   Serve with your favorite main course and enjoy!
Large bowl with deli coleslaw and tongs.

Top tips

  • Cabbage. We used green cabbage since that’s what is used by the delis to create this style of coleslaw.  The cabbage should be paper thin or shredded.  Using a mandoline for this step makes it a far easier process.  As many of you know, young Jim spent a few years working in Long Island delis.  He would shred dozens of cabbages with a meat slicer to make deli coleslaw.  I doubt it’s done this way anymore.  Well at least on a meat slicer that is used for cold cuts with people increasingly seeking out veggie dishes that have not been contaminated with any meat products.
  • Carrot or no carrot? Many delis will not include any carrots in their coleslaw.  We chose to add it here for a bit of color but you can definitely skip the carrot for an authentic NY deli slaw.
  • The brine. Brining the coleslaw a day in advance yields maximum flavor and is truly the key to the unmistakable taste.
  • Draining. While the macaroni in mac salad absorbs all of the brining liquid, the cabbage in coleslaw gives up its liquid or water, similar to the NY deli shrimp salad. Therefore, you’ll likely have a lot of brine liquid to drain.  You can save the liquid for use later on if the coleslaw dries out at all, but you most likely will not need it.
Small bowl of New York deli coleslaw on wood table.

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New York Deli Coleslaw

5 from 16 votes
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
refrigerator time: 12 hours
Total: 12 hours 40 minutes
Servings: 10
New York deli coleslaw combines shredded cabbage with a vinegar brine and mayonnaise. This is the creamy, tangy quintessential coleslaw you'd find in nearly every deli in the New York metro area.

Ingredients 

For the brine

  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup onion grated
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper

Remaining ingredients

  • 1 medium green cabbage finely shredded, about 10 cups worth
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise plus more to achieve a smooth consistency
  • 1 medium carrot shredded

Instructions 

For the brine

  • In a large bowl, whisk together all of the brine ingredients and set aside.

For the coleslaw

  • Slice the cabbage into very thin pieces about 2-3 inches in length. Using a mandoline makes the process much easier.
  • In a large bowl, mix the cabbage and carrots into the brine making sure to coat well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours, but ideally overnight. Halfway through the refrigerating process mix the cabbage again to achieve even coating.
  • The next day, drain the cabbage to remove excess moisture. Mix the mayonnaise with the cabbage until smooth. If needed, add a bit more mayo to get the perfect creamy consistency. Taste test, and adjust salt and pepper before serving.

Notes

  • The key to getting that New York deli coleslaw flavor is the brine.  If you can wait, let the cabbage sit in the brine for 2 days before mixing it with mayo.  This is how most delis do it.
  • White pepper can be used for appearance.
  • Leftovers can be saved for up to 5 days and taste even better after a few days.

Nutrition

Calories: 147kcal | Carbohydrates: 37.8g | Protein: 0.8g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 1.7g | Cholesterol: 5mg | Sodium: 431mg | Potassium: 111mg | Fiber: 1.3g | Sugar: 9.7g | Calcium: 22mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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37 Comments

  1. Diane says:

    5 stars
    This looks amazing! Can I use pre-shredded coleslaw mix? If so, how much?

    1. Tara says:

      Hi Diane, you’d use the same amount – about 10 cups worth. Hope you enjoy!

  2. Frannie B says:

    5 stars
    Finally! I’ve been trying to dupe the coleslaw from Manor’s Deli in Queens all my life but never got it right. I’d cracked the code that Manor’s adds horseradish, which makes it so delicious without the ingredient being obvious, but you solved the rest of the mystery with the excellent brine. Made it for a bunch of fellow expat NYers and they went nuts.
    I’m in the midwest and crazy craving a great deli beet salad. We’re about to harvest our beets in a few weeks and would love a recipe for that. I’ve tried many recipes and they all miss the mark. Something tells me your recipe would be spot on.
    Thanks so much!

    1. Tara says:

      We’re so happy you love the coleslaw, Frannie! We have a many more deli recipes on our to-do list and I’ll add the beet salad to the list as well!

    2. Sharon Taylor says:

      I AM GOING TO TRY THIS COLESLAW RECIPE I HAVE BEEN LOOKING FOR A GOOD RECIPE TO MAKE .THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SHARING THIS RECIPE!

  3. Bill says:

    5 stars
    This recipe looks great Jim!

  4. Kathy Sullivan says:

    5 stars
    New York Style Coleslaw is outstanding~~left in fridge for 2 days as you recommended and learned something new about how the brine is the key! Thanks Jim, we loved it so much I made it again the following day. I love all your salads and being a vegetarian it is a blessing for me. Thanks for such luscious/healthy recipes!

    1. Tara says:

      Hi Kathy, we’re so happy you loved the coleslaw!

  5. Kristin Etze says:

    5 stars
    Nothing beats an outstanding cole slaw! Your recipe is a game changer for me! Thank you so
    much, James! 🍴

  6. Nina says:

    5 stars
    Incredibly good!

  7. Cynrok says:

    This is so great! I have never really cared for coleslaw so I’m always looking for a recipe that is better than the average and this one is it! The brine is definitely the game changer. Thanks so much for sharing it.

    1. Tara says:

      Hi Cynrok, we’re so happy you enjoyed the coleslaw and really appreciate the comment!

  8. Craig S says:

    5 stars
    As a New Yorker living in Los Angeles, I have been on the hunt for great NY deli coleslaw. Now that I have this recipe, I am complete! I have made this three times already in the last few weeks and it does not disappoint. Every sandwich is better with this sweet and tangy coleslaw! Thanks!

    1. Tara says:

      Hi Craig, thanks for the comment! We’re so happy you enjoyed the recipe a few times now!

  9. Phil says:

    I loves me a good coleslaw, and this is my new default recipe.
    Great taste!
    In addition, I add a heaping teaspoon of hot horseradish, and about three quarter teaspoon of
    celery seed. Adds a little more complexity.

    1. James says:

      Hi Phil, thanks for the comment and so happy you enjoyed the coleslaw!

  10. Susan P says:

    Hi Jim,
    I so enjoy your recipes, blogs, you tube videos and have tried so many of your recipes which replicate and bring back our old family favorites!
    My husband and I have relocated to Surfside Beach, SC and still maintain a small home on the North Fork to be able to come back and visit our family. I couldn’t wait to make your NY Deli Mac Salad down here for our LI friends. We all miss our favorite deli’s salads! Well, it official! I am now the designated Mac Salad maker! It was delicious! Rave reviews from one and all! Thumbs Up! Next up, definitely Coleslaw! I will follow-up with the taste tester results! We already have a potato salad designee but, I am going to introduce your tater salad too 😉
    Keep on keepin on……

    1. Tara says:

      Hi Susan, we’re so happy to hear you had success with the macaroni salad and you’re now the official mac salad maker! Thank you for following along with us and we hope you love the coleslaw and potato salad as much as you liked the mac salad!