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.
Walk into any deli on Long Island, and the greater NY metro area, and you’re sure to find an array of cold salads.
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!
How to make it
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- 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.
- Remove the core from 1 medium green cabbage.
- Cut the cabbage into quarters.
- 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.
- Add the brine to the cabbage and carrot mixture and toss to coat it well.
- 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.
- The next day, drain the cabbage to remove the excess liquid. Save the liquid for use later on (if needed).
- 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!
- 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. 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.
More super sides
- Italian pasta salad – with salami, olives, and mozzarella.
- Potato and green bean salad – with tomatoes, onion, and the best vinaigrette.
- Cucumber salad – with vinegar, dill, and onions.
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New York Deli Coleslaw
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
- 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
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.
- 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 information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.