The Best Store-Bought Coleslaw Brands Ranked

If made properly, coleslaw can transcend its humble history as cabbage and dressing to become one of the more intriguing salads in your cookout collection. Whether you start with a bag of shredded cabbage and make your own mixture to flavor, or choose a premade coleslaw prepared by deli professionals, there's an essential balance among the ingredients that lends to Southern-style sandwiches and becomes a noteworthy side dish without further adornment.

There's more than one way to slay a slaw, and knowing which of the store-bought options is the best coleslaw for your special occasion can get you off to a flavorful start. We headed to the produce section and deli counter of several grocery stores to gather a slew of slaw variations and mixed them up with a little homemade dressing using plant-based mayo, Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, salt, and pepper. Then, we gave them the old taste test, gauging taste, texture, and all-around enjoyability, and ranked them worst to best to help you make the tastiest decision possible. Truth be told, even the lesser options put us in a supremely summer mood and made us happy the season of outdoor get-togethers has finally arrived again!

11. Marketside Tri-Color

There's a generally-accepted size and shape for coleslaw pieces, and anyone who's indulged in a proper slaw knows when it's right and when it's not. Marketside Tri-Color coleslaw from Walmart's produce section may provide an affordable bag of pre-shredded cabbage to get you closer to the finished product, but the irregularity of the pieces is so off-putting, you may find yourself needing to run the contents of the bag through your food processor to get things sorted. Our bag may not have been representative of every Marketside Tri-Color combination, but some of what we found wasn't shredded at all. There were half-leaves that looked as if they just slid through the cabbage conveyor belt without hitting a blade.

Poor slicing aside, the flavor here starts out fresh, but it ends with notes that are sharp and dirty-tasting, courtesy of the fiery cabbage. This is closest to what you might get in a school cafeteria. If it were bursting with irresistible flavor, it might be allowable to give it a little extra slice-and-dice. But even being priced at under $2.00 or so, the overly-ripe flavor prevents it from being worth the extra trouble. You might as well spring for whole vegetables and try your hand at making a KFC-style slaw instead.

10. Fresh Express America's Fresh Kit

Fresh Express makes it easy to toss together a finished coleslaw without having to manage your own dressing with its America's Fresh Coleslaw Kit. This ready-to-prep selection includes a pouch of pre-mixed dressing that looks less like an authentic mayo mix and more like a mustard-heavy salad sauce. All you have to do is snip it, whip it, and serve it up. If it were any easier, it would load itself up on the fork for you, too. Unfortunately, that's an enhancement for future coleslaw scientists to tackle. As it stands, this bag is state-of-the-art and as easy as it gets.

If only the contents of the bag were as promising as the concept. It's not the fault of the cabbage, to be sure. The greens mix is a thoroughly pleasant of mostly green cabbage, presented in a texture that's likely meant to be classic with a variety of shapes based on the different types of cabbage; the red cabbage offers larger, flatter pieces, while the green cabbage is more evenly shredded, and the carrots are grated strips. The downfall of this slaw is the dressing, which is cloyingly sweet, with a strange chemical taste. One bite was all it took to know homemade dressing is preferable to this pre-made mess.

9. Good & Gather Tri-Color

Good & Gather Tri-Color bagged coleslaw mix is like the confetti of our coleslaw collection, a sack of randomly-torn cabbage with scant shreds of cabbage that look like they were thrown together at the last minute. It might be better to think of this Target-based bag as the iceberg salad version of coleslaw: large, leafy pieces that don't fit on the fork as comfortably as the more familiar coleslaw model. You may want to hand out knives if you add this to your checkered tablecloth array so your feasters can cut it into bite-sized pieces.

And yet, having a bigger leaf to work with allowed us to distribute more dressing without overwhelming the dish, different from the smaller shreds from other bags that can get a little lost in the sauce. So, rather than tossing it to the bottom of the list, we're giving Good & Gather Tri-Color credit for showing up with what seems like an intentionally larger cut that lets you treat your slaw in a salad-like manner if you so desire. Just don't expect it to look like your grandma's coleslaw.

8. Kroger Tri-Color

Maybe Kroger partnered with Edward Scissorhands to get its tri-color coleslaw mix to market. We're not sure what else could explain the chaotic mix of shapes and sizes we found when we opened the bag. The textures are all over the place, with some long, skinny shreds and some short chunks that make it really hard to have consistent plating. Imagine trying to scoop out a serving with a spoon, only to have a tangled mat land among your other selections with its tendrils splayed and its dressing sprayed on everything else. It's a violation of every slaw law in the book. Not cool, Kroger.

Despite this unexpected snag, we were hoping for a fully traditional coleslaw experience. But once we made it past the cabbagey snarl to give it a taste, we found the flavor was terribly bland, too. All we could taste was our homemade dressing, which was judiciously applied in order to let the greens come through. They didn't. The one merit Kroger was able to capture was a satisfying crunch, but that came with a sloppy bite that made more of a mess than necessary.

7. Fresh Express 3 Color Deli

After you tear into a few bags of three-colored coleslaw mix like the kind Fresh Express markets, you start to see the familiarity of the ingredients. There's not a whole lot of variation to be had here, so aspects like refined texture and thoughtful ratio of cabbages to carrots are crucial to capture the hearts of coleslaw-loving customers. So, when you open an unimpressive blend and stare into a collection of nothing special, the difference is notable. Fresh Express may drop red and green cabbage in the bag with shredded carrots, but it's as mediocre as it gets in the coleslaw world.

There's a passable mix of vegetables here, to be sure. Our bag was also supremely fresh and crunchy, and a lot leafier than the other bags, which was a pleasant surprise. But even with our chosen dressing tossed in to ramp up the coleslaw personality, the cabbage flavor came through too strongly and stomped on any other flavor we might have been looking for. Maybe sweetening the dressing with maple syrup or tossing in almond slivers or mandarin slices could salvage the gassy cloud cast by the cabbage. But without some extra imagination, you'll have a slaw that brings nothing special to the table. It's worth passing by in favor of better mixes.

6. Kroger Creamy

Kroger stocks its deli with everything you need to get your neighborhood picnic up to par, including a creamy coleslaw that comes in both modestly small 16-ounce and mind-bogglingly large 48-ounce cartons, with nothing in between. You'll either have nothing left over when your celebration ends, or you'll be sending your guests home with goodie bags filled with coleslaw to be enjoyed for days.

Based on the flavor, the smaller carton would be a wiser purchase. We would call this one "Southern-style" thanks to the sweetness in the dressing. It's almost too sugary, laying over the flavors of the cabbage as if to mellow the powerful green taste. There also seems to be too much dressing and not enough cabbage, which represents the "creamy" in the name but makes mush out of what should be a combination of creamy and crunchy elements. This would be a last resort purchase if we were in a pinch, but we'd definitely shop for other options first.

5. Signature Select Classic

Seeing a coleslaw described as old-fashioned triggers a memory of sugary dressing that's more Miracle Whip than mayonnaise, which may not be everyone's idea of a rocking good slaw. Signature Select Classic coleslaw is an Albertsons and Safeway prepared version that shows restraint with the sweetener, resulting in a passable product that does have a familiar flavor that gets the blend of diced cabbage and dressing right. This is the slaw that sidles up to fried chicken and ribs for a blue plate special-level side dish.

While it offers a pleasant and familiar coleslaw experience and provides a texture that's easy to enjoy, the flavors are a bit imbalanced. We detected a hint of celery that lingered too long on the tongue, as well as a vinegar-mustard bite that hit us in the back of the throat with more force than necessary. Strangely, it was this unevenness that made us think of a homemade coleslaw recipe handed down through generations, with every next cook giving it their own tweaks. The end product is an imperfect pass at coleslaw that's still a lot of fun at parties.

4. Marketside Broccoli Slaw

If the same-old cabbage-based coleslaw sounds like a drag for your fun feast, a bag of Walmart's Marketside Broccoli Slaw will add a novel crunch to your usual recipe. In addition to pushing small pieces of red cabbage into the background in favor of generous matchstick shreds of broccoli, it also brings in julienne carrots for a better tooth and a more substantial array of veggies to hold your dressing in place. For anyone who makes the mistake of making coleslaw that adheres too closely to tradition, this bag gives you an al dente twist you can't resist.

These clever shreds didn't lose their character in the least when we dropped a dollop of dressing into the bowl and mixed it around. The size of the pieces makes each bite erupt like fireworks while providing flavor fresh enough to make your partygoers think you spent hours chopping up vegetables, when all you did was rip open a plastic bag filled with a thoughtful take on coleslaw. It's easy to elevate the core creation with sunflower seeds, peanuts, or chow mein noodles to take it in an elegantly Asian direction. But even if you just toss in mayo and a dash of salt, you'll be good to go.

3. Marketside Angel Hair

We were nerdishly excited when we opened our bag of Marketside Angel Hair coleslaw, for the delicate texture if nothing else. We'd never heard of this type of slaw mix before and were intrigued by the thin strands of almost-white cabbage that stood in great contrast to the other bags in the produce section. And when the aroma hit us, we were staggered; it smells more like sauerkraut than just plain old cabbage, which struck us as an incredible innovation in the coleslaw game.

How does Marketside get the very finely sliced, almost thread-like shreds of cabbage that are so wildly different from the run-of-the-mill shreds? Whatever sorcery makes it happen, we're just happy that it exists. Our dressing gave it just enough creaminess to cut the sharpness and make a thoroughly enticing gourmet coleslaw, one we'd be most likely to serve with brats or sausage sandwiches. It's the most original take on coleslaw of all the variations we tried, though not the most authentic, which keeps it from the top of the list. But boy, is it ever a discovery for BBQ fans who love both coleslaw and sauerkraut.

2. Signature Select Classic

Signature Select Classic coleslaw from Albertsons and Safeway is another premade package that lets you get on with your backyard celebration without lingering in the kitchen. Does it matter that it comes in a plastic carton rather than a Rubbermaid dish or crystal bowl to give the impression of a homemade recipe? If so, feel free to serve it in whatever vessel you think is best. The point is, if you're in a rush or you simply don't have the urge to make your own, you can get to the finish line with this prepared slaw without breaking a sweat.

Of the pre-made coleslaw on the list claiming to be authentic and old-fashioned, Signature Select Classic comes closest to being the real deal. A pleasant and familiar coleslaw experience, with diced cabbage and a nice creamy dressing that's easy to get on the fork into your mouth without dropping any. There's a lingering hint of celery and a bit of a bite that hits you in the back of the throat from the vinegar and mustard, a tingle that shows up after bite number two. It didn't prevent us from finishing our samples; in fact, we were so impressed with the brand's willingness to be a bit daring with the flavor profile, we kept eating even after the sampling was through. That's a bold testimonial for a packaged coleslaw, one that gets it almost to the top of the list.

1. Freshness Guaranteed Homestyle

The name is no lie: Freshness Guaranteed delivers on its garden-groovy name with this homestyle coleslaw concoction. Being a pre-mixed deli-style slaw, it's available in the refrigerated case of the Walmart deli section, ready to be cracked open and passed around the picnic table. The nearly-two-pound carton is plenty for getting eight to ten servings doled out during a medium-sized get together, and with none of the elbow grease required to craft your own blend.

For a sandwich counter take on coleslaw, this Walmart brand dials in the perfect arrangement of elements. The mix includes plenty of carrots among the diced cabbage, textured nicely enough to sit on your fork like it belongs there. The dressing is a pleasant balance of sweet and tangy without playing tug-of-war with your tastebuds. And where some pre-made coleslaws can come off as watery, Freshness Guaranteed keeps creaminess top of mind. At almost $4.00, it's a pricier option than the bagged versions, but it's also a generous amount that minimizes your work and tastes great, which makes it worth the extra cash.

How we ranked our coleslaws

Store-bought coleslaw seems like a challenging dish to rank. It's essentially cabbage and dressing, with not a lot of room for variation. But once you start opening the bags and cracking the lids on the deli cartons, you discover how distinctive each recipe can be. Grocery chains are going for the middle of the road to please as many customers as possible. But that comes in the form of coleslaw that's a little sweeter here, a little tangier there, and filled with a stunning variety of texture possibilities that can derail your plans for an easy beachside cookout dish.

Our ranking was determined by both flavor and texture when it came time to taste-test our selections. But the usability of the mixes turned out to be an important factor when we made our determinations. Nobody wants to do extra work when they're already trying to take the easy route. If you're looking for a coleslaw you can unbag and toss with a bottle of pre-made dressing, you want the shreds to be ready to go. Having a few unique options like broccoli slaw and angel hair slaw gave us a bit of real variety to dig our forks into, too. It turns out there's more distinction in store-bought coleslaw than we anticipated.