Tony Roma’s Sweet & Tangy Coleslaw Recipe

Prep Time 2 hours
Cook Time 0 minutes
Total Time 2 hours

Tony Roma’s Sweet & Tangy Coleslaw Recipe is crunchy perfection with the wonderful flavor of celery seed. Easy to make and a great party hit!

When it comes to refreshing salads that serve as the perfect sidekick to your barbecue meals or sandwiches, Coleslaw sits on the throne alongside these other incredible salads, like our refreshing Asian Cucumber Salad, the dreamy Greek Orzo Salad, and the super healthy Three Bean Salad

black bowl filled with coleslaw. A clear jar with dark red bbq sauce.

If you have ever wanted to learn how to make homemade coleslaw, look no further! Coleslaw, with its humble origins, has become a staple in picnics, barbecues, and delis across the globe. The balance of tang, sweetness, and creaminess in its dressing pairs wonderfully with the crispy freshness of shredded cabbage and carrots. Its versatility is unparalleled – from a BBQ side dish to a sandwich filler, this salad has a lot going for it.

Unique in its preparation, Coleslaw hinges greatly on its easy dressing. The use of white vinegar and lemon juice provides the necessary tang while the sugar and mayonnaise add sweetness and creaminess, respectively. The inclusion of seasonings like celery seed, white pepper, and parsley amplifies its flavors, making it truly special.

Originating from the Dutch term “koolsla,” meaning “cabbage salad”, Coleslaw has deep roots in European cuisine. A simple combination of shredded cabbage dressed in vinaigrette, it evolved over the years, especially in America, where mayonnaise found its way into the dressing. Perfect for summer picnics or as a winter side dish, its cooling nature and creamy consistency make it suitable for any season.

Serve your fresh coleslaw alongside pork sandwiches using your own homemade Easy Pulled Pork

More Easy Coleslaw Recipes

How to Make Tony Roma’s Sweet & Tangy Coleslaw

Making Coleslaw at home is a breeze. With fresh ingredients and a bit of patience, you’re on your way to creating the perfect side dish. Let’s dive into making a homemade version that’s miles better than store-bought. Check it out!

  • Step One: Begin by prepping your dressing. In a large bowl, combine parsley, lemon juice, minced onion, celery seed, white pepper, mayonnaise, white vinegar, salt, and granulated sugar. 
  • Step Two: Whisk the ingredients together using a wire whisk until smooth and well combined.
  • Step Three: It’s crucial to allow the dressing to sit and meld the flavors. Refrigerate the dressing, ideally overnight, or at least for a couple of hours.
  • Step Four: Now, bring in the heroes – the cabbage and carrot. Using a box grater, shred and then mix these veggies into the dressing until they’re well coated.
  • Step Five: For best results, refrigerate the combined salad for at least 2 hours before serving. This allows the cabbage and carrot to soak in the dressing flavors.
  • Step Six: Just before serving, give the Coleslaw a good mix to ensure every bite is flavorful.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I add other veggies to my Coleslaw?

Absolutely! Red cabbage, bell peppers, radishes, or even thinly sliced apples for added sweetness. All these can be delightful additions. 

What if I don’t have white vinegar?

Apple cider vinegar can be a good substitute, but it will add a slightly different flavor profile.

How do you make coleslaw without mayo?

You can substitute mayonnaise with Greek yogurt or sour cream for a tangier flavor. Vegan mayo works great too! You can also substitute the mayonnaise with a blend of silken tofu with a splash of olive oil, blended until smooth.

Why does my coleslaw become watery?

Coleslaw can release water due to the salt in the dressing drawing out moisture from the cabbage and carrots. To prevent this, consider salting your shredded cabbage and letting it sit for a bit to draw out excess moisture. Rinse, then pat dry before combining with the dressing.

Can I use a different type of vinegar?

Absolutely! While white vinegar gives a sharp, clean acidity, you can also use apple cider vinegar for a slightly sweeter and more rounded flavor.

How long does homemade coleslaw dressing last in the fridge?

When stored properly in an airtight container, the dressing can last up to a week in the refrigerator.

What’s the difference between coleslaw and slaw?

“Coleslaw” typically refers to a shredded cabbage salad with a creamy dressing. “Slaw” is a broader term, sometimes used for salads without cabbage or those with vinaigrette dressings.

What do you put in coleslaw?

Coleslaw primarily contains shredded cabbage, often mixed with carrots. The dressing can be creamy (often mayo-based) or vinaigrette-style, seasoned with ingredients like vinegar, sugar, and celery seed.

How long should coleslaw sit before serving?

Coleslaw should sit for at least 2 hours in the fridge before serving, allowing flavors to meld. Overnight refrigeration often yields better results.

Key Ingredients in Tony Roma’s Sweet & Tangy Coleslaw Recipe

Coleslaw showcases the fresh and crunchy textures of basic vegetables elevated by a tangy, creamy dressing. Check out the ingredients which can all be easily found in your local grocery store! 

  • Celery Seed: Related to the vegetable celery we are all familiar with, celery seed is a versatile spice that adds depth and a distinct celery flavor to coleslaw and other recipes. This is definitely worth going out of your way to get. 
  • White Pepper: While both white and black pepper come from the same plant, their differences in processing lead to variations in flavor, aroma, and appearance. The flavor of white pepper is milder and more delicate than black pepper. 
  • Green Cabbage: The main star of coleslaw, cabbage provides a delightful crunch and is packed with beneficial nutrients. When choosing, look for a firm head with crisp, tightly packed leaves.
  • Carrot: This adds a hint of sweetness and a pop of color. The finer the shred, the better it integrates into the coleslaw mix.
  • Mayonnaise: The base for the dressing. It’s creamy and has a mild flavor, making it perfect for coleslaw.
  • White Vinegar: Gives that tangy kick. It’s sharp and clean, cutting through the creaminess of the mayo. We are using distilled white vinegar in our own mix at home.
  • Sugar: Balances the acidity of the vinegar. It adds a touch of sweetness to the dressing.

Can Tony Roma’s Sweet & Tangy Coleslaw Recipe Be Made Ahead of Time?

Certainly! Coleslaw is one of those dishes that often tastes even better the next day, as the flavors meld together. Prepare the dressing and vegetables separately and combine them at least two hours before serving. For the best flavor infusion, letting the mixed coleslaw sit overnight is ideal. With its creamy dressing, crunchy cabbage, and colorful carrots, it’s a delightful combination of flavors and textures that can elevate any meal.

Substitutions in Tony Roma’s Sweet & Tangy Coleslaw Recipe

  • Mayonnaise: You can substitute it with Greek yogurt or sour cream for a tangier flavor. Vegan mayo works great too!
  • White Sugar: If you’re looking to use a different sweetener, honey or agave nectar can be used. Adjust to taste.
  • White Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar can be used. Each offers a distinct flavor, so choose according to your preference.
  • Cabbage: No green cabbage? Consider using shredded Brussels sprouts or kale as a unique twist. 
  • White Pepper: Black pepper is commonly used when white pepper is not available. 

Variations on Tony Roma’s Sweet & Tangy Coleslaw Recipe

  • Spicy Coleslaw: Add thinly sliced jalapeños or a dash of hot sauce to the dressing for a spicy kick.
  • Tropical Coleslaw: Mix in some thinly sliced pineapple or mango for a sweet tropical twist.
  • Creamy Blue Cheese Coleslaw: Crumble some blue cheese into the dressing for a rich and tangy flavor profile.
  • Nutty Coleslaw: Toss in a handful of toasted slivered almonds or sunflower seeds for an added crunch.

More Easy Summertime Sides

How to Store Tony Roma’s Sweet & Tangy Coleslaw Recipe

  • Serve: Can be left out for about an hour at room temperature. If you’re serving it outdoors on a warm day, consider placing the serving bowl over a larger bowl filled with ice to keep it cool.
  • Store: For best results, store your coleslaw in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It should remain fresh for up to 3 days. If you notice any excess liquid at the bottom, simply drain it off or give the coleslaw another good mix before serving.
  • Freeze: Freezing coleslaw isn’t typically recommended as the mayo-based dressing can separate and the veggies might become soggy upon thawing. However, if you do wish to freeze, consider making and freezing only the dressing, then combining it with freshly shredded cabbage and carrot when you’re ready to serve.

Tony Roma's Cole Slaw - Sweet, Tangy, Delicious Cole Slaw with a hint of celery seed. Part of the perfect BBQ meal this summer!

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Tony Roma’s Sweet & Tangy Coleslaw Recipe

Tony Roma’s Sweet & Tangy Coleslaw Recipe is crunchy perfection with the wonderful flavor of celery seed. Easy to make and a great party hit!
Yield 6
Prep Time 2 hours
Cook Time 0 minutes
Total Time 2 hours
Course Side
Cuisine American
Author Sabrina Snyder


  • 3/4 teaspoon parsley , minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion , minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 3/4 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 head cabbage , cored and shredded (about 10 oz)
  • 1/2 large carrot , shredded


  • Combine all dressing ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  • Blend with a wire whisk.
  • Refrigerate for as long as you can, but remember the slaw will have to be dressed for at least a couple of hours before serving. It is best to make the dressing the night before.
  • Combine the dressing with the cabbage and carrots.
  • Mix thoroughly.
  • Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.
  • Mix together again just before serving.


Courtesy of Tony Roma


Calories: 164kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 7mg | Sodium: 232mg | Potassium: 144mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 935IU | Vitamin C: 28.5mg | Calcium: 32mg | Iron: 0.4mg
Keyword: copycat recipe, Tony Roma’s Inspired Coleslaw
black bowl filled with coleslaw pin 1

Photos used in a previous version of this post.

Courtesy of Tony Roma's World Famous Ribs restaurant, this cole slaw is tangy and slightly sweet, with the wonderful flavor of celery seed.
BBQ Plate Profile

BBQ Plate in BasketCole Slaw SoloBBQ Meal Cole Slaw Up CloseDressing Cole Slaw
Undressed Cole SlawPremixed Cole Slaw
Dressed Cole Slaw
Cole Slaw Profile

About the Author: Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

Sabrina Snyder is a professionally trained personal and private chef of over 10 years who is the creator and developer of all the recipes on Dinner, then Dessert.

She is also the author of the cookbook Dinner, then Dessert – Satisfying Meals Using Only 3, 5 or 7 Ingredients, published by Harper Collins.

She started Dinner, then Dessert as a business in her office as a lunch service for her coworkers who admired her lunches before going to culinary school and becoming a full time personal chef and private chef.

As a personal chef Sabrina would cook for families one day a week and cook their entire week of dinners. All grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning was done along with instructions on reheating. As a private chef she cooked for private parties and cooked in family homes in the evenings for families on a nightly basis after working as a personal chef during the day.

Sabrina has been certified as a ServSafe Manager since 2007 and was a longstanding member of the USPCA Personal Chef Association including being on the board of the Washington DC Chapter of Chefs in the US Personal Chef Association when they won Chapter of the year.

As a member of the community of food website creators Sabrina Snyder has spoken at many conferences regarding her experiences as a food writer including the Indulge Food Conference, Everything Food Conference, Haven Food Conference and IACP Annual Food Professionals Conference.

Sabrina lives with her family in sunny California.

Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.


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  1. Perfection! This will now be my go to recipe for coleslaw. And yes, it did taste like Tony Roma’s coleslaw. On day one I wondered if there was too much sugar and celery seed on first taste, but waited to serve it after it had been sitting for 24 hours and the flavours all came together. I used two small bags (396 grams each or about 13 ounces) of preshredded coleslaw and tripled the dressing. I served it as a side dish to mesquite chicken. I lost track of how many helpings my husband had, so definitely a winner.
    Thank you for sharing this recipe with us.

  2. Other than the parsley( for what reason other than color) celery seed and milk it’s pretty much the KFC recipe huh? I use celery seed in the kfc also . It’s just plain good in Cole slaw.

  3. Loved the cole slaw recipe except not sure if that was 2 Tablespoons or 2 teaspoons of sugar. I used 2 Tablespoons (Tbls) and it was too sweet. Did add additional red cabbage to it – made it so colorful. Will try with less sugar next time but this is definitely a great recipe for home made!! Thank you Sabrina.

  4. do you use the stronger white vinegar or the weaker distilled white vinegar in this recipe?

    i was raised in Anaheim and we ate at Tony Romas all the time. Best plate was the Bountiful Beef (ribs). To die for. i order the TR Original Sauce on Amazon all the time. I went to the TR in San Jose every week at least once til they shut down. Sad Day for sure! Tony Romas is/was my all time favorite restaurant. I still go the the North Miami location whenever i visit there. Dont have the beef ribs anymore, but the flavors are the same.

  5. Greetings from Chile!
    Your coleslaw tastes incredibly good! I’ve been searching for a recipe like this for a couple years… finally I found yours. Thank you very much, you’ll be on my kitchen for the rest of my life!!! ?

  6. Excellent, but had to tweak a bit as I like mine with more celery seed, mayonnaise and vinegar. All and all though, this is the bomb!

  7. I have been following your site and enjoying your wonderful recipes. I have posted comments and questions but reviews have not been listed. Is there something I am not doing in order to respond and ask questions about recipes. Thank you.

    1. I’m so sorry that they haven’t been going through! I’m not sure why not. 🙁 I got this one though! Let me know what questions I can help with. Also you can always shoot me an email at contact@ dinnerthendessert. com and I will be happy to troubleshoot!
      Thanks for being a reader and reaching out!

  8. This is delish! Has become my families favorite. So easy to prepare and just the right amount of sweet/tangy. I’ve just added this to my recipe list along with several other recipes from your site. I’m surely glad I came across your website. Everything I have tried has been a “5 star”. recipe. Thank you.

    1. So glad you enjoyed! This is one of my go-to coleslaw recipes and a family favorite! Thanks for coming back and letting me know!

  9. Much better than those recipes that start with a “bag of cole slaw mix” and Miracle Whip. UGH!

  10. It’s seriously delicious, and I thought that everyone made their coleslaw this way. My mom always did, and I do as well. We don’t usually measure ingredients (other than when we’re baking), but this is an old family favorite, which was in my grandmother’s handwritten cookbook. I doubt that she knew Tony Roma (ha, ha).

    1. I miss it so much! I also just miss the fun it used to be to go there, not just the flavors. Even the ones that stayed open lost all their magic. Hope you love the coleslaw it definitely captures the flavors!

  11. I love this recipe! Goes together so fast and you know it’s going to taste great. There are so many different versions of cole slaw recipes and store bought is a hit or miss. This is a home run. Thank you!

  12. just made this colesaw it tastes delicious!! ive been looking for a good one and this is it!! thankyou for posting!!

  13. I tried this one and it’s not even close to Tony Roma’s coleslaw!!! Way to vinegary and over spiced. Their slaw is more simple and that’s what makes it best. When I make my Tony’s slaw as I call it, most people think I bout it at Tony Roma’s… but to prove I didn’t I make mine finer chopped.

    1. Thanks for the feedback. I was testing it against the Original Tony Roma’s Slaw but glad you were able to get a better match.

  14. I was wondering if there is a special brand to use on these ingredients? If you don’t use the right brand then the flavor can change. The coleslaw also had poppy seeds in it when I used to eat it. It was my absolute favorite. I still compare Tony Romas coleslaw to everyone else too. Also, I grew up in N. Miami and my Tony Romas was about 20 feet from the railroad tracks. So as a kid we couldn’t wait for the next train to come by and feel the whole place rumble it was so exciting, fun and the best ribs in town!

    1. It’s so nostalgic, isn’t it?! I didn’t use any special brands, just what I had already in my pantry. Definitely give it a try and then come back and let me know what you think!

    2. The one in North Miami was the original one. I used to go there frequently. I have made this several times and it is very good. I too judge every other cole slaw against this one.

  15. Ok…I have to ask – what city near Pasadena? I grew up in San Marino! But back to the recipe – it looks great & I can’t wait to try it!

    1. Thanks! I grew up in Glendale, and I used to come to your neck of the woods every time we went to the Rose Bowl!

  16. I grew up only 10 minutes away in Arcadia and we ALWAYS went to that Tony’s ! I have been craving this cole slaw for a while and I am so happy to have found it. Thanks again!

  17. My husband has fond memories of Tony Roma’s, too. I’ll have to save this to try when he’s home this summer.

    1. Oh how exciting! PLEASE PLEASE come back and tell me if it made him feel nostalgic! I am loving all the responses of people who grew up eating there!

  18. I remember Tony Roma’s well from growing up too! There’s not one near us where I live now…mainly because there’s nothing near us at all really where I live now. 🙂 This certainly sounds fantastic!!

    1. I am loving seeing the comments of people who remember eating at Tony Roma’s. Had you ever tried the onion loaf?

  19. I haven’t been to Tony Roma’s in years, it was a favorite restaurant of ours years ago before the one near us shut down. I’m totally trying this recipe next time I make ribs.

  20. I am a frequent visitor to Tony Roma’s. Just like you, I often try to reverse engineer the recipes that I am eating. This recipe looks great.

    1. Yay, another Tony Roma’s fan! Have you ever tried to recreate a recipe like this one? I’d love to know how it turned out!

  21. I love Tony Roma’s! Especially there coleslaw! Thanks for showing me how to make it at home!

  22. That food looks so yummy. I am sure my husband will love it when I make it for him.

  23. I wouldn’t mind trying this at all. I think it sounds absolutely delicious. I do love a good slaw.

  24. This looks and sounds amazing! I would love trying to make this sometime. Thanks for sharing.

  25. Beautiful pictures! My husband would love this coleslaw- it reminds me of where he is from in North Carolina.

  26. I am so delighted to get this recipe for Tony Roma’s coleslaw. You included the white pepper, which is usually the secret ingredient that’s left out – thanks for including it.
    On a side note, I was born in a small maternity home at Griffith Park and lived in South Pasadena off and on for my first five years of life. Also got married at Knott’s Berry Farm. It is always a shame when an icon blinks out for whatever reason.

    1. I used to go to Griffith Park with my grandparents all the time! They lived in Los Feliz! So many memories back there. I even tried going to a different Tony Roma’s location, and it just isn’t the same. That magic it had when I was a kid was so special 🙂

  27. My family loved Tony Romas! I was never a big red meat eater, so I always ordered a ceaser salad or their shrimp skewers. I will have to try this recipe and see if my brothers recognize it.:)

    1. Was it a hugely popular location for you too? We ALWAYS started with the onion loaf, got ribs with fries and cole slaw. Not the healthiest of meals, but a few times a year we didn’t give it a second thought!