Tony Roma’s Inspired Coleslaw

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

Today is Memorial Day,  and to all of the men and women out there who have served in the military, a sincere thank you for everything you do that allows us to live freely and happily. Your sacrifices are brave and appreciated.

I grew up in a small suburb just north of Los Angeles, near Pasadena (you’ve probably heard of Pasadena because of the Rose Bowl and the Rose Parade).  Growing up before being a foodie was all the rage, we were excited to have chain restaurants in town. One of the most popular was a ribs and BBQ restaurant called Tony Roma’s. In its heyday the wait on any given weeknight was at least an hour. Try to get in on a weekend? You would be standing out in the street for AT LEAST 2 hours. It felt so special to go so we celebrated most milestones and birthdays there. Sadly the location sort of lost its luster and the popularity dwindled until the they finally shut it down while I was off in college in Washington, DC. I’d bet almost any amount of money if you asked anyone who grew up in my neighborhood where the coolest place in town to eat was? It was Tony Roma’s.BBQ Plate in BasketThis cole slaw recipe is the one I measure all slaws against. Since it is such a part of my childhood, the flavor and smell (celery seed smells amazing!) is something I would never forget. Finding this recipe (an authentic one no less!) was exciting, but also a bit suspicious. I’m sure if you’ve been reading along on the blog until now you have seen quite a lot of restaurant recreations. Recreating food memories is one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen. I’ve seen so many copycat recipes that just never live up to the originals and so when I see proclamations of “Hey this is the real thing!!” I always sort of side eye it and challenge it to live up to the hype. I’ve even made recipes that were put out by the restaurants that you get so excited about and make, only to realize you know they held out on you. They left out that “secret sauce” and gave you something that almost tastes authentic to make you crave the original even more! NOT THIS TIME! This is the real deal. Cole Slaw Solo

I make this cole slaw every summer, usually as part of a Tony Roma’s meal at home. I make chicken or ribs basted in their original recipe sauce, recreate the Crispy Onion Loaf, make the cole slaw and we sit down to a meal that brings back the absolute best memories.BBQ Meal I’ve even gone so far as to pass out the warm wet hand towels after the meal is done like they do in the restaurant. With all of that said, here is the simple, delicious, tangy, sweet, cole slaw recipe I am positive you will love!Cole Slaw Up Close
Combine all dressing ingredients in a large mixing bowl (or a mason jar like I did).Dressing Cole Slaw
Blend or shake if using a jar.
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. I usually make the dressing the night before.
Slice the cabbage and carrots as thinly as you’d like, this cole slaw was always sliced pretty thinly. Undressed Cole Slaw
Combine the dressing with the cabbage and carrots.Premixed Cole Slaw
Mix thoroughly.Dressed Cole Slaw

Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Mix together again just before serving.Cole Slaw Profile



Tony Roma's Inspired Coleslaw

4.65 from 14 votes
  • Yield: 6
  • Prep Time: 2 hours
  • Total Time: 2 hours
  • Course: Side
  • Cuisine: American
  • Author: Sabrina Snyder
Courtesy of Tony Roma's World Famous Ribs restaurant, this cole slaw is tangy and slightly sweet, with the wonderful flavor of celery seed.


  • 3/4 tsp minced parsley
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced onion (unless you're making the something else and have this on hand already, just don't worry about mincing an onion for this small amount)
  • 1/8 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 3/4 tsp white vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 head cabbage , cored and shredded (about 10 oz)
  • 1/2 large carrot , shredded


Note: click on times in the instructions to start a kitchen timer while cooking.

  1. Combine all dressing ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Blend with a wire whisk.
  3. 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. I usually make the dressing the night before.

  4. Combine the dressing with the cabbage and carrots.
  5. Mix thoroughly.
  6. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

  7. Mix together again just before serving.

Recipe Notes

Courtesy of Tony Romas:

Nutrition Information

Yield: 6 , Amount per serving: 164 calories, Calories: 164g, Carbohydrates: 9g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 14g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 7mg, Sodium: 232mg, Potassium: 144mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 7g, Vitamin A: 935g, Vitamin C: 28.5g, Calcium: 32g, Iron: 0.4g

All images and text © for Dinner, then Dessert.

Keywords: copycat recipe, Tony Roma's Inspired Coleslaw
Courtesy of Tony Roma's World Famous Ribs restaurant, this cole slaw is tangy and slightly sweet, with the wonderful flavor of celery seed.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of this delicious meal here:

Tony Roma’s Inspired Chicken with Original BBQ Sauce

Tony Roma’s Inspired Crispy Onion Loaf

BBQ Plate Profile

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

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

  24. 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 🙂

  25. 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!