Old Fashioned Poppy Seed or Coleslaw Dressing

Old Fashioned Poppy Seed or Coleslaw Dressing

I have literally been making this recipe for decades, based on an old family recipe my Mom gave me. It’s fabulous and versatile and just a couple little changes can take this from a Poppyseed dressing suitable for salads and/or fruit salads to the most amazing, tangy Coleslaw Dressing. So that’s why the name is kind of a mix-up mash-up, Old Fashioned Poppy Seed or Coleslaw Dressing.

Old Fashioned Poppy Seed or Coleslaw Dressing

Vinegar Based Cole Slaw make with Green and/or Red Cabbage & Carrots if you wish.


This is a dressing that can go on any number of items. With a substantial tang and a thick sweetness, this dressing pep up and come across as sweet or savory Yep, the same dressing. Depending on what you’d like to drizzle it over, the flavor varies when you change up the seeds, and you can use poppy seeds, celery seed or caraway. It’s a great example of how just a small change can change up a whole recipe.

About Old Fashioned Poppy Seed or Coleslaw Dressing:

This is a simple dressing to make with just a handful of ingredients, but the flavor is incredible. It’s a little sweet, although not as sweet as you might think as you glance through the recipe and has a wonderful tang from three ingredients, the lemon juice, the vinegar, and the last is probably the most important, the mustard powder.

I gotta admit, the mustard powder isn’t used as much these days, but it’s essential to so many dressings and recipes. I know, these days it’s all about the Dijon, but I use it so often I include it on my list of Top Secret, Super Stealth Arsenal of Ingredients (I know, I’m a little full of myself, lol!) It does help emulsify and hold dressings together so they don’t separate but it also gives just a subtle flavor that enhances the other ingredients.

Then there’s the poppyseed; when they’re used the dressing does feel sweet. They add just a little crunch, they’re visually appealing and the taste is gorgeous in this dressing. Caraway is great if you’re really going for an old-world flavor; it’s strong (be careful with it) and it really stands up to assertive flavors like cabbage slaws. Celery seed works in the same way but is much more subtle.


Vinegar Based Coleslaw

Vinegar Based Coleslaw with Old Fashioned Poppy Seed or Coleslaw Dressing

How to Use this as a Poppy Seed Dressing:

My daughter was nuts about Poppy Seed dressing when she was young; I was horrified by the additives! (Funny, I wasn’t so alarmed by the sugar!) I had been using this for years for my coleslaw when I remembered that poppyseed work so well in this base.

This is wonderful with a simple green salad, especially using a “gourmet” lettuce (particularly butter) or spinach and it can even fancy up a crunchy iceberg. It really goes particularly well with salads that have fruit, too. It just sings with salads that have strawberries, or blueberries and works with just about anything with spring or summer fruits. This dressing would be marvelous on my version of Longhorn Steak House’s Grilled Chicken Strawberry Salad instead of the original dressing.

Which brings us to fruit salad! Drizzle a little of this over just about any fruit, blueberries, strawberries, or a mix of almost any fruit to turn it into a fruit salad. This as a poppyseed dressing plays so well with the sweet/sour flavor of fruit – it’s a marriage made in heaven.

Longhorn Grilled Chicken Strawberry Salad

Longhorn Grilled Chicken Strawberry Salad

How to Use this as a Coleslaw Dressing:

Anytime you want a vinegar-based slaw, you can’t go wrong with this dressing when made with Caraway Seed or Celery Seed. I love using this dressing on my version of green and red cabbage with a little carrot, this Vinegar Based Slaw, and I serve it as a side (like with my Iowa Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches) or on top of pulled pork sandwiches.

Of course, way back when, slaws made out of items other than cabbage weren’t really all that well known, at least in the Midwest where I grew up (lots of deep German and Eastern European roots) but since then I’ve tried this on both shaved Brussels sprouts and shaved broccoli salads. On these stronger flavored the veggies, I like to use the caraway, but they’re good with celery seed, too.

When I make coleslaw, I’ll use either the celery seed or the caraway, depending on who/where I’m taking it. I find older peeps like me, and those with German heritage are more likely to like the caraway, while those less familiar with those flavors tend to like the milder celery seed. And btw, I can’t tell you how many tailgating parties, potlucks and camping trips I’ve brought coleslaw made with this dressing to over the decades, and it’s always been a hit! I think it will be one for you, too. It’s just a little different, just a little exciting, and people seem to take notice.

Bonus: I think that this dressing in coleslaw stands up so much better to outdoor events or events like potlucks where it might be sitting a bit than coleslaw made with a mayo or a buttermilk dressing. And I feel a little safer using a vinegar-based dressing like this over a mayo-based one.


Iowa Pork Tenderloin Sandwich

Iowa Pork Tenderloin Sandwich with Vinegar Based Slaw

Making this Dressing:

This dressing can be whisked together or shaken in a jar until the sugar dissolves, and it’s good, but it really shines when done up in a blender. And it’s kind of fun to make, too.

See, you’ll add in all the ingredients except the oil and the seeds, mix them, then drizzle in the oil in a small, steady stream. About halfway through, you’ll see and feel the “hitch” as the dressing thickens and emulsified. It’s just a little magic. Only then, stir in the seeds, and you can really add the seeds to taste.

The dressing will keep that emulsification literally for weeks so don’t be afraid to make extra and store it in the fridge. It will become slightly thicker once refrigerated.


Instant Pot Pulled Pork

Instant Pot Pulled Pork served with Vinegar Based Slaw

Saving Money on Old Fashioned Poppy Seed or Coleslaw Dressing:

For many dressings, I like to use a good olive oil but in this dressing, you’re looking for a very neutral-flavored oil. Use what you’re comfortable with but I like just plain old vegetable oil. Bonus points for cheap! Watch for sales when it can be as much as half off. If using a better oil, check out Aldi or your Buyer’s Club. They’ll usually beat out the grocery store sales price on items like Grapeseed, Avocado, and other oils. The big exception is probably when a new brand is introduced to the grocery store. There may be sales with coupons attached to the bottle or on hangtags (check the producer’s site, too) and are often priced very low. After they become more established don’t expect to keep seeing those specials, so grab them up. And don’t forget to take off and hand the coupon to the clerk; they’ll often ignore them when they’re on the package.

It’s very rare that I buy any baking/pantry items like sugar when I need it. I’m constantly watching the ads for rock bottom pricing which is often around holidays, especially Easter/Lent and the Winter Holidays. See what to expect to be on sale around any holiday on my post, Win at the Grocers.

As far as seeds, I find the lowest prices in my area in small cellophane bags hanging in the produce department. I just keep my little jars and keep refilling as needed while I keep the rest in a dark cupboard, except for the poppyseed, which go into a Ziploc in my freezer. They’ll quickly go rancid at room temperatures.

Old Fashioned Poppy Seed or Coleslaw Dressing

Old Fashioned Poppy Seed or Coleslaw Dressing.


Old Fashioned Poppy Seed or Coleslaw Dressing

  • Author: Catherine Barlow
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: about 1 cup 1x


  • 1/4 cup of lemon juice (fresh is best, bottled in a pinch; see note)
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar (try white for poppy seed, apple cider for celery)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 cup light olive or canola oil
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon celery, poppy or caraway seeds


Place the first five ingredients in a blender in the order listed. Pulse and blend until smooth. (May need to stop and stir up from bottom.)

Slowly, through the top of the blender, with the blender running, drizzle in the oil and blend until emulsified.

Stir seeds in by hand. Refrigerate. The mixture will become slightly thicker when chilled. Makes about a cup.

Note: if bottled lemon is used, check to see if it needs to be mixed with water to mimic the strength of an actual lemon; it may be concentrated.

Keywords: Cabbage, cabbage slaw, Family Recipe, Fruit, German, Nuts and Seeds, poppy seed, Salad, Salad Dressings, Slaw

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This tangy/sweet Old Fashioned Poppy Seed or Coleslaw Dressing is a 10 minute make and so marvelous on green, fruit salads or slaw! Vary it easily to go sweet or savory. #ColeslawDressing #VinegarColeslawDressing #Coleslaw #PoppySeedDressing #OldFashionedColeslawDressing

11 thoughts on “Old Fashioned Poppy Seed or Coleslaw Dressing

  1. Bethany Imsland

    I’ll be using honey rather than sugar, any idea how much I’d use? Also, will the whizzy break it down enough or should I warm the vinegar to dissolve it first?

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Hi Bethany I have not tried this with Honey so I can’t say for certain but if I were going to attempt this I would use a little bit less honey maybe a couple tablespoons less and see how it goes. You can always add more. Taste and adjust from there.

      The one thing I would worry about is how thick the dressing would be with Honey because it was quite thick with sugar and honey is even thicker to start with. If it does turn out very thick you may want to add just a touch of water to thin it to a reasonable level. I don’t think you’ll need to heat the vinegar but that’s just a guess on my part. I’d love to hear how it turns out! Mollie

  2. Kelly

    LOVE THIS DRESSING !!! I’ve made it a couple of times now and we LOVE it !!! I used 1 T monk fruit spoonable sweetener, white vinegar, 1 tsp of dry mustard, poppy seeds and combination of olive oil and avocado oils that I purchase from Costco… Truly fabulous, and fits in my keto lifestyle…. I’ve been searching for a coleslaw dressing for years… Thanks so much for your website ! Can’t wait to try more of your recipes… Happy New Year to you and Yours !!

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Hi Kelly, thanks you made my day!!

      I am going to have to check out that Monk fruit sweetener – I love this dressing too but always have a bit of reservation because of the sugar! And I’m always interested in hearing of any adaptations made, especially low carb and keto for any of my recipes…I’m determined to eat better or at least for most of the time! I appreciate hearing about your tweaks!

      I almost picked up avocado oil at costco the last time I was there – I “thought” the price looked good but I wanted to compare it first. Then of course I forgot!! And I usually buy my olive oil there.

      Happy New Year’s to you, and your family, too!

    • Hey Heather! I’m sure this is a vintage recipe. I remember a lot of the older women I knew when I was young made a boiled recipe a lot like this.

      I’m guessing when blenders became commonplace, it was discovered how easy it was to make without cooking. 🙂

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