Red slaw is different from traditional coleslaw in that it does not use mayonnaise as an ingredient, allowing it to be stored for longer periods without refrigeration and making it more suitable for outdoor serving. It is made with green cabbage, vinegar and ketchup, giving it the characteristic color. In addition to being a staple part of Lexington style barbecue, it is also common in other portions of the Southeastern United States and is considered a staple. In these regions, regular cole slaw may be called "white slaw" to differentiate it from red slaw.
Recipes vary widely and may include other ingredients, such as onion, sugar, black pepper, mustard seed and other spices, depending on the region in which it is being served.