Easy homemade vinegar coleslaw made with shredded vegetables and a sweet tangy dressing. It’s a lighter version of the classic recipe without sacrificing on flavor. Enjoy as a side dish or crunchy topping in sandwiches.
A delicious side dish is a must-have for any backyard barbecue or potluck. A creamy mayo-based classic coleslaw is always a hit, but if you’re looking for an equally flavorful, yet lighter option, then give this vinegar-based version a try! It’s a quick recipe made perfectly for the health-conscious in mind.
Apple cider vinegar creates a tangy and bold taste. Olive oil is gradually whisked into the vinegar-based dressing to create an emulsion. This helps the flavorful ingredients coat and stick to the shredded vegetables. Serve a big scoop alongside grilled chicken or ribs, or add a big pile on top of a pulled pork sandwich for an unforgettable crunch.
This cabbage mixture adds serious crunch
What makes a good coleslaw irresistible is freshly chopped vegetables. Cabbage is very mild in flavor which makes it perfect to toss with this dressing. I use at least two types; green cabbage and red cabbage (also called purple) for a colorful mix. Adding in some vibrant julienned carrots also provides extra health benefits like vitamin A and fiber.
Shredded cabbage size
Skip the prepackaged stuff from the store as it’s easy to cut the cabbage right at home. Plus, one head can make at least two batches of this recipe, you’ll be surprised how much you can yield once you start slicing. Make sure that the pieces are about ¼-inch thick strips.
Cabbage is very high in moisture, at least 90%! That means when cut, that moisture releases when combined with the vinegar dressing due to osmosis of the salt drawing out the water from the cell walls of the leaves. The strip size I use keeps the coleslaw from wilting too quickly and helps it stay crisp.
An emulsion creates a thickened dressing
To make a lighter coleslaw dressing that still has a rich mouthfeel, make an emulsion with the oil and vinegar. The base ingredients like apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, honey, dijon mustard, celery seeds, salt, and pepper are first whisked together until smooth. It has a pungent sweet and sour taste but the consistency is thin, not great to add to the vegetables.
To successfully make the emulsion, slowly add in the extra-virgin olive oil, while vigorously whisking. Patience is key, if you’re tempted to dump in the fat all at one time, it will not thicken properly. The dressing will look opaque and have a thicker consistency.
Combining the vinegar-based coleslaw
First, toss the cabbage and carrots together in a large bowl. Drizzle about half of the dressing on top and toss to combine. I like to taste a few shreds to see if it’s coated enough, then I prefer to give others the option to add more on top later.
It’s best to serve this dish right away if you like a super crispy texture. The longer the cabbage marinates in the vinegar, the more water will be extracted from the leaves and dilute the flavor of the dressing.
Can this recipe be made in advance?
Yes, the shredded vegetables can be prepared up to 5 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. However, it’s best not to make the dressing until right before serving to keep dressing emulsified.
What to serve with the coleslaw
When to make the dressing for the best taste
Whisking the vinegar-based dressing makes a temporary emulsion. After a few hours, the fat droplets will coalesce back together causing the dressing to separate. Adding Dijon mustard helps to prolong this separation as it contains a complex polysaccharide component to help with emulsification, but it’s only short-lived. It’s best to make the dressing right before serving to ensure the mixture stays together.
- 4 cups (230 g) shredded green cabbage, ¼-inch thick slices
- 2 cups (115 g) shredded red cabbage, ¼-inch thick slices
- 1 cup (75 g) shredded carrots
- ¼ cup (30 ml) honey, or pure maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons (15 ml) apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons (15 ml) lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon (2 g) kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon celery seed, optional
- ½ cup (120 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- In a large bowl combine the green cabbage, red cabbage, and carrots.
- In a medium bowl whisk together honey, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, dijon mustard, salt, pepper, and celery seed if using.
- Slowly whisk in the olive oil until the dressing thickens. Taste and season with more salt and pepper as desired.
- Right before serving, drizzle half of the vinegar dressing over the vegetables and toss to combine. Add more dressing as desired or serve the rest on the side.
- Recipe Yield: 6 cups
- Serving Size: 1 cup
- Dressing Yield: About ¾ cups
- Make it Vegan and Paleo: Substitute the honey for pure maple syrup.