Vinegar Coleslaw

4.94 from 16 votes
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Easy coleslaw recipe with vinegar, shredded vegetables, and a sweet, tangy dressing. It’s a lighter version of the classic version without sacrificing flavor. Enjoy as a side dish or crunchy topping in sandwiches.

Vinegar coleslaw recipe served in a bowl.

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 delicious yet lighter option, try this vinegar-based version! 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 thighs or ribs, or add a big pile on a pulled pork sandwich for an unforgettable crunch.

Shredded cabbage and carrots in a bowl.

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 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 vinegar coleslaw 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, 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.

Pre-portioned ingredients laid out on a table to make this vinegar based coleslaw recipe.

An emulsion creates a thickened dressing

Make an emulsion with the oil and vinegar for a lighter coleslaw dressing with a rich mouthfeel. 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 spicy sweet and sour taste, but the consistency is thin, not great to add to the vegetables.

To make the emulsion, slowly add the extra-virgin olive oil while vigorously whisking. Patience is critical. If you’re tempted to dump in the fat all at once, it will not thicken properly. The dressing will look opaque and have a thicker consistency.

Whisking a vinegar-based dressing in a metal bowl.

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 immediately 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 the dressing emulsified.

Serve this with

Colorful shreds of vinegar slaw makes the perfect side dish for a summer bbq.

When to make the dressing for the best taste

Whisking the vinegar slaw 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.

Vinegar Coleslaw

Delicious vinegar coleslaw with tangy and refreshing flavors that pair perfectly with any grilled or fried foods. Plus, its simple ingredients make it a quick and easy side dish to whip up for any gathering or weeknight meal.
4.94 from 16 votes
Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time0 minutes
Total Time25 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Course Side
Cuisine American


  • 4 cups shredded green cabbage, ¼" thick slices
  • 2 cups shredded red cabbage, ¼" thick slices
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • ¼ cup honey, or pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon celery seed, optional
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil


  • Mix the Cabbage – In a large bowl, combine the green cabbage, red cabbage, and carrots.
  • Make the Dressing – 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.
  • Toss the Coleslaw – 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.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 6 servings
Calories 163kcal (8%)Carbohydrates 17g (6%)Protein 1g (2%)Fat 11g (17%)Saturated Fat 2g (10%)Sodium 170mg (7%)Potassium 226mg (6%)Fiber 2g (8%)Sugar 13g (14%)Vitamin A 3941IU (79%)Vitamin C 37mg (45%)Calcium 39mg (4%)Iron 1mg (6%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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  1. Diandra says

    This sounds lovely! Quick question – how do you store the leftover cabbage head halves (quarters?)? We’re just two people at home, so even one recipe of this would last us a long time, and I am not completely sure how many cabbage-based recipes I could make before mutiny starts. ^^

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I would wrap the cut pieces tightly in plastic wrap, then store them in a large resealable bag.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      No, I do not recommend freezing the coleslaw. The cabbage is high in moisture and once frozen, the cell walls will rupture if defrosted, making it really soft and mushy.

  2. Brian Fox says

    Made this the other night. Super delicious and nice and light with nothing to weigh it down. Loved the little bit of sweetness from the honey too.