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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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- 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.
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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