Vinegar Coleslaw

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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.

Vinegar coleslaw 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 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.

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 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.

pre-portioned ingredients laid out on a table

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.

whisking a vinegar-based dressing

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

Colorful shreds of vegetables in a bowl

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.

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Vinegar Coleslaw

Easy vinegar coleslaw made with shredded vegetables and a sweet tangy dressing. It’s a lighter version of the classic recipe without sacrificing on flavor.
Pin Print Review
4.28 from 11 votes
Prep Time25 mins
Cook Time0 mins
Total Time25 mins
Servings 6 servings
Course Side
Cuisine American


  • 4 cups shredded green cabbage, ¼-inch thick slices
  • 2 cups shredded red cabbage, ¼-inch 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


  • 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.

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Nutrition Facts
Vinegar Coleslaw
Amount Per Serving
Calories 163 Calories from Fat 99
% Daily Value*
Fat 11g17%
Saturated Fat 2g10%
Sodium 170mg7%
Potassium 226mg6%
Carbohydrates 17g6%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 13g14%
Protein 1g2%
Vitamin A 3941IU79%
Vitamin C 37mg45%
Calcium 39mg4%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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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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4 Comments Leave a comment or review

  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

      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.

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