Vinegar Coleslaw Recipe (2024)

  • Vegetarian
  • Vegetarian Salads
  • Vegan
  • Vegan Salads
  • Dairy-free

This sweet and tangy vinegar coleslaw makes a great accompaniment to rich barbecue.


Joshua Bousel

Vinegar Coleslaw Recipe (1)

Joshua Bousel

Joshua Bousel is a Serious Eats old-timer, having started sharing his passion for grilling and barbecue recipes on the site back in 2008. He continues to develop grilling and barbecue recipes on his own site, The Meatwave, out of his home base of Durham, North Carolina.

Learn about Serious Eats'Editorial Process

Updated June 06, 2023



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Vinegar Coleslaw Recipe (2)

Why It Works

  • A sugar-and-salt mixture purges the cabbage of excess moisture, leaving it tender, but still crunchy and well-seasoned.
  • An equal amount of vinegar and sugar gives this slaw a tangy and sweet character.
  • Celery seeds add a light celery flavor and some pleasing texture.

Growing up, I assumed that coleslaw was some sort of joke. Why would I ever want that sorry little paper cup of tough, bland cabbage? You know, the kind that comes as a paltry afterthought with your towering sandwich at the local Greek diner? I always figured it was just a steady, meticulous way to rid the world of a vegetable no one really wanted, one sandwich at a time.

Vinegar Coleslaw Recipe (3)

And that was pretty much my view for over a decade, right up until I found the Gospel of Barbecue. With the great tradition of smoked meats, I was presented with coleslaw alongside pulled pork, ribs, and brisket, served in portions that made it seem like something you'd actually want to eat—and best of all, it was!

Vinegar Coleslaw Recipe (4)

Good coleslaw provides a light and fresh contrast to heavy, barbecued meats, with a tang that manages to cut through (at least some) of the deliciously greasy fat. So I stopped shying away from slaw and started to embrace it, getting to know a range of variations that have turned me from an uncompromising hater to a full-on lover of all things cabbage salad.

Vinegar Coleslaw Recipe (5)

Over the years, I've experimented with making slaw at home, but I never really thought I was killing it until Kenji gave coleslaw the Food-Lab treatment last summer. The trick is to purge your slaw vegetables of all excess moisture, leaving behind a well-seasoned mix that's nice and tender with just the right amount of crunch. The process itself requires simply mixing the shredded vegetables with sugar and salt for about five minutes before giving it a good rinse and a ride in the salad spinner.

Now that I've got that perfect traditional slaw down pat, I've shifted my efforts to varying the dressing flavors. Here is a classic vinegar slaw, but there are variations. There’s Lexington-style red slaw, mustard slaw, tangy apple slaw, and spicy slaw with a kick.

Vinegar slaw was my gateway slaw, the first I ever remember really loving. We met at the second Big Apple Block Party in New York back in 2004 and, while I can't remember exactly who was slinging the vinegar slaw that year, a very close approximation has since showed up in Mike and Amy Mill's book, Peace, Love, and Barbecue.

The dressing is simply a one-to-one mix of cider vinegar and sugar with a little bit of garlic, oil, and celery seeds, which add a light celery flavor and a bit of texture. It may be simple, but it works so darn well; those straightforward tangy, sweet flavors pair harmoniously with the more complex rubs and seasonings found in most barbecue. Because of its bright, fresh character, I also love it as a sandwich component.

June 2014

This recipe was cross-tested in 2023 and updated to guarantee best results. For a more balanced dressing, we reduced the amount of sugar used.

Recipe Details

Vinegar Coleslaw

Serves10to 12 servings


For the Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup (120ml) apple cider vinegar

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar (1.75 ounces; 50g)

  • 3 tablespoons (45ml) extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic (about 1 medium clove)

  • 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use half as much by volume

  • Freshlyground black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds

For the Slaw:

  • 1 large head green cabbage (about 3 1/2 pounds), finely shredded on a mandoline or by hand (16 cups)

  • 2 large carrots (6 ounces; 170g), peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater (1 cup)

  • 1 medium yellow onion (8 ounces; 225g), thinly sliced crosswise on a mandoline or by hand (1 cup)

  • 2/3 cup sugar (4.7 ounces; 133g)

  • 1/3 cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt (1.7 ounces; 48g); for table salt, use half as much by volume or the same weight


  1. For the Dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, sugar, oil, garlic, salt, black pepper, and celery seeds until sugar is dissolved.

    Vinegar Coleslaw Recipe (6)

  2. For the Slaw: Combine cabbage, carrot, and onion in a large bowl. Sprinkle with sugar and salt and toss to combine. Let stand 5 minutes, then transfer to a large colander and rinse thoroughly under cold running water.

    Vinegar Coleslaw Recipe (7)

  3. Transfer vegetables to a salad spinner and spin dry. Alternatively, transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet lined with a triple layer of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel and blot mixture dry with more towels. Return to large bowl.

    Vinegar Coleslaw Recipe (8)

  4. Pour dressing over vegetables and toss to coat. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and sugar.

    Vinegar Coleslaw Recipe (9)

Special Equipment

Mandoline (optional)

Read More

  • Lexington-Style Red Coleslaw
  • Mustardy Coleslaw
  • Tangy Apple Coleslaw
  • Jalapeño Coleslaw
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
4g Fat
25g Carbs
2g Protein


Nutrition Facts
Servings: 10to 12
Amount per serving
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 4g5%
Saturated Fat 0g2%
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 1788mg78%
Total Carbohydrate 25g9%
Dietary Fiber 3g11%
Total Sugars 20g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 51mg253%
Calcium 76mg6%
Iron 0mg3%
Potassium 319mg7%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Vinegar Coleslaw Recipe (2024)


Should I use white vinegar or apple cider vinegar for coleslaw? ›

Distilled white vinegar is a great substitute for apple cider vinegar. Lemon Juice. I don't recommend making a substitution for the lemon juice.

Why do you put vinegar in coleslaw? ›

It has a sweet-sour flavor that adds a little brightness to coleslaw dressings with and without mayo. Two more pieces of coleslaw wisdom: Don't forget the freshly ground black pepper, and don't make it more than one hour in advance.

How do you make Gordon Ramsay homemade coleslaw? ›

In a bowl mix together 2 Tbs vinegar, juice of half lemon, 3 Tbs mayonnaise, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp salt and pepper and mix well. Add the dressing into the cabbage and mix well. Let sit for 15 minutes before serving as a healthy side dish to your burger!

How long is vinegar coleslaw good for? ›

As a general rule of thumb, once opened, you should consume it within three to five days. That's usually the sweet spot where it tastes as intended without the risk of turning your stomach into a war zone. Now, if we're talking homemade coleslaw, the story gets a bit more nuanced.

What happens if you use white vinegar instead of apple cider vinegar? ›

According to Burdeos, if you're going to be using it for cooking, white vinegar can be successfully substituted for apple cider vinegar. Just note that it will taste slightly different and obviously won't have that hint of apple flavor if that's also what you're after.

What is Amish coleslaw made of? ›

Old Fashioned Amish Vinegar Coleslaw

Made with shredded cabbage, onion, apple cider vinegar, and dry mustard.

Why does my homemade coleslaw taste bitter? ›

Cabbage Core:Issue: The core of the cabbage can be bitter, especially if it's not removed before shredding. Solution: Ensure that you remove the core of the cabbage before shredding it. Cut the cabbage in half, then cut out the triangular core from each half. Old Cabbage:Issue: Older cabbage may develop a bitter taste.

What is traditional coleslaw made of? ›

What is traditional coleslaw made of? Traditional coleslaw is little more than shredded cabbage and a creamy dressing. This recipe adds a bit more flavor with shredded carrots and onion. The creamy dressing is made with mayonnaise, sugar, cider vinegar, salt, and pepper, for a just right tangy-sweet flavor.

Why does my homemade coleslaw go watery? ›

Cabbage contains lots of water. Alton Brown suggests salting the cabbage and letting the water drain for two hours, then rinsing the cabbage and spinning it dry before dressing it. That purges the excess water out of the cabbage before it is dressed, so it doesn't get watery.

Why is KFC coleslaw so good? ›

KFC coleslaw has a sweet and tangy taste, with a creamy texture. The dressing is made with a blend of mayonnaise, buttermilk, vinegar, sugar, and spices, which gives it its distinct flavor. The coleslaw also contains shredded cabbage and carrots, which add a crisp and fresh texture to the dish.

Why did KFC stop selling coleslaw? ›

The fast food chain was forced to stop selling its coleslaw tubs when a supply issue meant the slaw would have to be served up without the dressing. “We are currently experiencing a supply issue with our KFC coleslaw dressing,” a KFC spokesperson said. The slaw is made up of cabbage and carrots coated in mayonnaise.

What is in Mary Brown's coleslaw? ›

Mary Brown's shreds fresh cabbage and carrots in house, and tops it with a creamy dressing. The freshly shredded veggies give you a light yet satisfying crunch while the dressing gives you the tanginess you're looking for.

Why does coleslaw go bad so quickly? ›

Additionally, coleslaw often contains mayo or dairy-based dressings that can go bad pretty quickly. The U.S. Department of Agriculture warns that bacteria thrive at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, so the longer you leave your food out, the higher the risk of spoilage.

How do you fix coleslaw with too much vinegar? ›

Don't use too much vinegar

If you do add too much and your coleslaw tastes unpleasant or acidic, there are some ways you can balance it out. If you have extra, add more cabbage or veggies so the dressing will spread out more. If you haven't added the condiment mix yet, add more of the other ingredients to compensate.

Can you eat coleslaw 2 days out of date? ›

Well, like most things if it looks okay, smells okay and tastes okay, it's probably okay to eat. Signs to look out for might include the texture getting noticeably softer instead of crispy, any discoloration at all (areas or spots of gray or brown), and obviously anything growing on it.

Is white vinegar or apple cider vinegar better for pickling? ›

Because apple cider vinegar is made from apples rather than barley, corn rice or wine, it gives pickles a mellower taste. Using a white distilled vinegar, for example, will create a harsher flavour. But as well as being gentler on your palate, using apple cider vinegar also adds health benefits to pickles.

Can I use apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar for salad? ›

Apple cider vinegar

This vinegar is on the lighter end of the spectrum in terms of tang, but will still add that classic vinegar taste to your meal. It works well in salad dressings as well as pickling and marinating.

Is it better to use white vinegar or apple cider vinegar? ›

Overall, I prefer apple cider vinegar, especially for cooking and dressings. It adds a touch of sweetness and complexity. Plus, it has potential nutritional and health benefits that white vinegar lacks. However, white vinegar's lower pH level makes it better for some uses, like pickling and cleaning.

Can I use white vinegar instead of apple cider vinegar for salad dressing? ›

Cooking uses: Apple cider vinegar and white vinegar are both popular ingredient choices for salad dressings, vinaigrettes, marinades, or seasonings for veggies like beets. White vinegar is clearer and more acidic, making it a better choice for pickling vegetables.

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