Tangy vinegar coleslaw is crunchy and bursting with color and flavor. With a mayonnaise-free dressing, this coleslaw is a healthy alternative to creamy coleslaw.
Why you’ll love it: It’s a refreshing change from classic creamy coleslaw and it keeps well.
How long it takes: 15 minutes to make but allow an extra hour for chilling.
Equipment you’ll need: sharp knife, large bowl, measuring utensils
Isn’t this a beautiful colorful salad? I love the purple, green, and orange explosion of color. It’s like fireworks in a bowl!
The flavors of vinegar coleslaw explode in your mouth, as well. Maybe I’m carrying the “explosion” theme too far, but really, I can’t say enough about this colorful and flavorful coleslaw. I’m getting a bang out of all these adjectives and I’m just bursting to tell you about this recipe. All right, that really is too much, isn’t it? I’ll chill out.
Speaking of chilling out, vinegar coleslaw is a perfect make ahead recipe. This coleslaw actually tastes better if it spends some time chilling in the fridge, at least an hour but up to a week. It’s almost like a quick cabbage pickle. If you haven’t tried quick pickles yet, make sure you don’t miss pickled red onions or refrigerator dill pickles. Pickled asparagus is really tasty, too, and makes an elegant addition to your charcuterie plate.
Coleslaw has been around for eons, back to Roman times. Since mayonnaise is relatively new on the scene, the first coleslaw recipes probably were similar to this vinegar-based one. The ingredients are simple and it keeps well. The Romans probably kept it in stone jugs or something.
While I love creamy coleslaw or yogurt-based healthy coleslaw, there’s definitely a place in my heart for vinegar coleslaw. Lower in calories and fat, with loads of nutrition (all that cabbage and carrots!), it’s a win-win. You’re going to love it!
About this vinegar coleslaw
Whether you use a couple bags of coleslaw mix, or shred your own cabbage, this is an easy salad to make. I use my food processor to shred both red and green cabbage for a really colorful salad.
My seven year old son is so impressed by how the food processor annihilates the cabbage. It makes quick work of the carrots, too. Watching his amusement reminds me to enjoy the small things in life.
What you’ll need to make coleslaw
- Green Cabbage and Red Cabbage (why is it called “red” when it clearly is purple?) You can use a combination or just one kind of cabbage.
- Carrots: Shred your own or buy convenient pre-shredded carrots.
- Green Onions (or scallions, whichever name you give them). If you like, add other veggies like bell peppers, onions, pea pods, or celery.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: White vinegar or rice vinegar work fine, too.
- Oil: I like grapeseed but any mild tasting oil will do.
- Sweeten it up a bit with honey, agave, or sugar.
- Dijon Mustard
- Dried Celery Seed: Be sure to buy celery seed, not celery salt. The seeds have an intense celery flavor; celery salt isn’t nearly as flavorful and has lots of added salt.
- Salt and Pepper
How to make vinegar coleslaw
Mix the dressing up in a measuring cup and add it to a big bowl with the cabbage mixture. Stir well, and refrigerate. Isn’t that so easy?
Vinegar coleslaw is perfect for picnics and potlucks. Since it isn’t mayo based, you don’t have to worry as much about it spoiling on a warm day.
Serve vinegar coleslaw as a side dish with pretty much anything. The tangy flavor and crunchy texture go well with grilled entrees, such as salmon, chicken, or steak. It’s great with burgers and hotdogs, too, and makes a delicious fish taco. Try a spoonful right on your burger, hotdog, or pulled pork sandwich.
While I haven’t tried freezing this coleslaw, according to CopyKat Recipes, you can freeze vinegar-based coleslaw but not mayonnaise-based recipes.
If vinegar coleslaw is stored in a covered container in the fridge, it will keep up to a week. If you notice a bad or strong smell, see mold or cloudiness, or if it tastes different, discard the coleslaw. It’s never worth taking a chance.
If you feel that your coleslaw tastes too much like vinegar, or is too acidic or tart, try adding a bit more sugar or salt. Often that will balance out any sharp flavor.
Plain white vinegar is a bit stronger in flavor than apple cider or rice vinegar. Other sweeter choices are white wine vinegar or white balsamic vinegar.
Make It Your Own
There are plenty of ways you can make this your own special salad. Here’s a few suggestions:
- If you’re not a fan of red cabbage, replace it with extra green cabbage. Or try a different variety of cabbage.
- Add more veggies. Try red or green bell peppers or chopped onion.
- Substitute a different kind of vinegar: plain white vinegar, rice vinegar, white wine vinegar, whatever you like. Each type of vinegar will impart a different flavor.
- Add herbs. Chopped fresh parsley or cilantro would be good choices.
- Boiling the dressing: My mom always boiled the vinegar dressing before adding it to the cabbage. The coleslaw will keep longer in the fridge.
- Make a creamy coleslaw. Try my homemade coleslaw dressing with yogurt.
- Make an Asian salad, a type of vinegar coleslaw with an Asian influence and lots of crunchy add-ins like ramen noodles, sunflower seeds, and almonds. Another favorite is this cabbage salad with mandarin oranges and honey lime dressing.
- Don’t let the rest of the cabbage go to waste. Try easy sautéed cabbage (green) or German red cabbage (sweet & sour).
Store leftover coleslaw, tightly covered, in the fridge for up to a week.
Just a warning: the red cabbage tends to bleed its color, turning the salad kind of pink. This doesn’t affect the flavor at all and if you have a young daughter, it could be a selling point. If you would rather not experience this, simply make the salad using all green cabbage. Red cabbage does contain 30% more vitamin C than green cabbage.
More Summer salads
While salads are appreciated year round, there are some salads that just say summer. Here are a few of my favorites:
- The Best Potato Salad
- Southwestern BBQ Chicken Salad (best chopped salad!)
- Grilled Vegetable Salad with Goat Cheese
- Taco Salad
- Curried Chicken Salad
- Asparagus Panzanella Salad
- Gazpacho Salad
- Tortellini Pasta Salad
- Bruschetta Orzo Pasta Salad or Creamy Southwestern Orzo Salad
- 6 cups shredded cabbage, approx. ½ head of cabbage (see note)
- 2 cups shredded red cabbage
- 1 ½ cups shredded (or matchstick) carrots (about 2 large carrots)
- ⅓ cup thinly sliced green onions (about 3 green onions)
- In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together dressing ingredients.
- In large bowl, combine cabbages, carrots, green onions, and dressing. Mix well.
- Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. Stir well before serving. Coleslaw will keep for up to one week in the refrigerator.
- Use your favorite variety of cabbage or a combination. All green cabbage is fine, too.
- Substitute two 16 oz. bags of coleslaw mix for the cabbage and carrots.
- Add more veggies. Try red or green bell peppers or chopped onion.
- Substitute a different kind of vinegar: plain white vinegar, rice vinegar, or white wine vinegar.
- Add chopped fresh parsley or cilantro.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.