Vinegar Coleslaw (No Mayo!)

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  • Homemade coleslaw is a staple for many family tables during the summer months. Perfect for BBQs, parties and of course, coleslaw for pulled pork. Although pulled pork at our house happens year round. 

    Close up of coleslaw on a fork

    Vinegar Coleslaw

    I don’t really care for super saucy, creamy coleslaw recipes. I want to be able to taste the fresh crunch of cabbage, still get a snap and also taste whatever else I am eating, typically BBQ.

    Heavily mayo-ed up coleslaw overpowers those flavors. As does other elements typically added like heavy mustard, celery seed, poppy seeds or crushed red peppers.

    I’m not opposed to these flavors, it just depends on what I am making. I want a sweet and tangy vinegar based dressing.

    Vinegar dressing pouring over cabbage slaw

    Is Coleslaw Bad For You?

    I hate answering these questions, but my best answer is that traditional mayonnaise coleslaw isn’t the healthiest because, well, it is super creamy with mayo and mayo has a lot of calories and fat.

    My three best coleslaw recipes not only taste better, but are are also better for you. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not counting the calories and I haven’t gone all keto on you, but if the recipe you like is also healthier for you, embrace it! 

    These homemade coleslaws are of course, Vinegar Coleslaw, my Yogurt Pineapple Coleslaw and Red Slaw, which is also a vinegar based coleslaw but using exclusively red cabbage.

    Vinegar slaw uses nothing but a vinegar dressing with coleslaw mix. Some recipes are best kept basic.

    Cabbage slaw in a mixing bowl

    Shredding Vegetables

    You can shred your own veggies using a mandolin slicer, but buying a store bought pre shredded cabbage mix is a shortcut I am willing to take.

    Use whatever blend you like and either shredded or chopped, this coleslaw dressing works well for either variety. You can even buy a bag mix and then add a few of your own elements.

    These are my favorites.

    • Red Cabbage
    • Green Cabbage
    • Kale
    • Broccoli
    • Jicama
    • Brussels Sprouts
    • Carrots
    • Celery
    • Fennel Bulb
    • Zucchini
    • Onion
    • Radish

    I am a fan of colorful food and since you aren’t using a super creamy mayonnaise coleslaw dressing, you won’t be covering up those vibrant colors! 

    Tangy Vinegar Slaw

    You can even punch up your vinegar based coleslaw with a few other ingredients, if you’d like. I find vinegar is enough for most dishes and events where a lot of people will be eating, but sometimes you want a different element.

    Some favorites include: 

    • Teaspoon of Dijon mustard
    • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
    • Minced bell pepper
    • Red pepper flakes (for spicy vinegar based coleslaw recipe)
    • Teaspoon of poppy seeds
    BBQ Chicken Sandwich with coleslaw on a Bun

    Make Ahead

    While a 14 ounce bag of cabbage mix might seem like a lot, it isn’t. After marinating in the vinegar coleslaw dressing, the water will start to leach out of the vegetables and then will deflate, leaving you with a much smaller bowl of coleslaw. 

    You do want to allow for a minimum of an hour of marination time. The sugar needs to dissolve and the flavors marry before this makes a really good slaw.

    You can marinate it for up to 24 hours before it starts to get mushy. You can drain off some of the excess liquid or serve with a slotted spoon. After that you are now pickling the slaw, which isn’t a bad thing, but you’ll lose the snappy texture.

    I don’t recommend freezing coleslaw- the ingredients have too much water and it will just turn to much after thawing.

    Why does my coleslaw get watery?

    Typical coleslaw ingredients like red cabbage, green cabbage, carrots and radish, these all contain a lot of water. Adding salt draws out the water and lands in a pool at the bottom of your bowl.

    You can either take it for what it is and drain it before serving. After sitting for several hours, the ingredients are pretty pickled and have taken on the correct flavors anyhow.

    Or go a step further and generously salt your shredded cabbage before combining all the ingredients. All it to sit for several hours, if not overnight, in the fridge and then drain. Make the recipe as written after this point.

    Close up of vinegar coleslaw.

    Picking a Vinegar

    The beauty of coleslaw ingredients is that you can easily change them and it is really difficult to totally mess it up.

    Try using:

    • White Wine Vinegar
    • Champagne Vinegar
    • Rice Wine Vinegar
    • Apple Cider Vinegar
    • Pomegranate Vinegar

    For a less vinegary taste, mix the dressing with the veggies right before serving and avoid marinating.

    You can even change the type of oil. Vegetable oil works fine, but a light olive oil can also taste fabulous, as can flavor infused olive oils. 

    Coleslaw or Cole Slaw- Does it Really Matter?

    First of all, is it coleslaw or cole slaw? The first rings true- one word, coleslaw. Although you’ll commonly see it referred to as just slaw. 

    Secondly, why is is called coleslaw? There doesn’t seem to be a logical or apparent reason for the name. Instead of paraphrasing, I am going to let give you the quote.

    The term, “cole slaw”, arose in the 18th century as a partial translation from the Dutch term “koolsla”, a shortening of “koolsalade”, which means “cabbage salad”. It was commonly called cold slaw in England until the 1860s when “cole” (meaning cabbage) was revived. … In addition to calling it “coleslaw”.

    In some parts of the world coleslaw is cooked or partially cooked and even includes meat, like thin slices of boiled ham. In the states, some slaw recipes do include bacon crumbles.

    More Easy Side Dishes

    Greek Pasta Salad
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    This simple Greek Pasta Salad is just the thing for potlucks and summer cookouts! The textures of crunchy veggies, al dente pasta, and flavors of a savory Greek dressing and feta cheese make this one of the best summer salads around!
    Gouda and Corn Salad
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    Easy salad recipes don't get much better than this simple Gouda and Corn Salad! It's perfect for a quick lunch, or even to bring to a potluck! #goudaandcornsalad #cornsalad #easysaladrecipes
    Vinegar coleslaw for Pinterest


    Plastic Mixing Bowls– make sure to check out my article on Using the Right Mixing Bowl, you’d be surprised how many people aren’t! Make sure to not use metallic mixing bowls!

    Whisks– I buy whisks in multiple sizes. You never know which one you will need. 

    Mandoline Slicer– If you are doing your own veggies, aim for uniform sizes. The easier way to do this is using a good processor with the slicing attachment or a mandoline slicer.

    Coleslaw Vinegar
    Vinegar Coleslaw is a healthy coleslaw recipe using a no mayo coleslaw dressing including vinegar, oil and salt and pepper. Click to Tweet


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    Close up of homemade coleslaw in bowl
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    4.5 from 79 votes

    Vinegar Coleslaw

    Vinegar Coleslaw is a healthy coleslaw recipe using a no mayo coleslaw dressing including vinegar, oil and salt and pepper. 
    Prep Time10 mins
    Total Time10 mins
    Course: Side Dish
    Cuisine: American
    Keyword: coleslaw dressing, coleslaw recipe, coleslaw vinegar, homemade coleslaw
    Servings: 8
    Calories: 71kcal
    Author: Jessica Formicola



    • In a small mixing bowl or measuring cup, whisk together red wine vinegar, vegetable oil, kosher salt, black pepper and sugar until sugar and salt dissolves. This step is important so that you don’t get grainy bits of undissolved sugar or salt in your coleslaw.
    • Pour over coleslaw mix. Toss well. I find that using forks works best for coleslaw.
    • Cover and refrigerate for 1-24 hours. If you remember to toss it every few hours, great, if not, it will be fine.
    • Drain excess liquid before serving. The cabbage will lose its water, so you will have more liquid than you started with. This is normal.
    • If you’ve tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was!



    Calories: 71kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Sodium: 300mg | Potassium: 84mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 50IU | Vitamin C: 18.2mg | Calcium: 20mg | Iron: 0.3mg
    Vinegar Coleslaw on a BBQ Chicken Slider

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