Vinegar Coleslaw (No Mayo!)

A Homemade Coleslaw Mix is a staple for many family tables during the summer barbecue months. Perfect for any dish or as coleslaw for pulled pork or even on hot dogs. Tangy vinegar paired with crunchy veggies, can you go wrong?

close of quarter shot of vinegar slaw


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 mixtures overpowers those flavors. As does other elements typically added like heavy mustard, celery seeds, poppy seeds and crushed red peppers.I want a light, but easy recipe.

pouring vinegar dressing over coleslaw mix

Healthy Coleslaw

Is Coleslaw Bad For You? I hate answering these questions, but my best answer is that traditional creamy 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 (this one Yogurt Pineapple Coleslaw and Red Slaw) 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! 

bowl of vinegar slaw with teal linen

Shredded Vegetables

You can shred your own veggies using a mandolin slicer, but buying a store bought pre shredded cabbage salad is a shortcut I am willing to take. Many food processors also have an attachment to shred veggies easily and quickly.

overhead ingredients of vinegar coleslaw recipe

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. Simple ingredients are key here.

These are my favorite fresh vegetables:

  • Red Cabbage
  • Green Cabbage
  • Cabbage mixture (both red and green)
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Jicama
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Fennel Bulb
  • Zucchini
  • White Onion, Sweet Onion or Red Onions
  • Radish
  • Green onions

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! 

fork full of vinegar slaw recipe


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 or dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • Minced bell pepper
  • Red pepper flakes (for spicy vinegar based coleslaw recipe)
  • Teaspoon of poppy seeds
  • Substitute maple syrup, honey or agave nectar for the sugar, cut back to 1 tablespoon
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. Start with large bowl because it will have some loft to it before shrinking a little while pickling.

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 next day. 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 vinegar 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. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

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

glass mixing bowl with no mayo coleslaw

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.

overhead wide angle of homemade 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. Red wine vinegar is my go-to, however…

Try using:

  • White Wine Vinegar
  • Champagne Vinegar
  • Rice Wine Vinegar
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Pomegranate Vinegar
  • White vinegar- although this is my least favorite

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- any neutral oil, really.

homemade coleslaw next to chicken

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.

vinegar coleslaw for pinterest

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close up of vinegar coleslaw
bowl of vinegar coleslaw

Vinegar Coleslaw

4.54 from 129 votes
Vinegar Coleslaw is a healthy coleslaw recipe using a no mayo coleslaw dressing including vinegar, oil and salt and pepper. 
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 8




  • 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 in the comments or ratings!



Calories: 71 kcal, Carbohydrates: 5 g, Fat: 5 g, Saturated Fat: 4 g, Sodium: 300 mg, Potassium: 84 mg, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 4 g, Vitamin A: 50 IU, Vitamin C: 18.2 mg, Calcium: 20 mg, Iron: 0.3 mg
Author: Jessica Formicola
Calories: 71
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: coleslaw dressing, coleslaw recipe, coleslaw vinegar, homemade coleslaw
Did you make this recipe?I’d love to see your recipes – snap a picture and mention @savoryexperiments or tag #savoryexperiments!
Jessica Formicola in her ktichen

About the Author

Jessica Formicola

Jessica the mom, wife and food lover behind Savory Experiments. She is obsessed with butter, salt and bacon and spends all her time in the kitchen and behind a camera. Jessica is a contributor to PopKitchen by Parade, Better Homes & Gardens, The Daily Meal Food + Travel and more!

Read More About Jessica

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Recipe Rating

Questions and Reviews

  1. This is a favorite coleslaw recipe in our house. A great recipe for people who don’t like mayo, but do want to make coleslaw.

  2. 5 stars
    So simple and so good! I didn’t miss the mayo at all, even though I really thought I would.
    I used half the dressing to marinade the coleslaw in the fridge and saved the rest of the dressing for sprinkling on my serving of coleslaw when I was ready to eat.

  3. 5 stars
    An excellent recipe to serve with a variety of meats. If you don’t like or can’t tolerate mayonnaise, but you like coleslaw, this is the recipe for you!

  4. 5 stars
    This is the best dressing for slaw I have found. We were just gonna eat the slaw but put it on grilled fish gir fish tacos, BEST IDEA EVER. Have used it numerous times, everyone loves it.

    1. Yay!!!! Funny thing- I had some today too on leftover porks chops. It’s literally the most verstile thing ever!

  5. 5 stars
    I LOVE a tangy coleslaw and the speedy prep puts this one on my list for sure! Thanks for sharing.

  6. 5 stars
    We love this lightened up version of coleslaw. My partner is vegan, so it is so nice to be able to enjoy something so delicious together! Will make again.

  7. 5 stars
    I’ve never had coleslaw because I don’t like Mayo so finding this was awesome. It was delicious!