Favorite Vinegar Coleslaw Recipe

vinegar coleslaw recipe

You’ve found it! The perfect Carolina style vinegar coleslaw made with cabbage and sweet Vidalia onions. This simple no-mayo slaw is the perfect barbecue side dish, you’re going to want it with everything this summer.

tossing vinegar based coleslaw

what you’ll need for a Southern vinegar coleslaw (aka German or Amish coleslaw)

You’ll notice there is only cabbage and sweet onion as the base of this slaw. It’s all about that crisp green crunch that makes everything else on your plate taste so much better.

  • cabbage ~ I used Savoy cabbage (the one with the pretty bright green textured leaves) but you can use regular green cabbage as well.
  • Vidalia onion, or other sweet variety. Find generic sweet onions right next to the regular onions in the produce section.
  • olive oil ~ or any mild vegetable oil
  • apple cider vinegar ~ adds just the perfect bright acidity.
  • celery seed is a classic pickling spice used in slaws, sauerkraut, and salad dressings.
  • fennel seed ~ caraway is another seed that works well.
  • dill ~ dried or fresh
  • onion salt ~ I love the punch of flavor you get from this.
  • sugar ~ don’t leave it out, it balances the vinegar and cabbage, and enhances all the flavors.
  • freshly cracked pepper
a head of Savoy cabbage

how to shred cabbage for coleslaw

Luckily the best way to shred cabbage for coleslaw is also the easiest and most straightforward. I prefer to hand shred my cabbage (and onion) with a large sharp knife. (A box grater will make the cabbage too watery and limp. A food processor fitted with a shredding disk is fussy to use and won’t make nice long shreds.)

  1. First cut the whole head in half. If your head is quite large, cut it in quarters.
  2. Cut out the core from the bottoms.
  3. Using a large sharp knife (serrated is good here,) very thinly slice the cabbage into fine shreds.
  4. Cabbage shredded this way will be extra crunchy, and stay that way longer. With this particular method the slaw will be even better the next day.
vinegar coleslaw in a grey bowl

optional additions for a no-mayo coleslaw

  • carrots
  • apple (Granny Smith or Honeycrisp would be nice, no need to peel.)
  • red cabbage
  • bell peppers

the cider vinegar dressing…

While some classic vinegar based coleslaws are dressed with a spare mixture of vinegar and sugar, I’m going to flesh it out just a bit more for better flavor. The oil will balance the sharpness of the vinegar, and the spices give a classic old world flavor.

coleslaw in a jar with dressing

vinegar coleslaw tips and faqs

Can’t stop thinking about mayo? Substitute mayonnaise for the olive oil in this recipe for a creamy coleslaw.

what does coleslaw mean?

The name coleslaw comes from the Dtuch koolsla. Kool meaning cabbage, and sla for salad.

how long will coleslaw last?

Hand shredded cabbage will stay crisp longer, in fact I loved mine even better the next day. But very thinly shredded coleslaw should be served within a few hours of being made, or it can become watery and limp.

can I make coleslaw ahead of time?

If you want to make your slaw ahead of time you can shred your veggies and refrigerate them separately, then add the dressing an hour or two before serving. You can make the dressing up to several days ahead.

do I have to use sugar in coleslaw?

Many coleslaw recipes include some sort of sweetener which helps balance the vinegar and bring out a little sweetness in the cabbage, but if you don’t want to use sugar you can add shredded apples (the acidic vinegar will prevent them from turning brown.)

can I use a bag of coleslaw mix?

Resist the urge to buy pre-shredded coleslaw mixes, they aren’t very good, and the cabbage will have lost much of its nutritional value. Luckily, it’s super easy to shred up your own. A whole head of cabbage lasts weeks (even months!) in the fridge, so it’s quite convenient.

Do I have to wash cabbage?

Tightly packed cabbage leaves are usually pretty clean, so I remove all the loose outer leaves, and then give the head a quick rinse before slicing. No need to wash the shreds, that will just make your slaw watery. If you do feel the need to wash, make sure you get it nice and dry before using.

Can I add mayo to this recipe?

Yes, if mayo is your thing, substitute mayonnaise for the olive oil in this recipe.

vinegar coleslaw in a bowl, with tongs

more slaw!

girl tasting vinegar slaw out of a small glass cup
vinegar coleslaw recipe
5 from 4 votes

Vinegar Slaw Recipe

You've found it! The perfect Carolina style vinegar coleslaw made with cabbage and sweet Vidalia onions. This simplest of no-mayo slaws is the perfect side dish, you're going to want it with everything this summer.
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Yield 12 servings
Calories 72kcal
Author Sue Moran


  • 1 small to medium head of Savoy cabbage
  • 1 small to medium Vidalia onion (or other sweet onion.)


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seed
  • 1/2 tsp dill, either dried or fresh
  • 1/2 tsp onion salt, use more to taste
  • 1 tsp sugar, feel free to use more or less.
  • fresh cracked pepper to taste


  • Remove the outer leaves from the cabbge and slice it in half, lengthwise, through the core. Remove the core from each half. If your head is on the larger side, cut each half in half again. Finely slice/shred the cabbage with a large sharp knife. Put in a large salad bowl.
  • Peel and halve the onion. Remove the core and very thinly slice. Add to the bowl. Note: If your onion is large, don't use the whole thing.
  • Whisk the dressing ingredients together and taste it to adjust any of them to your particular liking.
  • Toss the slaw with enough dressing to moisten everything, but not drown it. You may not need it all. Add more salt and pepper if you like.
  • Serve right away, or chill the slaw until needed.

Cook’s notes

We loved this recipe so much we made it multiple times since our initial testing. The variation we loved best was with a crisp apple added. Just cut it into thin matchsticks, no need to peel. We used Granny Smith apples, but any kind will work.


Calories: 72kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 121mg | Potassium: 213mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 750IU | Vitamin C: 25mg | Calcium: 35mg | Iron: 1mg
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although theviewfromgreatisland.com tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.
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    Leave a Reply

    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    May 31, 2021 at 3:29 pm

    Would it be ok to use a mandolin to slice the veggies?

  • Reply
    Ellen Easton
    May 30, 2021 at 7:27 am

    5 stars
    Another wonderful recipe. Sue, from one professional to another, not since my mother, Reva Paul, have I enjoyed learning new recipes from such a great teacher- YOU!

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      May 30, 2021 at 9:17 am

      Love that Ellen 🙂 Thanks.

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