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.
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
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.)
- First cut the whole head in half. If your head is quite large, cut it in quarters.
- Cut out the core from the bottoms.
- Using a large sharp knife (serrated is good here,) very thinly slice the cabbage into fine shreds.
- 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.
optional additions for a no-mayo coleslaw
- 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.
vinegar coleslaw tips and faqs
Can’t stop thinking about mayo? Substitute mayonnaise for the olive oil in this recipe for a creamy coleslaw.
The name coleslaw comes from the Dtuch koolsla. Kool meaning cabbage, and sla for salad.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
Yes, if mayo is your thing, substitute mayonnaise for the olive oil in this recipe.
Vinegar Slaw Recipe
- 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.