Vinegar Coleslaw



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This quick and easy vinegar-based coleslaw features an apple cider vinegar dressing with crunchy, shredded cabbage and carrots. It’s flavorful, healthy and mayo-free.

If you’re anything like me you probably grew up eating creamy, mayo-based coleslaw.

Nowadays I much prefer a vinegar based coleslaw over one with mayo. The vinegar dressing is lighter and really lets the crunchy cabbage and carrots shine.

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Serving bowl of apple cider vinegar coleslaw with wood serving spoons.

The version I’m sharing today is a pretty classic recipe seasoned with a simple six-ingredient vinegar based dressing. To really boost the nutritional content I used apple cider vinegar and instead of white sugar I went with maple syrup, one of my favorite natural sweeteners. Maple syrup is unrefined and has antioxidants, as well as, other vitamins and minerals including a good amount of zinc and manganese.

Person pouring apple cider vinegar dressing over a serving bowl of coleslaw.

What is Apple Cider Vinegar

First, let’s start with the basics, what makes apple cider vinegar different? Apple cider vinegar is a vinegar made from fermented apple juice. The process starts by adding yeast to crushed apples.

The yeast ferments the sugars and turns them into alcohol. At this point, bacteria is added which further ferments the alcohol and turns it into acetic acid… the main active compound found in most vinegars.

Acetic acid gives vinegar its pungent smell and flavor and is also responsible for many of the health benefits.

Ingredients to make apple cider vinegar coleslaw measured out on a table: cabbage, carrots, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup and spices.

Ingredients in a Vinegar Based Coleslaw

Here’s everything you’ll need for this no-mayo, vinegar based coleslaw:

  • green cabbage – feel free to buy pre-shredded cabbage for a time-saving shortcut! You can also use a mixture of green and red cabbage for added color!
  • carrots – same as above, buy pre-shredded to save some time or look for a coleslaw mix that has both cabbage and carrots included. Just be sure to measure out about 5 cups so you have a good dressing to salad ratio.
  • apple cider vinegar – if you’re interested in learning more about why I love ACV, check out this post about the health benefits of apple cider vinegar.
  • maple syrup – this adds a touch of sweetness.
  • dry mustard – you can substitute 1 teaspoon of dried mustard for 1 tablespoon of prepared mustard.
  • ground celery seed – a must for coleslaw!
  • sea salt and ground pepper – to bring all of the flavors together.
Whisk in a bowl of apple cider vinegar coleslaw.

Can I Prep Coleslaw Ahead of Time?

Yes! I actually recommend making this recipe ahead of time so the flavors have time to marinate. I’ve enjoyed it right after making and it’s delicious, but the flavors seem to get better with time. After prepping, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. 

Cutting board with chopped cabbage and grated carrot.

How to Serve Vinegar Based Coleslaw

This salad is pretty low in calories, oil-free and perfect for serving as a light and refreshing side salad or as a crunchy topping for a variety of dishes. Here’s what I recommend pairing it with:

  • Grilled meat – Instantly level up a basic grilled meal with a side of fresh coleslaw. It’s amazing with grilled chicken.
  • Tacos – This the crunchy slaw is amazing as a topping for tacos. It would be delish on these fish tacos.
  • Burgers – You can’t go wrong adding slaw to any burger but I’m excited to try it on these black bean burgers.
  • BBQ sandwiches – Coleslaw and BBQ are the ultimate combo! Top a pulled pork or BBQ chicken sandwich with slaw or try my BBQ jackfruit sandwiches for a vegan option!

How to Store Leftover Coleslaw

Like I mentioned above, this coleslaw stores really well! Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.

Serving bowl of apple cider vinegar slaw. Wood serving spoons and a dish cloth are next to the bowl.

 More Cookout + BBQ Recipes 

Looking for more healthy cookout recipes? Try some of these: 

More Vinegar Recipes to Try

3.78 from 87 votes

Vinegar Coleslaw

A quick and easy vinegar-based coleslaw with shredded cabbage and carrots. It's flavorful, mayo-free and packed with nutrients.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 5 cups


  • 4 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground celery seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper


  • Toss: In a large bowl toss together shredded cabbage and carrots.
  • Make dressing: Combine vinegar, maple syrup, dry mustard, celery seed, salt and ground pepper in a small bowl.
    Whisk in a bowl of apple cider vinegar coleslaw.
  • Mix ingredients: Pour dressing over cabbage mixture and toss to coat.
    Pouring apple cider vinegar dressing over a serving bowl of coleslaw.
  • Serve: Let mixture sit for at least 10 minutes in the fridge, stir and serve.


  • Cabbage – I used green cabbage, but feel free to use a mix of green and red. Red is so colorful and pretty!
  • Meal prep – This recipe can be made ahead of time and will taste better after having a little time to marinate.


Serving: 1cup | Calories: 49kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 1g | Sodium: 147mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 8g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Keyword: vinegar coleslaw
Did you make this recipe?Mention @eatingbirdfood and tag #eatingbirdfood!

About Brittany

Hey there, I’m Brittany, the creator of Eating Bird Food, cookbook author, health coach and mama of two littles. Here you’ll find quick and easy recipes that make healthy fun and enjoyable for you and your family!

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Recipe Rating


  1. This sounds really nice! I’m a fan of apple cider vinegar… I think this would taste great with chicken, too.

  2. This looks so yummy! My husband loves coleslaw, but I am always hesitant to make it because the mayo dressing is not my favorite. Can’t wait to try this!

  3. I love coleslaw. i can use it as a salad base or top off any sandwich with it. The tangy-er the better! This looks great.

  4. This looks so, soooo tasty! Definitely going to reach for this recipe next time I need some coleslaw 🙂

  5. I’m with you I prefer the vinegar based coleslaw now over the mayo, I think it has way more flavor. I love that you used apple cider vinegar and maple syrup. This will be a great side dish or topping for a burger this grilling season!

  6. This is perfectly timed! I have a head of cabbage in my refrigerator, and I couldn’t decide what to do with it. Making vinegar-y slaw sounds like a delicious use.

      1. Ahh yay!! I’m so glad you enjoyed this slaw, Lei-Leni. Thanks for trying my recipe and for coming back to leave a comment + star rating. I really appreciate it!

  7. I absolutely love cabbage but I’m not a fan of the mayo based coleslaws, so I can’t wait to try this! And you are too cute! Your video is SO FUN! More more more!

  8. Apple cider vinegar is a superstar. I love this recipe. Perfect time for summer.

  9. Coleslaw came into my life when I was in college and I never cared for the creamy, mayo-based coleslaw that was infamous then – but this version sounds absolutely delightful – and love the health benefits of it too!

  10. Great salad, perfection! Love using Apple cider vinegar whenever I can, I actually have a book on all the benefits!

  11. This Caleslaw alternative will definitely help to save loads of calories by not eating them. 😉 One flat tablespoon of mayonnaise contains about 90 kcal and 10 grams of fat! This is crazy!
    I usually go for a compromise with the caleslaw dressing too. I use low fat natural yogurt and add a tablespoon or two of olive oil, a tablespoon of vinegar, a little bit of maple syrup and remaining spices.

  12. Hi,

    Looks like a great recipe! I’m from Mass., so using maple syrup sounds good. Can you tell me if it changes the flavor a lot?
    Thanks so much,

  13. 5 stars
    Good. I added apples and a bit of red onion to give it sweetness and a bite. Added olive oil to the dressing and reduced maple syrup to 1Tbsp. Otherwise awesome.

    1. Yay!! So glad you enjoyed this coleslaw recipe, Greg. Thanks for sharing the additions you made and for coming back to leave a comment + star rating. It’s super helpful for other readers, so I appreciate it. 🙂

  14. 5 stars
    Yum! While I have to admit I like mayo-based coleslaw, I was looking for something lighter to have with baked fish this week. This recipe is a winner! I followed Greg’s example and added a small apple for a little extra sweetness and color.

    1. So glad this recipe was a hit, Norma!! Thanks for trying it and for coming back to leave a comment + star rating. I so appreciate it. <3

  15. 5 stars
    Love this vinegar based slaw dressing! I use it all the time and get a ton of compliments. So easy and delicious!

    1. Ahh yay, that makes me so happy to hear! So pumped you’re a fan of this recipe, Liz. Thanks for the review!

  16. 5 stars
    I just found my go-to slaw recipe! I just made this and have it sitting in the refrigerator so I can indulge in it. I like some added red onions. I’ve been wanting a mayo-less recipe, I found it! I wished I would have made this recipe for the cottage we stayed at with friends, it would have been a hit for sure!! Next time! Thank you for sharing, it’s a keeper!

  17. 5 stars
    I love the maple syrup & i add cilantro & fresh jalapeño —— super ez & delish ———- my go to slaw dressing

    1. Yay! I’m so glad to hear that, Bonnie. Thanks for sharing your additions, they sound great!

  18. 5 stars
    I was looking for a healthier version of regular coleslaw. This recipe is fantastic. Definitely will be on rotation this summer.

    1. I love to hear that, Julie! Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment + review. I appreciate it!

    1. WOO! I am excited to hear that you are loving this recipe, Lisa. Thank you for sharing your review + star rating, I really appreciate it!

    1. Yay! I am excited to hear that you are loving this recipe, Kristen. Thank you for your review + star rating, I really appreciate it!

  19. 5 stars
    Love it. And I especially love it with your jackfruit bbq sand! i make regularly. i add extra sweetener and substitute some stevia for maple syrup. It’s like the slaw I had in Guatemala that I enjoyed there.

    1. YUM! Sounds delicious, especially with the jackfruit bbq sandwich, one of my fave meals. Glad you are enjoying these recipes, Linda. Thank you for your review & star rating, I really appreciate it!

  20. 5 stars
    Adding to my comment. Please add a 3-bean salad recipe – a version of the traditional one we grew up enjoying with 3 beans. green bell pepper,. red onion, red vinegar, olive oil, sweetener, mustard. spices. . i think this dressing would work.