Vinegar-Based Carolina Slaw

Carolina slaw recipe

The Spruce / Debbie Wolfe

  • Total: 20 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins
  • Cook: 5 mins
  • Servings: 8 to 10 servings

A Carolina-style slaw is made with vinegar dressing, a tasty alternative to coleslaw with mayonnaise dressing. Making coleslaw from scratch is pretty easy, too. This delicious recipe cooks a sweet and tangy dressing with seasonings then pours it over shredded and chopped vegetables. The celery seeds add excellent flavor, and the combination of cabbage, bell pepper, sweet onion, and carrots work well together. 

Carolina-style barbecue is typically served with slaw on top of barbecue sandwiches as a garnish. This slaw is the perfect topping for pulled pork, barbecued beef sandwiches, pulled chicken, or any other barbecue dishes. It's also a tasty side with hamburgers and charcoal-grilled (as opposed to barbecued) chicken breast sandwiches. The absence of mayonnaise in the dressing makes the salad a good choice for picnics, potluck dinners, and tailgating, and its vinegary flavor makes it a winner with fish and chips and fish tacos.


Click Play to See This Tangy Carolina Slaw Recipe Come Together


  • 1 large head cabbage (finely shredded)
  • 1 medium bell pepper (finely chopped)
  • 1 medium sweet onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 carrots (grated or julienned)
  • For the Dressing:
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (or as desired)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil (such as corn oil, grapeseed, safflower, peanut, or canola)
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup vinegar (white or apple cider)

Steps to Make It

Note: While there are multiple steps, this coleslaw recipe is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and cooking.

How to Shred Cabbage

  1. Cut a slice off the stem end of the cabbage and set it, the flat stem end down, on a cutting board.

    The Spruce / Debbie Wolfe
  2. With a sharp chef's knife, slice the cabbage into quarters, slicing from top to bottom.

    Chop cabbage
    The Spruce / Debbie Wolfe
  3. Cut the core out of each quarter.

    Cut cabbage
    The Spruce / Debbie Wolfe
  4. Slice each cabbage wedge crosswise or lengthwise into thin strips, depending on how long you want the shreds. If desired, chop the shreds for a finer coleslaw. The shreds should be quite thin (around 1/8-inch) for coleslaw, thicker (1/4 to 1/2-inch) for soups and other recipes.

    Chop cabbage
    The Spruce / Debbie Wolfe

Prepare the Vegetables

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for vegetables
    The Spruce / Debbie Wolfe 
  2. In a large serving bowl, combine the shredded cabbage, chopped bell pepper, onions, and the grated or julienne carrots.

    The Spruce / Debbie Wolfe

Make the Dressing

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar, salt, oil, dry mustard, celery seed, pepper, and vinegar. Bring to a boil.

    The Spruce / Debbie Wolfe
  2. Simmer, stirring frequently, until the sugar is dissolved.

    The Spruce / Debbie Wolfe
  3. Remove from the heat and cool slightly, then pour over the vegetables and toss well.

    The Spruce / Debbie Wolfe
  4. Cover and refrigerate the coleslaw until thoroughly chilled.

    Refridgerate coleslaw
    The Spruce / Debbie Wolfe
  5. Serve and enjoy!

    The Spruce / Debbie Wolfe


  • If you like a dressing that tends to the sour side, add the sugar to the vinegar mixture last, tasting as you go until you have the sweet-sour balance desired.

How Long Does Coleslaw Last?

Coleslaw is an excellent side to make in advance. Many people enjoy the convenience of making the night before it's needed and this can help the flavor develop. In general, a vinegar-based coleslaw will keep better than a mayonnaise slaw. When refrigerated in a sealed container, it will be good for 3 to 5 days. The catch is that it will become soggier the longer it sits. If you like a crunchy slaw, eat it right away.

Is Coleslaw Healthy?

The shredded vegetables in coleslaw are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals that are key to a healthy diet. Coleslaw is known, however, as having a high amount of calories and fat. Most of that comes from the mayonnaise and sugar commonly used in the dressing. This recipe combats one of those ingredients by using vinegar rather than mayonnaise, so it is healthier than many creamy coleslaws. It does contain a good deal of sugar, but you can use less or switch to a low-calorie granular sweetener (e.g., stevia, Splenda, etc.) if you prefer. Be sure to taste the dressing when making these substitutions to see if you like it before tossing it with the veggies.