Vinegar-Based Carolina Slaw

Carolina Slaw
The Spruce
  • Total: 20 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins
  • Cook: 5 mins
  • Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Carolina-style slaw is made with a tangy vinegar dressing, a tasty alternative to coleslaw with mayonnaise dressing. The sweet and tangy dressing is cooked with seasonings and then poured over the shredded and chopped vegetables. The celery seeds add excellent flavor to this coleslaw, and the vegetables work well together. 

This slaw is the perfect topping pulled pork, barbecued beef sandwiches, pulled chicken or any other barbecue dishes, Carolina-style barbecue is typically served with slaw on top of barbecue sandwiches as a garnish. The absence of mayonnaise in the dressing makes the salad a good choice for picnics, potluck dinners, and tailgating. It's also a tasty side with hamburgers and charcoal-grilled (as opposed to barbecued) chicken breast sandwiches, 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 of cabbage (finely shredded)
  • 1 medium bell pepper (finely chopped)
  • 1 medium sweet onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 carrots (grated or julienned)
  • 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

How to Shred or Chop Cabbage

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Carolina coleslaw ingredients
     The Spruce 
  2. Cut a slice off the stem end of the cabbage and set it, the flat stem end down, on a cutting board.

    Chopping cabbage
     The Spruce
  3. With a sharp chef's knife, slice the cabbage into quarters, slicing from top to bottom.

    Quartered cabbage
     The Spruce
  4. Cut the core out of each quarter with a sharp knife.

    Removing cabbage stems
     The Spruce
  5. 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 or to add to soup.

    Shred cabbage
    The Spruce  
  6. Shreds should be quite thin (around 1/8-inch) for coleslaw, thicker (1/4 to 1/2-inch) for soups and other recipes.

    Shredded cabbage
     The Spruce

Prepare the Vegetables

  1. Combine the shredded cabbage, chopped bell pepper, and onions and the grated or julienne carrots in a large serving bowl.

    Carolina slaw vegetables in a bowl
     The Spruce

Make the Dressing

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

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

    Simmering dressing
     The Spruce
  3. Cool slightly, then pour over the vegetables and toss well.

    Dressing the coleslaw
     The Spruce
  4. Cover and refrigerate the coleslaw until thoroughly chilled.

    Carolina Slaw
     The Spruce
  5. Serve and enjoy!


  • 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.