Vinegar-Based Carolina Slaw

Vinegar-based Carolina slaw on a roll

The Spruce Eats / Debbie Wolfe

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 5 mins
Chill: 60 mins
Total: 85 mins
Servings: 8 to 10 servings
Yield: 8 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
264 Calories
15g Fat
33g Carbs
2g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8 to 10
Amount per serving
Calories 264
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 15g 19%
Saturated Fat 1g 6%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 148mg 6%
Total Carbohydrate 33g 12%
Dietary Fiber 4g 13%
Total Sugars 27g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 83mg 413%
Calcium 80mg 6%
Iron 1mg 3%
Potassium 382mg 8%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

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

"The most simple side dish. Make it ahead to allow the flavors to develop. A great complement alongside or on top of a pulled pork sandwich." —Renae Wilson

Vinegar-based Carolina slaw in a bowl
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 1 large head cabbage, finely shredded

  • 1 medium bell pepper, finely chopped

  • 1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped

  • 2 medium carrots, grated or julienned

For the Dressing:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar, or as desired

  • 1 teaspoon kosher 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 freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 cup vinegar, white or apple cider

Steps to Make It

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.

    Cabbage on a cutting board with the stem cut off

    The Spruce Eats / Debbie Wolfe

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

    Cabbage head sliced into quarters

    The Spruce Eats / Debbie Wolfe

  3. Cut the core out of each quarter.

    Core cut out of each cabbage quarter on a cutting board

    The Spruce Eats / 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.

    Cabbage cut into thin slices on a wooden cutting board

    The Spruce Eats / Debbie Wolfe

Prepare the Vegetables

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Carolina slaw recipe gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Debbie Wolfe 

  2. In a large serving bowl, combine the shredded cabbage, chopped bell pepper, onions, and the grated or julienne carrots.

    Carolina slaw ingredients tossed together in a glass bowl

    The Spruce Eats / 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.

    Ingredients gathered in a saucepan for dressing

    The Spruce Eats / Debbie Wolfe

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

    Dressing ingredients simmered in a pot for Carolina slaw

    The Spruce Eats / Debbie Wolfe

  3. Remove from the heat and cool slightly, then pour over the vegetables and toss well.

    Dressing poured over vegetables for coleslaw in a bowl with two wooden utensils

    The Spruce Eats / Debbie Wolfe

  4. Cover and refrigerate the coleslaw until thoroughly chilled, at least 1 hour.

    Coleslaw in a glass bowl covered in plastic wrap

    The Spruce Eats / Debbie Wolfe

  5. Serve and enjoy.

    Carolina vinegar-based cole slaw in a serving bowl

    The Spruce Eats / 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 three to five 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.