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Sweet Vinegar Coleslaw

Sweet Vinegar Coleslaw is a sweet and tangy non-mayo based coleslaw that makes a great addition to any bbq or picnic. I think it is my very favorite coleslaw recipe. It has a pickled taste to it which I love.

Sweet Vinegar Coleslaw in blue and white bowl.


This Sweet Vinegar Coleslaw recipe can be found in 12 Bones Smokehouse: A Mountain BBQ Cookbook. If you’ve ever eaten at 12 Bones in Asheville, NC, you know they have some seriously good food, especially the Blueberry Chipotle Ribs. OMG!

Clous-up of Vinegar Coleslaw in serving bowl.


This coleslaw is made in a slightly nontraditional way. You bring a mixture of vinegar, sugar, and oil to a simmer and add celery seed, salt and pepper plus thinly sliced onion and green pepper. The onion and pepper get soft and pickled in flavor.

Vinegar mixture getting poured into bowl with cabbage.


Then you pour the hot mixture over coleslaw mix. The cabbage gets a little bit wilted and picks up so much flavor.

It’s a super tasty alternative to a mayo-based coleslaw and it makes a refreshing side for the summer months. It goes perfect with bbq pork, especially Carolina-Style Pulled Pork and Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork.

Sweet Vinegar Coleslaw


Sweet Vinegar Coleslaw in blue and white bowl.

Sweet Vinegar Coleslaw

Sweet Vinegar Coleslaw is a sweet and tangy non-mayo based coleslaw that makes a great addition to any bbq or picnic. 
PREP: 15 minutes
COOK: 5 minutes
Refrigerate: 4 hours


  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons celery seed
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 (16-ounce) bags shredded coleslaw mix


  • Combine sugar, oil, and vinegar in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium. Stir to dissolve sugar.
  • Add celery seed, salt and pepper.
  • Add onion. Cook 1 minute. (Mixture should be gently simmering.)
  • Add bell pepper. Cook 1 more minute. Remove from heat.
  • Place cabbage mix in a large bowl. Pour hot sugar mixture over it. Stir to get it mixed in well. Let sit on counter until cabbage is wilted. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.


Calories: 285kcal
Author: Christin Mahrlig
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Southern
Keyword: summer, vegetarian

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Originally published June 19, 2017.

Recipe adapted from 12 Bones Smokehouse: A Mountain BBQ Cookbook

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20 thoughts on “Sweet Vinegar Coleslaw”

  1. I love this recipe. I cut the oil down to 1/3 cup with great results. I do not cook the onion or green pepper, but add them to the bowl with the cabbage. Add a little more grated carrot if your bag of slaw mix is skimpy with the carrot. I used white vinegar and it was fine. You can also add about 1/2 tsp dry mustard to the dressing if you like. This slaw will easily keep in the refrigerator for 7-10 days and still remain “crunchy”. I was a little nervous adding hot dressing to the cabbage, but it works. This is a perfect salad to bring to a picnic. I cut this recipe in half because there are only two of us.

  2. I really enjoyed this slaw! The flavors are great- I like mine a little more vinegary so I add an extra 1/4 or so. My daughter tasted this and ate the rest of the bowl!!! Love it.

  3. We’re coleslaw aficionados! Absolutely delicious! We pair this with open faced roast beef sandwiches, mashed potatoes, and gravy. Yum!

  4. I made this tonight before I saw it here from a recipe called Lou’s Italian Slaw in my mid-seventies “Spirit of 76 Cookbook” by Bettye Nelle Starr. She was based in Osceola, Ark so this may be a traditional Southern recipe like Wilted Lettuce. Her’s includes a teaspoon of celery seed, and 1/4 cup sugar in the boiled dressing and 3/4 spread on top of the cabbage and onion in the bowl! Also her’s calls for 2 quarts of shredded cabbage (so I used my shredder) 3/4 green cabbage and 1/4 red so it comes out red when you dive in five hours later. Mine was room temerature, not chilled. Very sweet! And tangy and as tasty as wilted lettuce. Highly recommend making it even if all the sugar seems foreign to us today.

  5. I make this often, but I use white vinegar in place of the cider vinegar and cut the oil down to 1/2 cup. If you are afraid of using onion, try green onions with the tops for a more mild taste. I have made following the instructions of pouring the hot dressing over the cabbage. But I have found if you cool the dressing to warm, that add to the cabbage, your slaw is crisper. This is such a nice change of pace from the slaw that uses Mayo.

  6. Just made this. Flavor is great. A little too sweet for my taste, but that’s easily fixed when I make it next time. So loved the idea of pouring hot mixture over it. Usually, coleslaw is better the next day after absorbing all the flavors, but this makes it easily done the day it’s served. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Try it I would imagine they put in salt and pepper in the slaw Or even get a stalk or 2 of celery chop in fine and put it in the slaw Its the beauty of cooking no rules

  7. Yum! I love vinegar-based coleslaw, and this is a delicious recipe! I’m making it tonight for my husband’s work potluck tomorrow. (And I actually live right around the corner from 12 Bones Smokehouse!)

  8. Wow!! This was delicious!! I am not a big fan of coleslaw and generally pass on it but this time I ate most of the bowl! I did a 1/4 cup less on the apple cider vinegar and a tsp or so more of the sugar to balance out the flavors. I used olive oil and added a dash of red pepper flakes to add a little kick to it. Just a little more salt and pepper along with a bit of garlic powder and this was amazing!! I’ll definitely be making this again…in a few weeks actually for an allergy friendly birthday party!! Highly recommend for a mayo alternative!!

  9. I think I would leave out the onion next time. I don’t like the onion flavor in coleslaw. And I added another 1/2 cup cider vinegar.

  10. Cynthia M Cutonilli

    I loved this recipe and cooking down the thinly sliced onions. I did put maybe another tablespoon of sugar and white vinegar. But you can do it to taste pinch extra pepper. But on the whole it’s taste good. Yes will make again!

  11. I made this recipe and was very disappointed. Had to add more vinegar and sugar to make it taste good…..would not make it again….

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