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Southern Vinegar Slaw Recipe

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This simple vinegar slaw recipe has three main ingredients: cabbage, sugar, and vinegar. It’s a great side dish for BBQ, fish, and chicken.

This recipe for vinegar slaw is based on my dear sweet mother-in-law’s recipe that she used for years.  As a farmer’s wife, she knew how to cook good food and a lot of it.  I am happy to be able to share this version with you.

bowl of vinegar slaw

A go-to favorite to serve with barbecue is coleslaw.  But the question in my family is whether or not it should be creamy coleslaw or vinegar slaw.  Personally, I prefer creamy.  My husband likes his made with vinegar.  Either way, both versions are the quintessential side for all things barbecue.

When I am pushed for time, I head to my local KFC and pick up a pint of the cool, creamy slaw.  Otherwise, I make a batch of vinegar law.  Sometimes it is good to nice things for those you love, you know?

I use only water, sugar, and vinegar. I start off by combining all of my ingredients, sans cabbage, into a saucepan and heat over low-medium heat until the sugar dissolves.  I let the mixture set for about 5 minutes and then pour it over shredded cabbage.  The heat from the mixture slightly wilts the cabbage.

Mustard Base

I put the coleslaw in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours.

Yield: 6 servings

Vinegar Cole Slaw

Vinegar Cole Slaw

Good old fashioned vinegar slaw - straight from a Southern farmer's wife

Prep Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 10 minutes


  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 package coleslaw blend or shredded cabbage


  1. Place all ingredients except for coleslaw blend in a small saucepan and heat on medium setting until sugar has dissolved.
  2. Remove from heat and pour over coleslaw blend in a large bowl.
  3. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 134Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 218mgCarbohydrates: 28gFiber: 1gSugar: 27gProtein: 0g

Nutrition information is an approximation.

Did you make this recipe?

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This slaw is good paired not only with barbecue but on it, too!  That’s right – place a nice, large spoonful on top of your shredded barbecue chicken, beef, or pork.  Well, it’s actually best to start with a bun, add a layer of barbecue meat, a layer of slaw, perhaps a pickle, and then the top bun.


Which do you prefer – creamy or vinegar coleslaw?

coleslaw made with vinegar and sugar

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Friday 22nd of May 2020

When I was little (under 10) there was a seafood place near us that people came to on the weekends from 50 miles away. I never liked seafood much, but they had the best spaghetti a girl could ask for, with a deep dark red tangy sauce. It also came with coleslaw that was made with vinegar. It was my absolute favorite! It squeaked on your teeth as you ate it, lol! I have never known how to make it and don't know any places around me that have anything like it. That particular restaurant closed down many, many years ago. I'm going to try this recipe because it sounds like it might just be right. Thanks for posting it!

Lee Gresham

Wednesday 6th of July 2016

I grew up eating the vinegar based coleslslaw in Tennessee-my absolute favorite.on a chopped pork.sandwich. I have lived in Texas for a long time (great state!) but can't seem to acquire a taste for the creamy, mayo.based slaw--


Wednesday 6th of July 2016

I like them both; however, my favorite is KFC's cole slaw.


Monday 10th of August 2015

i am picky about coleslaw......creamy for me with just a little vinegar as well.