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Southern Vinegar Coleslaw Recipe

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

bowl of vinegar coleslaw

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.

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.

How To Make Vinegar Coleslaw

For this super simple coleslaw recipe, you need the following ingredients:

  • shredded cabbage
  • sugar
  • vinegar
  • water

To make it, combine the sugar, vinegar, and water in a saucepan and heat over low-medium heat until the sugar dissolves.  

Mustard Base

Let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes. Place shredded cabbage in a large bowl and pour the vinegar mixture on top. The heat from the warm liquid slightly wilts the cabbage.


Put the coleslaw in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours before serving.

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4.19 from 11 votes

Vinegar Coleslaw

Good old fashioned vinegar slaw – straight from a Southern farmer’s wife
Course Side Dishes
Cuisine American
Keyword cole slaw, side dish, slaw
Prep Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 10 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 134kcal
Author Lynda


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


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



Serving: 1 | Calories: 134kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 218mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 27g

This coleslaw 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.  Take a hamburger bun, add a layer of barbecue meat, add a little bit of barbecue sauce, a layer of slaw, perhaps a pickle, and then the top bun.

coleslaw made with vinegar and sugar

Like BBQ? Be sure to check out these other delicious recipes at Southern Kissed that are great for grilling/BBQ season:

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Recipe Rating


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.