Sweet and Sour Coleslaw

This sweet and sour coleslaw is quick, easy and packed with veggies. It’s cool, crisp and perfect for barbecues or summer dinner parties.
Sweet and Sour Slaw Recipe photo by Taste of Home

Many coleslaw recipes feature creamy, rich dressings made with mayonnaise, buttermilk or sour cream. While we love a good Kentucky coleslaw, it can sometimes feel heavy next to barbecue, augmenting the heaviness of rich meat or beans instead of providing a cooling contrast. This sweet and sour coleslaw is perfect for any such occasion. It’s simple and quick to make, and you can customize the flavor based on your preferences. And don't worry about ending up with bitter coleslaw if the cabbage has been in the refrigerator for a long time—we have an easy fix for that!

Sweet and Sour Coleslaw Ingredients

  • Cabbage and carrot: This sweet and sour coleslaw recipe uses a standard mixture of shredded cabbage and carrots. Running short on time? Use a bag of store-bought coleslaw mix.
  • Celery and green bell pepper: These ingredients give the slaw a unique spin. Feel free to swap in a sweeter red or orange bell pepper if you're averse to green bell pepper's earthy flavor.
  • Onion: You can choose from several types of onions. We recommend sweet onions over the sharp, pungent flavor of red onions. Green onions also work here.
  • Coleslaw dressing: This tangy dressing combines cider vinegar with vegetable oil, sugar, salt, black pepper and paprika. It’s a light dressing that allows the refreshing flavors of the vegetables to shine through.


Step 1: Make the dressing

In a jar with a tight-fitted lid, combine the cider vinegar, vegetable oil, sugar, salt, black pepper and paprika. Shake well.

Editor’s Tip: Since this dressing can be made up to two weeks in advance, you could double up the recipe and use it with green salads or other coleslaw mix recipes.

Step 2: Toss the slaw

In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, carrots, celery, green pepper and onion. Pour the dressing over the mixture, and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate until serving.

Sweet and Sour Coleslaw Variations

Sweet And Sour Coleslaw served in bowl

  • Add sweetness: Add extra sugar if your slaw is too tangy, or look to naturally sweet fruits and vegetables like apples or carrots. This is an excellent option for fixing bitter coleslaw.
  • Make it spicy: This sweet and sour coleslaw would taste fantastic with peppery radishes. Go bold and add thinly sliced jalapenos or a dash of hot sauce.
  • Change up the vinegar: We love cider vinegar's tart, tangy flavor, but you can swap in another type of vinegar. White wine, red wine or rice vinegar are all nice choices. While it’s not technically a vinegar, lemon juice also works. You may need to add extra sugar to the mix if the vinegar you choose is very acidic.

How to Store Sweet and Sour Coleslaw

Sweet and sour coleslaw can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days. The flavors will continue to develop as the slaw marinates. Drain any excess liquid before serving.

Surprisingly enough, you can turn a vinegar-based coleslaw into a freezer slaw. Transfer the slaw to freezer-safe containers, and freeze, covered, for up to three months. Thaw the coleslaw overnight, and stir before serving.

Sweet and Sour Coleslaw Tips

Sweet And Sour Coleslaw served

What kind of cabbage should you use to make sweet and sour coleslaw?

Green and red cabbage are the most common used in coleslaw. They have a crunchy texture and mild flavor. Raw red cabbage has a slightly more peppery bite and adds a fun burst of color to the mix. Savoy and Napa or Chinese cabbage are more tender and have a sweeter flavor.

How can you fix bitter coleslaw?

The best way to fix bitter coleslaw is to add more sugar. You can add granulated sugar or naturally sweet ingredients like grated apples or carrots. Coleslaw can become bitter as the cabbage ages in the refrigerator (especially if it’s pre-cut, as it oxidizes much faster). Too much acid from the vinegar can also create bitter flavors.

What do you serve with sweet and sour coleslaw?

Sweet and sour coleslaw is perfect to serve with barbecue or a summer dinner party. Tart and refreshing, the slaw lightens up rich meat dishes. Try it alongside barbecue recipes like ribs, smoked pork butt or brisket. It’s also fantastic with three-bean baked beans or hearty rice recipes.

Sweet and Sour Coleslaw

The fresh flavor and crunchy texture of garden vegetables star in this tart colorful coleslaw. Lightly dressed with vinegar and oil, it's a refreshing summer salad. My mom fixed it often when I was growing up...and it continues to be requested often. — Pat Cole Polebridge, Montana
Sweet and Sour Slaw Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time

Prep/Total Time: 30 min.


12 servings


  • 6 cups shredded cabbage
  • 4 medium carrots, shredded
  • 4 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped green pepper
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika


  1. In a large bowl, combine cabbage, carrots, celery, green pepper and onion. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine vinegar, oil, sugar, salt, pepper and paprika; shake well. Pour over cabbage mixture and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate until serving.

Nutrition Facts

3/4 cup: 82 calories, 5g fat (1g saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 327mg sodium, 9g carbohydrate (6g sugars, 2g fiber), 1g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 1 vegetable, 1 fat.