Table of Contents
  1. What is coleslaw?
  2. What are the benefits of a vinaigrette?
  3. Watch how to make this coleslaw
  4. The Perfect Picnic Coleslaw Recipe

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I always find it amazing how each person has a particular memory that completely defines their version of a certain food. Such as, chili has to have beans for one person or only meat for another. Cornbread needs to be sweet for many while others, like me, do not like added sugar. Often, these ideas come from how we ate growing up. Since we always had chili one way, that’s the only way it can be made, right?

Does this sound like you? You’re not alone! I fall into this trap all the time. In the case of coleslaw, I’ll admit that I’m often in the minority: I crave a coleslaw with a vinaigrette-like dressing. It’s a tangy, yet sweet, balanced dressing that complements the cabbage while avoiding the feeling of being too heavy.

So which are you? Team creamy or team vinegar? I hope I can convince you to join me on the vinegar team!

Two hands holding wooden tongs picking up red and green colored coleslaw

What is coleslaw?

The Oxford language dictionary defines coleslaw as a raw cabbage salad mixed with mayonnaise or other vegetables. This is right where the creamy argument comes into play. Mayonnaise is rich, tangy, and creamy, but can also be overwhelming when it comes to flavor, especially in a coleslaw.

Instead, I always choose the dressing I grew up with, which my grandma perfected. Honestly, this is just a simple emulsified dressing made with oil and vinegar (just plain white distilled vinegar). And I’ll let you in on a little secret: the flavor really comes from three items:

  • a small amount of celery seed, which packs a bigger punch than you’d think
  • a little dry mustard
  • some chopped onion

Originally, my grandma considered this a blender recipe. Today, this still works great, especially with an immersion blender. The blender instantly pulverizes the onion and emulsifies the dressing, creating a quasi-creamy mixture. Let’s consider this a compromise between team mayonnaise and team vinegar.

Top down view of white colored salad dressing sitting on white countertop with wooden tongs

What are the benefits of a vinaigrette?

A vinaigrette acts like a pickling brine. In general, anything that is pickled is employed to cut through fat. That’s why we often pair something pickled with a meal heavy on fat. Think brats and sauerkraut, or pickles and hamburgers.

With this in mind, a vinaigrette coleslaw is obviously the perfect pairing for any summer barbecue. A vinegar-based dressing is also the perfect option for a picnic since it can sit out for longer periods of time. Not so with a mayonnaise-based dressing. See… better, right?

But really, I think the flavor is superior, sharp, tangy, and balanced, especially with some added honey. This dressing stays in my refrigerator, ready to be used, all summer long!

Top down view of white bowl with green and purple cabbage mixed with carrots sitting on white countertop

Watch how to make this coleslaw

Top down view of white bowl with green striped cloth underneath filled with green and purple colored cabbage

The Perfect Picnic Coleslaw

4.52 from 25 votes
Whether attending a picnic or barbecue, this vinegar-based coleslaw side dish is a must-make! The dressing is a summer staple and when paired with coleslaw, it makes for the perfect crunch!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 0 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 6 servings


  • ¾ cup neutral oil (safflower, grapeseed)
  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • 1 tsp celery seed
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped onion
  • 1 lb cabbage shredded
  • 2 carrots shredded
  • ¼ cup roasted sunflower seeds (optional)


For the dressing

  • In a large glass measuring cup or blender container, combine the oil, vinegar, celery seed, dry mustard, salt, honey, and onion. Blend with a countertop or immersion blender until emulsified and smooth, 1-2 minutes.
  • Pour into an airtight container and store in the refrigerator until ready to use, for up to one month.

For the coleslaw

  • In a large bowl, combine the cabbage and carrot. Add dressing to taste. It is best to start with a smaller amount of dressing, about ⅓, and stir well. Taste and add more if needed. Top with sunflower seeds and serve.


  • The coleslaw can be made two hours ahead of time. The thicker the cabbage is cut, the longer it will hold up in the refrigerator before breaking down.
  • Add the sunflower seeds right before serving.


Serving: 1servingCalories: 137kcalCarbohydrates: 11.1gProtein: 2.3gFat: 10.2gSaturated Fat: 0.9gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3.1gMonounsaturated Fat: 5.8gTrans Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 131.9mgPotassium: 281.8mgFiber: 2.9gSugar: 6.1gVitamin A: 212.1IUVitamin C: 44.5mgCalcium: 46.3mgIron: 1.1mg
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Difficulty Easy
Method Mixing

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I’m Kaleb! I'm not a chef, professional baker, landscaper, or designer, but I like to play each on Knollgate Farm. Come join me on my journey and let's learn together!

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4.52 from 25 votes (16 ratings without comment)

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  1. 5 stars
    Made this evening to pair with veggie burgers. Love the onion vinaigrette and will definitely be making this again.

  2. 5 stars
    Kaleb, thank you so much for this recipe. Your coleslaw is fabulous. I prepared it today and I can’t stop eating it. What a yummy dressing!!!

  3. 5 stars
    This recipe just flipped this Iowa girl from Team Creamy over to Team Vinegar. Love this and it was super easy with my immersion blender!

  4. 5 stars
    Very smooth not that punch of vinegar
    You normally taste. The dressing is outstanding and great to use on other salads. Thanks it’s a keeper!

  5. 5 stars
    I made the coleslaw. I was surprised that the dressing was delicious; blending the onions into the sauce took it to another level.

  6. 5 stars
    Your recipe snip was on my Instagram feed while looking for 4th of July food inspiration, I love, love, love coleslaw but worried about the heat, mayo-based one so this one got my vote. HOLY COW it’s good! So simple and so good, the only add-on was a tiny bit of red pepper flakes for a little sass. I will make this again and again, the immersion blender was perfect to blend this up. LOVE IT!

  7. 5 stars
    I love this recipe. Question, you usually use kosher salt and it didn’t specify. I used table salt, but less. Deliciousness