This Mayo Free Coleslaw recipe is packed with unique sweet and tangy flavor from the olive oil and vinegar based dressing. Flavored with ground mustard and celery seed, this tangy vegan side dish will be perfect for your next BBQ or piled up on fish tacos!
This recipe is my go-to for coleslaw and is a crowd pleaser every single time I make it. I’ve received countless requests for the recipe. It’s super cheap with only a few ingredients, and so easy to make it’s almost unfair.
You know how when you find something that works really well, you just stick with it? Like long-sleeved classic white T-shirts from The Gap? Well, that is the way of this coleslaw. The Gap T-shirt of coleslaw. It is the only one you will ever need.
Sweet, tangy, and packed full of flavor, this coleslaw pairs a unique blend of olive oil and white vinegar, ground mustard, celery seed, salt, and sugar over a simple mixture of shredded green cabbage and sweet onion.
But here’s what makes it really, REALLY good: the dressing is boiled, then poured over the cabbage and onions, blanching the vegetables to soften slightly and imbibe a ton of flavor.
Oh man. It’s crisp-tender perfection that just gets better and better as it sits in your fridge, making it a perfect make-ahead side dish. It kind of tastes like bread and butter pickles, but in coleslaw form.
Do not let these pictures deceive you. I know, it doesn’t LOOK like it is bursting at the seams with flavor, but trust me… it is.
This no mayo coleslaw is a New England original
When I was young, my family travelled to Bar Harbor, Maine for my older brother’s wedding. We ate at a restaurant that served amazing coleslaw, and not expecting cooperation with her request, my mother asked the waiter for the recipe. To our surprise, they gave it to her!
I don’t know the name of the restaurant, but I do know that you should drop everything you are doing and make this right now. I’ve made a few adjustments from the original New England recipe, including swapping out vegetable oil for healthier olive oil (but you can use vegetable or canola oil instead, if you want to).
And lo and behold, when I found myself in Texas eating at The Salt Lick BBQ Restaurant, they serve a very similar no mayo coleslaw with celery seed! Small world.
How to make coleslaw with no mayo
- First, shred the cabbage and slice the onion. Since I’m pretty handy with a knife, I shredded the cabbage julienne-style by hand, but you can also use a food processor with an attachment or a mandoline slicer to make shredding cabbage super easy.
- Mix the cabbage and onion in a large bowl. It will seem like a lot but after adding the dressing it will cook down a bit.
- Heat up the olive oil, white vinegar, sugar, ground mustard, celery seed, and kosher salt in a small saucepan on the stovetop. Bring it to a simmer, heated just enough to dissolve all the sugar into the mix, whisking or stirring together as you go.
- Finally, pour the hot dressing on top of the cabbage and onion and stir together. This will blanch the veggies slightly, causing them to cook down and to soften a bit.
It’s best to prepare this coleslaw about one day in advance (stirring every few hours or so as it sits in the fridge), so the flavors seep in overnight. But a couple of hours in the fridge is fine, too.
Can I use another kind of vinegar, or substitute the sugar with honey?
In short, no. I don’t recommend subbing out the vinegar with another or using honey.
I tried using apple cider vinegar and honey with this recipe once, and the flavors just weren’t right. The vinegar was too strong and the honey wasn’t sweet enough to balance out everything.
But you CAN substitute the olive oil with another kind of oil, such as vegetable or canola. You can save some money this way, especially if you’re cooking for a crowd.
What to do with the leftover cabbage
This vinegar coleslaw recipe uses about a half a head of cabbage, unless you can find a really small head (or if you’re doubling the amounts). That leaves you with the other half to use up! Try these:
- Top blackened shrimp tacos or chipotle salmon tacos with raw shredded cabbage.
- Use it to make stuffed cabbage casserole.
- Use your instant pot to make a simple buttered cabbage side dish.
- Make a sweet potato, corned beef, and cabbage breakfast bake with eggs.
- Try another coleslaw, like this spicy jalapeño cilantro slaw!
What to serve with this vinegar-based coleslaw
- Top pulled pork sandwiches with it or serve it on the side (here’s an instant pot pulled pork and a slow cooker BBQ pulled pork).
- Serve it on the side of oven BBQ chicken or Crispy Honey Buffalo Chicken Thighs.
- Bring it to a potluck and serve it alongside dill potato salad or warm potato salad with bacon and arugula. Honestly I could eat just a meal like that with no main course!
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Sweet and Tangy Coleslaw (no mayo) with Celery Seed and Mustard
- Mix the shredded cabbage and sliced onion in a large bowl.
- To make the dressing, boil the remaining ingredients on stove, whisking to combine until sugar has dissolved completely.
- Pour hot dressing on top of cabbage and onions; stir to coat.
- Refrigerate for at least two hours before serving; stirring occasionally to redistribute dressing.
- Make ahead: This coleslaw will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for up to three days, but I think it's best served 12-24 hours after making it.
- Ingredient substitutions: I do not recommend using honey instead of sugar, or any other kind of vinegar. You can, however, use another kind of onion or cabbage, if you want, or add other veggies like shredded carrots. You can also use another kind of oil, like vegetable or canola, in place of the olive oil.
- How to serve it: I recommend serving this on top of pulled pork sandwiches or fish tacos, or as a side for a BBQ.
This post originally appeared on Bowl of Delicious in April, 2014. It has been republished with new photos, improved recipe instructions, and more pertinent information.