Monday, September 2, 2019

Red Cabbage Coleslaw with Apple & Carrot (No Mayo)

A crunchy & refreshing red cabbage coleslaw mixed with carrot, apple, jalapeno, cilantro & green onion then tossed in a tangy & slightly sweet apple cider vinegar dressing. No mayo in this recipe! Use this easy & healthy slaw as a topping for fish tacos or pulled pork sandwiches or serve it as a simple side dish with a heartier main course. (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan & paleo)

Red Cabbage Coleslaw with Apple & Carrot (No Mayo)

Do you like creamy slaw or vinegar-based slaw better? I grew up eating lots of KFC coleslaw that was super sweet, soft, chopped into tiny pieces, and practically drowning in a creamy dressing.

These days I usually prefer lighter, crunchier slaws with a vinaigrette dressing. Unless I'm making something with a Carolina-style BBQ sauce (which is mustard-based & already tangy), in which case I'm all about the creamy slaw.

But more often than not, I'm using a sweet, smoky & spicy Kansas City-style BBQ sauce for recipes like crock-pot BBQ ribs or pulled pork sliders, which pairs really well with vinegar slaw. The tanginess helps to cut through rich, heavy, and/or sweet flavors without overpowering them.  

I first created this red cabbage coleslaw recipe back in 2014, but I've recently updated it by adding raw jalapenos & finely chopped cilantro. Both of these ingredients are optional, but I think they really elevate the slaw to have more complex flavors.

So, instead of just the bitter (cabbage) + tangy (vinegar) & sweet (apples, maple syrup & carrots) flavors, you now get spicy (jalapeno) & grassy + herbaceous (cilantro) flavors thrown into the mix. It's really refreshing & addicting!

Oh...and because it has fresh apples, I tend to fix this slaw more often in the fall months. Makes sense when I'm keeping Honeycrisp apples around for apple cider sangriawhite wine sangria, and pumpkin apple muffins, right?

But in actuality, this recipe is made with simple ingredients that are easy to find year-round, so it works anytime (especially in the spring & summer months when you are craving lighter foods). 

Ingredients For Red Cabbage Coleslaw Recipe With No Mayo

Ingredients For Red Cabbage Slaw

  • Red Cabbage (a.k.a. Purple Cabbage): This variety of cabbage has a gorgeous color, which makes it fun to use in recipes since it draws the eye. However, that intense hue also means it's packed with antioxidants (similar to blueberries & purple cauliflower), which makes it a healthy, too!
  • Carrot: I usually grab a bag of pre-shredded carrot from the store, then use any leftovers on leafy salads or in cabbage roll soup. This would be even prettier if you used rainbow carrots!
  • Green Onion: This adds a mildly spicy bite to the coleslaw. You can substitute thinly sliced red or sweet onion if you prefer. I always have green onion on hand for making maple balsamic vinaigrette or egg roll in a bowl, so it's my go-to "onion" for many recipes.
  • Cilantro (Optional): I don't always add this to my coleslaw, but I find it super refreshing these days, especially in a slaw that's paired with a heavy & rich main course. Some of my favorite local BBQ places here in the Dallas area now have cilantro slaw on their menu, so it's starting to catch on.
  • Jalapeno (Optional): I can't get enough of fresh raw chiles (especially jalapenos) these days. I add them to so many recipes (especially on brats and in mac & cheese). The mild heat works really well in this slaw to contrast against the tangy, sweet & bitter flavors from the rest of the ingredients. If you're not into spicy things, omit it!
  • Apple: I prefer to use Granny Smith apples because they're tart and the bright green color contrasts beautifully against the red cabbage so they both pop. (Red & green are complementary colors.) You can use whatever variety makes you happy! Honeycrisp would be especially yummy in the fall months.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar Dressing: I use my simple recipe for homemade apple cider vinaigrette (the non-creamy version). Make a batch in 5-minutes, taste it and adjust the ingredients to make it as sweet or tangy as you like, then mix it into the coleslaw. So easy. If you like your slaw extra saucy, you can make a double batch and use any leftover dressing for an autumn salad with butternut squash.

Easy Red Cabbage Coleslaw Recipe with Apple & Carrot (No Mayo)

How to Make This Red Cabbage Coleslaw

  • Make a quick batch of vinegar dressing (link below in the recipe card) in 5 minutes or less & set that aside so the flavors develop while you prep the rest.
  • Core the cabbage & thinly slice it with a sharp knife. Separate out any big pieces (it happens) and go over them a few times with your knife so there aren't any big chunks. I just bought this inexpensive 5" santoku knife the other day & it's made slicing cabbage A DREAM. I need to buy 2-3 more of them! So, as long as your knife is decent, no need for a mandoline or food processor unless that's your preference. And please let me know if you ever find pre-shredded red cabbage at a grocery store. I have yet to spot it. (Let's make it happen Trader Joe's). 
  • Slice the green onion: I typically use the green part but the white part works, too.
  • Quarter & slice the jalapeno: Remove the seeds if you want it less spicy. I keep them in. 
  • Cut the apple into matchstick pieces: Leave the peel on and do your best. It doesn't have to be perfect! Just smaller, thin, bite-sized pieces.
  • Toss everything in the dressing: It will be lightly dressed, so if you prefer your coleslaw saucier, double the vinegar dressing recipe and add as much as you like. Do keep in mind that the more sauce you add, the softer it will become in the fridge. 
  • Season with salt & pepper to taste
  • Serve immediately or wait and let the flavors develop (see recipe card notes for more tips)
Red Cabbage Coleslaw Recipe with Apple Cider Vinegar Dressing (No Mayo)

Ideas For Using Red Cabbage Coleslaw

Use red cabbage slaw as a topping for recipes like:

  • fish tacos (fried, grilled & pan-seared fish filets or even shrimp)
  • chicken tacos (they'd be yummy with pineapple salsa & pickled red onion) 
  • carnitas pork tacos (add this slaw + some chopped pineapple on top - so good!)
  • pulled pork sliders or sandwiches (super easy)
  • chopped brisket sandwiches or burnt ends

Serve red cabbage coleslaw as a simple side dish with main dishes like:

Red Cabbage Coleslaw For Fish Tacos & Pulled Pork (No Mayo)

Tools That Make This Homemade Slaw Recipe Easier

Here are my favorite tools for making this simple coleslaw recipe. Clicking on the links will take you over to Amazon where you can check out more of their features & see a picture.

  • inexpensive sharp knife: I recently got this 5" santoku knife and it really makes a big difference when I'm slicing & chopping veggies like cabbage, onions & fresh herbs. I take less effort on my part and the prep is faster, too. :D
  • glass mixing bowls with locking lids: I have the four bowl set with lids that nests so you can stack them to save space. These are sturdy, come in different sizes, and are see-through, which makes them fun for colorful recipes - you can serve them right in the bowl. And if you have any leftovers, just pop the lid on and stick it right in the fridge.
  • glass measuring cup set: I use these for measuring ingredients (dry or wet, hot or cold) and also making homemade vinaigrette dressings (like the apple cider vinegar one today). I love that they're dishwasher friendly, which makes clean-up easier. 
  • wooden cutting board: One of the workhorses of my kitchen. I typically get bamboo ones, which are easy to wash & dry by hand. Use 'em for prepping all the things and they're pretty enough to serve on, too. They're great for appetizer platters like charcuterie boards. (Hint, hint)  

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salad, purple cabbage, vegan, healthy, without mayonnaise
side dish
Yield: 6 cups

Red Cabbage Coleslaw with Apple & Carrot (No Mayo)

Red Cabbage Coleslaw with Apple & Carrot (No Mayo)

prep time: 15 Mcook time: total time: 15 M
A crunchy & refreshing red cabbage coleslaw mixed with carrot, apple, jalapeno, cilantro & green onion then tossed in a tangy & slightly sweet apple cider vinegar dressing. No mayo in this recipe! Use this easy & healthy slaw as a topping for tacos or pulled pork or serve it as a simple side dish with a heartier main course.


  • 4 cups of thinly sliced red cabbage (about 1/2 a medium cabbage)
  • 1 cup of shredded carrot (I used a pre-shredded bag from the store) 
  • 1/4 cup of sliced green onion
  • 1/4 cup of finely chopped cilantro leaves (optional)
  • 1 large jalapeno, quartered & thinly sliced (optional)
  • 1 medium granny smith apple, cut into matchstick pieces (about 1 1/2 cups) 
  • 1 cup of homemade apple cider vinegar dressing (my whisked, non-creamy version) 
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste


How to cook Red Cabbage Coleslaw with Apple & Carrot (No Mayo)

  1. Prepare the apple cider vinegar dressing (this takes five minutes or less & should yield about 1 cup). Whisk or shake the dressing well and give it a taste. Is it as sweet or tangy as you like it for coleslaw? If not, add a bit more vinegar, sweetener, mustard OR oil until it tastes good to you, then set aside.
  2. Combine the cabbage, carrot, green onion, cilantro, jalapeno, and apple in a large mixing bowl. Pour the dressing over everything and toss well with tongs or two forks to combine. Season with sea salt & black pepper to taste. Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days for the best texture & taste. 


WAIT TIME: The longer the coleslaw sits, the more pronounced the apple cider vinegar dressing becomes. If you serve it immediately or within a few hours of making it, the fresh apple, cilantro & jalapeno flavors will be strongest. However, if you let it sit overnight in the fridge, the apple cider dressing flavor becomes much more pronounced as the cabbage softens slightly & releases some of its juices. So, if you like a stronger vinegar flavor in your slaw, I recommend making this the day before. MAKE-AHEAD: Because this coleslaw is only lightly coated in dressing instead of swimming in it (you can always make extra vinaigrette & pour that on before serving), it stays crunchy in the fridge for 2-3 days. So, it's a great dish to prep the day before you plan to use it in a meal, whether as a side dish or topping. COLOR BLEEDING: After several hours, the apple pieces will start to turn pink as the cabbage "bleeds" its color out into the dressing. If this bothers you, either serve the coleslaw immediately or leave out the apple until right before serving. CILANTRO: It's one of those polarizing ingredients that people either love or hate. So, only add it to the coleslaw if you're confident it's going to be eaten by cilantro lovers. Better to play it safe. You can always sprinkle some finely chopped cilantro on your own serving. :)
Created using The Recipes Generator

UPDATE (Septbember 2019): This recipe was originally published June 2014, but I've recently updated it by adding two new ingredients, rephotographing the pictures, rewriting the instructions for clarity, and adding more helpful tips + tricks.

Did You Make This Recipe?

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A crunchy & refreshing red cabbage coleslaw mixed with carrot, apple, jalapeno, cilantro & green onion then tossed in a tangy & slightly sweet apple cider vinegar dressing. No mayo in this recipe! Use this easy & healthy slaw as a topping for fish tacos or pulled pork sandwiches or serve it as a simple side dish with a heartier main course. (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan & paleo)

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