Why You Should Add Apple Cider Vinegar To Your Coleslaw, According To Our Food Editor

The secret ingredient is in your pantry.

Like potato salad and pasta salad, coleslaw is a relatively simple side dish, but there are endless ways to make it. People tend to be very attached to their favorite coleslaw recipe—which could have anything from caraway seeds to cranberries in it.

Mayonnaise is usually the most polarizing ingredient in coleslaw. The anti-mayo crowd tends to prefer an oil-based vinaigrette dressing. These bright, vinegary slaws are often served atop or on the side of a pulled pork or barbecue chicken sandwich. (Some of these slaws are heavy on the mustard.) Others prefer their shredded cabbage coated in a sweetish mayo-based dressing.

Creamy Black Pepper Coleslaw
Photo: Jennifer Causey

No matter what you like to put in your slaw, any recipe can be improved with a key ingredient: apple cider vinegar. Whether your coleslaw is with or without mayonnaise, simple or chock-full of ingredients, a splash of this vinegar adds a welcome fruity and tangy note that's more balanced and not as sharp as other types of vinegar, like white or red wine vinegar.

Apple cider vinegar, which is made from fermented apples, has all sorts of purported health benefits, like regulating blood sugar. (We just don't suggest drinking it straight from the bottle.) It's a bit trendy now, and you'll find it in all sorts of products, including beverages, salad dressings, and even hair care products. (It's supposed to improve scalp health too.) But wellness aside, it's an essential ingredient when making coleslaw.

My go-to brand is Bragg's Apple Cider. It has a sweet-sour flavor that adds a little brightness to coleslaw dressings with and without mayo. Two more pieces of coleslaw wisdom: Don't forget the freshly ground black pepper, and don't make it more than one hour in advance.

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