Tangy Apple Coleslaw Recipe

Granny Smith apples add a tart, fruity twist to this classic barbecue side.

A bowl of tangy apple coleslaw.
Apples add a fruity and tart flavor that really stands out in this tangy slaw. .

Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

Why This Recipe Works

  • A sugar-and-salt mixture purges the cabbage of excess moisture, leaving it tender, but still crunchy, and well seasoned.
  • Sour cream adds a distinct tanginess to the dressing that pairs well with the apple.
  • Granny Smith apples add fruitiness and complement the already sweet and tart flavor of the dressing.

My barbecue side dish game was forever changed when I realized that with a simple prepping technique, and the addition of flavorful dressings, coleslaw really is the perfect complement to rich, fatty barbecued and smoked meats. 

Five different coleslaw recipes.

Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

In Kenji’s classic creamy coleslaw, he recommends prepping the vegetables to get rid of extra moisture, which allows them to better absorb dressing and seasoning.  Starting with this foundation, I experimented with a tart vinegar slaw, a flavorful mustard coleslaw, a regional Lexington-style red slaw, and a spicy Tex-Mex variation

For another twist, I add both tartness and fruitiness to this coleslaw by shredding Granny Smith apples into my cabbage and carrots. When settling on an appropriate dressing to pair with this version, I started with sour cream, which makes a richer and more complex base than mayonnaise alone. To keep it from overpowering the other components, I cut it with a touch of mayo, along with vinegar, sugar, honey, black pepper, and mustard powder. I love the texture of celery seeds, but didn't think they'd enhance the flavor profile, so I decided to go with more neutral poppy seeds here. The final slaw is tangy and tart, adding a new dimension to the classic with the bright fruitiness of the apple.

June 2014

Recipe Details

Tangy Apple Coleslaw Recipe

Active 30 mins
Total 35 mins
Serves 10 to 12 servings

Granny Smith apples add a tart, fruity twist to this classic barbecue side.


For the Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup sour cream

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise

  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 3 tablespoons sugar

  • 3 tablespoons honey

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds

For the Slaw:

  • 1 large head green cabbage (about 3 1/2 pounds), finely shredded on a mandoline or by hand

  • 1 large carrot, peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater

  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and grated on the large holes of a box grater

  • 2/3 cup sugar

  • 1/3 cup kosher salt


  1. For the Dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together sour cream, mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, honey, black pepper, mustard powder, and poppy seeds.

    Whisking together dressing for tangy apple coleslaw.

    Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

  2. For the Slaw: Combine cabbage, carrot, and apple in a large bowl. Sprinkle with sugar and salt and toss to combine. Let stand 5 minutes, then transfer to a large colander and rinse thoroughly under cold running water.

    A bowl of shredded vegetables for coleslaw.

    Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

  3. Transfer vegetables to a salad spinner and spin dry. Alternatively, transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet lined with a triple layer of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel and blot mixture dry with more towels. Return to large bowl.

    Shredded veggies in a salad spinner for coleslaw.

    Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

  4. Pour dressing over vegetables and toss to coat. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt, pepper, and/or sugar.

    Tossing shredded apple and veggies with dressing.

    Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

Special Equipment

Mandoline (optional)

Read More

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
145 Calories
7g Fat
21g Carbs
2g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 10 to 12
Amount per serving
Calories 145
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 7g 8%
Saturated Fat 2g 8%
Cholesterol 8mg 3%
Sodium 269mg 12%
Total Carbohydrate 21g 8%
Dietary Fiber 4g 13%
Total Sugars 16g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 50mg 251%
Calcium 82mg 6%
Iron 0mg 2%
Potassium 342mg 7%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)