Authentic German Coleslaw (Krautsalat)

Here’s An Authentic German Coleslaw That Pairs Well With Lots of Meals!

Searching for a great European coleslaw recipe? Our German coleslaw – known as Krautsalat in German – is light and simple but definitely worthy as a side to any meal you’re whipping up.

Made from green cabbage, fresh onion, white wine vinegar, and a variety of spices such as caraway, it’s a refreshing coleslaw that is enjoyed by many!

white bowl of green german coleslaw on white counter top
This German coleslaw isn’t creamy – and we like it that way!

For Lisa, Krautsalat is a staple in German cooking. It’s a classic side dish that goes with typical Sunday meals in the part of Germany where she grew up.

These meals usually consisted of meat, a dumpling like potato dumplings or bread dumpling (Semmelknödel), and a side like German coleslaw.

Our German coleslaw is very simple and kept authentic, but you can add various things to it like bacon or carrots if you want a slightly different taste.

round white bowl of german coleslaw with shredded cabbage around
A simple recipe that looks great on the table, too!

It is assumed that coleslaw originates from the Netherlands, but these days there are multiple different versions of it in various European countries and beyond.

Unlike coleslaw in North America, though, German coleslaw is not usually made with mayonnaise etc. to get the creamy consistency. So don’t be surprised when making this recipe!

How to Make German Coleslaw (Step-By-Step)

If you want to make this authentic Krautsalat, you can follow the recipe card below and check the visuals we snapped along the way.

This way, you can see if you’re on the right track – but this isn’t a terribly difficult recipe to do!

half of a green cabbage with core removed
This is what we mean by “taking the core out of the cabbage”.

Start by removing the outside leaves of the cabbage and washing the cabbage thoroughly. Then it’s time to cut the cabbage into half and remove the core.

Now cut the cabbage into thin strips. One tip for when you are cutting the cabbage into thin pieces: Cut the cabbage into smaller wedges so that you can get a better handle on the piece you are cutting.

green cabbage cut into thin strips in a metallic bowl
Thinly cut cabbage in the bowl awaiting its massage!

Place the cabbage strips into a large bowl and add the spices to it. Then it is time to massage the cabbage for around 8 minutes with your hands.

thin strips of green cabbage in metal mixing bowl
Here’s what the massaged cabbage looks like – it’ll excrete some water.

After you’ve massage the cabbage, it should feel significantly softer and will have excreted some water.

Set the bowl with the cabbage aside and chop the onions into small cubes.

onions frying in a black frying pan on stovetop
Time to fry up those onions to go in the German coleslaw…

Heat oil in a pan, add the onion cubes and lightly fry them until they are translucent. Then add the water and vinegar.

Once the mixture is heated, pour it over the cabbage and mix everything together.

german coleslaw in mixing bowl with dressing
This German coleslaw is mixed together and ready to go!

After you have mixed the coleslaw sufficiently, add pepper to taste. Cover the bowl and place the salad in the fridge for at least two hours before serving.

The longer it sits the better it tastes since the vinegar dressing gets a chance to really infuse.

green german coleslaw in bowl with spoon and green cabbage around
Just pop a serving spoon in the German coleslaw and you’re all set!

Storage Tips

As for storage, simply cover the salad and place it in the fridge.

This German coleslaw lasts in the fridge for around two to three days.

Related Recipes

For more great salad recipes, try out these other European Recipes:

green german coleslaw in bowl with spoon and green cabbage around

German Coleslaw (Krautsalat)

This authentic German coleslaw is made from fresh green cabbage, onion, and a touch of white wine vinegar and caraway. It's a light salad that works well as a side to hearty dishes.
4.88 from 8 votes
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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Additional Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Servings: 8


  • 1 small head green cabbage
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons caraway
  • 2 small yellow onions
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3-5 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • pepper to taste


  • Remove the outside leaves of the cabbage, wash the cabbage, and cut it in half. Now remove the hard stem (core the cabbage) and cut the cabbage into fine strips. Place the strips into a large bowl.
  • Add salt, sugar, and caraway. Massage the cabbage (seriously) for approximately 8 minutes with your hands until it is soft to the touch and the cabbage has given off some of its liquid.
  • Cut the onions into small cubes. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onions, and fry them until they become translucent. Now add the water and the vinegar. Once the water and vinegar are hot, pour the mixture over the cabbage and mix everything together with a spoon.
  • Add pepper to taste and let the German coleslaw rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving.


  • This is a classic German "Krautsalat". Unlike the typical North American coleslaw, there is no creaminess to this coleslaw. There’s also no shredded carrot for that classic orange hue throughout the salad. Basically, don’t be surprised when this Krautsalat doesn’t look like the coleslaw you get at a restaurant in North America.
  • It’s important to cut the cabbage into relatively fine strips so the salad won’t be too crunchy when eating it later.
  • We recommend letting the coleslaw sit for at least two hours before serving. If you want the flavors to be more intense, you can also let it sit for longer.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 50kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 796mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g

This nutritional information has been estimated by an online nutrition calculator. It should only be seen as a rough calculation and not a replacement for professional dietary advice.

Course Salads
Cuisine German
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7 thoughts on “Authentic German Coleslaw (Krautsalat)”

  1. Substitute Monk sweetener for sugar and It will reduce the carbs dramatically. Adding it to the heated water will bring it’s flavor out better than just granulated. A keto tip.

  2. Do you drain the water from the cabbage after massaging it? Or keep the water in it and add the onions and other ingredients to it? I’m concerned that it will get too watery….thanks.

  3. So here’s a very simple twist. Cabbage, tomatoes, salt and pepper. That’s it. Prep and slice the cabbage, place it in a bowl. Dice fresh tomatoes and mix with the cabbage. Stir in salt and black pepper to taste .(I use regular pepper and a few twists from a pepper mill.) Mix well, cover and sit in the fridge over night. My Mom fixed this for years for Sunday lunch. It’s fresh crisp. If you don’t like mayo this is a good alternative. Goes great with beef or pork. Great for cook outs.

  4. Hi there

    Just to mention that cumin may give the Krautsalat a more Indian style flavour. I would recommend to use caraway seeds instead – enjoy!

    • You’re absolutely right Tina, caraway is the traditional choice for Krautsalat and what we would use if we made the recipe in Germany! Unfortunately, it can be quite difficult to find caraway where we currently live in Canada so we sometimes use cumin instead. But since it does change the flavor noticeably, I made an amendment to the recipe card. Thanks again for pointing that out! /Lisa


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