Why is my coleslaw bitter and how to fix it?

Coleslaw is a popular side dish made with shredded cabbage, carrots, and a creamy dressing. However, sometimes coleslaw can turn out to be bitter, ruining the overall taste of the dish. Bitterness in coleslaw can occur due to a variety of reasons such as the type of cabbage used, improper preparation, or the ingredients in the dressing. In this article, we will provide you with a comprehensive guide on how to fix bitter coleslaw and transform it into a delicious side dish that everyone will love.

Why is my Coleslaw bitter?

Before we can fix bitter coleslaw, it’s important to understand the causes of bitterness in the dish. Here are some common reasons why coleslaw can turn out to be bitter:

Using the Wrong Type of Cabbage

The type of cabbage used in coleslaw can greatly impact its taste. Green cabbage is the most commonly used type of cabbage in coleslaw, but it can sometimes turn out to be bitter. Red cabbage, on the other hand, is sweeter and less likely to be bitter.

Overcooking the Cabbage

Overcooking the cabbage can break down the natural sugars in the cabbage, causing it to become bitter.

Adding Too Much Salt

Adding too much salt to the cabbage can draw out its natural juices, causing it to become bitter.

Using Bitter Ingredients in the Dressing

Ingredients such as vinegar, mustard, and lemon juice can add a bitter flavor to the dressing if not used in the right proportion.

How to Fix Bitter Coleslaw

bitter coleslaw

How to fix bitter coleslaw

Add sugar or honey

A little sweetness can help balance out the bitterness. Add a teaspoon of sugar or honey at a time to the coleslaw dressing, tasting as you go until you achieve the desired flavor.

Dilute with more dressing

Dilute with more dressing: If the bitterness is too strong, you can try diluting the dressing with more mayonnaise, sour cream, or yogurt. This will help mellow out the flavors.

Add acid

Sometimes, bitterness can be caused by a lack of acidity in the coleslaw. Try adding a splash of lemon juice or vinegar to the dressing, tasting as you go until the bitterness subsides.

Mix in other ingredients

Adding complementary flavors and textures can also help mask the bitterness. Try adding grated carrots, raisins, or sliced almonds to the coleslaw for a more complex and flavorful dish.

Soak in cold water:

If the coleslaw is extremely bitter, you can try soaking it in cold water for 10-15 minutes to remove some of the bitterness. Then, drain and pat dry before adding the dressing.

How to avoid Bitter Coleslaw

Use Red Cabbage

If you find that your coleslaw is too bitter, try using red cabbage instead of green cabbage. Red cabbage is sweeter and less likely to be bitter.

Blanch the Cabbage

Blanching the cabbage can help remove any bitterness from it. To blanch the cabbage, bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add the shredded cabbage and cook for 1-2 minutes. Then drain and rinse with cold water.

Rinse the Cabbage

Rinsing the shredded cabbage with cold water can help remove any bitterness from it.

Reduce the Amount of Salt in the Dressing

If you’ve added too much salt to the cabbage, try reducing the amount of salt in the dressing to balance out the flavors.

Add Sweet Ingredients to the Dressing

To counteract the bitterness in the coleslaw, you can add sweet ingredients to the dressing such as honey, sugar, or applesauce.

Adjust the Proportions of the Dressing Ingredients

If the dressing is too bitter, you can adjust the proportions of the ingredients to balance out the flavors. For example, you can add more mayonnaise or reduce the amount of vinegar in the dressing.

Let the Coleslaw Sit

Letting the coleslaw sit in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight can help the flavors meld together and reduce any bitterness.


Bitterness in coleslaw can be a common problem, but with the right techniques, it can be easily fixed. By understanding the causes of bitterness and using the right ingredients and preparation methods, you can transform bitter coleslaw into a delicious side dish that everyone will enjoy.


  1. Why is my coleslaw bitter?

    Coleslaw can become bitter due to various reasons such as using the wrong type of cabbage, overcooking the cabbage, adding too much salt, or using bitter ingredients in the dressing.

  2. How can I prevent coleslaw from becoming bitter in the first place?

    To prevent coleslaw from becoming bitter, make sure to use fresh ingredients, choose the right type of cabbage, and avoid overcooking the cabbage. Also, be mindful of the amount of salt and bitter ingredients you add to the dressing.

  3. Can I add more mayonnaise to my coleslaw to reduce the bitterness?

    Yes, you can add more mayonnaise to the coleslaw dressing to balance out the flavors. However, make sure not to add too much as it can make the coleslaw too heavy and mayonnaise-like in texture.

  4. Can I use a different type of vinegar in my coleslaw dressing?

    Yes, you can use different types of vinegar such as apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar. Just make sure to use them in the right proportion to avoid adding bitterness to the coleslaw.

By following these tips and techniques, you can fix bitter coleslaw and transform it into a delicious and flavorful side dish that everyone will love. So next time you encounter bitter coleslaw, don’t panic! Use these methods to turn it around and make it a hit at your next meal.

Btw, If you wanna make perfect coleslaw, try my favorite recipe here

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