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Coleslaw vs. Sauerkraut: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on October 3, 2023
Coleslaw is a salad made from shredded raw cabbage mixed with a dressing, while sauerkraut is fermented cabbage.

Key Differences

Coleslaw is primarily a cold salad dish that showcases the crispness and freshness of raw cabbage. It is often combined with carrots and other vegetables and mixed with a creamy or vinegar-based dressing. On the other hand, sauerkraut is a product of fermentation. When cabbage undergoes the process of fermentation, it turns into sauerkraut, gaining a tangy flavor and a softer texture.
Both coleslaw and sauerkraut utilize cabbage as their main ingredient, emphasizing the versatility of this vegetable. However, while coleslaw celebrates the raw, crunchy nature of cabbage, sauerkraut showcases its transformed, tangy persona, achieved through bacterial fermentation.
In terms of preparation, coleslaw can be made within minutes, needing just the shredding of cabbage and mixing of ingredients. Conversely, sauerkraut requires a fermentation period, which can range from a few days to several weeks or even months. The fermentation gives sauerkraut its unique flavor profile.
Health-wise, both coleslaw and sauerkraut bring benefits to the table. Coleslaw, when made with a light dressing, can be a low-calorie, nutritious side dish. Sauerkraut, due to its fermentation process, offers probiotics which are beneficial for gut health.
Coleslaw is often found accompanying meals at barbecues, picnics, or as a side dish in many restaurants. Sauerkraut, on the other hand, is popular in Central European and Eastern European cuisines and is often paired with meats like sausages or used as a topping for various dishes.

Comparison Chart


Raw salad
Fermented dish


Crisp and crunchy
Soft and tangy

Preparation Time

Quick (minutes to hours)
Longer (days to months)

Health Benefits

Nutritious, fiber-rich

Typical Use

Side dish, accompaniment
Topping, main ingredient

Coleslaw and Sauerkraut Definitions


A shredded cabbage salad with dressing.
For the picnic, she prepared a bowl of coleslaw with a tangy dressing.


Cabbage that has been preserved through lactic acid fermentation.
The fermentation process turns cabbage into sauerkraut.


A cold side dish often found at barbecues.
The grilled chicken tasted perfect with a side of coleslaw.


Fermented cabbage with a tangy flavor.
The hot dog was topped with mustard and sauerkraut.


A mix of raw cabbage and sometimes carrots with a creamy or vinaigrette base.
I prefer coleslaw with a light vinaigrette instead of mayo.


A traditional Central European dish made from fermented cabbage.
When visiting Germany, I loved the dishes served with sauerkraut.


A crunchy vegetable salad primarily made of cabbage.
The crunchiness of the coleslaw complemented the softness of the pulled pork sandwich.


A sour dish rich in probiotics.
Adding sauerkraut to my diet has been beneficial for my gut health.


A popular accompaniment in American dining.
Every time we order fried chicken, we get coleslaw as well.


A tangy topping often paired with meats.
Sauerkraut and sausages are a classic combination.


A salad of shredded raw cabbage and sometimes shredded carrots, dressed with mayonnaise or a vinaigrette.


Chopped or shredded cabbage salted and fermented in its own juice.


A salad of finely shredded raw cabbage and sometimes shredded carrots, dressed with mayonnaise (white slaw) or a vinaigrette (red slaw).


A dish made by fermenting finely chopped cabbage.


A salad made of sliced cabbage.


A German person.


Basically shredded cabbage


Cabbage cut fine and allowed to ferment in a brine made of its own juice with salt, - a German dish.


Shredded cabbage fermented in brine


What is coleslaw made of?

Coleslaw is primarily made of shredded raw cabbage, often mixed with other vegetables, and dressed with a creamy or vinegar-based dressing.

Is coleslaw cooked or raw?

Coleslaw is raw.

Does sauerkraut taste sour?

Yes, sauerkraut has a tangy, sour flavor due to fermentation.

How is sauerkraut produced?

Sauerkraut is produced by fermenting shredded cabbage using its natural bacteria.

Which cuisines prominently feature coleslaw?

Coleslaw is prevalent in American cuisine but can be found in various forms worldwide.

Can you heat coleslaw?

While traditionally served cold, coleslaw can be heated but might lose its crispness.

Does coleslaw always contain mayo?

No, coleslaw can be dressed with a vinaigrette or other dressings as well.

How long does sauerkraut need to ferment?

Typically, sauerkraut ferments for several weeks, but it can vary based on the recipe and desired taste.

Is sauerkraut a German dish?

Yes, sauerkraut is traditional in German cuisine, but it's also common in other Central and Eastern European cuisines.

Can coleslaw be made without cabbage?

While cabbage is the primary ingredient, variations exist using other shredded vegetables.

Is coleslaw a summer dish?

While coleslaw is popular in summer, it can be enjoyed year-round.

Is sauerkraut always made from green cabbage?

No, sauerkraut can be made from red cabbage or a combination of both.

What dishes commonly feature sauerkraut?

Sauerkraut is often paired with sausages, sandwiches, and as a topping for various dishes.

Is coleslaw healthy?

Coleslaw can be healthy, especially when made with a light dressing, as it's rich in fiber and vitamins.

What are the health benefits of sauerkraut?

Sauerkraut is rich in probiotics, vitamins, and minerals which are beneficial for gut health.

What pairs well with coleslaw?

Coleslaw pairs well with grilled meats, sandwiches, and fried foods.

How long can coleslaw be stored?

Coleslaw can be stored in the fridge for 3-5 days.

Why is sauerkraut tangy?

The tanginess in sauerkraut arises from the lactic acid produced during fermentation.

What's the texture difference between coleslaw and sauerkraut?

Coleslaw is crunchy, while sauerkraut is softer due to fermentation.

Can sauerkraut go bad?

Yes, if not stored properly or for too long, sauerkraut can spoil.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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