Why It's Time to Take the Mayo Out of Your Potato Salad (and How)
Potato salad is a classic side dish for a reason. It sidles up to your burgers or dogs at a backyard grilling party, cools your palate after spicy saucy ribs at your barbecues, and is the perfect accompaniment to any sandwich. For many, getting assigned the potato salad to bring to a potluck is the pinnacle of cooking prowess validation. And classic potato salads with their creamy mayo-based dressings are a thing of beauty.
They can also be problematic.
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Potato salad's mayo problem
The problematic part? Mayonnaise, which is egg based. For one, this makes any mayo-enriched dressing in potato salad unsuitable for vegans. It is also prone to spoiling, which means that these salads, so perfect for spring and summer outdoor gatherings and large parties, should not sit out at cool indoor room temp for longer than 2 hours or warm or hot outdoor temp for longer than one hour. Any longer and you risk food-borne illnesses. Finally, sometimes the bland richness of traditional potato salads can be a bit much, especially when accompanying richer meats like brisket, pork belly, or sausages.
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The best mayo-free potato salad
The good news is that just because you may want to take the mayo out of your potato salad, doesn't mean you have to give up your spuds! There are wonderful potato salads that are delicious and flavorful, with punchy dressings that stand up to any dish, can be left at room temp or outside for extended times, and are vegan to boot.
The secret? Instead of a creamy dressing, think bright vinegar- or citrus-based dressings that bring acid brightness to the recipe.
Vinaigrette Potato Salad: You can toss your potatoes in nearly any vinaigrette you love, from lemon Dijon to Greek style red wine with oregano. It can be as simple as oil, vinegar, seasonings, and herbs. It can be your favorite bottled dressing or homemade recipe.
German-Style Potato Salad: Go German-style with white distilled vinegar, finely chopped red onion and minced chives, and a neutral oil.
French-Style Potato Salad: Lean French with Champagne vinegar, whole grain mustard, chopped fennel, fresh tarragon, and olive oil.
Italian-Style Potato Salad: White balsamic and olive oil pressed with Sicilian lemons with chopped tomatoes and fresh basil make things decidedly Italian.
The best technique for mayo-free potato salad
The key to a great no-mayo potato salad is technique. Because the dressing is lighter than mayo-based versions, you want to infuse flavor into your potatoes from the start. To begin with, season your cooking water well with salt so that it seasons your potatoes while they cook. Then, as soon as they are drained and still hot, toss in a tablespoon or two of light vinegar (white wine or distilled white is ideal), which will absorb as they cool for 10 minutes. Then, while the potatoes are still warm, but not so hot that it would cook or wilt herbs or vegetables, toss the potatoes with the dressing of your choice and then let cool to room temp. This ensures terrific flavor in every bite.
Once these potato salads are cooled, you can keep in the fridge for up to three days before serving. How's that for convenient?
Our favorite mayo-free potato salad recipes
Want some specific inspiration? Check out some of our favorite potato salads with no mayo in sight.