I'm a chef. Everyone should know how to make my mom's mayonnaise-free potato salad.

·3 min read
ingredients for potato salad and cooked potato salad
I love my mom's recipe for potato salad.Alissa Fitzgerald
  • I'm a professional chef, but my mom's potato salad is still one of my favorite recipes to make.

  • Instead of using a lot of mayonnaise, her recipe calls for balsamic vinegar and "al dente" potatoes.

  • I like to serve it fresh at room temperature, not refrigerated, and it's great topped with herbs.

We all have those childhood dishes that come out a few times a year and stand out like a beacon of flavor. For me, one is my family's potato salad.

My mom didn't grow up with a lot of mayonnaise-based salads at family picnics. She's a vinaigrette kind of woman, so any opportunity to take something heavy and make it light is her favorite way to cook.

She often paired the potato salad with marinated and grilled lamb skewers — the combo works so well that it's often what I'd request for my birthday dinner.

Here's how to make my mom's mayonnaise-free potato salad.

Her small tweaks to a classic potato-salad recipe make a huge difference

ingredients for balsamic vinegar potato salad on a kitchen counter
My mom doesn't use mayonnaise in her potato salad.Alissa Fitzgerald

Start by properly salting the water you boil the potatoes in to give them the most flavor possible.

I use large- to medium-sized red potatoes and boil them whole until they're cooked through without falling apart — the potato version of al dente.

salted potatoes in a pot of water
Salting the water is an important step.Alissa Fitzgerald

You'll know that they're done when you can fully insert a knife or toothpick.

Drain out the hot water and put the cover back on the pot, letting the potatoes steam with the residual heat so they end up creamy and smooth.

pouring oil into a vinegarette dressing
The mustard should help thicken up the dressing.Alissa Fitzgerald

Once the potatoes are cool enough to be handled, you can cut them into quarters. It's best to pour on the dressing immediately, so make sure you prepare it ahead of time when the potatoes are cooking.

The vinaigrette should be added while the quartered potatoes are still warm so they absorb the lovely, tangy, oniony flavors.

I like to serve the salad fresh, without refrigerating it, for the best results

pouring dressing on cooked potato cubes
Pour the dressing on while the potatoes are still warm.Alissa Fitzgerald

This side dish is best served fresh at room temperature and never refrigerated. It keeps for hours without spoiling and tastes better as the flavors marry together.

All ingredient quantities in the dressing can be adjusted for personal taste. And remember that green herbs wilt or turn brown when sitting on hot foods, so add them last.

potato salad with fresh basil sitting on a window ledge
You can finish the salad with any herb you have on hand.Alissa Fitzgerald

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds medium red potatoes

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon honey

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed black pepper

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 cup red onion, diced

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped herbs of your choice

Instructions:

  1. Fill a pot with cold, salted water before adding the whole potatoes and turning the heat up to high. Once water is boiling, lower to medium-high and cook the potatoes for about 15 minutes until tender.

  2. Drain water and place the cover back on the pot to let the potatoes steam for up to 20 minutes.

  3. Whisk together the balsamic, honey, mustard, salt, pepper, and garlic. Add the oil in a stream while whisking thoroughly until emulsified. The mustard acts as a stabilizer and will help thicken the vinaigrette.

  4. Right before quartering the potatoes, add the finely diced red onion to the dressing.

  5. Pour the dressing on the potato cubes while they're still warm, tossing to coat.

  6. Let everything come to room temperature and serve, garnishing with fresh herbs of choice.

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