Lighten Up Your Potato Salad By Swapping Mayo For Vinaigrette

Imagine a potato salad, and if a bright yellow slurry of mayo, egg, and potato pieces comes to mind, you're not alone. This variety of picnic potato salad is a mainstay at cookouts throughout the United States, but it's not the only option when it comes to preparing this popular side dish. There are plenty of variations on the classic, particularly those potato salads that forego the heavy mayo dressing in favor of something lighter, like a vinaigrette.

Vinagrette-based potato salads are lighter, easier on the stomach, and won't overpower other flavors on your cookout plate. You can either use a bottled, premade vinaigrette dressing or whip up your own with a few simple ingredients. We recommend roasting your potatoes rather than boiling them; this provides an opposing texture to the wetness of the vinaigrette, and the roasted flavor of the potatoes pairs perfectly with the acidity of the dressing.

How to make a vinaigrette

New to vinaigrettes? It's easy to make a simple one at home and a good skill to have for dressing salads of all kinds, not just of the potato variety. The only ingredients you need are oil, vinegar or citrus juice, and seasoning; some also like adding mustard for extra flavor and a hint of sweetness through sugar, honey, or syrup.

Any variety of vinegar or acid can be used in vinaigrette, but keep in mind that your choice of acid will affect the flavor of your final product. Balsamic, for example, will impart some sweetness; champagne vinegar will be more mild.

Potato salads typically go well with mustardy vinaigrettes since spicy mustard pairs so well with starchy vegetables like potatoes. Adding some Dijon or honey mustard will make the flavors pop; we recommend a white wine, apple cider vinegar, or a healthy dash of lemon juice to pair with these flavors.

Varieties of potato salad with vinaigrette

If you widen your lens from simply focusing on American-style potato salad, plenty of European recipes use vinaigrette instead of mayonnaise. French potato salad,  for example, uses a mix of olive oil, vinegar, garlic, mustard, and seasonings blended with potatoes and a medley of herbs such as parsley, dill, and scallions. With a squeeze of bright lemon acidity, the dish comes together quickly and can be served warm, cold, or room temperature, and it's so fresh you won't miss the mayo.

German potato salad also avoids mayo, though this recipe does differ from the French variation in a few ways, namely the use of bacon. Though it's heavier than French potato salad in its use of bacon grease to fry the onion and other aromatics, it's still dressed with a mix of acidic vinegar, water, sugar, and seasonings. This version of potato salad is often served warm.