The Sweet Ingredient That Makes South African Potato Salad So Unique

Although your grandma's recipe might be more traditional, potato salad recipes can vary greatly. In a South African potato salad, condensed milk brings a hint of sweetness. When paired with barbecue, it is a flavor combination that has people asking for a second helping.

Even though potato salad is usually a side dish, the food can either be a huge hit or a terrible flop. Finding that creamy, flavorful, but not overwhelming balance, the potato can take a deft hand. It might seem counterintuitive, but the condensed milk combined with mayonnaise achieves that concept.

In South Africa, this version of potato salad skips the egg and uses mayonnaise, condensed milk, and other seasonings to dress the potatoes. Bringing together the ingredients creates a luscious, creamy sauce that adds an unctuous quality to the dish. The viscosity of the condensed milk makes for a more consistent sauce. Instead of pooling in the bottom of the bowl, the texture coats the potatoes well.

Recipe versions vary depending on the dressing method. Some dishes simply drizzle the sauce on top of the potatoes, and others toss the potatoes in the dressing. The choice is a personal preference. For a sweet, tangy potato salad, the secret ingredient is front and center in the baking aisle.

A little sweetness in a potato salad brings the flavor balance

As many cooks appreciate, a one-flavor note recipe can leave food on the plate due to it being bland and boring. Although adding condensed milk to potato salad might not be the common recipe hack, it offers a touch of sweetness that brings out the other flavors in this popular side dish. 

A well-composed dish combines bitter, salty, sweet, sour, and umami. When one flavor is missing, the dish lacks balance. By using condensed milk, the sweet component contrasts the bitter note from an herb or the salt used to season the potatoes. While the creamy texture is given, the sweetness adds decadence to the overall flavor. It feels indulgent without becoming too heavy.

When employing this recipe idea, it is better for all the ingredients to be well-seasoned. The potatoes are like a blank canvas. They will absorb all the dressing and flavors. It is not a time to take the subtle approach with herbs, salt, or even a hint of spice. As the sauce comes together, it is best to taste and taste again before pouring it over the spuds. Making corrections after the dish comes together can be more difficult. By using condensed milk, the final result will have people embracing every forkful's satisfying taste and texture. 

Why does a South African potato salad pair so well with grilled food?

Many people are familiar with serving potato salad with a barbecue or grilled food. The same can be said of South African potato salad and the traditional braai. With the braai, the open-flame, outdoor cooking method adds a smoky, robust flavor to the grilled food. In that culture, the braai is as much a cooking method as it is a gathering. From grill grates full of food to a table overflowing with sides, it celebrates hospitality.

Given that the flame flavors the food, the braai produces earthy notes with some char. Pairing that flavor with the slightly sweet, condensed milk flavor from the potato salad is a satisfying contrast. Each element stands on its own yet tastes more satisfying when combined on the plate.

Although barbecue has a slightly broader approach in American culture, the contrasting flavor premise remains the same. From the tangy barbecue chicken with its sauce to a simple grilled steak seasoned with salt and pepper, the sweet, creamy South African potato balances both the flavors and textures. Even if your potato salad recipe has become an ongoing tradition, we think you should give this one a chance.