This French-style red-skin potato salad with spring onions relies on a tangy vinaigrette to dress perfectly-cooked creamy potatoes, piquant spring onions, hard-boiled eggs and loads of fresh herbs. Mayonnaise-based potato salads have their place, but this springtime salad is perfect for when you want a make-ahead side dish that’s lighter and more flavorful.
Why you should make this potato salad
There are endless potato salad recipes out there, many of which are heavily coated with a creamy mayonnaise-based dressing. Don’t get me wrong, that type of salad is delicious, but when it comes to featuring potatoes in a delicious make-ahead cold dish, you have options.
French-style potato salads, like this red-skinned version with spring onions, are perfect for anyone who isn’t a fan of mayonnaise, or if you’re just looking for a lighter version or want to switch up your go to mayo-based salad for one that’s loaded with spring herbs.
But the best reason to make this potato salad is the flavor! This potato salad is perfect for you if you like big bold flavors: a mix of spring herbs, tangy apple cider vinegar and spicy Dijon mustard, and a piquant bite of spring onions and scallions. This salad is about celebrating creamy red potatoes and spring alliums, not masking them with mayonnaise.
How to get the most Flavorful Potato Salad
To get the most flavor in your potato salad, you want the seasonings to reach all the way to the center of those potatoes. There are a few tricks to making this happen:
Properly Season the Potato Water
Properly season the potato water. Be sure to generously salt the water you boil your potatoes in. You want the potato water to taste salty. But, don’t stop there. Add some of the vinegar you plan to use for your vinaigrette to the potato water before boiling as well. Your potatoes will be seasoned all the way through and they’ll have a bit of a tang. If properly seasoned, they should be delicious to snack on before you’ve even added a dressing.
Dress the Potatoes while Still Warm
After you drain your potatoes, allow them to cool slightly and then transfer them to a sheet pan. Drizzle your vinaigrette over the potatoes and toss. Then spread them back out to cool. This way, the potatoes soak up the flavors of the vinaigrette as they cool. Similarly to how fried foods soak up more seasoning when seasoned right out of the frying oil, when you season potatoes while they are still hot it helps the flavors to penetrate the potatoes.
Mix your potatoes with a generous ratio of fresh, strongly flavored, ingredients. Spring onions, raw shallots and a mix of your favorite spring herbs - I’ve used dill and parsley, but you could also use chives or tarragon or even basil or cilantro. Use a mix of whatever you have that’s in season. You can get away with seasoning more aggressively with dishes that are meant to be served cold. On the other hand, if you are worried about too much bite from the onions or shallots, soaking them in ice water for at least 15 minutes before adding them to the salad will mellow their flavor.
Make the Salad in Advance
If you want your potato salad to be as flavorful as possible, the best thing you can do is plan to make the salad ahead of time. Potato salad is a dish that you not only can make ahead, but that actually benefits from sitting in the refrigerator for several hours or, even better, overnight, before serving. As the salad sits mixed together the flavors meld and intensify. Just be sure to let it sit in the fridge - not at room temperature.
How to get Silky, Perfectly-Cooked, Potatoes for Potato Salad
Use the right potatoes.
There are lots of potatoes you can use to make potato salad, but in this version I call for red-skinned baby potatoes. They’re small so they don’t need to be cut up too much and you can leave the skin on - the skins look good in the salad, they’re nutritious, and once they’re cooked, you can’t even tell they’re there.
Season the cooking water with vinegar.
While seasoning the water generously with salt and vinegar helps more flavor absorb into the potatoes, adding the vinegar to the cooking water also helps the potatoes stay together as they cook. This way, you can cut your potatoes before you cook them, they won’t fall apart and become mushy in the water as they cook, and you avoid the annoyance of trying to cut up the hot potatoes after they have been cooked. Any vinegar will do for this purpose, but I’ve used apple cider vinegar in this recipe, the same vinegar that is used for the vinaigrette.
It’s fine to eyeball it, but you want to aim for about 1 tablespoon of vinegar per quart (4 cups) of potato cooking water.
Don’t overcook the potatoes.
The key to perfectly cooked potatoes for potato salad is to boil them for the right amount of time. First, you want to start with cold water. This helps the potatoes cook evenly all the way through. If you add the potatoes to already boiling water, the outsides will be mushy before the insides are cooked properly.
Then, boil the potatoes for 10 minutes. More important than exact timings for how long to boil potatoes for potato salad, is knowing what you are looking for, texturally, in a perfectly cooked potato. After starting your potatoes in cold water, remove a potato from the water with a slotted spoon at the 9 or 10 minute mark (choose a larger chunk.) Pierce it with a fork. The fork should go through the potato easily. Taste the potato. You should be able to bite down into it without resistance.
You want a smooth creamy texture that is still somewhat firm. If the potato is watery, grainy or mushy you’ve boiled them for too long. That’s why it’s important to test your potatoes early - you can always add a few more minutes to the cooking time, but you can’t go back!
For perfectly cooked potatoes:
- Start with cold water.
- Add vinegar to the cooking water. (About a tablespoon of vinegar per quart of water).
- Bring the water to a boil, and boil the potatoes for 10 minutes.
- At the 10 minute mark, check for doneness. Boil for another 2-3 minutes if the potato is still firm in the center.
Cool the potatoes on a sheet pan.
Don’t be put off by the extra step and extra dish to clean, cooling the potatoes on a small sheet pan after you drain them is worth it for the flavor and texture this technique adds.
When spread out onto a baking sheet, the potatoes will cool down faster than if they were piled on top of one another in the colander or bowl. This, of course, means you will have potato salad faster, but more importantly, more of the moisture in the potatoes will evaporate before you dress them. These somewhat drier potatoes won’t dilute the sour cream and mayonnaise dressing, which gives you a potato salad with more concentrated flavor, and a less watery texture.
Tips for Making-Ahead and Storing Potato Salad
Can Potato Salad be Made Ahead?
Potato salads are best made the night before you intend to serve them, but you can make them up to 3 days in advance - as long as you plan to use it all up the day you serve it.
If you are making the salad ahead, hold back half of the herbs and spring onions and mix them through right before serving.
How long does potato salad last?
Potato salad that contains dairy or mayonnaise or eggs should be kept in the refrigerator for no longer than 3-4 days.
It is also important to keep food safety in mind when storing potato salad outside of the fridge. Potato salad should not sit at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. However, if the potato salad is going to be sitting outside on a warm or hot day, you’ll have less time. In this case, don’t leave it out for longer than 1 hour.
Can you freeze potato salad?
Technically, you can freeze potato salad, but you probably shouldn’t. Potato salads - especially ones made with sour cream or mayonnaise or Greek yogurt in the dressing that are meant to be served cold - will not have a pleasant texture once they have been frozen and defrosted. Dairy doesn’t freeze well. It tends to separate or become grainy when frozen and it may also taste off.
You might be able to get away with freezing a potato salad that is made with a dressing primarily of mustard or oil. While this red-skinned potato salad with spring onions uses mostly a vinaigrette as a dressing, it is also finished with a small amount of both sour cream and mayonnaise, so I would not recommend freezing leftovers.
Luckily, as long as you use it up within 4 days, potato salad only gets more flavorful as it sits in the fridge - and it goes with almost anything.
What to Serve with Potato Salad
Potato salad is an incredibly versatile make-ahead side-dish. If you’re looking for some ideas for what to serve with potato salad, or you’ve got some leftover potato salad sitting in the fridge that needs to be used up quickly and want to know what goes with it:
Serve it as a side for meat-based or vegetarian burgers or fancy sandwiches at a BBQ, picnic or summer lunch.
- The sweet BBQ sauce and rich pork in these crowd-pleasing instant pot pulled pork sandwiches balances the herby tang of this potato salad perfectly.
- The fiery spice of these Jerk Chicken sandwiches is an ideal foil for a silky vinaigrette and soft, creamy potatoes.
Potato salad also pairs beautifully with any simply-cooked meats or vegetables for a make-ahead and super quick and easy meal. The easier the preparation the better, think grilled or roasted meats and vegetables, kebabs, or oven-roasted or steamed seasoned with salt, pepper and oil.
- These fish parcels steamed in a rich anchovy-butter sauce are an easy-to-make light main dish that would work well with a carb-heavy side.
- Or, try these one-pan soy-braised chicken thighs if chicken is more your thing.
A classic combination, try this potato salad alongside deep-fried chicken or fish, served either on their own or in the form of tacos or fancy sandwiches.
- These Beer-Battered Fish sandwiches with tahini sauce and cherry tomato relish are a bit of a project, but they’re my absolute favorite fancy sandwich. Perfect if you love crunchy fried fish and middle eastern flavors.
- For something a bit simpler, pair a potato salad with these Ensenada-style fried fish tacos.
Potato salad is also an essential offering in any good mix of salads and sides for a picnic table, potluck, barbecue or warm-weather gathering. Try serving it with:
Similarly, potato salad is ideal for a simple hot-weather meal that doesn’t require turning on the oven! Serve alongside soft rolls or bread, a platter of cold cuts or charcuterie and some pickles or raw vegetables.
- This milk bread has the perfect soft, pull-apart texture to slather with butter and serve with potato salad. It can easily be made into rolls to make it more shareable.
Red-Skinned Potato Salad with Spring Onions Recipe
depending on what you’re serving it with. Easily doubles to feed a crowd.
- 1.5 pounds potatoes baby red potatoes, halved or quartered, depending on size
- 1 shallot, sliced into thin rounds
- 1 celery stick, finely diced
- 3 hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped
- 3 spring onions, cut crosswise into 1-2” segments, separate white parts and cut again lengthwise
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1.5 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, divided
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- ¼ cup neutral oil (or mild/high quality olive oil)
- 2 tablespoons Mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- ½ tablespoon whole grain mustard (or more Dijon mustard)
- ¼ teaspoon salt & fresh ground pepper
- Cook the potatoes: Add the potatoes to the bottom of a large heavy-bottomed pot. Cover by about 1 inch with cold water, add ½ teaspoon of the apple cider vinegar and season well with salt (it should taste salty). Over high heat, bring the water to a boil. After about 10 minutes of boiling, test a potato for doneness. Drain the potatoes in a colander and then spread them onto a baking sheet. Allow to cool slightly.
- While the potatoes cool, mix the vinaigrette: add the remaining apple cider vinegar, the Dijon, salt, pepper and oil to a small bowl. Whisk to combine.
- As soon as the potatoes are cool enough to handle, drizzle them with the vinaigrette and toss. Spread the potatoes back out over the baking sheet and allow them to cool completely, about 30 minutes.
- Make the dressing: in a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, whole grain mustard, salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Transfer the cooled potatoes to a large bowl, making sure to scrape all the remaining vinaigrette off the pan. Mix in the shallots, celery, eggs, and about half of the dill and parsley. Drizzle the dressing over the top; mix to coat. Cover the bowl and set into the fridge for at least 4 hours and up to overnight, to allow the flavors to meld.
- Remove the salad from the fridge about a half an hour before serving. Just before serving, add the spring onions and remaining dill and parsley. Mix to combine and serve.
Adapted from and Inspired by: Notes from a Small Kitchen Island & Serious Eats