Creamy, tangy, sweet and savory, a mayo-dressed potato salad is the crowd-pleasing heart of countless American cookouts and picnics — just as long as you make sure to keep it out of the sun.
But what if your crowd is not among the legion of mayonnaise lovers? Alternative options abound! Potato salad in some form or other has been around for centuries, but only since the 1920s has jarred mayonnaise been the defining ingredient in its dressing.
The beauty of potato salad is that you can use pretty much any kind of dressing, dip or sauce to make it. If you love it on vegetables, starches, proteins, your fingers, it will probably taste just as good tossed with warm chunks of velvety potato. Maybe even better. Hot bacon dressing, herby pesto, garlicky yogurt all make fantastic potato salads, without a jar of mayo in sight.
For this version, I wanted to come up with something that was as creamy as mayonnaise, but vegan-friendly and able to sit outside for hours without anyone’s getting anxious.
The key is tahini.
When seasoned with lemon and garlic and whisked with ice water, tahini goes from gloppy and oily to pale, thick and emulsified with a bright and pungent flavor that’s also earthy and rich.
Getting the right texture is not necessarily intuitive. The more ice water you drizzle in, the thicker the mixture gets — until, that is, it reaches maximum thickness, at which point adding more water thins it out again. Proceed slowly, adding the water gradually, spoonful by spoonful, until the results please you.
Add the dressing to the potatoes while they are still hot, so they can absorb the most flavor (a good rule for making any kind of potato salad). Let the potatoes cool in the dressing before serving.
Most potato salads call for some kind of allium, be it red onion, white onion, scallion or shallot. I went with two full bunches of scallions here. Half are charred until smoky and sweet, and the rest are left raw, lending it all a fresh, sharp, green note that livens up the starchiness. If you add the raw scallions just before serving, they’ll add crunch, too, since they won’t have a chance to soften and wilt.
Then serve this at your next cookout. No matter how high the mercury rises, this potato salad will be crowd-pleasing indeed.
Recipe: Vegan Potato Salad With Tahini