Creamy, spicy, sweet and savory, a mayo-dressed potato salad is the crowd-pleasing heart of countless American cookouts and picnics — as long as you keep it out of the sun.
But what if your audience isn’t among the legion of mayonnaise aficionados? Alternative options galore! Potato salad in one form or another has been around for centuries, but it wasn’t until the 1920s that mayonnaise has been the defining ingredient in the dressing.
The great thing about potato salad is that you can use just about any kind of dressing, dip, or sauce to make it. If you like it on veggies, starches, proteins, your fingers, it will probably taste just as good if you pair it with warm chunks of velvety potato. Maybe even better. Hot bacon dressing, spicy pesto, garlic yogurt all make fantastic potato salads without a jar of mayo in sight.
For this version, I wanted to come up with something as creamy as mayonnaise, but vegan-friendly and able to sit outside for hours without anyone worrying.
The key is tahini.
When seasoned with lemon and garlic and whipped with ice water, tahini goes from slippery and oily to pale, thick and emulsified with a clear and tart flavor that is also earthy and rich.
Getting the right texture isn’t necessarily intuitive. The more ice water you drop in, the thicker the mixture will become – until it reaches its maximum thickness, at which point adding more water will make it thinner again. Go slowly and gradually add the water, spoon by spoon, until you like the results.
Add the dressing to the potatoes while they are still warm so they can absorb the most of the 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 type of allium, be it red onion, white onion, scallion, or shallot. I went here with two full bunches of spring onions. Half is charred to smoky and sweet, and the rest is left raw, giving it all a fresh, pungent, green note that brightens up the starchiness. If you add the raw scallions just before serving, they will also get crunchy as they don’t have a chance to soften and wilt.
Then serve this at your next cookout. No matter how high the mercury soars, this potato salad is sure to please.
Recipe: Vegan Potato Salad With Tahini