5 Ways to Lighten Up Potato Salad

updated May 1, 2019
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Summer means lots of outdoor meals and gatherings, and it also means that potato salad starts showing up at BBQs, potlucks, parties, and camping meals. The delicious, classic potato salad combination of potatoes and creamy mayonnaise will never go out of style, but sometimes we may crave a lighter version, especially when it’s being served next to heavier dishes, like ribs or burgers.

There are lots of ways to make potato salad lighter without sacrificing flavor, plus it’s also fun to experiment and expand your potato salad repertoire — give one or more of these tips a try!

1. Swap the mayo for yogurt or light sour cream.

If creaminess in potato salad is really important to you, just swap out some or all of the mayonnaise for Greek yogurt or sour cream. These thick dairy products add creaminess and a bit of tang to your potato salad, and you can opt for lower fat or even nonfat versions.

2. Ditch the mayo entirely.

While mayonnaise usually is the base of potato salad dressing, there are so many other sauces out there to try. A vinaigrette adds acidity that helps balance out the earthniess of the potatoes and can even be used to make a warm potato salad, or a tahini dressing coats the potatoes with creamy, nutty flavors. Like pesto? Toss that with your potatoes for an instant pesto-potato salad.

3. Replace some of the potatoes with another vegetable or protein.

Another easy way to lighten up potato salad is to replace some of the potatoes with vegetables or even protein. Try radishes or fennel for crunch, blanch some green beans or carrots, throw in a handful of fresh peas or fava beans, or add some protein like cooked salmon, tuna, chicken, or eggs. All of these things will add new textures and flavors that pair nicely with the creamy potatoes.

4. Smoke or grill the potatoes.

Mayonnaise is used in potato salad because it’s a flavorful fat that helps coat and make the potatoes tasty, but another way to add flavor to your potatoes is to smoke or grill the potatoes instead. Smoking or grilling blanched potatoes adds deep, smoky flavors, and you only need to enhance these flavors with a light vinegar-based dressing.

5. Flavor with herbs, not fat.

My favorite flavoring for potatoes is lots and lots of fresh herbs. I love soft, leafy herbs — like tarragon, dill, parsley, cilantro, or chervil — in almost any combination, and I find that the more herbs I put in, the less dressing I need. Herby potato salads are much fresher-tasting and are great accompaniments to rich grilled meats, like sausages and steaks.