Big Little Recipes

Your New Favorite Potato Salad, Thanks to One Ingredient

May 21, 2019
Photo by Rocky Luten

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. Psst—we don't count water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (specifically, 1/2 cup or less of olive oil, vegetable oil, and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Today, we’re making your new favorite potato salad for BBQ season.

You should know that I love mayonnaise. That I use it for egg salad and tuna salad and fake-tuna salad. But also to hack chicken schnitzel, make a chile smear for crispy eggplant sandwiches, and even bake chocolate cake.

Yet, even loving mayonnaise as much as I love mayonnaise, sometimes I don’t want mayonnaise. Sometimes I want something else. And this happens most often with potato salad.

Which sounds wrong, right? Molly Yeh’s roasted potatoes with paprika mayo are literally Genius. And I’ve eaten potato-packed Spanish tortilla with garlicky mayo for breakfast more times than I can count.

Mayo? Is that you? What a rich, thick, creamy consistency you have! Photo by Rocky Luten

But potato salad is different. Potato salad is what shows up when my family is grilling hamburgers and hot dogs. Actually, potato salad is what shows up when my family is cooking anything in the summer. And on these sweaty nights, I wouldn’t mind having something a little less rich.

Based on the number of no-mayo potato salads on Food52, a lot of people seem to feel the same way. There's this recipe with Dijon mustard, sunflower oil, and cider vinegar. And this one with lots of pickle juice (yep). And this one with creamy tahini. But me? I wanted something even creamier.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I also use the same mix for rice salad and Greek yoghurt is my go to substitute for anything that needs sour cream. I love that it's so much healthier than cream but still has the satisfying mouth feel. ”
— Bella95

Greek yogurt knows what I’m talking about.

From a distance, this ingredient is a mayo lookalike: It’s white. It’s spreadable. It lives in your fridge. But the two couldn’t taste more different. Mayo is rich and sorta-sweet, while yogurt is tangy and sour, with just enough creaminess to keep you coming back.

Nonfat or lowfat yogurt is fine for your morning berry bowl, but when it comes to savory situations, whole-milk is the way to go. (If you don’t believe me, ask Diane Kochilas.) The higher fat content keeps potato salad creamy, as it should be, and avoids the dish feeling like a compromise, which it’s not.

In this Big Little Recipe, the potato salad starts out like any other: by simmering potatoes in salted water. (Simmering, not boiling potatoes, helps the skin and flesh stay intact—a pro tip I learned from our food stylist Anna Billingskog.) The rest of the recipe is American-style potato salad gone rogue.

Where there used to be a modest amount of mayo, there’s now a whole lot of Greek yogurt. And where there used to be everything from celery and pickles to hard-boiled eggs and the kitchen sink, there are just three powerhouse ingredients: dill, mint, and wrinkly black olives. Like the yogurt, these add brightness and, dare I say, vivaciousness to an otherwise humble BBQ side.

Yogurt potato salad goes just as great with all those burgers and hot dogs as it does with grilled salmon or crispy chicken thighs or charred portobellos—really, whatever you're serving in the end-of-day sun.

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Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


Hannah June 16, 2021
Instead of mint and dill, I used sweet basil and spicy rocket lettuce. That turned out very well, and I added warmed Kalamata olives to the mix, which turned out ok. Next time I’m thinking pan fried capers would totally bring it.
Jordan P. June 26, 2019
Ahh this has everything I love. Except. I LOATHE mint (I know, crazy) Is there a good replacement?
Eric K. June 26, 2019
Parsley or basil!
Bella95 June 26, 2019
I'm not fond of mint either, why anyone would ruin peas or potatoes with it is utterly beyond me. What about a handful of fresh chopped rocket or some very thinly sliced red onion? - Soak the onion in water for about 30 minutes first to take away some of the bite.
Jordan P. June 26, 2019
Oh my word onion, YES!! Thank you!!!
Bella95 June 10, 2019
Definitely putting this on my to try list. I loathe yoghurt but my go to dressing for the last 40 years has been 1/3 mayo and 2/3 Greek yoghurt. Love love love the tang it gives. I also use the same mix for rice salad and Greek yoghurt is my go to substitute for anything that needs sour cream. I love that it's so much healthier than cream but still has the satisfying mouth feel.
Sandy A. June 7, 2019
Colorful and simple - I could eat this all day! Like the addition of mint - I will probably add a bit of dijon mustard and maybe a little honey
Mary K. June 7, 2019
Mint? Aw, hell nah! Might as well add raisins.
Jaye B. June 7, 2019
Lol...I agree. I also wouldn't want black olives in my potato salad.
Emma L. June 12, 2019
I love raisins!
NYanne June 7, 2019
I made this recipe and was disappointed. I found it to be dull.
Emma L. June 12, 2019
I'm sorry to hear that! If I ever feel that way about something I'm eating, I usually add: more salt, more tang (maybe you would have liked a squeeze of lemon here?), or more spice (say, pinch of pepper flakes).
Tom June 7, 2019
Love the steaming idea for potatoes to keep the skin intact! Would suggest also that this recipe could also be made with a qood quality, commercial Caesar dressing, i.e., Renees, for people who are just that little bit pressed for time. Just as delicious, and with a nice garlic zip!
Ruth M. June 7, 2019
Can’t wait to try this!
I steam my potatoes which keeps flesh and skin intact.
Ben June 7, 2019
This is gonna make smashed red potatoes so much better
tradess2013 June 7, 2019
Lately I have been using pickle juice in a lot of my dressings and usually thin out my homemade mayo with it. Unfortunately, I can't convince my grownup daughter to like potato salad, thus I eat the whole bowl by myself with gusto.,
Emma L. June 12, 2019
Pickle juice is the best.
Tessi June 7, 2019
I have saved this recipe, and oh so many others! I have a question that comes to mind when a certain ingredient shows up in a recipe, and I am finally remembering to ask it! When a recipe, particularly a savory recipe calls for mint, what type of mint is usually preferred?
tradess2013 June 7, 2019
I use any mint in my garden except the chocolate one unless the recipe is for something sweet.
Emma L. June 12, 2019
Whatever you can find at the supermarket will work! (But, like tradess2013 said, I'd just stay away from chocolate mint, which wouldn't work well here.)
Kendall B. May 26, 2019
add a bit of horseradish to the mix!
Emma L. May 28, 2019
Yum, I love horseradish!
Afridi, M. May 24, 2019
What are substitutes for Greek yogurt,? Couldn't find it
Stephanie A. May 26, 2019
Easy to make your own. You can make it from store-bought plain yogurt by straining it overnight through a sieve or colander lined with a folded (several times) piece of cheese cloth. Or, you can make your own homemade yogurt and then strain it the same way. Lots of videos about it on YouTube.
Galapagos May 24, 2019
Based on Julia Child's advice from one of her many cookbooks that I own, I use half mayo and half full fat yogurt. Lightens up the potato salad without getting rid of the mayo lusciousness.
Jaye B. May 23, 2019
Thanks for the tip of simmering potatoes to keep the skin attached! This has always been an issue for me when I've used unpeeled potatoes for potato salad. I've also always been stymied by knowing when the potatoes are the right "doneness," frequently erring on the underdone side even when I can pierce with a fork. One of my aunts is a master at potato salad and she never told me about simmering. :).
Michele R. May 23, 2019
Emma, this looks great to me - except I can already hear the groans from my peanut gallery at home. I am the lone olive lover and would eat this in a heartbeat. What do you suggest for the picky eaters as an olive substitute??
jpriddy June 7, 2019
smoked salmon?
Cindy B. June 7, 2019
I love the salmon idea. I also suffer from cohabitation for with non-olive eaters. To mimic the briny, umami flavor I’ve started using a combo of an anchovy, garlic, parsley and capers - give them a rough chop and it gives the flavor punch. Sadly, the recipe is no longer a quick 5 ingredients.
Emma L. June 12, 2019
Bummer! First thing that comes to mind is salty, briny things—like capers or diced cornichons. But you could really add any ingredient that your family loves. Maybe sun-dried tomatoes? Or roasted bell peppers?
Joan S. May 22, 2019
Can't wait to try this potato salad. Like the idea of mint in it.
Emma L. May 22, 2019
Thanks, Joan! I've been adding mint to everything lately—I love it.
Donna C. May 21, 2019
Really not a fan of this. I'm not impressed with the tartness. Maybe add a dot of mayo to tone it down.
Emma L. May 21, 2019
Hey Donna! It's not for everyone (and if you don't like Greek yogurt, you won't like this recipe). If you wanted to find a middle ground, you could lower the amount of yogurt here and increase the olive oil to taste. Or, like you said, you could certainly do a mix of yogurt and mayo.
Donna C. June 7, 2019
I love Greek yogurt but this seems too much I think I'll still with my own receipe my husband wouldnt be happy if I changed it lol
Eric K. May 21, 2019
Love this trick.

Also, just curious: What made you go with red potatoes? Such a preference thing, I feel--though with potato salad, maybe red is best.