Potato salad, perhaps more than any other side dish, polarizes picnickers. There are those who advocate strongly for the inclusion of mayo and others who abhor its gloopy texture. TikTok sensation and recipe creator Nasim Lahbichi falls firmly in the latter camp, as his North African-inspired potato salad recipe demonstrates.
When Lahbichi was growing up, his Moroccan father prepared potato salad with olive oil, while his mother stuck to a more traditional mayo-based version. He preferred his dad’s. “Moroccans tend to make a lot of salads with vegetables based on the season, and the base is always olive oil, some sort of acidity, and a lot of herbs — dill, cilantro, mint,” he says. “I wanted to create something in that vein but still provide the creaminess and umami of a classic potato salad.”
As with all potato salads, the potatoes are the most important part of the process. Lahbichi likes petite varieties, like Trader Joe’s Teeny Tiny Potatoes, because they’re both uniform in size, which helps them cook evenly, and small enough to boil and eat whole. “They’re great for people who don’t want to do a whole lot of prep,” Lahbichi says. He recommends salting the cooking water thoroughly once it comes to a boil, which will ensure that each potato is seasoned from the inside out.
Once the potatoes are cooked, the rest of the recipe comes together in one bowl. Lahbichi describes the dressing as similar to a mayonnaise, minus the egg. The red wine vinegar is whisked with high-quality olive oil and Dijon mustard, then Lahbichi stirs in chopped preserved lemon, red onion, cucumber, and hefty sprinkles of harissa, sumac, and cumin. If you’re missing a few of those ingredients, you can always skip ’em. (Unless, of course, you’re out of potatoes.)
“It really is up to you and what you have access to,” he says. “If you don’t have cucumbers, leave them out. Even just potatoes with this dressing would be fire. If you have different herbs, substitute those instead.”
Lahbichi finishes the potato salad with a drizzle of pomegranate molasses; if you want to get extra fancy, he suggests a sprinkle of pistachios to add both crunch and visual appeal. “Maybe it’s because I’m a Virgo-Taurus,” he says, “but I’m always a little more excited to eat something beautiful.”
Tangy No-Mayo Potato Salad Recipe
1 pound teeny-tiny potatoes
¼ cup kosher salt
2 Persian cucumbers, diced
⅓ cup chopped dill
⅓ cup chopped parsley
½ preserved lemon, minced (optional)
½ red onion, diced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon sumac
1 teaspoon harissa powder (optional)
Pomegranate molasses, for garnish
Chopped pistachios, for garnish
Step 1: In a large pot, add the potatoes and cover them with cold water. Heavily salt the water. (**Note: salting the water the potatoes will cook in is essential because it will season the potatoes from within, much like pasta.**) Bring the potatoes to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a rapid simmer. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or until fork tender. Drain the potatoes.
Step 2: While the potatoes cook, prep your potato salad add-ins and dressing. Dice the cucumber, chop the dill and parsley, mince the preserved lemon (if using), and dice the red onion. Add the red onion to a bowl of ice-cold water, and set aside.
Step 3: In a large bowl, whisk together the extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, cumin, sumac, and harissa powder (if using) until combined.
Step 4: Add the potatoes to the bowl, and stir gently to combine. I like using the back of a spoon to help break up the potatoes and add more textured edges. Add the cucumbers, preserved lemons (if using), dill, parsley, and red onion to the bowl, then toss to combine.
Step 5: Refrigerate until chilled or serve immediately. When serving, garnish the potato salad with a drizzle of pomegranate molasses and pistachios, if using. Can be made 1 day ahead.
Note: You can substitute the herbs and any of the add-ins with what you have access to. Some herbs that would be lovely to add are cilantro, mint, and scallions. You can also add chopped peppers, diced celery, cubed carrots, etc.
Dina Ávila is a photographer in Portland, Oregon.
Recipe tested by Ivy Manning