Potato salad, perhaps more than any other side dish, polarizes hikers. There are those who strongly advocate the inclusion of mayonnaise and others who hate its sticky texture. Recipe creator and TikTok sensation Nasim Lahbichi falls firmly into the latter camp, as evidenced by his North African-inspired potato salad recipe.
When Lahbichi was little, his Moroccan father made potato salad with olive oil, while his mother stuck to a more traditional mayonnaise-based version. He preferred his dad’s. “Moroccans tend to make a lot of salads with seasonal vegetables, and the base is always olive oil, some kind of acidity, and lots of herbs: dill, coriander, mint,” he says. “He wanted to create something along those lines but still deliver the creaminess and umami of a classic potato salad.”
As in all potato salads, the potatoes are the most important part of the process. Lahbichi likes the small varieties, like Trader Joe’s Teeny Little Potatoes, because they are 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 lot of prep,” says Lahbichi. He recommends salting the cooking water well 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 mayonnaise, minus the egg. Red wine vinegar is whipped with high-quality olive oil and Dijon mustard, then Lahbichi adds preserved diced lemon, red onion, cucumber, and lots of harissa, sumac, and cumin. If you are missing some of those ingredients, you can always skip them. (Unless, of course, you don’t have any potatoes left.)
“It really depends on 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.”
Lahbichi finishes the potato salad with a drizzle of pomegranate molasses; if he wants to be fancier, he suggests a sprinkle of pistachios to add 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.”
Spicy Potato Salad Recipe Without Mayonnaise
for 4 people
1 pound baby potatoes
¼ cup kosher salt
2 Persian cucumbers, diced
⅓ cup chopped dill
⅓ cup chopped parsley
½ preserved lemon, chopped (optional)
½ red onion, chopped
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon sumac
1 teaspoon harissa powder (optional)
pomegranate molasses, to decorate
Chopped pistachios, to decorate
Step 1: In a large pot, add the potatoes and cover with cold water. Salt the water a lot. (**Note: It is essential to salt the water in which the potatoes will be cooked because it will season the potatoes from the inside, just like the pasta.**) Bring the potatoes to a boil, then reduce the heat to a rapid simmer. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or until tender. Drain the potatoes.
Step 2: While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the toppings and dressing for the potato salad. Dice the cucumber, chop the dill and parsley, chop the lemon preserve (if using), and dice the red onion. Add the red onion to a bowl of ice 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.
Stage 4: Add the potatoes to the bowl and gently stir to combine. I like to use 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 stir 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. It can be done 1 day in advance.
Note: You can substitute the herbs and any of the supplements with what you have access to. Some herbs that would be great to add are coriander, mint, and chives. You can also add chopped bell peppers, diced celery, diced carrots, etc.
dina avila is a photographer in Portland, Oregon.
Recipe tested by Ivy Manning
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