Looking for a lighter potato salad? This is an Italian Red Potato Salad with no mayo! Substitute some pesto for the mayo and this potato salad is perfect for a bbq when it's hot or you're just trying to be a bit healthier.
There's nothing worse than the mayo in potato salad turning bad sitting on the table at your family's outdoor party. Pesto is a great alternative to mayo and makes for a delicious potato salad!
Why This Recipe Works
We are not a big mayo family. We have tuna salad sandwiches, deviled eggs, and cold-cut sandwiches occasionally, but it just doesn't get used often. This recipe works for us because it provides a unique flavor and is so simple to make in the summer.
Pesto is plentiful at our house in the summer because basil is the only thing we grow (We are not skilled gardeners). We always have pesto in the freezer. This recipe is similar to an oil and vinegar recipe because it substitutes lemon for vinegar.
This potato salad is loaded with flavor and doesn't start going bad if it's in the sun for a few moments at a bbq. It's healthy, homemade, and light. I love to serve it COLD.
What Else Can I Use in Potato Salad Besides Mayo
In our recipe, we use pesto but there are so many different options out there for people looking to avoid mayo.
- Honey dijon vinaigrette
- Olive Oil with lemon and dill
- White wine vinaigrette
- Apple cider vinaigrettes
The only problem I have is that the options for dressings seem to be so limited. It's a choice between mayo or vinaigrette. That's why we use pesto! It's simple and different. People remember it when they have it at our house.
What NOT to Put in Potato Salad
When not using mayo, we have to avoid some other foods. A lot of mayo-based potato salads include eggs. Do not include eggs or soft cheeses in dressings that are vinegar or pesto based. I also wouldn't include bacon or olives in this one.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
Red Potatoes. I always use baby potatoes in potato salad. Red or Yukon gold are my favorite. Try to use fresher potatoes so that they don't break apart after cooking. I would avoid russet potatoes because they are way more likely to fall apart.
Smooth Pesto. I use the term smooth to describe it because I want it to be slightly thinner than usual. This will help better coat the potato salad and account for the oils that will be absorbed by the potato salad.
Arugula. I used arugula but you can use other leafy greens like spinach or chopped kale.
Additional Items you could add: You could add a nut topping, like pine nuts, chopped walnuts, or chopped pistachios!
Let's get the pesto out of the way first. If you use store-bought, that's fine (I personally wouldn't use it but if you have a brand you've found that you love, then so be it)
Making the Pesto
The first thing I do with my basil is give it an ice bath. This will shock the herb and prevent it from discoloring or browning. It will make your dish look much more vibrant when serving since it is not served immediately. You can do this with any herbs!
Combine basil, pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice, and salt in a food processor. Then slowly add in olive oil until completely processed. Then add the parmesan and mix.
It's important to look at the texture at this point. You want it to be thin enough to coat the potatoes. So, add extra olive oil and lemon juice as needed. The texture should be in between mayo and vinaigrette.
How to Cook Potatoes for Potato Salad
Cut potatoes into quarters first. DO NOT do this in advance. The potatoes will begin to oxidize and dry out.
Add potatoes to a large pot and cover with cold water and 1 tablespoon salt. Bring the water to a boil and cook until fork tender, about 7 minutes of boiling.
Drain the potatoes and transfer them back to the hot pot for 3-5 minutes so that the moisture continues to evaporate. Then transfer the potatoes to a large bowl.
Mixing the Ingredients
Bring a smaller pot of water to a boil to blanch the green beans. Add the green beans and boil for 3-4 minutes. Remove and drain. Transfer green beans to a bowl of ice water. You can do this while you're boiling your potatoes.
Add the pesto to the potatoes and combine.
Transfer the green beans to the bowl. Stir in red onion and arugula. Sometimes I add a little extra lemon juice and olive oil if I feel it needs a little more liquid.
Marinating and Serving
Cover potato salad and marinate at room temperature for 1 hour and then transfer to the refrigerator. This will help the flavors from the pesto penetrate the potatoes.
Serve at your family party or BBQ!
I prefer any waxy potato. Red or Yukon will work. Just avoid russet potatoes. They will break apart and make for a messy potato salad.
Yes, just add 2 tablespoon of white wine vinegar to ⅓ cup of pesto.
Yes. I prefer to make it in advance because I like it cold. Premake this red potato salad up to 2 days in advance. When serving, add 2 tablespoon of olive oil to loosen up the pesto before serving for best results!
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The Best Appetizers for the Summer!
Italian Red Potato Salad (No Mayo)
- 1 6-qt pot
- 1 4 qt pot
- 1 large bowl
- 1 lb baby red potatoes
- 1 cup 1 inch chopped green beans
- ¼ red onion, julienned
- ⅓ cup smooth pesto
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1½ cups arugula
- 2 handfuls basil
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 2 cloves garlic
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese
- 1 lemon juiced
- Combine basil, pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice, and salt in a food processor. Then slowly add in olive oil until completely processed. Then add the parmesan and mix.
- Add potatoes to a large pot and cover with cold water and 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil and boil until fork tender, about 7 minutes of boiling.
- Bring a smaller pot of water to a boil and add green beans and boil for 3-4 minutes. Remove and drain. Transfer green beans to a bowl of ice water.
- Drain the potatoes and transfer them back to the hot pot so that the moisture continues to steam off for 3-5 minutes. Transfer the potatoes and green beans to a large bowl. Stir in red onion and arugula. Then add ⅓ cup of pesto and stir.
- Cover potato salad and marinate at room temperature for 1 hour and then transfer to the refrigerator. This will help the flavors from the pesto penetrate the potatoes.