This vegan German Potato Salad is the best summer side dish! With creamy red potatoes, sautéed onions and celery, and a tangy mustard-vinegar dressing, it's bursting with flavor and perfect for warmer days. Even though there's no bacon in this version, it'll taste just as good as Oma's!
🥔 What is Authentic German Potato Salad?
It's widely believed that potato salad originated in Germany. It spread throughout Europe before making its earliest appearance in America around the 1850s'. These days, the classic American potato salad is mayonnaise-based, laden with celery and herbs, and best served cold. However, the German version is usually served hot and made with bacon, onion, and a vinegar dressing.
Both salads are undeniably delicious, but I particularly love the fresh and vibrant flavor of a traditional German Potato Salad. Especially a vegetarian one. Warm red potatoes absorb the simple yet tangy dressing for an incredibly creamy and zesty bite. Load it up with veggies like onion, celery, and parsley for a healthy main or side dish! It's great for a BBQ, cookout, or picnic and pairs perfectly with any grilled dish.
Why You'll Love It
- Healthy: This plant-based salad is made with minimally processed ingredients and loaded with fresh veggies. It's also gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, and vegan!
- Serve it hot or cold: You usually think of a hot German Potato Salad but there's no right or wrong here! You can also enjoy this vegan salad warm or cold, whatever your preference.
- Great for a crowd: This easy and light dish is great for parties. Whether you're grilling outdoors or enjoying an Oktoberfest-themed dinner, it's a total crowd pleaser.
- Potatoes: I recommend using waxy red or yellow potatoes. Waxy potatoes have less starch so they hold their shape better when simmered, as opposed to Russet or Yukon potatoes that have more starch. I also prefer to leave the skins on for color.
- Onion, celery, and garlic: Classic potato salad ingredients. In this version, we cook them lightly to tenderize them.
- White vinegar: A punch of acidity. Don't worry, it's tamed with a splash of water.
- Coconut sugar: To keep this dish vegan, I recommend using coconut sugar. It's plant-based and minimally processed.
- Dijon mustard: A traditional element and adds great flavor.
- Smoked paprika: The secret ingredient! Since we're making this without bacon, a little paprika will mimic its smokiness without making it spicy.
- Cooking oil: Avocado oil is my favorite oil to cook, fry, and sauté with because of its high smoke point (500°F). It's also got a mild flavor which is preferred for the vinaigrette.
- Green onion and parsley: Fresh herbs to brighten the dish.
Substitutions & Variations
- Replace white vinegar with apple cider vinegar or lemon juice for a lighter, fruitier taste. White wine vinegar would also work.
- For a deeper flavor, replace dijon mustard with stone ground or German mustard. I do not recommend yellow (ballpark) mustard for this recipe.
- You could use a dash of Liquid Smoke instead of the paprika. A little goes a long way so be careful when using it.
- Cook the potatoes in half water, half vegetable broth for a more savory flavor.
- If you prefer sliced potatoes, boil the red potatoes whole. Let cool for about 15 minutes before carefully slicing them.
- You can add so many of your favorite ingredients to this salad! Fresh dill, chopped hard boiled eggs, cucumber, or pickles would be great additions.
🔪 How To Make Vegan German Potato Salad
⬇️ Please scroll down to the recipe card to see full ingredient amounts and instructions.
STEP ONE: First, cook the potatoes. Add the cubed red potatoes and smashed garlic cloves to a large pot, then cover with 1" of cold water. Adding the garlic will lightly flavor the potatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10-20 minutes or until a fork meets little resistance in the potatoes. Then drain in a colander - set the potatoes aside and mince the garlic.
STEP TWO: Meanwhile, start on the dressing. Whisk together the white vinegar, water, sugar, dijon mustard, paprika, salt, and pepper. Set aside for now.
STEP THREE: Heat a splash of oil over medium-high heat, then add the onion and celery along with a pinch of salt. Lightly cook until the edges start to get translucent, about 2-3 minutes.
STEP FOUR: Add the minced garlic. Give the dressing a quick stir in the bowl, then pour it into the pot. Let simmer for a minute, making sure the sugar is dissolved.
STEP FIVE: To a large mixing bowl, add the warm potatoes, cooked veggie mixture, and green onion. Gently mix and season to taste.
STEP SIX: Garnish with parsley. I recommend serving it hot or warm, but feel free to let it cool if preferred.
What To Serve With German Style Potato Salad
- Pair it a main dish for a well-balanced meal. My favorites are Baked Lemon Chicken Tenders with Tomatoes and Zucchini, Garlic Butter Shrimp Kabobs, or Pork Adobo.
- Planning a vegetarian feast? Add these to the spread: Watermelon Beet Salad, Lemon Dill Hummus, or Strawberry Lemon Cookies.
- I won't lie - my favorite part of a BBQ or cookout are the side dishes. My go-to summer sides are Pea, Burrata, and Prosciutto Pasta Salad, Tortellini Caprese, and Hawaiian Mac Salad with Tuna.
💭 Top Tips
- Scrub the potatoes really well. There's usually a lot of dirt on the skins. I like to use a vegetable scrubber on them while rinsing under running water.
- The cook time for the potatoes will vary depending on how large you cut them. But some tips for cooking potatoes: start with cold water, salt heavily, and cook at a rolling simmer rather than an aggressive boil. To test doneness, pierce a potato cube with a fork or knife. When it glides through with little to no resistance, the potatoes are done. If you overcook them, the potatoes will begin to crumble when pierced and won't hold up as well when mixing.
- Once the potatoes are cooked through, drain them in a colander and let sit to steam-dry for a minute. This will allow the dressing to be absorbed fully. I also use this technique in my Brown Butter Garlic Mashed Potatoes.
- Carefully mix the potatoes with the dressing. Mixing too aggressively will result in a slightly mashed potato salad, which is not our goal here.
- This easy potato salad is best served hot or warm, but you could serve it at room temperature or even cold too. But since the ingredients are perishable, don't leave it out for more than 2 hours.
🥡 Storing & Freezing
Storing: Store any leftover vegan Potato Salad in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can eat it cold or leave it out for 30 minutes to enjoy it at room temperature.
Freezing: I don't recommend freezing this salad. When thawed, it'll become too watery.
Reheating: Reheat individual servings in the microwave in 30 second intervals until you reach your desired temperature.
Make Ahead: This authentic German salad is best enjoyed fresh. However, you can make it up to 1 day in advance. Keep in the fridge and then reheat in a 325ºF oven for 20-30 minutes before serving. If it looks dry, add a splash of vegetable broth or prepare a double batch of the dressing to re-dress the next day.
📖 Recipe FAQs
I've tried both methods and I would highly recommend cutting the potatoes beforehand. They'll cook faster and more evenly. Plus, it's safer than cutting boiling hot potatoes.
Waxy potatoes like baby potatoes (creamers), Red Bliss, and fingerlings are best. They have a strong potato flavor, are creamier, and hold their shape well when cooked. Red potatoes are very traditional in German Potato Salad and provide great color!
Make sure to taste as you cook. If you drain the potatoes and find out they're undercooked, microwave them until they're tender. If you've already dressed them, place it in a casserole dish, cover with foil, and bake in a 325ºF oven until soft. Add a splash of vegetable broth or water if it looks dry.
Sure! Traditionally, they're served warm and I personally think it's more flavorful that way. But you can serve them cool or at room temperature if preferred. It'll still be delicious!
🍽 Looking For More Vegetarian Dishes?
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German Potato Salad (Vegan)
- 2 lbs red potatoes scrubbed clean and cut into ½" cubes
- 3-4 cloves garlic smashed
- ¼ cup white distilled vinegar
- 2 tablespoon water
- 1½ tablespoon coconut sugar
- ½ tablespoon dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- ½ yellow onion diced; about ¾ cup
- 4-5 stalks celery diced; about ¾ cup
- 1-2 green onion thinly sliced
- 3-4 tablespoon fresh parsley chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Add potatoes, garlic, and a generous amount of salt (about 2 tbsp) to a large pot. Cover with 1" cold water and bring to a boil. Then turn the heat down so it's at a rolling simmer. Cook until fork tender, about 10-15 minutes total. You want the fork to be able to pierce the potatoes with little resistance but make sure the potatoes aren't crumbling. Then drain the potatoes.
- Pick out the garlic cloves and finely mince. Transfer potatoes to a large mixing bowl and set both aside.
- Whisk together vinegar, water, sugar, mustard, paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Set the dressing aside.
- Heat oil over medium-high heat in the same pot. When hot, add onion and celery with a pinch of salt. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until onion starts to get translucent on the edges, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and dressing, making sure to get all the sugar and spices. Simmer for 1 minute.
- To the warm potatoes, add the cooked veggies with all the liquid, green onion, and half the parsley. Gently mix together and then let sit for at least 5 minutes so potatoes can absorb the dressing, tossing every few minutes. It's best to do this while the potatoes are still warm.
- Garnish with remaining parsley and season to taste. Serve hot or warm.
- Storing Leftovers: Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. To reheat, microwave until warm.
- This potato salad is best served warm or hot, but you could serve it at room temperature or even cold too. But since the ingredients are perishable, don't leave it out for more than 2 hours.