This is the easiest German Potato Salad ever! It's best served warm and has crunchy onions and celery, fresh parsley, green onion, and a tangy dressing. We're leaving the bacon out in this version but don't worry, there's a secret ingredient to provide that smokiness 😉 This dish is unique, delicious, and fun - perfect for cookouts and picnics!
What Makes It German?
Did you know that German immigrants first introduced America to potato salad? However, the American classic now has mayo, fresh vegetables, and is best served cold. Whereas the German version is served hot with bacon, onions, and a sweet and sour dressing.
I'm partial to bright and savory dishes so I'm a big fan of German Potato Salad. But I don't always have bacon on hand (I know, blasphemy!) so this version is meat-free and actually vegan too. The dressing is very bright but not too mouth-puckering sour. It's balanced with coconut sugar, dijon mustard, and plenty of fresh parsley and green onion. In place of bacon, a sprinkle of paprika adds a very subtle smoky element without any spice. This easy vegan potato salad is very flavorful and light yet hearty.
Is This Healthy?
Absolutely! I love this German Potato Salad because it's lighter than the creamy, mayo-based American classic. It's also vegan and packed with both sautéed and fresh vegetables and herbs. Skipping the bacon reduces the fat and calories in this dish, but it's still rich and flavorful. I also love using coconut sugar because it's plant-based with a lower glycemic index than white cane sugar.
This recipe is also naturally gluten-free and dairy-free. All in all, this recipe is loaded with fresh and minimally-processed ingredients. In my book, that's a win!
This vegetarian German Potato Salad is full of familiar, good-for-you ingredients. When combined, it creates a stellar dish!
- Red potatoes: I like to leave the skin on because of the beautiful red color. Just make sure to scrub the potatoes really well to remove any dirt.
- Onion, celery, and garlic: Classic potato salad ingredients! In this version, we sauté the veggies to tenderize them a little bit.
- White vinegar: A punch of acidity. Tame it with a little bit of water.
- Coconut sugar: To keep this dish vegan, I recommend using coconut sugar. It's plant-based and minimally processed.
- Dijon mustard: For another layer of flavor.
- Smoked paprika: Traditional German Potato Salads have bacon. But since we're making this vegan, a sprinkle of paprika is the perfect substitute for that smokiness.
- 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 fresh parsley: Fresh elements are necessary in any salad.
How To Make This Salad
- Boil the potatoes and garlic. Start the potatoes in cold water. Boiling them with garlic adds a subtle hint of flavor within the potatoes. Just make sure to mince it up finely after they've cooked.
- Make the dressing. Whisk the vinegar, water, sugar, mustard, paprika, salt, and pepper. Alternatively, you could add it straight to the pot later but combining it all now streamlines the process.
- Sauté the onion and celery. Cook the veggies, then add in the dressing - get every bit of sugar and spice in there. Let it simmer a little to marry the flavors, dissolve the sugar, and infuse more dressing into the veggies.
- Mix everything together. While the potatoes are warm, add the cooked veggies and dressing. This is very important so the potatoes can absorb as much of the dressing as possible. Then stir in the fresh herbs and season to taste.
- Be careful to not overcook the potatoes. The cook time will vary depending on how large you cut the potatoes. But some tips for cooking potatoes: start with cold water, salt them 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.
- Let the potatoes steam a little. Once the potatoes are cooked through, drain them in a colander and let them sit for a minute. They'll steam and dry out a bit. This will help make sure the dressing doesn't get watered down later.
- Mix the potato salad off-heat. If you add the potatoes to the pot with the cooked veggies and dressing, the potatoes will continue to cook and become mashed as you mix. You'll lose those beautiful cubes and texture. Instead, mix everything in a large bowl off-heat. Gently fold and stir until the dressing is completely absorbed.
If you have leftover Vegan German Potato Salad, store it in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. To reheat, microwave until warm. This salad is best served warm.
Can I Freeze It?
Because this salad isn't mayonnaise-based, you can technically freeze it. However, I would not recommend it because the texture won't be ideal after thawing. The flavors will also be watered down and bland.
Make It In Advance
You can make this German Potato Salad in advance and reheat it; however, it's best served fresh. The potatoes will have the best texture and flavor immediately after cooking. And because the potatoes need to be hot when mixed with the vinaigrette, you should not cook the potatoes ahead of time.
I've tried both methods and I would highly recommend cutting the potatoes beforehand. They'll cook faster and more evenly. Plus, it's easier to cut them while they're raw.
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 I love the 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, you can still try microwaving them but the flavor will be affected.
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?
Vegan German Potato Salad is a great side dish year-round! If you're looking to add more side dishes to your menu, check these out:
- Pasta Salad
- Butternut Squash and Mushroom Empanadas
- Seafood Salad
- Spinach and Strawberry Salad
- Browned Butter Garlic Mashed Potatoes
German Potato Salad (Vegan)
- 2 lb red potatoes scrubbed clean and cut into ½" cubes
- 3-4 cloves garlic smashed
- 3 tbsp white vinegar
- 2 tbsp water
- 1½ tbsp coconut sugar
- ½ tbsp dijon mustard
- ⅛ tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp cooking oil
- ½ onion diced; about ¾ cup
- 4-5 stalks celery diced; about ¾ cup
- 2 green onion thinly sliced
- ¼ cup fresh parsley chopped
- Salt and pepper
- 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. Cook until fork tender, about 10-20 minutes. You want the fork to pierce the potatoes without restraint but make sure the potatoes aren't crumbling. Drain the potatoes.
- Finely mince the garlic. Transfer potatoes to a large mixing bowl and set aside.
- While the potatoes are cooking, whisk together vinegar, water, sugar, mustard, paprika, ¼ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper. Set the dressing aside.
- Heat oil over in the same pot. When hot, add onion and celery with a pinch of salt. Sweat over medium-high heat for 3-4 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.
- Add cooked veggies, green onion, and another pinch of salt and pepper to the mixing bowl. Gently mix together until potatoes absorb the dressing. It's best to do this while the potatoes are still warm. Stir in parsley and season to taste.
- Storing Leftovers: Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. To reheat, microwave until warm.
- To Freeze: I would not recommend freezing this as the texture and flavor will be affected after thawing.
- Make It In Advance: I would not recommend making this in advance. The potatoes need to be warm when you mix it with the dressing.
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