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A recipe for the creamiest vegan potato salad

Two tricks—adding a bit of oil while the potatoes are cooking, and chilling them after—elevates this simple dish

The salad tastes good because the texture and flavor of the potatoes hold the dish together. (Eli Velikova Maytham, Pexels)
The salad tastes good because the texture and flavor of the potatoes hold the dish together. (Eli Velikova Maytham, Pexels)

There’s always room for one more milk in the dairy-free case. The newest is potato milk, produced by Veg of Lund a scientific research company in Sweden. Among its many attributes, potato milk doesn’t contain soy, gluten, or added sugar, but does boast strong eco-cred: it uses 56 times less water than almond milk, and takes half the land to grow than required for oats. This week it became available in the U.K. in three flavors: Original, Unsweetened, and Barista.

It hasn’t yet made its way to the U.S. but Shenarri Freeman is ready for it. “Of course, I’ll try it at least once,” she says. “If I like it, I’ll serve it.”

Freeman is something of a potato expert. At Cadence, her postage-sized restaurant in Manhattan’s East Village, a vegan potato salad is a star of the menu. The most surprising thing of all to this omnivore writer: It’s the best I’ve ever tasted. 

Cadence’s entire menu is vegan, which is no small feat considering that it’s also Southern, a cuisine not known for going light on meat and dairy products. It’s part of the plant-based empire established by Ravi DeRossi, a co-founder of the seminal bar Death & Co. The wine list at the restaurant also focuses exclusively on Black-owned wineries, with labels from South Africa, France, and the U.S.

Freeman says the potato salad has become even more of a hit now that hot weather is here.

It’s based on her mother’s recipe. “She made it ever since I can remember. But of course, it wasn’t vegan.” In fact, Freeman’s mom Vernice made what can only be considered a fully loaded potato salad, embellished with deviled eggs. The chef adapted it when she became vegan a few years ago.

What makes Freeman’s salad so good are the texture and flavor of the potatoes that hold the dish together. She has a singular way of boiling them, adding a tablespoon of oil to the cooking water, which makes the potato bites taste richer. She also doesn’t cook the bigger potatoes whole; she prefers to cut them first, so they hold their shape.

Her best trick is to chill the potatoes before tossing them with a dead-simple mix of mustardy vegan mayo, studded with pickles and crunchy red onion and celery. After being cooled down, the potatoes become creamy, yet firm, and are able to stand up better to the brightly flavored, pungent dressing. 

“Chilling helps the texture and set and evaporates some of the moisture,” says Freeman. “If you add dressing before they’re cool, they can get too soft. Then you’re stuck with mashed potato salad. I don’t know who wants that.”

The potato salad can, of course, accompany a traditional burger, hot dog, or anything you would feature at a summer cookout. For Freeman that means baked beans, collard greens, and barbecued jackfruit—a vegan feast. 

The following recipe is adapted from Shenarri Freeman of Cadence restaurant in Manhattan.

Tester’s note: Small red potatoes are widely available, but you can also use new potatoes available fresh at farmers markets in late July. The key is that they be small; if necessary, cut them into big, bite-sized pieces before cooking.

Vegan Potato Salad

Serves 6-8

24 oz. small red potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces, if large

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

2 medium celery ribs, diced

1/2 small red onion, diced

¼ cup diced dill pickles

3 dill sprigs, chopped, plus more dill for garnish

2/3 cup vegan mayo, preferably soy free

2 tbsp. Dijon mustard

2 tbsp. lemon juice

Salt Paprika

Chopped chives, for garnish

In a medium pot, cover the potatoes with water and add the oil. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and let cool, then refrigerate until cold and firm.

In a big bowl, combine the celery, red onion, pickles, fresh dill, mayo, mustard, and lemon juice. Season with salt. Add the potatoes and stir gently to coat. Check for seasoning; garnish with the paprika and chives and a little more dill; and serve.

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