French potato salad is a sunny Mediterranean inspired recipe ~ with creamy fingerling potatoes and crisp green beans in a zingy mustard vinaigrette, this no-mayo potato salad will be a new favorite summer side.
French potato salad perfect for potlucks and outdoor dining
Every summer needs a fabulous break out recipe, the one you make at the start of the season and keep on making right up until the waning days of August and September because it’s so good you want to squeeze every last meal out of it. Enter this French potato salad ~ it’s unfussy with a surprisingly bold flavor. It’s something different. The absence of mayonnaise helps keep it cool and composed even on the hottest nights. It’s a great summer side for family meals, and of course for gatherings. The fingerlings make it stand out from the rest.
what goes into a French potato salad ~ and what makes it French?
The French in this recipe refers to the Mediterranean dressing which is a garlicky combination of olive oil, vinegar, shallot, and mustard. Lots of fresh herbs sets it apart from mayo heavy American potato salads. I used parsley because that’s what I had on hand, but if you have tarragon then your salad would be even more French!
- fingerling potatoes ~ look for small, uniform potatoes. I’ve gotten hooked on The Little Potato Company‘s bagged potatoes because they’re clean, uniform, and just enough for a salad. Makes it so easy because basically I’m a lazy cook 😉
- green beans ~ I throw them in at the very last minute with the potatoes which just takes the raw edge off. I like them crisp tender.
- slivers of red onion
- olive oil
- Sherry vinegar
- grainy Dijon mustard
- salt and freshly cracked black pepper
the vinaigrette potato salad dressing
The dressing is such a key component of any simple potato salad, and this one is no exception. I love it because the heavy mustard presence makes it extra zippy. Finely minced shallots along with a grainy mustard, give it nice texture.
The mustard is actually an emulsifying agent in dressings, and in this case there is so much of it that a gentle whisking is all you need to create a gorgeous thick creamy dressing that will not separate. Why is this important? That means it will cling to those potatoes!
the ONE thing that can take down your potato salad!
It’s the potatoes themselves! Bland potatoes can take down the best salad. Here’s how to avoid it:
- Cook the potatoes whole, and slice them while still warm.
- Whatever potatoes you choose for your salad, make sure you cut them into manageable slices or chunks. You want them to be in one or two bite sized pieces. If the potatoes are too large they can be bland.
- Toss the potatoes with some of the dressing while they are hot! The hot, just sliced potatoes will absorb the dressing and flavors best.
potato salad tips and faqs
Fingerlings are small waxy potatoes that grow in an elongated shape, like a finger! They have a firm texture, a buttery flavor, and a nice golden yellow flesh.
Yes. I love the little fingerlings but you can use any type of baby or new potato for this salad.
I don’t peel new or baby potatoes, the skin is delicate and has flavor, too.
I like to keep the potatoes whole because that maintains their texture and flavor better (I don’t want them to get waterlogged.) I slice and dress them while they’re still hot and the dressing is easily absorbed into the freshly exposed potato.
Mayonnaise salads need to be refrigerated after two hours and, guess what? The same applies for all salads, including this oil and vinegar based potato salad. To help keep your salad chilled if you need to keep it on a serving table for an extended period of time, place the salad bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice.
Yes, please do. The salad will benefit from sitting in the refrigerator for a while. Be sure to toss with a little extra dressing before serving if the salad looks like it needs it. And don’t add the herbs until the last minute for best quality.
more Mediterranean salads
- Mediterranean Bean Salad
- French Carrot Salad
- Mediterranean Orzo Salad with Tuna
- Greek Lemon Potato Salad
- Loaded Tabbouleh Salad
- Mediterranean Pasta Salad with Tuna
- Chopped Greek Salad
- Israeli Salad Recipe with Za’atar Dressing
Several French and French adjacent chefs (Jaques and Julia, and Ina, for starters) have versions of this salad. Some of them are, in my opinion, just too fussy and complicated for a potato salad, no matter what its pedigree! I modeled my salad after Martha’s, it seemed to me the perfect balance, and I was right. Hope you try it!
French Potato Salad
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 Tbsp grainy Dijon mustard
- 2 Tbsp Sherry vinegar
- 1 shallot, finely minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced very fine
- pinch of salt, to taste
- 2 lbs small fingerling potatoes (use another new or baby potato if you like)
- 1/3-1/2 lb green beans, trimmed and cut in half
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, or more to taste
- 1/4 red onion, slivered
- freshly cracked black pepper to taste
for the dressing
- Whisk all the ingredients together vigorously until they emulsify into a thick dressing. Taste to adjust any of the elements to your liking.
for the salad
- Put the potatoes in a large pot and cover with 2 inches of cold water. Add a tablespoon of salt to the water. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and boil genty until the potatoes are tender. To check them, insert the tip of a sharp knife into a potato ~ it should glide in easily. Add the green beans to the pot and cook for another minute or two.
- Drain the potatoes and beans. While they are hot, slice the potatoes in half lengthwise. If your potatoes are large you can slice them into smaller pieces.
- Put the potatoes and beans into a large bowl and toss gently with some of the dressing while everything is still hot. The potatoes will absorb the dressing and its flavors this way.
- When the potatoes have cooled, toss with the herbs and onions. Add more dressing at this time if needed. Chill the salad before serving with a grinding of fresh black pepper.