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Whole-Grain Dijon Mustard Potato Salad

June 26, 2014

Whole-Grain Dijon Mustard Potato SaladPin it!

This potato salad is like a collection of all of the foods I used to hate.

Key words: used to!

Mustard, pickled red onions, and even capers have all grown on me in recent years. (Capers, most recently — they used to be the bane of my bagels & lox experiences.)

Ingredients for Quick-Pickled Red OnionPin it!

So the other day when I picked up a little container of this vinegary, mustardy red potato salad from a sandwich shop, I enjoyed it immensely. Possibly because it was the first thing I ate after I defended my dissertation…

But don’t get me wrong, it tasted good for other reasons, too!

Ingredients for Whole-Grain Dijon Mustard Potato Salad

After my defense a few weeks ago, I (skipped my friend Brendan’s defense and) went home to take a nap. On the way home, I stopped at a little sandwich shop, which I love for its abundance of ‘homemade’ pickled-things and its reliance on local farms for nearly all of the ingredients.

I ordered my favorite sandwich there — a lemony, avocado-y, hummus concoction — but was so hungry, so tired, and so elated that I realized just a small sandwich wasn’t going to cut it.

Whole-Grain Dijon Mustard Potato Salad with CapersPin it!

So I also asked for a little container of the potato salad on their counter — the potatoes seemed impossibly perfect (for cooked potatoes), still in little cubes, not disintegrating around the edges at all, and there was whole-grain mustard slathered over the potato cubes — no mayo in sight.

Whole-Grain Dijon Mustard Potato SaladPin it!

To fill the few seconds of silence while she was scooping up the potatoes, the woman behind the counter asked me how my day was going so far. I couldn’t help but answer with more than she probably wanted to hear: “pretty good — I just defended my dissertation, 30 minutes ago!” Rather than taking my TMI bragging as obnoxious, she started congratulating me and gave me a free container of farm-fresh ripe strawberries!

If finishing my PhD after 7 years hadn’t already made my day, then that would have.

Ingredients for Quick-Pickled Red OnionPin it!

It was also pretty wonderful getting to go home, eat this salad, and take a pre-celebration nap.

This is no ordinary (i.e., mayo-y) potato salad. The whole-grain Dijon mustard wakes up the vinegary potatoes in ways that mayonnaise never could. The entire salad is tangy and bright — the tang comes from a vinegar triple threat: vinegar in the potato-cooking water (for flavor that seeps into the potatoes), vinegar to season the potatoes while they’re still hot from being simmered, and the vinegared crunch of the homemade pickled red onions (recipe below!). The capers add a briny salty seasoning and the pungent mustard holds it all together.

Whole-Grain Dijon Mustard Potato Salad with Quick-Pickled Red Onion Pin it!

I don’t think I noticed the capers dotted among the potato cubes in the sandwich shop’s version until I got home. Capers are easily pick-out-able, so I wouldn’t have minded anyway, but as I ate the salad, I realized that I was actually kind of enjoying the little bursts of salt and vinegar they added.

Making Quick-Pickled Red Onion

The salad also had bright pink specks of pickled red cabbage or pickled red onions — really, either one would be nice. I’ve included a recipe for quick-pickled red onions below. I made a big batch of them over the weekend (1 red onion, 1 pint jar), to last me for multiple batches of this potato salad!

Making Quick-Pickled Red OnionPin it!

It feels so summery to be snacking on little tidbits of vinegary pickled-things plucked out of jars in the fridge. I also like these pickled red onions on salads. Next up, I want to pickle cucumbers and jalapeños and so many other things… (The past two years, I’ve been far more ambitions than actually productive in terms of pickling things, but maybe this summer will be the one — I even made a DIY canning rack to gear up for this season, although these red onions are just quick-pickled, not canned.)

Quick-Pickled Red OnionPin it!

In re-creating this recipe, I realized that the secret to the perfect little non-disintegrating potato cubes is not to let the potatoes come to a rolling boil, but just to keep them at a strong simmer, for a slightly longer cooking time than if they were boiling. So the recipe is a little bit high maintenance in that sense. But if you don’t mind your potato salads on the mushy side, then by all means, boil away!

Whole-Grain Dijon Mustard Potato Salad with Quick-Pickled Red Onion Pin it!

I hope everyone who enjoys the tang of mustard and vinegar will give this dish a try. I think it’s going to be a summer staple around here. …although it might never taste quite as delicious to me as it did on the day of my dissertation defense. That day it tasted like freedom and victory!

Whole-Grain Dijon Mustard Potato Salad with Quick-Pickled Red Onion Pin it!

p.s. Happy summer solstice!

Print these recipes. (PDF)


Quick Pickled Red Onion

(Makes 2 cups)

Active time: 10 minutes; Total time: at least 1-2 hours, or overnight.

~ 1 medium red onion
~ ½ cup white wine vinegar (or substitute rice vinegar or red wine vinegar)
~ ½ cup apple cider vinegar
~ 1 tsp. kosher salt
~ ½ tsp. sugar
~ ½ tsp. yellow(/white) mustard seeds (optional)
~ ¼ tsp. whole black peppercorns
~ ½-1 cup water (½ cup if storing onions in tall, narrow jar, 1 cup for wider bowl)

How to make it:

1. Remove the outermost layers of the red onion, and thinly slice it. Place sliced onion into a glass, heatproof bowl and set aside.

2. In a small saucepan, combine the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Then pour the boiling mixture over the sliced onions and let it cool. (Or if you prefer your onions to be slightly softer/more cooked, and slightly less firm/crunchy, then add the onions to the boiling mixture in the saucepan for a few seconds, remove from the heat, and let it cool in the saucepan.)

Quick-Pickled Red OnionIngredients for Whole-Grain Mustard Potato Salad with Quick-PIckled Red Onion

3. Once cooled completely, transfer the onions to an airtight container — along with enough of the pickling liquid to cover them — and refrigerate. You can start snacking on them after an hour or two, but they’ll be even better after a night in the fridge, and good for a week or two after that.

Print both recipes! (PDF)

Whole-Grain Dijon Mustard Potato Salad

(Serves 8)

Active & Total time: 40 minutes (includes ingredient prep time).

~ 2 lbs. new red potatoes, rinsed and bad spots removed with peeler
~ 1/4 cup white wine vinegar (or rice vinegar), to add to potato cooking water
~ 2 Tbsp. whole-grain Dijon mustard
~ 1½ – 2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar (or rice vinegar)
~ sea salt, to taste
~ 3 Tbsp. diced pickled red onion, or more, to taste
~ 2 Tbsp. capers (drained), or more, to taste
~ 2 scallions, diced

How to make it:

1. Cut the potatoes into small, evenly-sized cubes. As you chop them, add the potato cubes to a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Once all of the potatoes are in the pot, add more water to cover them if necessary, then add the 1/4 cup white wine vinegar, and bring to a strong simmer. (Use a lid on the saucepan to speed this along, but then uncover once it’s started simmering.) Keep at a strong simmer — without allowing it to come to a rolling boil — for 15-20 minutes. Test the potato cubes for doneness by piercing and lifting one out of the water with a fork — fully cooked potatoes should easily slide off the fork tines. (You can also run a piece of potato under cold water, then taste test it.)

Making Whole-Grain Dijon Mustard Potato SaladSimmering potatoes in vinegar and water

2. While the potatoes are simmering, stir together the whole-grain mustard and the 1½ – 2 Tbsp. vinegar in a medium bowl.

3. Once the potatoes are cooked, drain them in a colander, but do not rinse them with water. While the potatoes are still hot, pour them into the bowl with the mustard and vinegar, and gently stir to coat them. Season with salt, and add pickled red onion, capers, and scallions. Taste to see if you’d prefer to add more salt or more of any of the other ingredients, then cover and chill in the fridge.

Print these recipes! (PDF)

Whole-Grain Dijon Mustard Potato Salad with Quick-Pickled Red Onion Pin it!

Related recipe posts:

Pasta Genovese Asparagus Salad with Passover Potatoes Japanese Chilled Tofu Pickled Green Beans
Pasta Genovese with Pesto, Potatoes, and Green Beans Asparagus Potato Salad with Preserved Lemon Dressing Chilled Japanese Tofu with Ginger and Scallions (Hiyayakko) Canning 101: Pickled Green Beans

(This recipe was submitted to the Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.)

30 Comments leave one →
  1. June 26, 2014 8:00 am

    Love it! I also used to hate all those things, and now I love them. I used to hate potato salad, but now I love it, and yours looks delicious, especially with those beautiful pickles. So simple, and yet packed with flavor and healthful. Perfect for the warm weather we are having too!

    • June 26, 2014 8:10 am

      Yes!! I’m glad I’m not the only one with a shameful history of shying away from all of this vinegary goodness! :)

      And I used to hate potato salad, too! I forgot to mention that! In my childhood experience of it anyway — only at picnics, since my parents never made it — it usually had way too much mayo and some unidentified flavorless crunchy things like celery maybe? Anyway, gross. This version has re-invented potato salad for me!

      • June 26, 2014 8:16 am

        Hahah! Love your description of the mayo salad with potatoes and unidentifiable veg’ in it! That’s exactly how I felt as a kid (and teen, and young adult). The worst was at Russian parties; people would always bring horrible-looking salads with more mayo than anything else in them.
        Now I love potato salads and Russian salads, but I still don’t like those with tons of mayo, whereas mustard and vinegar : any time!

  2. Debbie Spivey permalink
    June 26, 2014 8:16 am

    I think you just have to find the potato salad recipe that you like. There are a lot of variations out there. I love the addition to capers. Love those little guys!

    • June 26, 2014 8:19 am

      Debbie, yes I think you’re right. And I actually like mayonnaise these days (especially the homemade kind), but I still don’t think I’d enjoy it on most potato salads… I love the straight-up vinegar/mustard combination even more.

      And I’m really into capers now, too! This salad (the one I picked up from the sandwich shop) is what converted me to them! I’ve already used them in this a few times, and in a pasta dish where the capers are briefly fried in olive oil, then cooked into the tomato sauce… so good.

      • Debbie Spivey permalink
        June 26, 2014 8:25 am

        You may like the potato salad I posted last week. It uses spicy mustard and white vinegar, so it has a twang to it.
        Those fried capers in tomato sauce sound awesome! I love to use them with fried things. It makes fried things not so heavy or gives you the illusion any way. :)

  3. Jessica permalink
    June 26, 2014 8:27 am

    I love pickled red onions! N made kimchi yesterday, we’ll see how it turns out!

  4. June 26, 2014 8:30 am

    I just picked up some red potatoes at the market today so this is perfect! With the wholegrain mustard and pickles too. I agree that it’s all about making potato salads more exciting :)

    • July 3, 2014 8:07 am

      We go through so many red potatoes around here, I don’t even want to think about it… for the first time recently, we actually bought a giant bag of them at Costco! (It’s mostly since we’ve been using them in the big frittata we make every Sunday to last us for weekday breakfasts, but now that I’ve gone and made potato salad more exciting, I’ve gotten hooked on this potato salad, too!)

  5. June 26, 2014 8:42 am

    As a true Ukrainian (lol), I love EVERYTHING potato :D Especially potato salad! Also pickled onion looks delish, I’ll definitely have to give it a try! Thanks for sharing xoxo Olena

  6. June 26, 2014 9:02 am

    Looks so fresh and delicious! Live red potatoes =)

  7. June 26, 2014 10:53 am

    This is looking fabulous!

  8. June 26, 2014 5:06 pm

    Love the colors!

    • July 3, 2014 8:11 am

      Thank you! It actually got even more colorful after I *finished* taking these photos, since I tasted it again (right before I sat down to eat a big bowl of it) and decided to add even more capers and pickled red onion first.

  9. danguole permalink
    June 26, 2014 8:03 pm

    hah, I just posted a not-potato-salad potato salad! You have read my mind, and you sure earned those strawberries!

  10. June 26, 2014 8:07 pm

    I absolutely love Potatoes, cannot imagine a life that doesn’t have them. This looks fabulous.

  11. June 26, 2014 11:42 pm

    I think i could really like this one. Potato salad without mayonnaise. Yay!

  12. June 27, 2014 9:45 am

    I love this – all of it – the bit about loving all the foods you used to hate. The story. The recipe. The photographs. But now I’m trying to remember if I ever said congratulations to you on your PhD?! What a huge huge huge accomplishment. I saw your comment on my blog about the word saudade and how much you love that and word bittersweet. I haven’t replied yet but I wanted to tell you how much I truly loved that comment and how incredibly sympatico you feel to me.

  13. June 27, 2014 10:31 am

    Oh my! This is a collection of all things I have and have always loved! What a perfect potato salad :)

  14. June 27, 2014 10:31 am

    Beautiful pictures!

  15. July 3, 2014 4:28 am

    I was never a fan of the mayo-style potato salad (which my mom made all the time over the summer months), but love “German-style” with its tangy dressing. And anything pickled? Hand it over! Looks like a wonderful summer duo to me.

    Thank you so much for sharing it at the very first weekly Potluck :-)!

  16. July 15, 2014 5:23 pm

    This just made my mouth water!

  17. October 26, 2014 9:34 am

    This recipe looks so delicious! I have to agree with The Kitten Kitchen’s post. Enjoy a restful Sunday, Allison :)

  18. February 20, 2018 11:26 am

    Can’t wait to try making this potato salad! Potato salad is one of my favorite side dishes but I’ve never tried it with Dijon Mustard before! Definitely making this one at home. Thank you for sharing!


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