Vegan German Potato Salad

by on June 16, 2014
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Vegan and Oil-Free German Potato Salad

I clearly remember the first time I ever made potato salad. I was in grad school far away from home, in a land called “Illinois,” where I was invited to a potluck picnic and asked to make potato salad. I loved potato salad but had never made it before, so I did what any self-respecting college student would do and called my mother for her recipe. I don’t remember anything about the picnic except arriving with my covered dish and telling everyone it was potato salad. “Is it German potato salad?” a hopeful voice asked. German? I didn’t even know what that was. “No, it’s Southern potato salad,” I stammered. No one seemed particularly impressed.

Of course, after the picnic I had to find out what German potato salad was. I asked my date, who said it had bacon and vinegar in it, no mayo, and I found a recipe in my ancient copy of The Joy of Cooking that I modified and enjoyed until I became vegetarian a few years later and started making it with vegetarian bacon and olive oil. After I became vegan, I made it off and on for special occasions, with less and less oil, until I got to the point that my family liked it just as much without oil and “bacon” as long as I included a drop of Liquid Smoke or smoked salt for the smokey flavor.

Vegan and Oil-Free German Potato Salad

Now, I often whip up my oil-free version to accompany “crab” cakes that I make myself or buy from the deli of the local natural foods store and my Basic Low-Fat Coleslaw. I always make it to taste, adding vinegar, mustard, pepper, and smoked salt until I get it right, and I’ve never bothered to write it down because it seemed so simple. But just in case there’s someone else out there who doesn’t know how to make German potato salad–in this case oil-free vegan German potato salad–here’s how I do it.

I like this salad very vinegary, so I always start off with about 1/4 cup of vinegar and add more to taste. Normally I use red onions but I was out and had to substitute green ones when I took these photos, and they were less sweet and pungent but more summery, which was nice for a change. The magic ingredient is, of course, the hickory smoked salt, which I buy at The Spice House (with whom I have no affiliation, darn it. I’d be happy to be paid in spices.) It has a very concentrated smoke flavor, so it just takes a little and doesn’t increase the saltiness or sodium content much. If you can’t find it and don’t mind using Liquid Smoke, just add a few drops to the dressing before you pour it over the potatoes. Too much and it’s like licking a fireplace, but with just a touch, a simple potato salad is tranformed from ordinary to sublime.

Enjoy!

Susan

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

1 wendy (healthy girl's kitchen) June 16, 2014 at 3:29 pm

I’m sitting here at work so hungry! Susan, you’re killing me! This looks so good right now . . .

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2 Kathryn June 16, 2014 at 3:30 pm

YES! I have everything in the house to make this! Sounds soooo good! I have liquid smoke and smoked paprika so I’ll try those.

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3 Cindy June 16, 2014 at 3:39 pm

What perfect timing!! I just purchased some mesquite smoked pacific sea salt without having a clue what I was going to use it on…..now I do!! This potato salad looks yummy!!

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4 Sam June 16, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Susan,

I enjoy reading and following your wonderful recipes. However, it sounds funny when you use non-vegetarian words to make vegetarian/vegan food like “Bacon” and many more like these.

Not a big deal but sounds funny. It looks like you are may be a vegan now but still missing non-vegetarian food.

Regards,
SD

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5 Lauren June 17, 2014 at 7:35 am

You are thinking about it inaccurately. Referencing bacon is not about wanting meat, it’s about flavors and textures. Just because vegans/vegetarians don’t eat meat does not meant they didn’t like the taste of it. There are ways to recreate that without any meat at all. Referring to meat is necessary because it’s what most people are familiar with. Enjoying something that tastes smoky, sweet, and salty–like bacon– in no way means there is a desire to eat meat or that meat is needed/missed.

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6 moonwatcher June 16, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Wow, Susan, I am SO making this!! Easy and tasty, and I’ll make a version with fresh dill stirred in since there is a small field of it growing in the old garden. Growing up with Italian Potato Salad that has no mayo, I think this will be a delightful version–and easy to make while we move!! (might even be good with sweet potato mixed in). Woohoo! :)

xoxo

moonwatcher

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7 caralyn @ glutenfreehappytummy June 16, 2014 at 8:51 pm

you’re right — super gourmet! sounds delish!

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8 Millie l Add A Little June 17, 2014 at 1:29 am

I love potato salad and this looks and sounds amazing with the addition of smoked salt!
http://youtube.com/addalittlefood

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9 Mihl June 17, 2014 at 3:01 am

It’s funny, I also don’t know what a German potato salad is and I am German. This version is very popular in the South of Germany, so you were totally right about calling it a Southern potato salad. I never thought I’d like the Southern German salad, since I am used to the version that is made with tons of mayo and which is popular in the North. But I was wrong. Your version looks really great and since I just bought a new bottle of liquid smoke I am definitely going to try it!

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10 Helyn June 17, 2014 at 7:00 am

Great idea with the smoked salt, Susan! A must try :)

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11 Jacqui June 17, 2014 at 8:11 am

Have made German Potato Salad before but will try the smoky flavour addition.
What are you serving it with on your photo?

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12 LindaV June 17, 2014 at 10:59 pm

I pulled up your site today to search for good picnic recipes. Didn’t even have to search – the perfect dish was right there on the front page! This looks great and I will definitely be introducing it to my non-veg friends at our 4th of July festivities. Thank you!

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13 Beth June 18, 2014 at 7:31 am

I just found your website after Googling what ‘nutritional yeast’ is, and I’m delighted to have found the answer, as well as so many delicious recipes! I am not vegan, yet, but my lifestyle is slowly leading me that way… So as a complete newbie to vegan eating, do you have a list of store cupboard staples that you’d recommend?

It looks like the ‘nooch’ would be on that list, but a lot of your recipes include things I’ve never seen (although admittedly haven’t looked for), so knowing which ones you consider would be really helpful.

Maybe it’s not a straightforward question to ask, but any advice on vegan-specifc core ingredients would be great!

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14 Susan Voisin June 18, 2014 at 7:56 am

This may be a bigger list than you’re looking for, but I went through my kitchen and tried to list everything that I keep on hand. I hope you find it helpful: http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2012/01/ridiculously-easy-vegetable-gumbo-and-cooking-from-your-pantry-and-freezer.html

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15 fern reed June 18, 2014 at 10:02 am

Thanks I am going to make potato salad today!!

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16 HappyForks June 18, 2014 at 10:45 am

Happy to see potatoes as a star of a meal! They’re great sources of vitamin C and potassium. Unfortunately, we often forget how many things we can do with them.

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17 Jeannie June 18, 2014 at 11:13 am

Susan, It seems the Yukon Gold potatoes are hard to find around my area. I went to Wholefoods and they didn’t have them either. Would gold potatoes be a good substitute. Thanks, Jeannie.

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18 Susan Voisin June 18, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Sure! I think Yukon Gold may be a more specific name, but any gold potatoes will do. Actually, small red potatoes also work wonderfully.

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19 Jill June 18, 2014 at 8:18 pm

This potato salad and the cashew Ranch dressing are on the list to make for the Fourth of July. :)

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20 Glyn June 19, 2014 at 8:51 pm

Hello Miss Susan.. I’m so happy I’ve found your blog.. This potato salad seems so irresistible and so healthy, I’ve never had this vegan German potato salad and I guess it’s time to try it.. Thanks a lot for the share.. xx

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21 Rachel June 21, 2014 at 6:35 pm

Yum!! Sounds like the perfect thing to go with the black eyed pea burgers!

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22 Cindy June 22, 2014 at 7:06 am

For Beth, there are a wealth of resources online that can teach you the EASY substitution methods that will make your transition to vegan seamless. For example, veganoutreach.org has a “Veg Starter Guide” tab that is easy to navigate and full of info. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has a Veg Starter kit that you can download as a pdf: http://www.pcrm.org/factsheets/resources/health-and-nutrition-fact-sheets and Mercy for Animals has one you can order for free:
http://www.mercyforanimals.org/vegan-starter-kit.aspx
Then once you have the basics you’ll want to make all of Susan’s recipes!

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23 Corrin Radd June 23, 2014 at 8:46 pm

We made this tonight. It’s great!

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24 Winn June 27, 2014 at 10:31 pm

Thank you, Susan, for this delicious recipe. It was a hit at our barbecue tonight. There is just enough left over to bless my lunch tomorrow.

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25 Molly June 29, 2014 at 10:57 am

Susan,

I can’t tell you how excited we were to have potato salad restored to our list of low-fat options. This salad was amazingly easy to put together and not only was it delicious as written, the portions we were disciplined enough to stash for the next day were even better.

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26 Pam June 29, 2014 at 8:52 pm

I so enjoy your website and blog and recipes and stories and recipes and …… did I mention I like your recipes? I am just three years into being low-fat, fatfree vegan cooking. I am so totally burned out right now trying to stay vegan. I am the only one in my family of five that eats this way and I get frustrated lately having to cook two meals for each meal we have. Vegan recipes are often geared for 4 or more servings and I admittedly waste a lot of lovely produce that no one seems to eat. Any advice in getting myself excited and geared back up to cooking the way I should?

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27 LindaV June 30, 2014 at 12:34 am

Just made this and I am in love! I will make it again for a 4th of July weekend picnic with non-veg, oil-loving friends and I’m sure it will knock their socks off. Thank you so much for posting it, easy or not. :)

I’m glad you specified Creole mustard. I’d never had it before, but saw it at the store when shopping for other ingredients for this so figured why not? I now have a new favorite mustard!

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28 John B. June 30, 2014 at 3:03 am

Wow, I am amazed by this recipe. It is about one year since I have eaten something very simillar at the Distillery District from one local restaurant run by German immigrants. The only difference was that they put some pickels and baby carrots into it and mixed it with mayonnaise. It was great!

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29 Em July 3, 2014 at 1:37 pm

I just finished this and it is good! I did not have broth on hand and did not want to open up another carton as I already have 2 in the freezer- so I used 1T of white miso and 3T of warm water and mixed it up. I also added 1/2 tsp of oil to sort of carry the liquid smoke I used because I did not have the smoked salt. I dusted the cooked potatoes with smoked paprika and I also used a pinch of Jamaican allspice. It was terrific!. I might try it with red potatoes….oh and I added another tsp of mustard- but yes I did follow it …mostly! As for the comment about missing meat flavors I would say I find it funny since meat needs flavorings more than plant foods and as Isa C. says it is good to get your char on. We can have those flavors that are so good but are not really part of meat anyway. IMO – of course. Anyway Thank you Susan another keeper!

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30 Michael Edward Morrill July 4, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Hi Susan, I enjoyed your recipe and will try it very soon. I have not heard of smoked salt before. Can’t wait to try it!

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31 Renard Moreau July 5, 2014 at 12:47 pm

[ Smiles ] Impressive! You’ve found a way to present potato in an exciting way.

Lovely vegan recipe!

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32 Odin July 8, 2014 at 1:07 pm

Thank you for the inspiration to convert my German Grandmother’s potato salad. A few things I did different is I substituted the red wine vinegar for apple cider vinegar. I then poured some extra bouillon in a cast iron skillet and sautéed the onions in it with a touch of liquid smoke to mimic when she’d use the bacon fat.

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33 Peggy August 24, 2014 at 10:39 pm

So good. So easy.

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34 Mickey September 7, 2014 at 11:27 pm

This is now a staple in my family. Even the non-vegan members think this is the best potato salad ever. I make 2 five-pound batches a week for our family of six. Added bonus: no risk of the mayo going bad at a party! I don’t even tell people it’s vegan. I just tell them it’s great!

Thanks for making heart- healthy vegan eating easy, Susan.

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35 Cheryl Patterson September 12, 2014 at 3:36 am

Those potatoes look so fluffy I can never get mine to look like that, they either fall apart to mush or are too hard. Any suggestions because I really would like to try this recipe?

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36 Susan Voisin September 12, 2014 at 7:20 am

Cheryl, what kind of potatoes are you using? I find the Yukon gold and small red potatoes hold together well when boiled or microwaved. The big baking potatoes tend to fall apart.

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