Nothing against mayo, but the creamy potato and pasta “salads” that you often see cropping up at picnics and cookouts throughout the summer season can be a bit heavier than we’d like during these hot, humid months. Rather than cutting key side dishes out of your barbecue repertoire entirely, we prefer to lighten them up with a few simple tricks and swaps.
These creative pasta and potato salads are lighter takes on the originals, without compromising on flavor—and we think you’ll love them.
The standard deli-style pasta salad gets an upgrade with these bright, summer-vegetable and herb-forward recipes.
Spaghetti + Meatballs-Inspired Pasta Salad
We love the idea of composing a pasta salad the same way you’d put together a green salad: by incorporating pops of color, layering flavors, and including tons of fresh herbs.
To make this pasta salad, cook up some of your favorite noodles and toss with a little olive oil, plenty of chopped basil, parsley, and fresh oregano. Chop up some provolone along with a flavorful salami, a few peppers, and tomatoes. Stir it all into the pasta and voila!
Vegetable Pasta Salad
Sometimes, your favorite simple pasta recipes can be great sources of inspiration for lighter mayo-free pasta salads. Toss a handful of sautéed kale with garlic, parmesan, pine nuts, together with a rigatoni or fusilli for a flavorful, veg-forward dish that’s just as delicious whether it’s hot or room temperature (making it perfect picnic fare!).
Pesto Pasta Salad
Another great sauce that transitions well from hot to cold: (customizable) pesto! Whether you use the classic basil as your base or get a little more adventurous with mint, arugula, or sun-dried tomatoes, this nutty, herby sauce tastes just as delicious chilled as it does on hot, freshly-cooked pasta.
Swapping the creamy, heaviness of mayo for lighter options like tart lime, tangy tzatziki, creamy avocado, and sharp mustard can keep your picnic guests on their toes.
Chili Lime Potato Salad
Exchange the creaminess of mayo for the zesty combination of chili powder and fresh lime in this chili lime potato salad. Heads up: you may want to make a double batch if you’re bringing this to a barbecue—it’s seriously addictive, and people are definitely going to be asking for seconds.
Dijon Mustard Potato Salad
In a world where other condiments get a ton of attention, let mustard be the star for once. If you’re the person who would always pick mustard over ketchup or mayo as your condiment of choice, you’re going to love this Dijon Mustard Potato Salad. Grainy dijon adds a great, crunchy texture to the salad—and a ton of sharp, tangy flavor, of course.
Creamy Avocado Potato Salad
We strongly believe at Plated that any dish can be made better if you had avocado, and this creamy avocado potato salad is no exception. Avocado lends the same creamy, rich goodness to the dish, without the goop-factor of mayo. Throw in a scoop of tangy Dijon mustard and a squeeze of fresh lime to balance out the creaminess, and you’ve got yourself a seriously delicious side dish (or quick lunch) that is sure to be the star of your next picnic.
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