This creamy, zesty Potato Salad with Caramelized Shallots gets a pungent kick from pickled jalapeños and lots of fresh dill. A simple, and unique flavour combination that is out of this world delicious.
This one is for all the potato salad lovers that sit right in the middle of camp vinegar and camp mayo. I have pretty strong opinions about mayo-laden potato salads. It’s just not something I would ever order at a deli or go for at a potluck.
To me, the perfect potato salad is all about the little tweaks that make it attractively creamy without being blanketed in mayo so other flavours shine through. The potatoes also need to be perfectly cooked without being undercooked or mushy – not sure which I despise more. I know, I’m setting the bar high. But friends, this salad is it.
It has loads of flavour from caramelized shallots, lots of fresh dill, and a creamy sauce spiked with vinegar, chopped pickled jalapeños, and their brine. The combination may sound a little odd, but you need to trust me on this one. It is simply outstanding.
About The Recipe
I have been making this potato salad with carmelized shallots for years ever since I saw it in an issue of House & Home magazine many moons ago. The recipe is from Chef Lora Kirk from the now closed Ruby Watchco restaurant in Toronto. It’s a solid one that I have adapted only slightly and loved by everyone who tries it. The pickled jalapeños and sweet caramelized shallots add a delicious twist on the classic, while the bit of mayo gives it that comforting creaminess we all love in a potato salad.
The original recipe calls for onions but I find the slightly sweeter shallot is fabulous against the spicy jalapeños and brine. Shallots also caramelize a lot quicker than onions reducing the cooking time by about 10 minutes. If you are visiting any farmers markets right now, try and look for shallots. Not easy to find but when you do, they are quite the score.
Despite taking a little time to caramelize the shallots, this potato salad is simple to make and a fabulous dish to make ahead. That said, don’t serve this potato salad cold straight from the refrigerator. It is a lot tastier when you allow the salad to come up to room temperature before serving.
Ingredients & Substitutions
If you go to a Farmer’s market, you can come home with almost every ingredient you need to make this potato salad. It just doesn’t get much fresher, or better than that.
- Baby potatoes – You can use white, red, yellow, or a mix of mini potatoes. I like to boil them whole and unpeeled for better texture but peel them if you prefer. Once cooked, the larger ones can be quartered and the smaller ones halved.
- Shallots – The shallots I have been getting from the market are beautiful and huge (see ingredient photo). If you can’t find them just use regular shallots from the supermarket that are available all year. Alternatively, you can use a regular yellow, or white onion as per original recipe.
- Thyme leaves – To add herby freshness to the caramelized shallots.
- Olive oil – For caramelizing the shallots.
- Mayonnaise – I always use soy-free vegenaise in place of mayo. I find it less cloying and less sweet. Use whichever you prefer.
- Pickled jalapeños and brine – The kick of heat and acid is essential to this dish. You can use homemade pickled jalapeños, or use store-bought. The potatoes really help to tone down the heat from the jalapeños but feel free to use less if you don’t like any heat at all.
- Fresh dill – I don’t even love dill but it is so good in this potato salad I don’t hold back.
- Red wine vinegar – Just a splash to balance out the creaminess form the mayo.
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper – To taste.
How To Make Potato Salad With Caramelized Shallots
- Cook the potatoes: Put potatoes in a large pot of cold water and salt until it tastes like the sea. Just like you would if you were making pasta. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook uncovered until tender when pierced with a small sharp knife, about 15 minutes. If your potatoes are tiny, start checking at 12 minutes. Drain the potatoes in a colander and return to the same pot for a few minutes. The residual heat from the hot pot will steam off any excess water.
- Cook the shallots: While potatoes are cooking, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and thyme leaves. Cook, stirring, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Lower heat to medium low and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes longer. Reduce heat to low if browning too quickly. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Make the dressing: In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise (or vegenaise), chopped pickled jalapeños, brine, vinegar, dill, salt and pepper.
- Cut the potatoes: As soon as the potatoes are cool enough, but still pretty hot, cut them in half, or quarters if they are larger. Place them in a large serving bowl.
- Assemble the potato salad: Fold the shallots and dressing with the warm chopped potatoes. Taste and adjust seasoning by adding more salt and pepper, if necessary.
- Chill or serve room temperature. Almost all potato salads benefit from a little chilling time in the fridge. Chill for at least an hour, or allow to cool on the counter for 20 minutes before serving to allow the flavours to blossom. If chilled, allow to come to room temperature before serving.
Tips To Make The Best Potato Salad
- Pick the right potatoes. The best potatoes for this salad will be new potatoes that are smaller, waxier, and contain less starch. These will retain their shape when boiled. White, red, Yukon, or fingerlings, are all great choices. Just make sure they are roughly the same size to ensure even cooking.
- Season generously. Potatoes need a generous amount of salt. Start with the boiling water, it should taste like the sea. From there, add more to the finished salad as needed until it tastes just right.
- Don’t overcook. This one is tricky because the cooking time will depend on the size of the potatoes. You want the potatoes to be tender, but definitely not mushy. If your potatoes are tiny, start checking at 12 minutes with a sharp knife (not a fork). In general, I find 15 minutes to be the sweet spot.
- Cut all of the potatoes. Even tiny potatoes benefit for one cut so the insides can soak up the zesty dressing.
- Dress them while they’re hot. Allow the potatoes to cool just enough to handle. Ideally, you should cut the potatoes while they are still quite warm so they absorb the ingredients more deeply.
- Don’t add all the dressing at once. You may need all the dressing but it’s best to add it in stages in case you don’t. If making ahead, reserve a few tablespoons to add just before serving.
This potato salad with caramelized onion is best served at least an hour or so after making to allow the flavours to meld which makes it a perfect make-ahead dish. You can also make it the day before and store it in the refrigerator; bring it to room temperature before serving. A great dish that holds up great for entertaining and if you have leftovers, your lunch for the next day is sorted. Yum.
If making ahead, keep some of the fresh herbs, pickled jalapeños, and perhaps a bit of dressing aside to add just before serving. In addition, the seasoning might need a little adjusting so be sure to taste before serving.
This filling potato salad with caramelized shallots would be the perfect addition to a plant based meal. Serve it alongside this corn salad, this tray of grilled vegetables, or this grilled peach salad.
If you give this Potato Salad with Caramelized Shallots recipe a try, please feel free to leave a comment and/or a star rating below. We appreciate and welcome all your feedback. Thank you!
Potato Salad with Caramelized Shallots
- 2 pounds small new potatoes red, white, yellow, or a mix; scrubbed clean
- Kosher Salt and cracked pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced shallots about 3/4 pound (*see notes)
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise I use soy-free vegenaise
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped pickled jalapeño or more to taste
- 2 tablespoons pickled jalapeño brine
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup chopped dill plus more for garnish
- Put potatoes in a large pot of cold water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add about 2 tablespoons of salt then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook uncovered until potatoes feel tender when pierced with a small sharp knife, about 15 minutes. If your potatoes are tiny, start checking at 12 minutes. Drain the potatoes in a colander and return to the same pot (with heat shut off).
- While the potatoes are cooking, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and thyme leaves. Cook, stirring, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Lower heat to medium low and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes longer. Reduce heat to low if browning too quickly. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise (or vegenaise), chopped pickled jalapeños, brine, vinegar, dill, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
- As soon as the potatoes are cool enough, but still pretty warm, cut them in half, or quarters if they are larger. Place them in a large serving bowl.
- Add the caramelized shallots and dressing to the warm chopped potatoes. Toss gently to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning by adding more salt and pepper, if necessary.
- Chill for at least an hour, or allow to cool on the counter for 20 minutes before serving to allow the flavours to blossom. Garnish with a few more jalapeños and fresh dill, if desired. Tip: If chilled, allow to come to room temperature before serving.