Hit Me With Your Best Shot

Gentle readers, I require your assistance. Powers of the TNS nation, activate!

I need to learn to make some tasty mayo-based salads – potato, macaroni, cole slaw, that kind of thing. Problem is, I don’t really like mayo-based salads, so I’ve never really eaten them, and consequently I don’t know where to start.

So I’d like to pick your collective brain. Do you have a recipe you love? Do you make your own mayo? What kinds of add-ins do you use?


41 thoughts on “Hit Me With Your Best Shot

  1. As an avowed mayo hater, I have learned to replace the mayo in cold salads with yogurt, sour cream, or olive oil. Potato salad with mayo = ick! With olive oil = so good! That’s all the help I can offer you. Good luck!

  2. I modified a Smitten Kitchen chicken salad recipe to include more Creole mustard than mayonnaise, and to include more salad-y elements than mayo. You could probably reduce the mayo even further, adding more mustard for creaminess’ sake: slauditory.blogspot.com/2011/08/fancy-chicken-salad-secret-to-this.html

  3. I make my own mayo. Homemade mayo is pretty different than the commercial kind, so you might like it better. The recipe I use calls for an immersion blender:
    1 egg
    1/4 tsp salt
    1 tsp prepared mustard – spicy brown is good
    2 tsp vinegar or lemon juice
    8 oz vegetable oil
    Put the egg, salt, mustard, and vinegar in the cup that came with the immersion blender. (Any narrow cup will do – you want it not much bigger than the blender blades.) Pour the oil into the cup. Immerse the blender blades, all the way to the bottom of the cup, then blend, gradually lifting the blades to incorporate all the oil.
    To do this in a standard blender or food processor, it’s a little more fiddly. Put the egg, salt, mustard, and vinegar in the bowl, and process until mixed. With the blades running, slowly pour in the oil. At first add just very tiny amounts until the emulsion develops. Toward the end, you can add it more quickly.

    As far as salads, with the homemade mayo, I don’t feel like it needs much of a recipe. For potato salad, I often add some extra mustard. And it’s nice to have something crunchy, like celery. Boost the seasonings with some salt, and whatever herbs you like.

  4. Ditto using Greek yogurt, it’s way less nasty than straight-up mayo. The Kitchn (gasp, I know) has a yogurt-potato-dill-arugula salad recipe that I all but lived on one summer. I also remember ATK having some sort of macaroni salad innovation, you know like they do, about how long to cook the macaroni or at what temperature to mix it up or whatever, so you might check in one of their big books, like the red ATK Family Cookbook.

  5. As someone who DOES like mayo-based salads, I fear my tricks may be too mayonnaise-ful for your tastes. But here’s a trick I like. For potato salad, I make the dressing out of equal parts mayonnaise and pickle juice (from dill pickles), mixed with a lot of chopped scallion, salt & pepper, a dash of brown mustard, some herbage, maybe some celery seed if I’m in the mood. It’s tasty!

    Or, you could kind of say “f@#% all that” and go for something with a ton of tasty add-ins. Like this: http://www.melskitchencafe.com/2011/09/loaded-baked-potato-salad.html

  6. I usually cut the mayo with non fat greek yogurt to cut down on calories. my favourite is in egg salad, chopped hard boiled eggs, a little mayo and a little yogurt (just enough to bind, and i do one part mayo to two parts yogurt) a little mustard, chopped cooked bacon, a splash of vinegar and pinch of sugar and then salt and pepper. not really a recipe so much as a guide i suppose.

  7. I am avowed lover of mayo-based salads, as long as I make them. There are a few rules I follow:
    1. The mayo MUST be either (a) Hellman’s (I understand Duke’s is the Eastern Seaboard equivalent), or (b) homemade. Don’t be bringing no Miracle Whip shit up in here, and for the love of God, do NOT, EVER, NO WAY, NO HOW, use the low-fat garbage. Recipe above for homemade works nicely, though when I’m making it I tend to just do eggs and oil, emulsify, then stir in whatever seasoning I have a notion.
    2. Mayo loves a companion. Spicy mustard. Honey mustard. Horseradish. Chipotle. If I want a flavored mayo dressing, as I do on most salads, I generally don’t bother to make my own, which is reserved for tomato/blt sandwiches and homemade pimiento cheese.
    3. Yes, you can sub yogurt or even sour cream for part of the mayo. Don’t do it for taste purposes until you try a flavored mayo dressing.

    My standard mayo dressing for potato salad, pasta salad, and other starchy salads is a big glop of Hellman’s (maybe a half-cup?), a couple tablespoons of spicy mustard, a couple tablespoons of regular garden-variety ketchup, some paprika, some celery salt, some regular salt, some garlic powder, some onion powder. I don’t like the sharp taste of raw onion or garlic, and the texture of the sauteed stuff doesn’t please me in a salad, so rather than go to the trouble of pureeing, I use the powders. Not a lot of either. You can certainly add all the crunchy vegetation you like; I don’t, so I don’t.

    Let us hear results!

  8. For any kind of mayo-based salad, I either only use Hellman’s or my own mayonnaise. Also, you gotta stick in a tablespoon of vinegar in the salad.

    We made a mayo from Bittman’s How to Cook Everything (I think) that was tremendous.

  9. I hate mayo passionately, so I learned to make these kinds of salads with stand-ins. Greek yogurt and/or sour cream are, as mentioned, good alternatives. You can make some really interesting salads using salad dressings, too – blue cheese dressing makes a great pasta salad. I used to find a brand that had a Parmesan Romano dressing that made kick-ass tuna and chicken salads. For potato salads, I usually stick with greek yogurt mixed with sour cream and tons of herbs.

  10. I’m not generally a mayo fan, but Whole Foods’ various chicken salads are my exception. And since I can’t stomach paying $12/LB for chicken, grapes, pecans & celery, I’ve been making my own. Homemeade mayo got me over my atavistic loathing: I’m not about to eat it with a spoon, but my recipe is Alton Brown’s, with both lemon juice and vinegar, and knowing exactly what’s in it makes a huge difference.

    Tweaking it is fun too, going with olive oil and garlic for an aioli, or using leftover bits of specialty vinegars bought for other projects, etc.

  11. I have one that’s always a hit: elbow macaroni, peas, HB eggs, green onions, celery, parsley, pimento (or red pepper), and diced CHEDDAR CHEESE. For the dressing I use Hellman’s Light, light sour cream, vinegar, and mustard, as those above have mentioned. I’ll probably make it for the tailgate we’re hosting in a few weeks.

    Oh, yeah…and I usually sprinkle the top with BACON.

  12. So, the potato salad dressing above, with the pickle juice is pretty close to my mom’s. I’m a two-times a year potato salad girl, but coleslaw? All year, man. Must be Hellmann’s, but about 1/2-2/3 cup of mayo, approx 1/4 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup vinegar – the husband prefers it tangyier, I like it sweeter so it depends on if I’m feeling generous, heh. Will dress one bag of coleslaw. Does not keep well. Might be ok for lunch the next day, but 24 hrs is pushing it.
    This dressing mimics Marzetti’s slaw dressing, if you want an off the shelf version. I can’t find it everywhere here in MA, but most larger groceries carry it. Its ubiquitous in the Midwest.
    Homemade mayo is so much better, but its not something I can do when I’m in a hurry. Got an immersion blender just for that, still too fiddly during the week.

  13. Lots of bacon is really important! If I was out of bacon, I would wait until I had it to make potato salad. I could be accused of making bacon salad with potatoes, I suppose. Also, find a version of mayo, mustard, and the other seasonings you like well enough on their own-for me, mixing stuff I didn’t really enjoy and hoping the sum was better than the parts never seems to work (at least in potato salad). I like yukon gold potatoes, too.

  14. Oh, and also, many MANY years ago, my first waitressing job was in a chicken joint – besides his chicken, the owner was known for his cabbage salad. It was simply shredded cabbage, with a dressing (added at the last minute) of equal parts mayo and pineapple juice.

    Which may or may not be practical for your purposes.

  15. OK you mayo haters – I lurve me some mayo. Somewhat known in certain circles for my potato salad, here it is – subject to adjustment to taste:

    boiled potatos – I like yukon golds – biggish bite size
    little bit of mustard
    hard boiled eggs – 3 or so
    relish – the best is my friend’s Mom’s green mango relish! or regular sweet relish if not
    finely chopped sweet onion, celery, maybe a little green pepper – whatever proportions float your boat
    fresh dill if available – if not, dried
    a splash of italian dressing
    salt & pepper – maybe a dash of cayenne

    don’t forget about deviled eggs! pretty much the same recipe above applies – spoon the filling into a zip-lock and cut off one of the bottom tips for easy filling with no pastry bag

  16. Count me among the mayo lovers. Also yes to Hellman’s/Best Foods (the brand name here in NM). Have recently begun making homemade — it is different from store bought. Am really excited to try Pat’s immersion blender version above!

    Favorite chicken salad (recreated from a Dean+Deluca sammich): Chicken breast/thigh (cut bite-size — I poach mine in water/sherry/sage leaves/peppercorns); red seedless grapes (halved); chopped walnuts or pecans, finely chopped sage leaves (I’m always looking for ways to use/destroy the monster-sage-bush-that-has-taken-over-my-herb-bed); ground black pepper. Enough mayo to bind/to taste. Serve on greens or as a sammich filling. mmmmmmmmm….!

  17. I make a “kumara” salad. Kumara are like your sweet potato.
    Boil up or bake your kumara, when cool enough to handle cut into chunks and put on a platter. Top with sliced red onion, crispy bacon and roasted cashew nuts.
    Mix together equal quantities of mayo (I use a brand called Best Food, which blow me down is Hellman’s in disguise!) and sour cream, add a teaspoon or more of good curry powder and a squirt of lemon juice, pour over salad or serve in a bowl to the side for people to spoon over the top. (Now I think of it this would work for egg salad too).

  18. i don’t like mayo-based-salads either, much to the disappointment of my mother and husband (who love them). but i recently discovered this sauce (http://tinyurl.com/cracksauce)and though it’s based on mayo, it’s amazing on everything! it’s awesome on potatoes, and eggs, and tuna and cheese sandwiches and would probably make any mayo-based-salad rock. we’re on our second jar of the stuff in about a month and i need to make more…

  19. You can replace some or all of the mayo in a salad with ripe avocado.. mash it in there like you mean it, ensure you have some acidic ingredients, and it won’t discolour or be chunky.

  20. Cole Slaw – very basic
    Shred cabbage. Add already prepared mayo, not white salad dressing. Add Celery Leaf flakes ( fresh is better, dry will do.) Everything is to taste. Either a bit of salt OR a small amount of dill pickle brine can be added to make the mayo go farther. Which is a good trick if you don’t like mayo in the first place.

  21. I hate-hate-hate mayo-anything, until I tried the macaroni salad at a local chicken BBQ. I then nagged them until they gave me the ingredients (but not the proportions, bastards!). I’ve made it at home a few times but haven’t perfected it so I don’t have proportions to pass along. It’s elbow macaroni, with finely chopped onion, carrot and green pepper. The dressing is mayo-based with extra vinegar, then spiced with salt, pepper and garlic powder, and a bit of dry mustard. The secret ingredients in the dressing are massive amounts of dill pickle relish and celery seed, which transformed that mayo to something wonderful!

  22. My mom’s basic dressing for potato salad and cole slaw was 2 tbsp vinegar, 2 tbsp sugar and 1/4 to 1/2 cup mayo. She would mix the vinegar and sugar together and stir until the sugar dissolved before adding the mayo. Her macaroni salad was just elbow mac, salt, pepper, diced green pepper and diced tomatoes toss with dressing, chill, eat. Her potato salad was boiled potatoes, chopped celery and onions, salt, pepper, celery seed and the dressing.

    My potato salad is more of a Louisiana “smashed” potato salad. Yes, you mash the potatoes, add minced celery, onions, dill pickles, parsley, tonys, and chopped boiled eggs and the dressing is mayo mixed with french’s yellow mustard until it looks kind of lemony in color and then add it to the potato.

    For deviled eggs I just mash the egg yolks, add about a tsp or so of mayo, twice that of horseradish, salt, pepper, and a small scoop of sweet relish. I like mine very horseradishy so I generally add more of that.

    I have a recipe for extremely delicious shrimp remoulade that my ex mil said she got from the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans. Served over a bed of shredded lettuce it’s perfect for a light lunch and I’ve served it as an appetizer on many occasions. You make your own mayo with that one. I’d be happy to send it to you if you like.

    And there’s always the 7-layer salad from the 50s (or 60s, 70s, but I definitely remember it from the 80s). Layer in a large bowl chopped lettuce, sliced mushrooms, peas, chopped red onion, cucumber, bacon, grated cheese top with 1 cup mayo, let sit in fridge overnight, mix before serving. Obviously meant for a really large bowl.

    That one was served at EVERY wedding shower I have ever been to. The South does not give up mayo and bacon willingly.

    Oddly I have a recipe that you actually cook the shrimp in mayo. Everyone loves this dish and I cannot stand cooked mayo in anything. I’ve been known to cook it outside on the gas grill so I don’t have to smell it in my house. I force myself to eat plain old boiled shrimp when I make that one. It’s all about sacrifice.

  23. In any recipe (sandwich salads, potato salads, etc), mix all the dry(er) ingredients together. Add mayonnaise just a bit at a time, say 2 tablespoons for the 1st hit (then mix well), then 1 tablespoon thereafter. You want *just enough* mayonnaise to hold stuff together, and no more.

    Use only full fat real mayonnaise. Duke’s & Hellmann’s are in fact the best.

    All of my sandwich salads: chicken, tunafish, ham, egg, etc., are based on this method. They only consist of the main ingredient, salt, pepper, sweet paprika, chopped celery, chopped dill pickle relish, and chopped sweet pickle relish, plus a little of the juice of each relish.

    Pimiento Cheese: Hand grate sharp and medium cheddar cheeses. If you machine grate it will be too mushy and glommed together. Add salt, pepper, sweet paprika. Add chopped pimientos (with the juice in the jar). I like to add 1/4 (by weight) of pimientos to cheese. Repeat the mayonnaise trick.

  24. I used to be completely anti-mayo, but my husband likes it so we keep some in the house. I can tolerate it if it’s doctored up a little, though, like an aioli. I stir together about a 1/4-1/2 c mayo, juice of one lemon, minced garlic, handful of random chopped herbs, pinch of chile flakes, and chopped sundried tomato, and mix it with cooked & cooled cheese tortellini, chopped artichoke hearts, red bell pepper, & capers. It’s a great vegetarian cold pasta salad that can be a side or a meal. You just need enough of the mayo mixture to hold it together.

  25. why use mayo at all? just replace it with a good ranch dressing (newmans or briannas) or, depending on the rest of the meal, just use a salad dressing that matches the overall flavors. works with broccoli slaw/cole slaw/potato salad/sweet potato salad and pasta slads of all shapes.

  26. I like the potato salad recipe from my big red cookbook — but I think the trick is to cook the potatoes in thier skins, peel, them marinate to hot potatoes with chopped onions in oil, vinegar and salt until chilled. Add the celery, eggs, and mayonnaise with cream dressing at the last minute.

    Absolutely only use Hellmans Real Mayonnaise.

    I also love the church lady Broccoli Salad, with broccoli, raisins, bacon and subflower seeds, and sweet/sour mayonnaise dressing. Do you know that one?

  27. I only use Hellmans in macaroni and potato salad, with LOTS of whole grain mustard, thin it out with red wine vinegar. If I’m up to it, sometimes I’ll use pickled jalapeno juice in place of the vinegar. Also, I like my salad chunky and crisp, so I mix in tons of sliced green onions, celery, red bell pepper. Nuts and dried fruits are really great in chicken salads too.

  28. The cole slaw that I grew up on, that has all but ruined all other cole slaws for me is my mom’s recipe. There is mayonaise, but it works out to be only about a 1/4c for the entire batch. A full head of green cabbage. 1/2 – 1 head red. Sweet onion. Carrot. Add the mayonaise gradually. Seasoned salt, pepper and 1-4Tbs lemon juice.

    In other mayonnaise based salads, including tuna and chicken, I use either 1:1 or 2:1 mayonnaise to some kind of mustard for bite and depth of flavor. The mustard is usually dijon, but has been known to change it up for different flavor matches. Tuna salad usually gets a dose of some kind of brined thing (caper? green olives?), celery, onion or whatever else I have lying around. Chicken relies on garlic and dill.

    I’m not a fan of most mayonnaise based pasta salads.

  29. I’m not big on the either, but I’ve become quite fond of smittenkitchen.com’s buttermilk dressing. Deb over there uses it on her broccoli slaw and while it uses a little mayo, it’s not overwhelming. She’s a self identified slaw fanatic, and I’ve learned from her to really shake up the ingredients, so now I chop or grate up purple cabbage, carrots, and broccoli stems as my base, dress it in her buttermilk dressing, and add in raisins, dried cranberries, toasted almonds, all kinds of whatever I feel like and presto! Salad I like in the winter! I sort of look on it as a miracle! My husband is puzzled that he likes it too. We don’t even know what’s up with that, but look at us, eating, like, cabbage and shit! Dude!

  30. Just wanted to add that if you do choose to sub yogurt, the leftovers won’t last long in the fridge, because the yogurt will continue to separate (as it does in an open container) into thicker solids and liquid runoff. Yogurt can work well as a substitute, but only if you plan on eating the salad within a short time of making it.

  31. I like mayo, but it must be full-force Hellman’s. Miracle Whip is an abomination. I like mayo best on fresh-cut french fries deep-fried in peanut oil – nommmmmmm. It also goes swimmingly on roast chicken/turkey sandwiches paired with horseradish or maple mustard.

    I don’t generally love mayo-based salads (hate coleslaw, and macaroni “salad” – let us not go there), but I do love one potato salad, recipe source unknown. The recipe is as follows:

    2lb miniature red potatoes, skins on, boiled, cooled & cut in half (I also occasionally use purple potatoes)
    2 carrots, sliced
    2 green onions, sliced
    4 radishes, sliced
    mayo to taste
    yellow mustard to taste
    fresh dillweed to taste
    fresh ground pepper to taste

    Mix everything, refrigerate for at least 2 hours, serve. Ta-dah.

    I love the creaminess of it, and my definition of “to taste” is “lots”, approximately, 1/3 to 1/2 cup each of the mayo & mustard. I’m allergic to egg whites, so the mayo compensates for it.

  32. Ok, I give up. Do you mind sharing why you need to suddenly be able to make stuff you don’t really like? It’s been tickling my curiosity bone ever since I first read the post, and my brain can’t construct a scenario around it. Did you inherit a fortune and a dog from an eccentric relative with the clause written in that the dog only must eat mayonnaise based salads?

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