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Get ready to fall in love with this Italian potato salad. One of our taste testers asked “what makes this SO DELICIOUS!?” And that’s how we knew we had a winner on our hands! Potato salad may not be much of a thing in Italy (yet) but we happen to think this combination of basil, tomato, and olives when paired with an oil and vinegar style potato salad is nothing short of magical! Read on to find out how to make it and don’t forget to PIN IT for later!
Why We Love This Recipe
This potato salad is a great dairy-free and mayonnaise-free potato salad to make for a cookout, barbecue, picnic, or potluck party for a summer gathering.
It can be made ahead which makes it so convenient for summer entertaining. The recipe makes 9 cups, so it is great for a crowd. And if you are serving it at a potluck, it is mayo-free and won’t wilt or get soggy while it sits on the serving table.
Additionally, the Italian seasonings and ingredients pair with a variety of meals including Italian dressing chicken, these Mediterranean-inspired chicken feta spinach burgers, or our best steak salad.
Ingredients Notes For This Italian Potato Salad
- Small thin-skinned potatoes: For potato salad, you want to look for “waxy” thin-skinned potatoes such as red bliss, Yukon gold, purple, or a mix of colors. These types of potatoes are best cooked in a moist heat environment and hold their shape when cooked. No need to peel them, just cut the potatoes into 1-inch chunks.
- Garlic: To give the dressing a bold flavor we used fresh garlic mashed with coarse kosher salt to form a paste. This helps blend the raw garlic into the dressing without leaving any big chunks of raw garlic.
- Extra-virgin olive oil: Since this is an Italian-inspired recipe, we used olive oil for the dressing. It isn’t cooked so you can use your best quality extra virgin olive oil and the flavors will shine through.
- Red wine vinegar: For this mayo-free dressing we opted for red wine vinegar to give the dressing brightness and acidity. You could also use balsamic vinegar to add a little natural sweetness.
- Cherry tomatoes: We love the sweetness and colors that cherry tomatoes add, but red bell pepper or roasted red pepper can be substituted.
- Italian black olives: Look for black Italian olives. You can pit them yourself if necessary by pressing them with the side of the chef’s knife. Greek olives will work as a good substitute.
- Salami: The salami in this recipe is an optional ingredient. Skip it to make this recipe vegan! We found we liked to buy unsliced salami (from the gourmet cheese and deli section of large supermarkets) peeling it, and cutting it into matchsticks better than using pre-sliced salami for sandwiches.
- Red onion: For taste and color we added thinly sliced red onion. A little goes a long way, and you’ll only need ½ cup. Save the rest for making our corn salsa recipe!
- Basil leaves: We’re pretty sure the basil is what our taste tester was asking about when he asked “what makes this so delicious?” So don’t skip it and make sure to use fresh for the best flavor! Chop it at the last minute to prevent it from turning dark.
How To Make Italian Potato Salad
Step 1: Set up a pot with a steamer basket and water to just below the steamer level. Bring it to a boil. While you are bringing it up to temperature, cut the potatoes into 1-inch chunks. Steam the potatoes (covered) until they are tender when pierced with a fork. This takes about 15 minutes.
Step 2: Make a garlic and salt paste with ½ teaspoon of salt. This will help the garlic break down so there won't be any big chunks of it in the potato salad. It will also imbue the dish with an overall garlic flavor with only one clove.
Step 3: Whisk the oil, vinegar, garlic paste and the remaining salt in a large bowl. Add in pepper to taste.
Step 4: Add the potatoes and toss them with the dressing. This will allow the potatoes to soak up the dressing. Toss them occasionally as they cool to room temperature.
Step 5: Once the potatoes have cooled to room temperature, add the remaining ingredients.
Step 6: Toss the salad together and serve immediately or chill.
Can this recipe be made ahead?
While we liked this recipe best the first day, it can be made up to two days ahead. The dressing will solidify in the refrigerator, so bring it out of the fridge about an hour before serving to let the oil oil go back to its liquid state. Pro Tip: Add the basil just before serving.
What is the best kind of potato to use for this salad?
We really love the way that very small potatoes look with this recipe, and since they are not peeled, they look more colorful. You can use a variety of thin-skinned “waxy” potatoes or choose one variety such as red skinned.
Why are the potatoes steamed and the skin left on?
We love the rustic texture and added nutritional benefit of using skin on steamed potatoes. Not only is it easier to just cut and steam the potatoes, instead of cooking, peeling, cooling and cutting them, but the hot potatoes really soak up the flavors of the dressing if they are tossed together right when they are done cooking! We also find that boiling them can make the potatoes cook unevenly and fall apart into a crumbly texture that isn't ideal for this style of potato salad.
More Summer Side Dish Salads To Try
- We love this Italian pasta salad with cherry tomatoes, olives and basil for another summer side dish.
- This German potato salad is made healthier without refined sugar, and without bacon grease, but it is still savory and sweet and has delicious smoky flavor!
- This Greek pasta salad with artichoke hearts and chickpeas is a gluten-free side salad everyone will rave over.
- This loaded baked potato salad is the summer side salad equivalent of comfort food.
- For a twist on a classic turn up the flavor with our peanut coleslaw!
Thanks so much for reading! If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! Happy Cooking! ~Katie
- 2 ½ lb small red skinned potatoes (cut into 1-inch chunks (8 cups))
- 1 clove garlic (minced)
- 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt (divided)
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper (plus more to taste)
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes (cut in half)
- ½ cup sliced pitted Italian black olives (optional)
- 2 ounces thinly sliced salami (optional)
- ½ cup thinly sliced red onion
- ½ cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves
- Bring an inch of water to a boil in a saucepan fitted with a steamer basket. Add potatoes, cover, and steam until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, 12 to 15 minutes.2 ½ lb small red skinned potatoes
- Meanwhile, sprinkle ½ teaspoon salt over the minced garlic and mash with the side of a chef’s knife until a paste forms.1 clove garlic, 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
- Scrape the garlic paste into a large bowl. Add the remaining 1 ½ teaspoon salt, oil, vinegar, and pepper.⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil, ¼ cup red wine vinegar, ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- Add the potatoes to the dressing and toss to coat. Let cool in the dressing, tossing occasionally until about room temperature.
- Add the tomatoes, olives (if using), Salami (if using), red onion, and basil.1 cup cherry tomatoes, ½ cup sliced pitted Italian black olives, 2 ounces thinly sliced salami, ½ cup thinly sliced red onion, ½ cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves
- Toss the potatoes with the veggies, salami, and basil to combine. Season with additional pepper to taste if desired. Serve room temperature or chilled.
Make Ahead Notes:While we liked this recipe best the first day, it can be made up to two days ahead. The olive oil dressing will solidify in the refrigerator, so bring it out of the fridge about an hour before serving to let the olive oil go back to its liquid state. Stir well before serving.
We have thoroughly tested this recipe for accuracy. However, individual results may vary. See our full recipe disclosure here.