potato salad

Lemony Potato Salad

Yukon potatoes mixed with a lemon and olive oil dressing and tossed with fresh celery and pancetta. Much lighter than a mayo potato salad but lots of flavor!


Lemony Potato Salad

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Let me be the first to say that I’m a sucker for a thick mayo-based potato salad. And I don’t even really like mayonnaise! But sometimes it’s nice to go a completely different direction with potato salad. I can only eat so much mayonnaise potato salad in one Summer and it’s possible that I’ve already reached my quota for this year.

That’s why I was happy to eat this dish. Turns out that potato salad can be fresh, light, and still flavorful. Ok. Maybe this isn’t light because it has pancetta and a good amount of olive oil, but it sure does taste light compared to it’s mayo-cousin.

Above all though, the flavor that you taste in this salad is lemon. It beats down all the other flavors (yes even the pancetta) and is definitely the star of the show.

Lemony Potato Salad

Serves 6-8
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Yukon potatoes mixed with a lemon and olive oil dressing and tossed with fresh celery and pancetta. Much lighter than a mayo potato salad but lots of flavor!

Adapted from the July 2010 Bon Appétit


3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
5-6 ounces pancetta (or bacon)
4 large celery stalks, thinly sliced
Handful of fresh parsley, chopped
2/3 Cups olive oil
1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 clove garlic, pressed
Salt and pepper


1) Scrub potatoes to remove dirt and then cook in salted boiling water for 25-35 minutes depending on size of potatoes.  Drain potatoes and let cool for 15 minutes.

2) Lay out bacon or pancetta on a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes until it’s very crispy.  Drain on a paper towel, cool, and coarsely chop.

3) In a large bowl, whisk together oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, rosemary, garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper, set aside.

4) When potatoes are cool, roughly chop them and add them to a large bowl with sliced celery.

5) Toss potatoes and celery with all your dressing and add bacon and chopped parsley.

6) Chill for a few hours until cool or serve at room temperature.  It’s better if you cool it though in my opinion.

Addressing The Dressing

About 80% of the flavor in this potato salad comes straight from the dressing. It’s got some basic stuff but they bring a lot of flavor.

dressing ingredients
I love my olive oil beaker!

Mince your garlic and rosemary pretty finely and zest your lemon. If you don’t have a zester/microplane, you can use a normal grater but just be careful not to get too much of the white pith part of the lemon.

Also juice the whole lemon and add the juice, zest, herbs, and oil to a bowl and whisk everything together. This will be surprisingly lemony.

dressing ready
This has some kick to it!


This recipe calls specifically for pancetta, but I have absolutely no idea why. I used it and I can’t imagine that it tastes any different than using normal bacon. It’s possible that the recipe writer just wanted to sound fancy-pants.

Anyway, regardless of which delicious pork product you use, lay it out evenly on a baking sheet and bake it for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

You could totally use normal bacon.

The end result should be really crispy and delicious. Chop up the bacon or pancetta and add it to your salad at the end.

Very tasty.

The Potatoes

While the recipe was a bit too specific in asking for pancetta (in my opinion), I like that it used Yukon gold potatoes for the base. You could definitely use red potatoes or maybe even Russet potatoes, but the Yukon gold potatoes are a bit smoother in my opinion. They go really well with the olive oil and lemon flavors.

To prep them, you don’t even have to peel them. Just dust off any dirt and drop them in a large pan full of salted water. Bring them to a boil and let them simmer until they’re soft, probably about 30 minutes depending on the size of your potatoes.

To test one, just grab it out of the water with some tongs and pierce it with a fork. The fork should easily go to the center of the potato.

When they’re done, they’ll be way to hot to handle so just set them in a colander and let them cool for 15 minutes.

potatoes cooked

Then just roughly chop them up! It’s fine to have the skin in this salad if you’re using Yukons because the skin is pretty thin. Some of it flaked off as I chopped, but I just left on what stayed on.

The skins kind of fall off which is okay.

Mix the potatoes in with the celery and all the dressing! It might look like that you have too much dressing, but the potatoes will absorb some of it which is extra-delicious.

mixed salad
The celery is actually crucial.

You can stir in your bacon/pancetta and the parsley right away or wait and use it kind of as a garnish for each dish. For ease, I just stirred everything together.

The best way to eat this is outside, on a hot day, with a cold beer.

more potato salad
Very good for many days.

So if you’re looking for a bit of a change from the normal mayo potato salad, give this one a shot. Don’t necessarily hunt out pancetta, but do use a lot of lemon.

Take this to your next picnic and show everyone that it’s okay to say no to mayo!

10 Responses to “Lemony Potato Salad” Leave a comment

  1. i'm pretty sure we could be friends — "the writer wanted to sound fancy-pants" — LOVE your writing!

  2. Just made this using lime instead of lemon, lots of parsley as well as fresh chives, basil – and the rest. (I didn't add the meat since I had none on hand – though I'm sure it's wonderful in there). I threw it all together without really measuring – delicious!

  3. Hi Nick!

    This is my first time to your website and was looking for a different potato salad and Panzanella recipe. Score all in one site!! Love your site, keep up the great work!! btw..what kind of beer is that?

    1. Okay, so I didn't have half of the ingredients (of course). I used red potatoes cut with jicama (less calories, more crunch!). I used only 1/4 cup olive oil, because 2/3 is just way much. I used cilantro because I don't have parsley. I didn't use rosemary or garlic, because I don't have them (!!). I didn't use pancetta, of course, because I'm vegetarian. I chopped up scallions and rehydrated mushrooms and tossed 'em in.

      I did juice a lemon and dice some celery (I think that's all I followed of the recipe). :P

      It was tasty! Lunch for the week. Maybe it'll be good with some scrambled eggs in the morning!

  4. Love the lemon and pancetta! Yes, I can’t get enough of mayo-based potato salad but I must offer my Italian Red Potato Salad recipe for the Hot Weather BBQ:

    2.5 lbs new potatoes (boiled, drained, cut into small pieces)

    In the blender, add and blend…

    1/4 cup olive oil (extra virgin a bit too fruity for this)
    2 T red wine vinegar
    1 t Dijon mustard
    Kosher salt & pepper to taste

    Add to the warm potatoes, and top with:

    1/3 cup chopped parsley
    1 cup chopped scallions

  5. This is what I'm making today. I have a potato salad recipe site and this is one of the better recipes that i have come a cross. I'll send my readers here to get this one. Great Recipe.

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