The Great Mustard vs. Mayonnaise Debate

All right, it’s time! I’ve been gearing up for this article because, honestly, it causes heated debate in our household. Oh, wait! Can a debate be heated if only one person is taking part? And is it really a debate?


John has strong opinions about potato salad, specifically whether it should contain mustard or mayonnaise (he’s team mustard, by the way.) As with many topics, I never really think about them until someone brings it to my attention in a way that piques my interest. My husband has tried to pique my interest about this issue, but has failed until recently. 


The past few months I’ve written about all kinds of food particular to Louisiana and to the South. I’ve saved potato salad until now, because it required a bit of research. But at last I’m ready to delve into all things potato salad.


There are many styles—German served warm and laced with bacon, French created with capers and parsley. Some people add raisins, walnuts, bell peppers, etc. But no matter the secret or key ingredient, all potato salads require some sort of liquid to bind it all together. Which one is the best, mustard or mayonnaise?


Mustard scores a point, simply because it’s been a part of potato salad since the Spanish explorers introduced the dish to Europe. They brought potatoes back from the New World, dazzling the old school Europeans by adding oil, vinegar, mustard seeds, and mustard. 


To be fair, mayonnaise didn’t enter the scene until the 1920s. Potato salad connoisseurs substituted it for oil and created the age old debate. Chefs declare that it really boils down to flavor. Do you prefer the bold and tangy kick of mustard, or the creamy mild indulgence of mayonnaise?


Or you might be a texture person. Mustard potato salad has a firmer texture, because the mustard acts as a binding agent. Mayonnaise potato salad is typically softer. Experts claim mayo potato salad goes better with grilled fish or chicken, while the mustard variety is an excellent choice for picnics and barbecues where its bold flavor can go toe to toe with other dishes.


But can a respectable Southerner bring mayonnaise potato salad to a public event, without being run out of town bearing tar and feathers? My husband says no way, and he’ll bring the tar. I say don’t chance it.


Here’s John’s recipe for potato salad, with mustard of course:


3 lbs baby red potatoes

3 green onions (green parts)

½ cup olive oil

1 TB Dijon mustard

2 TB parsley

½ tsp black pepper

¼ cup lemon juice

2 TB fresh dill

1 tsp Kosher salt  


1) Add potatoes and a little salt to a large pot, and cover with water. 

2) Bring to a boil, and cook the potatoes until fork tender about 10—15 minutes.

3) Drain the potatoes, then place them back in the hot pot. This helps evaporate any water remaining.

4) While the potatoes are cooking, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, dill, parsley, 1 tsp salt, and pepper.

5) Place the warm drained potatoes in a large bowl. Add the diced green onions, drizzle the vinaigrette over and toss to coat evenly.


Jann Goar Franklin graduated Russellville High School in 1989. You can reach her at