Choose Your Own Cookout Salad Adventure

A flow chart for your Memorial Day side dish needs.

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By Tanya Sichynsky

I am not what you’d call a go-with-the-flow woman. I like structure, I like itineraries, I like contingency plans. That may be why, for a presumably straightforward question like, “What should I bring to the cookout this weekend?” I can think of no other way to respond than with a detailed, multi-answer flow chart. (“Finally, a flow I can go with,” I whisper to no one in particular.)

So when your Memorial Day potluck host inevitably tells you to “bring a salad or something,” start here:

Do you want to make a salad for a Memorial Day cookout?

If you answered no, check out our collection of vegetarian grilling recipes. I’m drawn to these grilled mushrooms with chive butter. If you answered yes …

Are you thinking pasta salad or potato salad?

If you’re not feeling either, try this vegan herby three-bean salad, which is filling and light all at once. If you want potato salad …

Would you consider yourself a potato salad purist?

If you answered yes, you’re going to want this pickle-y classic potato salad. But if you answered no …

Do you like your nontraditional potato salad herbaceous and green, or creamy and tangy?

For the herb lovers, say hello to this chive pesto potato salad that you can make ahead and, much like Memorial Day, acts as a bridge between spring and summer. And for the creamy hive, please make the acquaintance of this tangy tartar sauce potato salad! But if neither of those appeals …

We’re back to pasta salads. How do you feel about mayo with pasta?
If you’re into it, go all-in on macaroni salad with lemon and herbs, which is a livelier take on the midcentury standard thanks to capers, citrus zest and a little supplemental buttermilk. But if mayo gives you the ick …

Have you considered tahini?
This tahini-Parmesan pasta salad is nutty and savory, perfect for those who avoid heavy mayo-based dressings. (And if you’d like to make this salad vegan, try replacing the Parmesan with ⅓ cup nutritional yeast to start, as suggested by several readers in the recipe notes.)

And if neither mayo nor tahini do it for you, you may prefer something yogurt-based, like a green goddess pasta salad.

Herby Three-Bean Salad

View this recipe.

Chive Pesto Potato Salad

View this recipe.

Macaroni Salad With Lemon and Herbs

View this recipe.

One More Thing!

I am quite the walker: I’ll walk for hours and hours if the day allows, and my friends jokingly refer to their own long walks as “Tanyacore.” This Memorial Day, I’ve arranged a group excursion to walk Manhattan tip to tip. So the Well newsletter’s upcoming five-week subscriber-only walking series is extremely up my alley. The program kicks off on June 1, so sign up now for all of the motivation you need to get out the door.

And actually, make that two more things: I’d also like to point you to New York Times Audio, a new iOS app for New York Times news subscribers. It’s got Times articles narrated by our reporters, podcasts from This American Life, Serial Productions and The Athletic, and all New York Times podcasts — as well as a bunch of new shows we made just for the app. You can download it here.

Thanks for reading, and see you next week!

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