This is the best potato salad recipe I’ve ever made. It’s everything you want in a classic American potato salad, chunky, tender potatoes, a creamy flavorful mayonnaise dressing and crunch and flavor from onions and pickle relish. First of let me tell you what this potato salad isn’t. It’s not a cloyingly sweet potato salad with indistinguishable pieces of mushy potatoes, that you typically pay way too much for at the deli counter. Potato salad is so easy to make at home and this one is the most frequently requested side for bbqs and potlucks I get. It truly is the most perfect side dish for any summertime party or picnic.
I got the original recipe about 15 years ago from a friend and have since adapted and made a few slight changes.
(This post was originally published on September 4th, 2011. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn commission on qualifying purchases.) First of all let’s get down to basics.
Russet white potatoes, red potatoes or yukon gold potatoes?
Russet potatoes have been around since the dawn of potato time. They are the go-to spud in just about every potato preparation. Yukon golds are admittedly a bit sexier with that lovely yellow flesh. And who doesn’t love a red new potato in spring? Each variety of potato has a purpose, but for a classic potato salad recipe opt for the humble russet potato. Why? Simple; russets are drier and will absorb the flavors best while warm. Because they’re drier, they’ll break down a bit while mixing resulting in a creamy potato salad with some nice chunks.
Should I peel the potatoes before or after boiling?
Peel potatoes before cooking, and here’s why. I’ve done it both ways and find that while unpeeled potatoes are easier to peel after cooking, they’re also often too hot to hold. And when removing the skins, it seems that more of the flesh clings to the skin resulting in a bit more wastage. Ok, so wait until they’re cool to peel them! Since russets absorb the most flavor while still warm it’s best to season the warm potatoes before they cool.
Potato salad ingredients
After the potatoes, (we’ve already decided on russets), the second most important ingredient is the mayonnaise. I know there a entire states in the south that would disagree with me on this, but plain mayonnaise is the clear winner over Miracle Whip or some other “mayonnaise-like” dressing. Those often have loads of extra sugar which will result in an overly sweet potato salad. Likewise skip the sour cream or Greek yogurt in the dressing. While I’m sure they’re delicious in a variety of preparations, this old fashioned potato salad recipe deserves plain old mayonnaise. I prefer an non-vegetable oil mayonnaise and opt for either avocado or olive oil based versions.
- 2 pounds russets potatoes.
- white vinegar. Not white wine or apple cider vinegar. White vinegar is the most neutral.
- Colman’s mustard. This is hands down my favorite mustard. It’s the only mustard I use for chicken salads or cole slaw. Save the Dijon mustard for salad dressings or pan sauces. Yellow mustard is great for hot dogs or burgers.
- Next comes the crunch: celery, red onion and green onions! Yes both red and green. I like both green, and red onion for the flavor, texture, and color they impart.
- Celery seed, not celery salt. They are not the same animal! If you don’t have celery seed, substitute the celery salt, but cut down on salt when seasoning the finished salad.
- Sweet relish. This is a classic potato salad ingredient. While dill pickles are delicious, and seemingly all the rage right now. The sweet pickle relish gives potato salad just the right amount of sweet and tang without being overpowering.
- Fresh parsley makes everything better! It gives the potato salad, flavor, crunch and color!
Next we’ll move on to the optional add-ins, starting with…
- Hard boiled eggs. I think there are definitely two camps for hard boiled eggs. I’ll be Switzerland and let you decide. Half of my family loves them, and the other half is indifferent. If I’m making potato salad for a large crowd, especially if the food will sit out for a few hours, I omit the hard boiled eggs.
- Dill is a spice that’s just as divisive as cilantro. Some love it, some hate it. My husband loves it, so I add a bit of fresh dill when I’m making it just for us, and omit it for a larger group.
Seasoning the potato salad
As with most recipes, I always season at least twice. Just like it’s imperative to salt the pasta water before bringing the water to a boil, the same applies to something as simple as making potato salad. This recipe will get seasoned four times; first when you salt the water, second when you add the white vinegar to the hot potatoes, third when you toss the warm potatoes with the dressing, and lastly, after it’s chilled for an hour.
How to make this classic recipe for potato salad
- Peel 2 pounds of russet potatoes. To keep them from going brown, I like to drop them in a bowl of cold water. Cut them into 3/4″ cubes.
- Chop the celery, red and green onions and fresh parsley.
- Place the cubed potatoes into a large saucepan fill with cold, salted water to cover the potatoes by 1″. Bring the potatoes to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, but not mushy, about 8 minutes.
- Drain the potatoes and transfer to a large bowl. I love this huge bowl for mixing potato salad and pasta salad. Nothing flies out!
- Add the white vinegar and toss the potatoes gently just to combine. The vinegar will absorb into potatoes while they are cooling. They will still be warm when tossed with the dressing.
- While the potatoes are cooling make the potato salad dressing by stirring together, celery, onions, relish, mayonnaise, mustard, celery seed, black pepper and kosher salt.
- Gently fold the dressing into the still warm potatoes. Cover and chill. At this point taste them again and correct seasoning, by adding more salt or pepper if necessary.
Potato salad is the perfect accompaniment to Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork Sliders.
Best Potato Salad Recipe
- 2 pounds russet potatoes peeled and cut into 3/4" cubes
- 2 Tablespoons white vinegar
- 1 stalk celery finely chopped, about 1/2 cup
- 2 Tablespoons red onion minced
- 3 Tablespoons sweet pickle relish
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 3/4 teaspoon Colman's dry mustard
- 3/4 teaspoon celery seed
- 4 bunches of green onions white and green part, sliced thinly
- 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley chopped finely
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons kosher salt (divided)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 large hard boiled eggs chopped.
- Peel potatoes a cut them into even sized pieces. In a large saucepan, cover potatoes with 1" water, bring to a boil, then add 1 Tablespoon kosher salt.
- Reduce heat to medium and simmer potatoes until tender, about 8 minutes.
- After draining the cooked potatoes, immediately put them in a large bowl and gently toss with vinegar. While the potatoes are cooling down, finish the dressing.
- Chop the celery rib fine, chop the green onions. Mince the red onion and chop the parsley.
- Place the celery, both kinds of onions, pickle relish, parsley, mayonnaise, mustard, celery seed, black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a large bowl and mix until blended.
- Fold dressing and chopped eggs (if using them) into still warm potatoes, gently folding until just mixed.
- Cover and chill at least one hour, then check potato salad for additional seasoning if necessary. Store any leftover potato salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Recipe can be doubled or tripled.
- Fresh dill weed is a delicious addition.
- Hard boiled eggs are optional.