Ultimate Potato Salad Recipe
The perfect potato salad truly does exist, and it’s incredibly easy to make! This zesty Potato Salad is my FAVORITE cookout recipe. Plus added tips on how to get the perfect potato texture, prevent a “wet” potato salad, and more!
This Potato Salad recipe is one of those recipes we have with so many of our family potlucks and bbq’s. We also love easy summer recipes like my Classic Pasta Salad and Smoked Chicken Wings. This is one of my Side Dishes recipes I know you’ll want to keep on hand!
POTATO SALAD RECIPE
My version of potato salad has many nods to the classic version, with a creamy dressing, crunchy diced celery, diced hard-boiled eggs, and crisp sweet pickles.
It also has plenty of crunchy bacon, and I have a secret way to make the potatoes themselves incredibly flavorful, and never wet and mushy!
This is one of those recipes that I kept meaning to get up here on the blog, and somehow it always got pushed to the proverbial back burner.
I’d get new recipe ideas, or a great sponsored post and here we are about 9 months from when I wanted to post it!
Potato salad has always been something I was intimidated by. I’d made it a few times, and it always seemed a bit wet, mushy, and every recipe I tried was LOADED with mayo. I like mayo, but even I thought it was too much!
So I’ve been on a mission to make a potato salad that was worthy of the “perfect” title… and I’ve got it!
HOW TO MAKE PERFECT POTATO SALAD
- Boil potatoes and season. Once potatoes are boiling, add salt and stir. This flavors the potatoes from the inside out. Basically you want to do the same thing that you would do for pasta.
- Drain potatoes. Once you’ve drained the potatoes in a colander, return the potatoes to the same pot you boiled them in (with the burner off). This eliminates the excess water that’s in the potatoes and prevents a wet potato salad!
- Add vinegar. When the potatoes are in the pot after draining, toss them with a little vinegar. I usually use apple cider vinegar because it has a more mild flavor. After you add it, the potatoes will smell REALLY strongly of vinegar, but that’s okay, once they’re tossed with the dressing, it all mellows out in to a wonderful creamy, slightly tangy flavor that keeps you coming back for more!
- Return potatoes to colander and make dressing. Returning the potatoes to the colander allows them to continue cooling. I like to whisk my dressing in a large bowl that I can make the whole potato salad in (less bowls to wash later).
- Assemble potato salad. Combine cooled potatoes, eggs, onion, celery, pickles, and bacon. Stir to combine well.
- Chill. Cover potato salad tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours.
ADDITIONAL COOKING TIPS/COMMON QUESTIONS
Even though making potato salad is easier than you may think, there are some extra tips and tricks that are definitely handy to know!
THE BEST KIND OF POTATOES FOR POTATO SALAD
I’ve found that waxier potatoes seem to hold up better and not be as mushy. Starchy potatoes, like russets, break down a lot when cooked and they can make for a potato salad that is almost like mashed potatoes.
Baby red potatoes, baby Yukon gold, or baby white potatoes are my go-to’s. Actually you don’t have to get the “baby” or “petite” varieties, I just like to because there’s less chopping involved!
HOW TO AVOID A “WET” POTATO SALAD
Since the potatoes are boiled, they’re naturally water-logged. There’s a simple two step process to avoid all that excess water going into your potato salad.
- Drain potatoes in a colander. Shake them a few times to get excess water out, then transfer potatoes right back into the pot you cooked them in, on the stove (with the burner off). The hot pan eliminates the extra water for you! In this recipe, this is where you’d add the vinegar and give them a stir. Let potatoes sit for about a minute or so, stirring occasionally.
- Transfer the potatoes back to the colander to cool.
HOW TO COOK POTATOES FOR POTATO SALAD
Traditionally they’re boiled, as they are for this recipe as well. Add all cut potatoes to a pot, cover with water (about an inch above the tops of the potatoes), and bring to a boil over MED-HIGH heat.
Once they’re boiling, adjust the heat so the potatoes are at a low-boil… meaning they’re boiling, just not vigorously. The foam created by boiling potatoes can boil over quickly, and it’s a starchy mess to clean up, so keep an eye on them. Boil about 10-15 minutes, until you can easily pierce one potato piece with a fork.
VARIATIONS OF THIS RECIPE
- NO BACON GREASE – during my testing, I found using bacon grease in the dressing REALLY made the dressing “pop” and stand out from all the rest, but if you’re opposed to using it, you can omit it. I’d try replacing the bacon grease with a tablespoon or two of pickle juice for a different flavor!
- SOUR CREAM – several of you have reached out about adding sour cream to this potato salad, so if you wanted to give that a try, I’d add 1/4 cup sour cream and reduce the mayo down to 1/2 cup.
- LESS BACON – we’re huge bacon fans around here, but if you’d prefer to use less bacon, absolutely feel free to use as little bacon as you’d like.
- GREEN ONIONS – if you’re not a huge fan of red onions, you can omit them from the recipe and just stir in some chopped green onions. Without any onion flavor at all, I feel the salad lacks a flavor punch.
MAKING POTATO SALAD AHEAD OF TIME
Potato salad is a great make-ahead recipe. In fact, just like my skinny coleslaw recipe, it’s better if you DO make it ahead of time. All the flavors really combine together.
I usually make my potato salad the night before, or early in the morning the day we want it for dinner.
Since this is a mayo-based potato salad, you want to try to keep it cool and refrigerate it as soon as people are done eating.
I like to take a huge plastic punch bowl, fill it about halfway with ice, then nestle my bowl of potato salad down in it to keep it cool!
Just be careful not to push the potato salad bowl down too much, you don’t want ice getting in the salad.
Potato salad should be refrigerated in an airtight container and consumed within 3-4 days.
SPECIAL EQUIPMENT FOR THIS RECIPE
- Enameled cast iron pot – this pot keeps a beautiful even heat, which means potatoes come out evenly perfect every time!
- Mixing bowl – I love the easy clean up, no-slip bottoms, and they have lids!
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AND DON’T FORGET, IF YOU’VE MADE THIS RECIPE, LEAVE A COMMENT AND PLEASE GIVE IT A STAR RATING LETTING ME KNOW HOW YOU ENJOYED IT!
Recipe originally published in 2018 and has been updated in 2020 with additional information.
Perfect Potluck Potato Salad
- 1 1/2 lbs petite (or baby) red or white potatoes, cut into 4ths
- 2 1/2 tsp kosher salt, divided
- 2-3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 12 oz package of bacon, cooked and crumbled
- 3-4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1/2 small red onion, peeled and finely diced
- 1/4 cup finely diced celery (2-3 stalks)
- 1/4 cup finely chopped sweet pickles (or a few tablespoons of sweet pickle relish)
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 Tbsp whole-grain dijon mustard
- 2 Tbsp bacon grease (optional, but highly recommended)
- 2 tsp granulated sugar
- pinch ground celery seed
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- Add sliced potatoes to a large saucepan. Cover with cold water, about an inch above the tops of the potatoes. Bring to a boil over MED-HIGH heat. Covering the pan helps this happen faster, but pay attention that it doesn't boil over!!
- Once boiling, add 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt and stir. Boil, for 10-15 minutes, until potatoes are fork tender. Watch out for the foam on top of the water, it can boil over if you're not careful. Adjust the heat so that the potatoes are still boiling, but not so hot that they're roaring.
- Drain potatoes in a colander, then return potatoes to the same hot pot you boiled them in. Add vinegar and stir to combine. Let sit a minute or two, then return to the colander to cool slightly.
- While potatoes are cooling, add dressing ingredients plus remaining 1 tsp kosher salt to a large mixing bowl. Whisk together and set aside.
- Chop eggs, red onion, celery and pickles. Add cooked potatoes to the dressing in the mixing bowl and top with chopped eggs, onion, celery, pickles and crumbled bacon.
- Gently stir it all together, until well combined. Cover tightly and refrigerate until cold, at least 3-4 hours.