Best American Potato Salad Recipe

4.55 from 311 votes
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This is my go-to potato salad recipe for summer barbecues and family picnics. I use russet potatoes, fresh ingredients, and classic pantry staples to make this tasty side dish.

Potato salad recipe perfect for summer barbecues and picnics.

Recipe Science

  • Russet potatoes, with their higher starch content, provide a crumbly texture that boosts the creaminess of potato salad.
  • Start cooking the potatoes in cold water and gradually increase the temperature to prevent excessive breakdown.
  • Distilled white vinegar permeates each potato, adding acidity to the mild potatoes and balancing the creamy richness of the dressing.

Why It Works

Grilled burgers at a BBQ are not complete without a side of creamy potato salad. To maximize the taste of the spuds, I boil them first and then marinate them in vinegar. This simple step seasons them throughout, not just on the surface.

Russet potatoes yield a flaky and creamy texture, making them an ideal base for the recipe. A mix of hard-boiled eggs, crunchy vegetables, and simple, bold pantry seasonings elevates the flavor. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to make. Plus, you can prepare it in advance to save time on the day of serving.

Ingredients You’ll Need

Potato salad recipe ingredients on a marble table.
  • Potatoes: Russet potatoes are the root vegetable of choice because they have a mealy texture due to the higher starch level. When they cook, you can sense a more crumbly and flaky texture that adds to the potato salad’s creaminess, just like homemade mashed potatoes.
  • Vinegar: Distilled white vinegar infuses each piece, giving the mild potatoes some acidity and balancing the rich dressing’s creaminess.
  • Mayonnaise: The creamy base for the potato salad sauce.
  • Mustard: Yellow mustard adds the characteristic pungent flavor to the salad and a hint of color.
  • Vegetables: Add a crunchy combination of diced celery, tangy dill pickle relish, diced red onion, and freshly chopped parsley.
  • Eggs: A few chopped hardboiled eggs add texture and richness from the yolks.
  • Seasoning: The potatoes are seasoned with salt water, and then again when making the salad. I also add black pepper and onion powder to enhance the savory taste.

See the recipe card below for all ingredients and measurements (US and metric).

Ingredient Substitutions

Now that you have the base for a classic potato salad, feel free to switch up the flavor!

  • Potato Options: Other types of potatoes can be used for a heartier and denser consistency. Use waxy types of potatoes. I prefer Yukon gold potatoes, which have a buttery taste, or red potatoes. They have a higher sugar level, allowing them to hold their shape better when mixed, but they will be less creamy.
  • Vinegar Swap: Substitute apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar for a milder taste.
  • Mayonnaise Substitute: Use this recipe as a base to make a healthy potato salad with yogurt, like Greek yogurt or plain unstrained. Sour cream works well, too.
  • Mustard: Add Dijon mustard for a milder pungency or whole grain mustard for a burst of flavor.
  • Relish: For a sweeter taste, add sweet pickle relish or add some honey with the dill relish.
  • Seasoning: Feel free to sprinkle in some whole celery seeds, capers, or a few teaspoons of pickle juice. Make it spicy with cayenne or chipotle powder. Add sriracha or chili oil.
  • Vegetables: Add sliced green onions, chives, pickled red onions, shredded carrots, cucumber, or avocado.
  • Fruit: Add pineapple chunks or diced apples for a hint of sweetness.
  • Protein: In addition to the eggs, add diced ham, smoky bacon, or tuna.

How to Make Potato Salad

Person using a Y-peeler to remove the skin from a russet potato.

Step 1: Prepare the Potatoes

Peel the potatoes to remove the skin, providing a smooth texture.

Person using a chef's knife to dice a piece of peeled potato into cubes.

Cut into uniform ¾-inch dice pieces to ensure even cooking.

Pro Tip: Consistent sizing also helps the potatoes absorb the dressing uniformly, enhancing the overall flavor of the salad.

Cubes of potatoes being added to a pot of boiling water.

Step 2: Cook the Potatoes 

Start the potatoes in salted, cold water. Bring the water to a boil and reduce to a simmer. This process allows the salt flavor to be absorbed and gives the potatoes an evenly cooked texture. However, don’t overcook!

Tips for Perfect Execution: The potatoes should be fork-tender but still hold together when pierced so they don’t fall apart entirely when mixed. I like to check every few minutes. Once simmering, the potatoes take about 10 minutes to cook.

Draining chunks of potatoes in a colander.

Step 3: Marinate with Vinegar

Drain the potatoes and return them to the warm pot. When the potatoes are warm, they absorb flavor better.

Tossing vinegar and cooked potato cubes with a rubber spatula.

Right after cooking, toss in two tablespoons of distilled white vinegar, stir, and allow it to sit for 20 minutes.

Chopped onions, celery and pieces of potatoes and eggs in a white bowl.

Step 4: Combine the Ingredients
In a large bowl, combine the cooked potatoes, mayonnaise, celery, relish, onion, parsley, mustard, salt, black pepper, onion powder, and chopped eggs. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper according to your taste preferences.

Experimentation Encouraged: For a Hawaiian-inspired potato salad, add chopped ham, pineapple, and Fuji apples. Don’t be afraid to play around to find your favorite combination!

Large chunks of potato salad with sliced egg in a white bowl

Step 5: Chill, then Serve 
Cover the potato salad and place it in the refrigerator to chill for approximately one hour before serving. If you prefer, garnish with additional parsley, celery, and onion.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is classic potato salad made of?

The classic ingredients for potato salad are hard-boiled eggs, mayonnaise, mustard, pickle relish, chopped red onion, and celery. I usually skip the miracle whip and make homemade mayonnaise. I also use salt, pepper, and onion powder for seasoning. These elements create a balance of creaminess, tangy, and crunchy textures. Add some sweet or smoked paprika for a southern-style potato salad.

Which type of potato is best for potato salad?

The best type of potato for potato salad is the Russet variety. Their higher starch content gives them a mealy texture, resulting in a crumbly and flaky consistency when cooked, which enhances the salad’s creaminess. However, if you opt for waxy potatoes like Yukon Gold, you’ll get a smoother texture with firmer chunks, which can also be delightful in potato salad.

Should you start cooking the potatoes in cold or hot water?

Start the potatoes in cold water, then gradually increase the temperature for even cooking. This process prevents the outsides from cooking too fast. If not done correctly, the spuds can break down too much, which might be okay for mashed potatoes, but not when you want to retain chunks for the salad.

Should potatoes cool before adding the mayonnaise?

For optimal texture and flavor in your potato salad, it’s best to let the potatoes cool before adding the mayonnaise. Cooling allows the potatoes to firm up slightly, preventing them from becoming mushy when mixed with the creamy dressing. Additionally, it prevents the emulsified egg and oil in the mayonnaise from separating, ensuring a cohesive and smooth consistency.

Can the potato salad be prepared ahead of time?

Prepare and store this dish in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Freeze portions in a resealable plastic bag for up to 1 month. Spread in a thin layer, remove all of the air, and seal. Defrost in the refrigerator a day before using. I like to chop some fresh onions and parsley to garnish the top right before serving.

More Potato Salads

If you tried this Potato Salad recipe, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it went in the 📝 comments below!

Best Potato Salad Recipe

Homemade potato salad recipe that's perfect for summer barbecues and family picnics. This tasty side dish will be the talk of the party.
4.55 from 311 votes
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time40 minutes
Servings 10 servings
Course Side
Cuisine American

Ingredients 
 

  • 2 pounds russet potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, for cooking
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar, or apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup celery, ⅛" dice
  • ¼ cup dill pickle relish, or sweet pickle relish
  • 2 tablespoons red onions, ⅛" dice
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • 1 ½ teaspoons yellow mustard, or Dijon
  • ¾ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, ¼" dice

Instructions 

  • Prepare the PotatoesPeel the skin off the potatoes and cut them into ¾-inch cubes. Immediately place them in a large saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover them by 1 inch.
  • Cook the Potatoes – Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Once it starts to bubble, add 1 tablespoon salt and stir to dissolve. Reduce to a simmer over medium heat, adjusting as needed. Stir occasionally and cook until the potatoes are fork-tender but not falling apart, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Marinate with Vinegar – Drain the potatoes in a colander and transfer them back to the warm pot. Add the vinegar and use a rubber spatula to combine. Let it sit and marinate for 20 minutes. The potatoes will still be warm.
  • Combine the Ingredients – In a large bowl, gently stir together the potatoes, mayonnaise, celery, relish, onion, parsley, mustard, ¾ teaspoon salt, black pepper, onion powder, and chopped eggs. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Chill then Serve – Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour before serving. Garnish with more parsley, celery, and onion if desired.

Recipe Video

YouTube video

Notes

  • Recipe Yield: About 5 cups
  • Serving Size: ½ cup
  • Storing: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
  • Freezing: Store in a resealable plastic bag for up to 1 month. Press into a flat layer, remove all of the air, and seal. Defrost in the refrigerator a day before serving.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 10 servings
Calories 193kcal (10%)Carbohydrates 21g (7%)Protein 4g (8%)Fat 11g (17%)Saturated Fat 2g (10%)Trans Fat 1gCholesterol 42mg (14%)Sodium 347mg (14%)Potassium 486mg (14%)Fiber 2g (8%)Sugar 1g (1%)Vitamin A 142IU (3%)Vitamin C 7mg (8%)Calcium 118mg (12%)Iron 4mg (22%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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97 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. ChrisK says

    I made this recipe exactly as written EXCEPT: I didn’t have (and don’t like) pickle relish, so I used dill pickles instead, finely diced. This recipe is exactly what I think of when I want “American potato salad.” Thank you!

  2. Dona says

    This was delicious! My husband (who rarely unprompted praises food I make) said it was “solid” and one of the best potato salads I have ever made. He especially liked the vinegar on the warm potatoes. I’m definitely going to make this again.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      What a huge compliment! I’m glad to hear that your family enjoyed the potato salad recipe.

  3. Judy says

    Once again my go to potato salad. Turns out wonderful every time. I just made a batch for my husband to take to the men’s Bible study BBQ tomorrow night. Jessica you are always the first place and last place for me for recipes that please. XO Judy

  4. Judy says

    This is the best potato salad recipe. Each amount is precise to get the most flavor. I have made this many times and I just added it to my Recipe Keeper. I printed it and I am making it AGAIN – smile for Sunday night when our son and his buddy show up for a weeks visit. They are coming from different states and his friend is bring a freshly smoked brisket for dinner that night. I’ve invited the family over and I know everyone is going to love this potato salad.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you so much, Judy! It sounds like you have an exciting and delicious weekend planned with family. Have a great time!

  5. Melony Beaird says

    Best potato salad!!! I made it this past weekend and didn’t even have all the ingredients and it was fabulous! I can’t wait to make it again. Who knew adding vinegar (and pickle juice) to the potatoes would be life changing! 🙂

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