German Potato Salad

This hot German potato salad recipe is the ultimate simple, tangy, smoky, and sweet side for every occasion from dinner, to potlucks, to cookouts, to holidays and everything in between!

This German potato salad is a must-have-recipe for your fabulous side dish repertoire. It’s made with tender, red potatoes dressed in warm, tangy, mustard and bacon vinaigrette loaded with crispy bacon and fresh herbs. It’s best served warm to maximize the vinegar, crispy bacon punch, but is also delicious served room temperature for convenience. This German potato salad recipe is super easy to make by cooking bacon in a skillet, sautéing onions in the bacon drippings, then adding chicken broth, vinegar and sugar to simmer and reduce to make the dressing.  Stir in the boiled red potatoes while their still hot to drink up the sassy, lip-puckering, grainy mustard, bacon-studded dressing and watch it disappear!

I love potatoes in all shapes and sizes, from my kicked up Potato Salad to my Potatoes Au Gratin with Bacon, Company Mashed Potatoes, and Twice Baked Potatoes, but I especially love how quick and easy this German Potato Salad is, and you will too!

hot German potato salad in a white bowl

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German Potato Salad Recipe

My mom’s side of the family is German so I know my way around a tasty, tangy, salty-sweet-savory German potato salad swaddled in a bacon, onions and vinegar – it just doesn’t get any bolder or better!  Hot German potato salad should be proud and punchy from the mustard, puckery from the vinegar, smoky from the bacon with a balancing sweetness from the sugar and onions – but not too sweet.  When everything is combined, you won’t be able to get enough of the harmonious layers of can’t-stop, don’t-want-to-stop intoxicating flavor, soft-crispy textures and bacon on bacon flavor. In case you still need some persuading, here are are some recipe highlights:

Why make this recipe:

  • Simple: uses only a few, simple ingredients but is exploding with spunky flavor
  • Easy:  if you can boil potatoes and stir bacon, you can make this recipe!
  • Quick: the entire recipe takes less than 45 minutes to make from start to finish
  • No heavy on the mayo dressings here! This German potato salad is made with a part bacon dripping, part chicken broth vinaigrette that seeps into the potatoes for a lightly dressed yet rich tasting side
  • Tastes great with everything:  what goes better with dinner than warm German potato salad studded bacon?!  It’s the answer to what should I serve with______? because it goes with practically everything, and everyone loves it!
  • Belongs on your table 365 days a year:  it’s not just a summer recipe, but a Thanksgiving recipe, Christmas recipe, Easter recipe, every day recipe!
  • Make ahead friendly:  it tastes fabulous reheated for the ideal make ahead side

Why this recipe works:

Many German potato salad recipes share some common pitfalls, but I’ve perfected the recipe to create a foolproof recipe every time:

  • The potatoes don’t disintegrate:  small red potatoes are cooked just until tender so they don’t fall apart
  • The potatoes are flavorful:  the potatoes are cut in half and cooked in heavily salted water instead of being cooked whole and slicing afterwards
  • The bacon isn’t lost: plenty of thick cut bacon is added so it doesn’t become soft and get lost in the salad
  • The dressing is flavorful: party of the rendered bacon fat is used in the dressing along with chicken broth instead of water, apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar, whole grain mustard, sugar, and seasonings
  • The dressing is reduced: the bacon fat, broth and vinegar simmer and reduce for maximum flavor and then coat the potatoes so the German potato salad is light yet almost creamy
top view of German potato salad recipe in a cast iron skillet

WHere IS GERMAN POTATO SALAD from?

I love potatoes so it’s hard to fathom a time when potatoes weren’t a welcome addition to every table! The potato was cultivated in modern-day southern Peru and northwestern Bolivia between 8,000 and 5,000 BC.  The potato was brought to Europe in the 1500s, but most Europeans refused to eat the new crop.  It was distrusted and feared to be poisonous, nicknamed “the devil’s apples.”   At first, potatoes were mostly used for non-food purposes and then only consumed by the poor, the ill and the prisoners.  In fact, potatoes were barred from large-scale cultivation until the 1700s.

Eventually, agriculturalists in Europe found potatoes easier to grow and cultivate than other staple crops, such as wheat and oats. Most importantly, it became known that potatoes contained most of the vitamins needed for sustenance.  When much of Germany’s (then Prussia) crops failed in the 1750s, King Frederick the Great changed the laws and promptly promoted the rapid conversion of fallow land into potato fields and the popularity of the potato swept across Europe. 

As the popularity of the potato spread, so did its uses.  In the Bavarian region of southern Germany, potato salad was created as a way of using up leftover roasted or boiled potatoes.  Inexpensive ham or bacon were added, and the drippings were combined with vinegar to make the dressing.  Today, you will encounter different types of potato salad all across Bavaria, from neighbor to neighbor and city to city but they all have one thing in common = bacon drippings and vinegar dressing!

Ingredients in German Potato Salad

Here’s what you need to make this hot German Potato Salad:

  • Red potatoes:  we don’t have the exact potatoes in the US that they use in Germany, but waxy red potatoes will do the trick. Don’t use starchy potatoes such as russets, because they can fall apart easily in your salad. I prefer small red potatoes so I can just cut them in half to create the perfect bite. If you choose large potatoes, you’ll want to quarter them.  If you can’t get your hands on red potatoes, other waxy potatoes such as Yukon Gold, New Potatoes, French fingerling, Red Bliss, baby potatoes, creamers, Red Adirondack, and Russian Banana will work.
  • Bacon:  is a must! Not only is the grease used in the dressing but the bacon is used in the salad as well. Please use thick cut bacon 1) so the bacon doesn’t get lost and retains its meaty texture when enveloped in the dressing and 2) so there’s enough fat for the dressing.  If you use thin bacon or turkey bacon, you won’t have enough fat so you’ll likely have to supplement the vinaigrette with oil and the salad won’t be as flavorful.
  • Onion:  half one yellow onion please. It’s sautéed in the bacon fat to form the aromatic base of the dressing.  Dice the onion quite small so it evenly disperses throughout the salad.
  • Garlic: adds an oomph of flavor.  You may also substitute fresh garlic with ½ teaspoon garlic powder.
  • Apple cider vinegar:  I prefer the more mellow, fruity flavor of apple cider vinegar as opposed to plain white vinegar.  If you only have white vinegar, I suggest starting with a little less and adding more to taste if needed.
  • Sugar:  granulated sugar to balance the vinegar, but not to make the salad too sweet.  The salad should be more tangy and savory than sweet. Still, if you want a sweeter salad, add more sugar as desired.
  • Mustard:  coarse, whole grain, or stoneground mustard is best, but you can substitute Dijon in a pinch, but please do NOT use American yellow deli mustard!
  • Chicken broth: is added to the bacon grease and onion to form the dressing.  Chicken broth has more flavor than water so it makes the best dressing.  You may also use beef broth if that’s what you have on hand.
  • Seasonings: you know how I love my seasonings, but paprika, salt and pepper are all that’s needed to create this flavor exploding German potato salad.
  • Herbs: any combination of fresh parsley, dill and chives.  If you don’t have any fresh herbs, start with ½ tablespoon dried and add to taste. 
showing how to make German potato salad by tossing the potatoes with the dressing and bacon in a skillet

possible recipe VARIATIONS

  • Swap vinegar:  swap the apple cider vinegar for white vinegar but start with HALF the amount and add more to taste.
  • Swap chicken broth:  use beef broth instead of chicken broth for a more pronounced beefy flavor.
  • Swap onion:  use red onion instead of yellow onion for a sweeter flavor. You can also use an equal amount of shallots.
  • Add dill:  when adding the fresh herbs, use all dill to make the salad more dill forward.
  • Use different seasonings: you can season the German potato salad with virtually any spice blend- it just won’t taste like classic German potato salad 😉.  Add Italian seasonings, Cajun seasoning, chili powder, ground cumin, red chili flakes, etc.
  • Add cheese: stir in freshly grated Parmesan and omit the salt.  Season with salt to taste.
  • Add veggies:  again, not traditional, but you can add sautéed vegetables such as bell peppers, celery, broccoli, mushrooms, etc.

HOW TO MAKE german POTATO SALAD

You are going to love how easy this hot German potato salad is to make – let’s get cooking! (Full recipe with measurements at the bottom of the post.)

  • Step 1: boil the potatoes. Add potatoes to a large saucepan/Dutch oven and fill with water until it reaches above the potatoes.  I like to cover the pot so it comes to a boil more quickly. As soon as it’s boiling, remove the lid, and season with 1 tablespoon salt. Reduce the heat and continue to simmer until the potatoes are fork tender, about 10 minutes.  Once tender, drain the potatoes, set aside. 
showing how to make German potato salad recipe by boiling potatoes in a white Dutch oven
  • Step 2: cook the bacon.  While the potatoes are simmering, cook the chopped bacon.  To cook bacon, start it in a large, cold/unheated cast iron skillet without any oil.  Increase heat to medium and cook until browned and crispy, stirring occasionally, about 6-7 minutes. 
showing how to make hot German potato salad by cooking bacon pieces in a cast iron skillet until crispy
  • Step 3: make the vinaigrette.  Add the diced onions to the bacon grease and cook over medium heat until softened, about 4-5 minutes.   Add garlic and sauté 30 seconds. Reduce heat to low and stir in chicken broth, apple cider vinegar, mustard, sugar and seasonings.  Cook for about 5-7 minutes or until the dressing has reduced and most of the liquid is evaporated.
a collage showing how to make warm German potato salad recipe by sautéing onions, then simmering with apple cider vinegar, mustard, and chicken broth until reduced

Step 4:  combine.  Add the potatoes, bacon and fresh herbs to the skillet with the dressing and toss until evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

showing how to make hot German potato salad by adding potatoes, bacon, and parsley to the bacon vinaigrette

Expert Tips to make the best German potato salad recipe

  • Use uniform potatoes. When selecting the potatoes, hand-pick them as opposed to grabbing a bag so you can select potatoes of similar size so they cook in the same amount of time. Be sure to cut the potatoes into similar sizes as well.  
  • Scrub those potatoes before you boil them.  This is especially important because the potatoes are sliced before cooking – you don’t water dirty water permeating the potatoes.
  • Start potatoes in cold water.  You want to add your potatoes to cold water before bringing them to a boil.  If you add the potatoes to boiling water, the outsides will cook immediately and be mushy by the times the insides are done.  By bringing the potatoes to a boil with the water, they cook evenly to perfect melt in your mouth consistency.
  • Salt the water.  By adding salt to the boiling water, you are instantly infusing your potatoes with flavor from the inside out that simply isn’t achievable any other way.
  • Don’t overcook the potatoes.  The potatoes will continue to cook once they’re removed from the heat, so take care not to over-cook them.  You want them barely fork tender.  No fancy tips on getting this right, especially as cooking times will vary, so just test your potatoes often.
  • Add potatoes back to the pot.  After the potatoes are cooked and drained, add them back to the hot, drained, pot. This keeps the potatoes warm and lets them steam dry.  The steaming opens the cellular structure of the potatoes and helps them better absorb the vinaigrette.
  • Use a cast iron skillet to cook the bacon.  A cast iron skillet, unlike a nonstick skillet, will allow the bacon to form a caramelized bits on the skillet bottom.  This will result in a richer tasting dressing and a more flavorful salad.
  • Use a sharp knife to cut the bacon.  This will make it much easier to slice.
  • Use a coarse ground or stoneground mustard.  These mustards boast texture in addition to deep flavor that you won’t get from yellow, brown or smooth Dijon mustard.
  • Add the dressing while warm. Toss the potatoes with the dressing while they are both still warm so the potatoes can absorb some of the vinaigrette and be more flavorful.
  • Be very gentle when stirring the potatoes into the dressing. Otherwise, your dish may end up looking more like mashed potatoes
  • The German potato salad should be moist but not wet.    Reduce the vinaigrette until most of the liquid is evaporated.  If the salad is dry, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil
  • Add fresh herbs.  Fresh herbs cut through the robust salad.  Don’t use more than a couple tablespoons so the bacon vinaigrette remains the star.
  • Season to taste.  If the hot German potato salad is missing something, it is salt or pepper, so make sure to season to taste after you add the bacon.  You can also make the salad tangier by adding additional vinegar or sweeter by adding sugar.
showing how to serve warm German potato salad by adding to a bowl and garnishing with parsley, dill and chives

is german potato salad served HOT OR COLD?

German potato salad is best served warm to fully enjoy the big bold flavors of the vinegar and bacon, although it can also be served room temperature or cold, but cold would be my last choice. Because the potato salad is also tasty at room temperature, you don’t have to stress taking it to a potluck where it will cool down before everyone digs in.

How to store leftovers

German potato salad keeps for about 4 days in the refrigerator either covered in plastic wrap or stored in an airtight container. 

What is the best way to reheat German potato salad?

You can let the salad come to room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving or gently heat it in a skillet over medium-low heat.  If it seems dry, add a drizzle of olive oil. You may also reheat small servings in the microwave for 30 seconds, stir, then continue to heat at 20 second intervals until warmed through.

How to make ahead

If you are making the warm German potato salad ahead, hold the bacon so you can gently rewarm the potato salad before serving, then stir in the bacon once warmed so it remains crispy. If the salad seems a little dry, drizzle with some olive oil.

Warm German potato salad FAQs

What is the difference between German potato salad and American potato salad?

Southern German potato salad is completely different than American potato salad- the only thing they have in common are the boiled potatoes! American Potato Salad is a cold potato salad dressed in a mayonnaise-based dressing often with mustard, relish, celery and eggs.  The term “German Potato Salad,” in America is used to describe our Americanized version of potato salad from the Bavarian region of southern Germany. It is a warm potato salad dressed with a vinaigrette made from bacon drippings, vinegar, mustard, sugar and onions tossed with the potatoes while they are still warm so they absorb the flavor. Potato Salad from northern Germany would commonly include mayonnaise and be quite similar to our mayonnaise-based American potato salad.

What is German potato salad called in German?

Kartoffelsalat is the name of German Potato Salad in the German language.

What is hot German potato salad?

Hot German potato salad is referring to Bavarian German potato salad that is best served warm (as shared here today) as opposed to German potato salad from northern Germany which is more similar to our American potato salad and is served cold.

What are the best potatoes for German potato salad?

You can use any waxy potatoes for German potato salad.  These thin-skinned potatoes have the least amount of starch and retain their shape well when boiled.   Thin skins also mean that peeling is optional. Examples are red, new, or fingerling potatoes.

Is it better to boil potatoes whole or cut up for potato salad?

It’s better to boil the potatoes halved or quartered so they cook more evenly and soak up more flavor from the salted water.

How Long to Cook Potatoes for Potato Salad?

You’ll want to bring the potatoes to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium so that the water is still gently bubbling.  Cook the potatoes for 8-12 minutes or until they easily pierce with a fork.  Immediately drain the potatoes to prevent them from continuing to cook and becoming too soft.

How long can potato salad sit out?

Although German potato salad doesn’t contain mayonnaise, it should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours before serving.  If it won’t be consumed within two hours, hold the bacon, refrigerate and gently reheat before adding the bacon and serving. 

Is German potato salad better the next day?

German potato salad is more flavorful if prepared the day ahead and served the next day so the potatoes have more time to soak up the dressing.  If serving the next day, hold the bacon and stir in when serving. 

Can I freeze potato salad?

Sadly no.  Potatoes do not freeze well, and become mushy when thawed.

top view of warm German potato salad in a white bowl garnished with parsley

What does German potato salad go with?

In Germany, potato salad is served as a side dish to their other popular dishes such as schnitzel (veal, pork, chicken, mutton, beef, or turkey pounded thin, battered and deep fried), bratwurst (grilled sausage), schweinshaxe (pork knuckle) Bavarian leberkäse (sausage meatloaf), brathering (marinated fried herring), frikadelle (flat, pan-fried meatballs), schweinebraten (German pork roast) and on and on.  Many Germans eat potato salad on Christmas Eve as well.

In the US, German potato salad is a popular dish for the holidays as well as to bring to any BBQ or potluck because it is tasty at room temperature.  Try it with some of these tasty main dishes:

up close of a spoonful of German potato salad showing how crispy the bacon is

German Potato Salad

This German potato salad is a must-have-recipe for your fabulous side dish repertoire. It’s made with tender, red potatoes dressed in warm, tangy, mustard and bacon vinaigrette loaded with crispy bacon and fresh herbs. It’s best served warm to maximize the vinegar, crispy bacon punch, but is also delicious served room temperature for convenience. This German potato salad recipe is super easy to make by cooking bacon in a skillet, sautéing onions in the bacon drippings, then adding chicken broth, vinegar and sugar to simmer and reduce to make the dressing.  Stir in the boiled red potatoes while their still hot to drink up the sassy, lip-puckering, grainy mustard, bacon-studded dressing and watch it disappear!
Servings: 6 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds small red potatoes, halved, quartered if large
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 12 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch strips
  • ½ large yellow onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup low sodium chicken broth
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 ½ tablespoon whole grain, coarse or stoneground mustard
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ tsp EACH salt, paprika
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs: parsley, dill and/or chives

Instructions

Cook Potatoes

  • Add potatoes to a large saucepan/Dutch oven and fill with water until it reaches 1 ½ inches above the potatoes. Cover and bring the water to a boil over high heat. As soon as it’s boiling, remove the lid, and season with 1 tablespoon salt.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and continue to simmer until the potatoes are just fork tender, about 8-12 minutes. (Meanwhile, cook the bacon/make the dressing below.) Don't overcook the potatoes or they will fall apart in the salad. Once tender, drain the potatoes, then return the potatoes back to the same dried pot to stay warm.

Make Dressing

  • While the potatoes are simmering, cook the chopped bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until browned and crispy, stirring occasionally (about 6-7 minutes). Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked bacon to a paper-towel lined plate; set aside.
  • Add the diced onions to the bacon grease and cook over medium heat until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté 30 seconds.
  • Reduce heat to low and stir in chicken broth, apple cider vinegar, mustard, sugar and seasonings. Cook for about 5-7 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. The dressing should be moist but not wet.

Combine

  • Add the potatoes, bacon and fresh herbs to the skillet with the dressing and toss until evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste. . If salad seems dry, toss in a little more olive oil or chicken broth. Serve warm.

Notes

  • Thick cut bacon is a must otherwise the bacon will get lost and there won’t be enough bacon grease for the dressing.
  • Scrub those potatoes before you boil them.  You don’t water dirty water permeating the potatoes.
  • Use a cast iron skillet to cook the bacon (if you have one).  A cast iron skillet, unlike a nonstick skillet, will allow the bacon to form a caramelized bits on the skillet bottom.  This will result in a richer tasting dressing and a more flavorful salad.
  • Add the dressing while warm. Toss the potatoes with the dressing while they are both still warm so the potatoes can absorb some of the vinaigrette and be more flavorful.
  • Serve warm. German potato salad is best served warm to fully enjoy the big bold flavors of the vinegar and bacon, although it can also be served room temperature or cold, but cold would be my last choice. Because the potato salad is also tasty at room temperature, you don’t have to stress taking it to a potluck where it will cool down before everyone digs in.
  • Storage: this salad keeps for about 4 days in the refrigerator either covered in plastic wrap or stored in an airtight container
  • To reheat: gently heat it in a skillet over medium-low heat.  If it seems dry, add a drizzle of olive oil. You may also reheat small servings in the microwave for 30 seconds, stir, then continue to heat at 20 second intervals until warmed through.
  • Make ahead: coat the potatoes with the dressing but hold the bacon.  Rewarm the potato salad before serving, then stir in the bacon once warmed so it remains crispy. If the salad seems a little dry, drizzle with some olive oil.

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