How to make the best potato salad ever!
This BEST Potato Salad recipe is mega creamy and flavorful – no dry or bland potato salad here! It is made with Yukon potatoes, relish, green onions, celery, eggs, bacon and a sensational dressing of mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, and a few secret ingredients to give it just the right amount of kick. This creamy Potato Salad is easy to double/triple for a large crowd, can be made in advance for stress free sharing and best of all, everyone loves this Best Potato Salad recipe!
Potato Salad Recipe
In anticipation and celebration of the 4th of July next week, we are keeping it all American this week on Carlsbad Cravings with Blueberry Cheesecake Pie, Nashville Hot Fried Chicken and now this homemade Potato Salad, because everyone needs the best potato salad recipe and this is it!
I first made this easy Potato Salad recipe for a big family get together and it was gone in minutes with comments like, “I usually don’t like potato salad but this so good.” And YOUR homemade potato salad will be gone in minutes with everyone singing your praises.
Where Does Potato Salad Come From?
From my understanding, potato salad was first introduced to Europe from the New World by Spanish explorers in the 16th century. The earliest written recipes for American potato salad date to the mid-19th century and typically involved potatoes dressed with oil, vinegar an herbs and were believed to be introduced by the German immigrants.
It’s unclear exactly when mayonnaise entered the picture but most early 20th century American recipes for potato salad typically were dressed in celery, herbs and creamy mayo dressing. Not much has changed, blessing us with today’s Classic Creamy Potato Salad. (Rethinking Potato Salad)
What are the Best Potatoes for Potato Salad?
In order to make the BEST Potato Salad, you need to choose the right potatoes for the job. Potatoes based on texture can be categorized into 3 groups:
- Waxy: 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 if you’re short on time or like a more rustic salad. Examples are red, new, or fingerling potatoes. The down side of waxy potatoes is they do not hold flavor of dressings or vinaigrette well.
- In-Between: Also known as all-purpose potatoes, these potatoes have more starch than waxy potatoes, but will generally work well in most potato dishes, including potato salad. White and Yukon Golds are the most popular potatoes in this group, and are reliable in-between potatoes to always have around. These potatoes hold both their textures flavors from dressings well.
- Starchy: For potato salad, you’ll want to stay away from starchy, thick-skinned potatoes like russets, which will fall apart during the cooking process. Russet Potatoes are better for mashed potatoes.
For the Best Potato Salad recipe, use in-between potatoes. I prefer either white or Yukon gold potatoes. They boast a delicious buttery flavor, are a little sweet, hold their shape after cooking while still imparting a creaminess all without becoming mushy. They also absorb the dressing better than waxy potatoes resulting in tastier potatoes through and through.
What Goes in Homemade Potato Salad?
For this Potato Salad recipe you will need:
- white or Yukon gold potatoes
- green onions
- hard boiled eggs
- sour cream
- apple cider vinegar
- yellow mustard
- dry ranch salad dressing mix
- seasoning: salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, paprika
I call this homemade potato salad recipe both “classic” and “creamy” because the dressing is comprised of the harmonious balance we all love of mayonnaise, sour cream, yellow mustard and vinegar as well as celery and relish but I’ve pumped up the flavor for no more boring potato salad.
I find most potato salads a bland mixture of the aforementioned ingredients leaving a lot to be desired. So, I’ve seasoned my salad with paprika, chili powder (optional for a little more kick) and a touch of tangy ranch dressing mix. The seasonings enliven an invigorate the potato salad without overwhelming it.
But here’s the kicker for the best potato salad recipe – Famous Dave’s Signature Spicy Pickle Relish. It’s spicy but not too spicy to add just the right kick to to create a mega flavorful potato salad. And as always, you can add a little then add more to taste for your perfect amount of kick.
And then there’s the bacon, lots of bacon. Need I say more?
Easy Potato Salad Variations
While classic potato salad sticks with the tried and true cast of characters, I’ve also seen potato salad recipes with red onions, bell peppers, artichokes, 4 oz. jar of Kalamata olives, peas, avocados, dill, celery seed, even curry powder.
Every homemade potato salad recipe boasting these ingredients claims to be the “best” potato salad – so it comes down to personal preference. If you keep the basic technique and ratios I’ve outlined in the recipe, you can have fun experimenting with all sorts of add-ins. Please let me know what other ingredients and topping you love!
Gluten Free Potato Salad: the ranch seasoning mix and all other ingredients except mayonnaise are gluten free. Mayonnaise sometimes contains gluten so you will need to check the packaging.
Dairy Free Potato Salad: If you are looking for dairy free, you can swap out the sour cream for additional mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is dairy free but not vegan as it is made with egg yolks, vinegar and seasonings.
How to Make Potato Salad
While there isn’t a right or wrong way to make potato salads, I think there are few tips and tricks that make a way better potato salad.
- Uniform potatoes: select potatoes that are uniform in size so the quartered potatoes will cook evenly.
- Use cold Water: You want to add your potatoes to cold water. By bringing the potatoes to a boil with the water, they cook more evenly and you aren’t left with overcooked mushy outsides and under cooked insides, but instead have the perfect melt in your mouth consistency.
- Add Salt to 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.
- Cook potatoes just until tender: And of course, you need perfectly cooked potatoes. This is huge. Potatoes are the main ingredient, so its important that they aren’t under-cooked for firm, crunchy potato salad or overcooked for mushy potato salad. Potatoes are done as soon as they are tender enough to be pierced through with a fork. No fancy tips on getting this right, especially as cooking times will vary. The best thing you can do is test your potatoes often.
- Small cubes: I like to cube my potatoes on the smaller size because this increases the ratio of dressing to potatoes which increases the YUM factor.
- Cool Potatoes before dressing: Lastly, you want to let your potatoes completely cool before dressing them with this mayo-based dressing otherwise the dressing will melt and you are left with potatoes swimming in oil. Not so yum. You will want to refrigerate your cooked potatoes for at least 30 minutes, then you are free to peel them and douse them in dressing.
- When making a southern German vinaigrette type potato salad, toss potatoes with dressing while they are still warm so the potatoes can absorb some of the vinaigrette and be more flavorful.
- Bacon: It is essential to use thick-cut bacon in this easy potato salad recipe so it retains its meaty texture when enveloped in the creamy dressing.
HOW TO AVOID A “WATERY” POTATO SALAD
- Drain potatoes: your boiled potatoes will be full of water so make sure you sufficiently drain them in a colander to get rid of any excess moisture.
- Cool potatoes: ALWAYS let the potatoes cool completely before adding the creamy dressing. Potatoes will continue to sweat if you mix them while they are hot, and this can make the mayonnaise watery.
- Chill salad: Make sure you let the potato salad chill and set up before serving.
- Prep celery ahead: Fresh-cut celery can drip water into the salad so I recommend cutting the celery at least an hour ahead of time and laying it on a paper towel to dry out.
- Drain pickle relish: we want some of the liquid that comes with relish because it adds to the flavor of the potato salad, but take care your relish isn’t overly watery or you might need to drain some of the liquid off.
CAN I MAKE POTATO SALAD AHEAD OF TIME?
Yes, and PLEASE do, chilling your salad will only make it more flavorful! You can make the Potato salad 1 or 2 days in advance and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. I often make my potato salad the night before serving for best results. Store the bacon separately or cook it up right before you serve to keep it crispy.
Alternatively, you can cook the potatoes ahead of time and keep them in the fridge, and then make the dressing. Potatoes, however, will turn brown and start to oxidize once cut, so add lemon juice or white wine vinegar to the boiling water before draining.
HOW LONG CAN I STORE POTATO SALAD IN THE FRIDGE?
USDA recommends that “if the potato salad was held in excess of 41°F for over two hours, then discard.” To keep potato salad cold while serving for an extended period of time, you can fill a large bowl with ice then place the Potato Salad bowl in the ice.
Potato salad should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. When properly stored, it should easily last 3-4 days in the fridge if properly stored. If you made it and stored it for 2 days before serving make sure to discard after 2 days.
CAN I FREEZE POTATO SALAD?
Sadly no. Potatoes do not freeze well, and the mayo and sour cream do not tolerate the cold either. The dressing with separate and the potatoes will break apart and become mushy when defrosted. So, I guess you have to consume your potato salad fresh – or share it with a friend!
Looking for More Potato Recipes?
- Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes
- Potatoes Au Gratin with Bacon
- Roasted Potatoes with Bacon and Parmesan
- Baked Parmesan Fingerling Potato Fries
- Mexican French Fries with Salsa Ketchup
- Chicken Gnocchi Soup
- Twice Baked Potatoes
- Smashed Potatoes
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