How to Make Potato Salad

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!

a spoon serving the best potato salad recipe with bacon

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)

top view of a glass bowl of homemade potato salad with a serving spoon

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.

side view of a glass bowl of easy potato salad garnished with bacon and green onions

What Goes in Homemade Potato Salad?

For this Potato Salad recipe you will need:

  • white or Yukon gold potatoes
  • salt
  • relish 
  • green onions
  • celery
  • hard boiled eggs
  • bacon

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.

showing how to make potato salad by adding potatoes, celery, eggs, mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard to a large glass bowl

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.
showing how to make potato salad by stirring potatoes with 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.

a gold spoon taking a bite of the best homemade potato salad recipe

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!

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Everyone needs the best potato salad recipe and this is it! so creamy and flavorful and disappears in minutes whenever I take it any where - everyone always asks for the recipe!!

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©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

Everyone needs the best potato salad recipe and this is it! so creamy and flavorful and disappears in minutes whenever I take it any where - everyone always asks for the recipe!!

How to Make the Best Potato Salad

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!
Servings: 8 -10 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

Potato Salad

  • 3 pounds white or Yukon gold potatoes, quartered (about 6 medium potatoes)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/4 cup Famous Dave’s Signature Spicy Pickle Relish (may sub dill pickle relish) *
  • 6 green onions, diced
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 4 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
  • 6 thick-cut bacon strips cooked and crumbled

Creamy Dressing

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Hidden Valley salad dressing mix
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon chili powder (optional for a kick)
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Instructions

  • Add potatoes to a large pot and fill with water to about 1-inch above potatoes. Bring to a boil and season with 1 ½ tablespoons salt. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and continue to cook for 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork but DO NOT OVERCOOK. Drain potatoes and refrigerate in a large bowl for 30 minutes then peel and cube.
  • Meanwhile, whisk together all of the Creamy Dressing ingredients together in a large bowl (the same bowl you will add your potatoes). Stir in relish, green onions, celery and eggs. Stir in cubed potatoes once cool until evenly coated.
  • Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving; best if chilled overnight.
  • When ready to serve, season with additional salt and pepper to taste and garnish with bacon.

Notes

*Use more or less to taste. You can also mix both Famous Dave’s Spicy Relish and traditional dill relish.

HOW TO MAKE POTATO SALAD RECIPE TIPS

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.
  • Right potatoes:  You want to avoid using starchy potatoes like Russets that can turn dry, mealy, mushy and crumbly.  Instead, both white and Yukon gold potatoes are best.  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.
  • Use cold Water:  Next, 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 undercooked 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.
  • 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.

MAKE AHEAD POTATO SALAD 

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.

STORAGE

Store Potato Salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.  Potato Salad does not freeze well.

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8 Comments

  1. Dorothy Dunton says

    Hi Jen! I love potato salads and I am always on the lookout for a new one to try! I’ve never seen Famous Dave’s relish, but I’ve had Famous Dave’s ribs. I make and can zucchini relish so will use that. I am of the opinion that bacon makes everything better!

    • Jen says

      Hi Dorothy, I love that you are always willing to try new potato salads! You should be able to find Famous Dave’s spicy relish at any grocery store – I’ve even seen it at Wal-Mart, but if not, your zucchini relish sounds delicious either way. And yes, bacon makes everything better :)!

  2. Lynn says

    Hi Jen,

    Wow! Just love all of your recipes! I was wondering, though, if you could recommend a substitute for the 1 Tbsp. of Hidden Valley Ranch in this recipe. I would really like to make this but Hubbie can’t stand “ranch” flavoring of any kind, or could I just leave it out? Thanks for all of the wonderful recipes!

    • Jen says

      Hi Lynn, I remembering reading your comment and thought I responded but I am not seeing my response, so I am SO sorry!! I would just leave out the ranch seasoning – it will still be delicious! Thank you for following along and trying my recipes!

    • Jennifer Fulk says

      Hi! They did not have Dave’s pickle relish at my local Wal Mart but it was available online at Wal Mart – 3 jars for 7 dollars which is a totally reasonable price. I knew Dave’s would be good because we buy Dave’s Devil’s Spit pickle chips , but wow this relish does not disappoint! It’s worth getting. We put some on hot dogs and they were delicious! I can’t wait to make this potato salad recipe this weekend, using the relish! Thanks Jen!

      • Jen says

        You’re so welcome Jennifer, I’m so glad you splurged for them! I hope you loved the potato salad!

  3. Stephanie says

    Wow, what a great side dish this was for our Memorial Day bbq with cheeseburgers! I made this the night before, even though I’ve had problems with other recipes, soaking all the dressing up and being dry the next day. This stayed creamy, dreamy and a perfect classic potato salad taste, only better! Not too tangy, not too sweet, just a perfectly balanced dressing. I’ve made potato salads using ranch dressing, but this is better using the ranch as a seasoning to compliment the other ingredients. Another great recipe, thank you.

    • Jen says

      Thank YOU Stephanie for taking the time to comment and for your awesome review of this “creamy, dreamy and a perfect classic potato salad.” I so appreciate it, Happy Memorial Day!