Easy Potato Salad Recipe with Tips
How to make the best homemade potato salad with a simple creamy dressing and crunch from red onion and celery. This potato salad recipe is utterly delicious. Jump to the Easy Potato Salad Recipe or watch our quick video showing how we make it.
Take a read below; we’ve shared our best tips for making potato salad including what potatoes to use, how to cook them and suggestions for making it.
For a different spin, try our Potato Salad with Green Beans and Feta Dressing. Briny Kalamata olives and a zesty feta cheese dressing make this potato salad extra delicious.
How to Make the Best Potato Salad
There’s no need to be intimidated. Potato salad is simple to make, promise. With a few tricks, you’ll be making it like a pro in no time.
The best potatoes for potato salad are small, waxy and thin-skinned potatoes. Small yellow, white or red potatoes are perfect. They are quick cooking, and since they are already small, there’s no need to chop them before cooking them.
There is another bonus to cooking whole potatoes. Whole cooked potatoes maintain more of their flavor and natural sweetness. We’re also partial to the texture of potatoes when they are cooked whole compared to chopped.
If you don’t have small, waxy potatoes available, other potatoes will work in their place; the texture will be slightly different. We try not to use russet (baking) potatoes since they tend to fall apart. If that’s all you have, don’t worry. Chop them before cooking — they are much larger and take a long time when cooked whole.
When it comes to cooking them, there’s no need to boil your potatoes. When you do they violently bash against each other. Instead, bring the water with potatoes to a boil then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. The potatoes cook just as quickly. It’s also important to add a generous amount of salt to the cooking water. By salting the water, the flavor of the potatoes comes out. They won’t taste salty, only like excellent potatoes.
Leftover potatoes? Use them to make our Easy Sausage and Potato Soup!
Potatoes are cooked when you can push a fork through the center. When they are done, drain the potatoes and add them to an ice bath, which, stops them from cooking. After 2 to 3 minutes they are cool enough to handle.
If you like peel-on potatoes for potato salad, you can chop them into bite-size pieces or if you prefer the potatoes without the peel, pinch the skin and pull it away. Since the potatoes are cooked, the peel comes off easily (you can see us do this in our video).
To recap, when choosing and cooking potatoes for potato salad, keep these things in mind:
- Small waxy potatoes are best — they cook quickly, and there’s no need to chop them.
- Cook the potatoes whole. They taste better and don’t get waterlogged.
- Bring the water to a boil then reduce to a gentle simmer.
- Add a generous amount of salt to the cooking water. Without salt, the potato salad won’t taste very good.
- Cook potatoes until fork tender, drain them then add to an ice bath, stopping them from overcooking.
For the potato salad dressing, we use mayonnaise and sour cream. Both make the dressing extra creamy, but mayonnaise can be heavy by itself. Adding sour cream lightens up the dressing a bit. If you’re used to only using mayonnaise, try adding a bit of sour cream next time. It’s a game changer.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Make your potato salad extra special with Homemade Mayonnaise. See our Fail-Proof Mayonnaise Recipe made with whole egg, mustard, vinegar, and oil.
To the mayo and sour cream, we add regular yellow mustard, which adds an extra kick of flavor as well as a bit of color.
We add vinegar as well, but not to the dressing. Instead, we sprinkle vinegar over the cooked potatoes. We learned this tip from Alton Brown. After dicing the cooked potatoes, scatter a tablespoon or so of vinegar over them. It’s incredible how much of a difference the vinegar makes. Use apple cider vinegar, white or red wine vinegar or even dill pickle juice!
Now we have perfectly cooked and seasoned potatoes and a creamy dressing, it’s time to add some extra ingredients. Potato salad is a personal process, and there are lots of opinions out there as to what makes it “perfect” or “the best.” The recipe below is our version — it includes everything we love. Here a list of a few things we love — remember that it’s your potato salad, so add what you like!
- Pickles — Our house isn’t stable without dill pickles in the refrigerator so adding them is a no-brainer for us. If you don’t like pickles leave them out or replace them with sweet pickles.
- Eggs — Maybe it’s how we were brought up or what we’re used to but, potato salad without eggs is missing something. Hard boiled eggs add texture and extra creaminess. If you aren’t a fan, leave them out.
- Fresh Herbs — The most common herbs are parsley and chives, but dill, cilantro, and tarragon all work well. In our recipe below, we use two both dill and parsley. Experiment for yourself to see what you love. Add a tablespoon at a time then taste. Also, remember dill and tarragon are a little stronger than other herbs so add accordingly.
If you loved our potato salad recipe, take a look at these popular sides:
- See my favorite way to make coleslaw. With a generous amount of acidity from apple cider vinegar and Dijon mustard, our favorite coleslaw is anything but dull.
- Our broccoli salad with bacon has cranberries, red onion, and a zesty dressing made with mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and apple cider vinegar.
- Add crunch to the party with our vinegar-based cucumber salad. It is addictive.
- This pasta salad with orzo is full of goodness. There’s a simple lemon vinaigrette, cucumber, olives, artichokes, tomato and fresh herbs. Or take a look at our easy pasta salad with mozzarella and parmesan (it’s so good).
Recipe updated, originally posted May 2013. Since posting this in 2013, we have tweaked the recipe to be more clear and added a quick recipe video. – Adam and Joanne
Easy Potato Salad Recipe with Tips
Small yellow, white, or red potatoes are best for potato salad. The potatoes maintain their natural moisture and sweetness this way. If you’re in a pinch, you can chop the potatoes, remember they will take less time to cook. Adding fresh herbs are a nice touch – we like to use a combination of chopped parsley and dill. Parsley, dill, chives, tarragon, and cilantro all work well. Add about two tablespoons of herbs at first then add more to taste. Dill and tarragon are strong, so you may not need the whole 1/4 cup.
If you can, try place the potato salad in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or so before serving. This extra time helps the flavors mingle and makes for a better potato salad.
You Will Need
2 pounds small yellow, red, or white potatoes
1 tablespoon apple cider, wine, or rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise, try our homemade mayonnaise recipe
1 tablespoon yellow mustard, substitute Dijon or whole grain mustard
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
3 celery stalks, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 medium dill pickle, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped, optional
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (parsley, dill, chives, tarragon, or cilantro)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Cook Potatoes
- "De-flame" Onions
- Make Potato Salad
Add potatoes to large pot and cover with 1 1/2 inches of water. Season with salt — use one teaspoon for every quart of water. Bring the water to a boil then reduce to a low simmer. Cook 15 to 20 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork.
Meanwhile, set up an ice bath. Add cold water to a medium bowl filled with ice. Drain the potatoes and add to the ice bath. Once cool, peel potatoes by gently pinching the skin and pulling it away.
Chop peeled potatoes into bite-size chunks then add to a large bowl. Scatter the vinegar over potatoes and lightly season with salt.
While the potatoes cook, add onions to a small bowl and cover with warm water. Wait 10 minutes then rinse. (This tones down the raw flavor of the onions).
Mix sour cream, mayonnaise, and the mustard in a bowl.
Add sour cream mixture, de-flamed onion, celery, pickles, eggs, and herbs to the potatoes. Gently stir to combine. (Try not to mash the potatoes). Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you have the time, refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving.
Adam and Joanne's Tips
- Substitute 1/2 cup crème fraîche for the sour cream.
- Make-Ahead Tip: Make potato salad up to 3 days in advance.
- For instructions on how to cook hard boiled eggs, visit our tutorial: How to Cook Hard Boiled Eggs.
- Nutrition facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA Supertracker recipe calculator to calculate approximate values.