A summer celebration is not the same without a classic American Potato Salad! Creamy, tangy and easily customizable so you can make it your own.
Last year, I learned how passionate Americans are about their potato salad.
There was a skit on Saturday Night Live, making fun of people who put raisins in their potato salad. Guess whose recipe for potato salad with raisins ranks first on Google? And guess who got a loooot of hate mail for messing with the sacredness of potato salad?
And while I still love my Brazilian Style Potato Salad (which calls for not only raisins but also apples!), I stand here – American Potato Salad in hands – to show you that there is space in the world for all the potato salads out there! Brazilian, American, German…even Japanese!
I confess I’m a bit apprehensive to press publish on this recipe. After feeling like Marie Antoinette, with the masses asking for my head over my raisin studded potato salad, it takes a lot of courage to go that route again.
But it’s Fourth of July! And here am I with my take on potato salad. No raisins this time, I promise! Oh God, I hope I survive this.
Ingredients for American Potato Salad
Let’s talk ingredients. When I asked Americans what had to be in the perfect potato salad, I got a different answer every time!
All said potato and mayo, obviously. Some said pickles, others relish. Sugar was mentioned a couple of times. And there was some controversy regarding paprika and eggs!
Well, since there are as many potato salads as there are people in America, here’s the list of the ingredients for the potato salad *I* enjoy eating:
- Potatoes – we’ll talk more about them soon!
- Celery – they add a bit of crunch.
- Red Onion – they are sweeter than yellow onions, so I prefer to use them whenever raw onions are called for!
- Sour Cream – it gives the salad a bit of tanginess and lightens up the mayo.
- Sweet relish (or you can use dill pickle relish) – adds a bit of sweetness so you don’t have to add sugar!
- Dijon mustard
- Paprika – optional
- Hard boiled eggs – optional – I personally don’t like eggs in potato salad, so I place them on the top, that way people can decide for themselves!
The best potatoes for potato salad
This is another subject of a lot of controversy! I have read countless articles saying you should avoid using starchy potatoes as they tend to fall apart during cooking.
I don’t know about you, but I am not a fan of crunchy potatoes in my potato salad. Give me tender, melt in your mouth, fluffy potatoes and I’m in heaven!
And while waxy potatoes yield a slightly firmer texture in the final dish, the starchy variety – like Russet potatoes – are much better at absorbing flavors.
That being said, it is important not to overcook them, or you’ll end up with a mushy salad!
The secret to make the best potato salad
I think we can all agree that bland potato salad is a perfectly valid reason to leave a party! If they can’t get that right, imagine the rest of the food?
I find that the secret for a salad that has flavor in every bite is to season the potatoes immediately after cooking, while they are still hot. Then wait for them to cool to room temperature so you can combine with the creamy dressing.
Stirring hot potatoes into a mayo-based dressing will cause the mayo to melt and separate!
Tips and tricks for the best potato salad
- Before cooking the potatoes, I recommend cutting them into same size pieces, so they all cook evenly.
- It’s important to start the potatoes in a pot of cold water. That way they’ll heat up evenly right along with the water.
- Check often to ensure the potatoes don’t overcook. Mine are usually tender by the 10 minute mark!
- Another good trick is to add vinegar to the cooking water. This not only helps to flavor the potatoes, but also prevents them from overcooking. The vinegar creates an acidic environment and makes the potatoes’ pectin break down much more slowly.
- As I mentioned earlier, season the potatoes with salt and vinegar as soon as they are done cooking and drained. Then wait for them to cool to room temperature to combine with the dressing and remaining ingredients.
- When adding the potatoes to the salad, be gentle! You can be as aggressive as you want before that, but come potato time, mix them gently so they don’t fall apart.
- I like to refrigerate the salad for at least one hour before serving to give the flavors the chance to mix and mingle!
All-American Potato Salad FAQs
Can I make potato salad ahead of time?
Absolutely! Potato salad is a great BBQ or picnic dish because it can be made ahead. Actually, scratch that! It SHOULD be made ahead, because a little vacation (1-2 days) in the refrigerator will make it even better!
Can I freeze potato salad?
Unfortunately, no. Mayonnaise doesn’t freeze well, same with celery, sour cream and eggs. The mayo tends to break once frozen, and when thawed, the texture and flavor will be off.
And while potatoes can be frozen, their texture is somewhat soggy when defrosted. Not to mention the gray color!
- 3 pounds (about 5 large) Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- Salt, to taste
- 4 tablespoons vinegar, divided
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- Freshly cracked pepper, to taste
- 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
- 1/2 small red onion, chopped or sliced
- 1/4 cup chopped chives, plus more for garnishing
- 4 hard boiled eggs, sliced, optional
- Paprika to garnish, optional
- Add potatoes, enough water to cover them, salt and 2 tablespoons vinegar to a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, over high heat, then reduce to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and transfer to a baking sheet, spreading into one layer.
- Season potatoes with the remaining vinegar and salt. Reserve until cooled to room temperature.
- Combine mayo, sour cream, relish and Dijon mustard in a large bowl, whisking until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the chopped celery, red onion and chives, and stir vigorously so everything is coated with the dressing. Then, carefully fold in the potatoes. Taste again and fix seasonings if necessary.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour, for the flavors to develop.
- When ready to serve, transfer to a serving platter and garnish with the hard boiled eggs, chopped chives and paprika (if using).
American Potato Salad can be made up to 3 days ahead.