This simple, classic Southern potato salad recipe with eggs has been passed down from my grandmother to my mother and then to me, and it includes their insider secrets for making the best potato salad recipe every time. It may be a big assertion, but I fully intend to stick by my claim that this potato salad recipe is the greatest.
On the site, I’ve posted various potato salad recipes, including my German potato salad, a creamy dill potato salad, a no-mayo herb potato salad, a piece of bacon, and sour cream-laden baked potato salad, and more. This salad, on the other hand, has been voted a top recipe on the blog by readers and is a particular favorite of mine from childhood.
How to Make the Best Potato Salad
This is the potato salad that I grew up with. It’s the recipe that my Grandma Mary Jane created and passed down to my mother, aunts, and cousins, as well as me and my sister. It’s served with burgers, barbecued ribs, and all of your other favorite summer supper recipes.
It’s a food memory none of us can or want to forget, just like treasured family dishes. It makes an appearance at practically every BBQ, picnic, or good old-fashioned supper party at my house, and it’s one I’m proud to serve when I visit other people’s houses. It’s also quite popular with readers, who enjoy it all year long, including Thanksgiving and Christmas. Who’d have guessed? This recipe appears to have its origins in Southern potato salad.
So now it’s up to you to give it a shot. Here’s how to make the most delicious potato salad you’ve ever had. Let’s get this party started…
What’s In Potato Salad
I spent many a summer afternoon with my lovely mama cooking and tasting this salad, exactly like she did with hers. I’ve cooked it so many times that I don’t even need the recipe anymore. When you know a recipe by heart, you know it’s good.
For this classic potato salad, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- Yukon gold potatoes
- hard-cooked eggs with white vinegar
- onion, green
- This potato salad dressing’s secret sauce is Miracle Whip.
- mustard yellow
- seed of celery
- fresh ground pepper and kosher salt
What Type of Potato Is Best for Potato Salad
In our family’s recipe, white potatoes, often known as Yukon Golds, are used. They’re easier to peel after boiling since they have thinner skin, and they taste creamier, a touch sweeter, and keep their form well after cooking. In salads like this, avoid starchier potatoes like russets, which may easily turn to mush. Also, for the most consistent cooking, use potatoes of the same size.
How to Keep Potato Salad from Getting Watery
Potato salad can become runny for a variety of reasons. Here’s how to figure out what’s wrong. Use the appropriate potato. Our go-to is Yukon golds, which absorb the dressing wonderfully.
Before adding the creamy mayo dressing, make sure the potatoes are cool. As potatoes cool, they sweat water, which might result in a watery potato salad. Vicki, a reader, then sent in an email with a tip for avoiding watery potato salad:
“When I asked a renowned chef what I was doing wrong, he informed me that I should never salt the potatoes during cooking or salad preparation. The salt causes the potatoes to absorb liquid. I’ve never had a problem with wet salad since I followed his advice. Season the salad with salt, pepper, and other seasonings right before serving; the potatoes won’t be affected because they’ve already been mixed with the mayo. Just a heads up.”
How to Cook Potatoes for Potato Salad
Do you cut potatoes before boiling them for potato salad? This is one of the major potato salad debates. No, my mother says.
My mother boils her potatoes whole, skin on. I’ll either follow her lead or quarter the chickens before cooking. The potatoes can also be cooked by peeling and chopping them before cooking, as suggested in the comments below. However, my mother claims that this way permits the potatoes to absorb more water, so I follow her instructions.
Rather than cooking the potatoes in hot, boiling water, place them in cold water and bring them to a boil, then lower to medium heat. Boil the potatoes for 20-25 minutes, or until fork-tender and the skin begins to crack.
Another approach suggested by a reader is to steam the potatoes for 30 minutes in 1 inch of water, which also works. Just be careful not to scorch the pan by boiling the water away.
My Mom’s Secret Tips
Toss the heated potatoes with vinegar. White vinegar is one of the most important flavoring secrets to this recipe’s success. That’s why I toss a few hefty dashes of white vinegar into the cooked potatoes, which adds a secret and subtle flavor punch to the salad. To do so, drizzle the vinegar over the potatoes while they are still warm, then let them rest and absorb the vinegar’s zing as they cool.
Miracle Whip is the next crucial element in my mother’s recipe. There’s a lot of dispute in the comments over whether to use Miracle Whip or regular mayonnaise. Even though I like mayo, I’ve discovered that MW offers a lovely creamy flavor that mayo lacks. That’s why, time and time again, I’ve gone back to my origins, to Miracle Whip, because that’s what my mother uses and it’s the original flavor I can’t find anywhere else. Make the switch if you’re a mayonnaise aficionado. But maybe, just maybe, you should try the old Whip.
Always include eggs in your recipe. My mom’s original recipe only called for three eggs, but I like eggs in potato salad so much that I added two more. It’s probably due to my love of egg salad, but feel free to tweak it to your liking.
Everyone has an opinion on what to put in potato salad and what not to put in it. Chunks of celery and pieces of green onion give crunch to basic potato salads in our family recipe. Everything tastes better with pickles, therefore I’ve added diced pickles previously. With the exception of this potato salad. The pickles will be used in my tuna fish sandwiches.
Let’s take a look at celery seed. Apart from a bloody mary, this is probably the only recipe where I use celery seed. Don’t skip it because it’s an important aspect of the flavor profile.
The tang comes from the mustard. We don’t even consider getting fancy schmancy with German browns, hearty seeded, or Frenchy dijon mustard in the mustard world. I save it for my German potato salad, because plain old yellow mustard, like on my hot dogs, is the greatest.
Give this salad some time. Allowing the flavors of the potato salad to blend is key here, which is why if I’m going to have the salad the same day, I’ll make it during lunch so it can sit and develop flavors, or make it a day before. The potato salad can be kept in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. If it hasn’t been devoured by then. Mom’s best potato salad, hallelujah. Enjoy!
- Yukon golds or 6 medium white potatoes, about 2 1/2 to 3 pounds, skin on and quartered
- White vinegar 3 tablespoons
- Celery stalks (ribs) 2, diced
- Onions 6 green, diced
- Hard-boiled eggs 5, peeled
- Miracle Whip or mayonnaise 1 1/2 cups
- Yellow mustard 1 tablespoon
- Celery seed 1 1/2 teaspoons
- Kosher salt 3/4 teaspoon
- Freshly ground black pepper 3/4 teaspoon
- Paprika for garnish
- Bring a big pot of cold water to a boil with the potatoes. Reduce the heat to a low simmer over medium heat and season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Cook for 20-25 minutes, or until a fork or paring knife can easily pierce the potatoes. Drain the water and set it aside until it’s safe to handle.
- Potatoes should be peeled and sliced into 1/2″ to 3/4″ square pieces. Place the warm potatoes in a large mixing basin and add the white vinegar to taste. Toss the potatoes with the vinegar and let them sit for 15-20 minutes to cool.
- Toss the potatoes with the celery and green onions. 4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped and added to the potato mixture
- Combine the Miracle Whip or mayonnaise, yellow mustard, celery seed, and salt and pepper in a medium mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste and fold into the potato mixture. Place the remaining egg pieces on top of the salad, thinly sliced. If desired, top with paprika. Before serving, chill for at least 1 hour or overnight.
If you like, mayonnaise can be used instead of Miracle Whip. For additional tang, use half mayonnaise and half Greek yogurt or sour cream.