Consider the lowly potato... now make it awesome.
September 15, 2009 11:01 AM   Subscribe

Not necessarily my grandmother's potato salad... What are your tips, tricks and recipes for awesome potato salad?

I'm a reasonably experienced and equipped chef, I'm open to vegan, vegetarian and meat options.
Kind of previously.
posted by 1f2frfbf to Food & Drink (43 answers total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
After you take the potatoes out of the boiling water, peel and chunk them, and sprinkle them with wine while they are still hot. Yes, if you need to peel them for some reason, peel them while they are hot, you can use a towel to hold them. Because you aren't going to peel them before you boil them - that would ruin them. Let them cool and slurp up that few tablespoons of wine. When they are cool, proceed with your recipe. I just add a simple mustard vinagrette, some chopped green onions, roasted red peppers, and italian parsley. Use the little red waxy potatoes. I don't peel them though.
posted by gyusan at 11:09 AM on September 15, 2009

Add some (peeled) sweet potato to the mix
Add bacon
Add boiled eggs

posted by unlaced at 11:09 AM on September 15, 2009

How about raw? And how about instead of a traditional potato, you use a Jicama:

Jicama is aka a "mexican or south american potato". Unlike traditional potato salad this is extremely light and is a fantastic cold side. No cooking involved, just chopping and mixing:

the dressing

2 tbs tahini
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tbs lemon juice
2 tbs water
2 tsp fresh parsley
1/4 tsp nama shoyu (or Bragg's or soy sauce)
1/4 tsp agave nectar
pinch sea salt
pinch chili powder

Put everything in a blender and blend smooth. Should still be thick, though.

the salad

2 cups diced jicama
1/4 cup diced yellow pepper
1/4 cup diced celery
1 tbs minced fresh rosemary
2 tbs minced green olives
1/4 avocado, mashed
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

Combine all ingredients and store in a fridge until ready to serve.

Before serving, pour the dressing over the salad and toss until well combined.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 11:11 AM on September 15, 2009 [5 favorites]

This recipe from Cook's Illustrated is my favorite. It's almost too delicious. And easy!
posted by troika at 11:14 AM on September 15, 2009

Use waxy potatoes. They'll hold up better.

Boil them whole and cut them after, if you have the time - I think the texture's better, since they soak up less water and release less starch if you cook them whole. Start them in cold water to cook all the way through - if you just drop them into boiling water, the outside may cook before the inside is tender. And season the water! It should be as salty as sea water, like for pasta. Some of the salt will penetrate the inside of the potato, getting you good seasoning throughout.

That said, I tend to think of potato salad as two distinct categories - mayonnaise-based and vinaigrette-based. I like the vinaigrette-dressed kind, myself; it's more versatile, keeps better, and tastes fresher.

My favorite all-purpose potato salad - waxy red potatoes, skin-on, cut into wedges while still warm. Vinaigrette with whole-grain Dijon, red wine vinegar, and fruity olive oil. Lots and lots and lots of scallions, a little parsley, plenty of cracked black pepper. The dressing should be quite sharp. Dress the potatoes while still warm to mellow the scallions a bit. This is yummy cold, at room temperature, or warm, and goes with pretty much everything.

Warm potato salad with bacon or pancetta, vinegar, and sturdy herbs like sage or rosemary is good, too.

If you're going the mayonnaise route, try cutting the mayonnaise with part milk or sour cream, and don't forget to add vinegar to balance it - there's nothing worse than gloppy, greasy-bland potato salad. Potato salad should taste of potatoes before anything else.
posted by peachfuzz at 11:15 AM on September 15, 2009 [3 favorites]

Here you go, a never fail, no leftovers EVER, not-good-for-you-at-all tater salad: cubed new potatoes mixed with mayo, shredded cheddar, crumbled bacon, chopped green onions, salt and pepper to taste.

Alternately, toss warm cubed potatoes with sauteed shallots, olive oil and champagne vinegar.

And for the third round, toss roasted, smashed (you know, whacked with a spoon) new potatoes with olive oil, feta cheese, kalamata (calamity!) olives, crushed garlic and fresh oregano.
posted by Allee Katze at 11:23 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I am super into Hawaiian-style potato-macaroni salad lately.

Tiny cubes of waxy potatoes. An equal amount of macaroni. Shredded carrot and onion. A little hard boiled egg if that's how you roll. SO MUCH MAYONNAISE you can't even believe it, and then right before you serve it, a little more mayo tossed in, for maximum creamines.

And then you serve it with chili water.

My friend's recipe (and paean to the starch-filled Hawaiian plate lunch) here.
posted by padraigin at 11:23 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yes, waxy potatoes. Yukon Gold will do, but nice white Eastern potatoes are better.

I use this Betty Crocker recipe. Yes, it's standard but people always rave about it. I am a traditionalist when it comes to potato salad, though.
posted by cabingirl at 11:24 AM on September 15, 2009

I think the perfect "classic" mayo-mustard potato salad consists of:

- about 3 parts mayo to 1 part yellow mustard
- red potatoes boiled in their skins, cooled slightly but still warm, peeled and coarsely chopped
- one or two hard boiled eggs, chopped
- celery salt
- scallions
- paprika on top

Mix it up while the potatoes are still slightly warm, starting with less mayo-mustard mixture than you think you need and adding more for the right consistency. The mayo-mustard should be just enough to bind it together, no more than that. Then chill and serve cold.

Admittedly, this is my grandmother's recipe, but I think it's what ordinary mayo-based potato salad longs to be. It's not greasy or gloppy, the proportions are just right.
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:26 AM on September 15, 2009

This is not your grandma's potato salad. This is really not your grandma's potato salad.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:29 AM on September 15, 2009

...nor is it a working link, unlike this one.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:30 AM on September 15, 2009

posted by canoehead at 11:41 AM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

Mayo-based, but make your own mayo. Homemade mayonnaise is 10x better than store bought.
posted by paanta at 11:46 AM on September 15, 2009

I make this potato salad. It has never done me wrong.
posted by govtdrone at 11:50 AM on September 15, 2009

Flavor your potato salad with pickle juice. Seriously.
posted by comatose at 11:51 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Try chopped chives instead of scallions / spring onions
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:53 AM on September 15, 2009

Why not just mix and match? I never make potato salad the same way twice.


Green Onion
Caramelized Onion
Canned crab, or Krab
Red and Green Bell Pepper

Cream Cheese
Sour Cream

Old Bay
Paprika (extra points for smoked paprika)
Chopped Chipotles
Garlic Salt
Dill, Chives, Parsley
Lemon Zest + Juice
Lemon Pepper

From these you can get Baked Potato Salad (sour cream, bacon, chives, caramelized onion); Seaside Potato Salad (crab, Old Bay, green onion, mayo, lemon), SpicyFiestaPinataLatinoCliche Potato Salad (chopped chipotles, sour cream, paprika, garlic salt, jalapenos, bell pepper), AmericanizedGreekCliche Potato Salad (cucumber, yogurt, dill, garlic salt, green onion, lemon)

All these lists can be added to, by the way. Which is the point of this thread, I take it.
posted by Juliet Banana at 11:59 AM on September 15, 2009 [6 favorites]

Simple is better.

- Do you flavor your boiling liquid? (Bayleaf, salt, apropriate herbs, etc).
- Pick your starch carefully - Yukon Gold, Idaho and Red Bliss have very different flavor and texture profiles. If I want my potato to flake, I use Idaho. If I want my potato to mush, I use Yukon. Red Bliss is for the skins. Sweet potatoes make an awesome fall-feeling potato salad. I use them all as I like to make a wide variety of potato salads.
- I also cut my potatoes smaller than most people do. This freaked out both my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law and my wife and they went into panic mode when I made 15lbs for our wedding reception (they'll mush they said... there won't be time to fix it they said... man they enjoyed themselves some potato salad). Cutting them small allows them to cook faster, makes them more fork-portable, and allows for faster flavor pennetration.
- As stated above - start your potatoes in cold cold cold water, let come to a boil, stirring regularly to promote even heating. If you cut them like I do, 5 minutes of steeping is the perfect length of time in almost all cases before tossing them directly into an ice bath. Stir immediately and get them in and out of the ice bath as quickly as possible. I have a friend that just pulls them at boiling and lets them carryover. If you ice bath, make sure the ice water has the same flavorings as your boiling liquid.
- Drain your potatoes thoroughly, then douse with vinegar, salt, spices, and allow to marinate for 2-3 hours in the fridge. Drain them again. Continue as you normally would.

Pickled ingredients:
- Have you ever made your own pickles? Mustard seed, Coriander, Wine, Sugar? Cumin, Water, Bayleafs, re-hydrated hot peppers?
- Pickled carrots rock
- Pickled beets should be added just before service unless you want everything red (or yellow)
- Gastriques do wonders as thickeners if you want to use less mayo and don't mind the sugar. Reduce the pickling juices if you mix it in.

- Make your own

Flavors I like:
- Idaho potato, Roast garlic, Pickled Artichoke, Pickled Celery, Pickled Cucumbers, Celery Seed, Champagne Vinnegar, Thyme, mayoniase
- Red potato, Hot-Pickled Cucumber, Toasted Walnuts, Rosemary, Balsamic, Country Mustard, Roasted Garlic, mayoniase
- Yukon Gold, taragon vinegar, Carrots, Celery, Pickles, fresh taragon, yellow mustard, mayoniase
- Sweet, roasted hazlenuts, cranberries, carmelized onion, shalots and celery, arkansass black apples, lemon juice, horseradish, mayoniase
posted by Nanukthedog at 12:02 PM on September 15, 2009 [7 favorites]

This is the best potato salad I have ever made. I lured the best boyfriend I have ever dated in with this salad:

Serves 6

2 lbs. red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1" chunks
6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup snipped fresh chives

1. Preheat oven to 425°F.

2. Place potatoes on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle 1 1/2 tbsp oil over the potatoes and toss with your hands to coat them evenly. Place the baking sheet in the oven. Roast the potatoes, turning once, until golden brown, about 45 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, whisk the vinegars, mustard, and salt to taste in a small bowl. Whisk in the remaining 4 1/2 tbsp oil until smooth. Adjust the seasonings.

4. Transfer the roasted potatoes to a large bowl. Rewhisk the dressing and drizzle it over the potatoes. Sprinkle with the chives an dmix well. Adjust the seasonings and serve warm or at room temperature.
posted by bluefly at 12:20 PM on September 15, 2009 [5 favorites]

I lately have been making "Thai" potato salad.

It contains potatoes (usually of the red or white "new potato variety), tomatoes, thinly sliced red bell and jalepeno peppers, roasted garlic, and thai basil, all topped with a mixture of mayo, coconut milk and red or green thai curry paste. It always goes over well because people are never expecting that combination (and it is delicious!).
posted by urbanlenny at 12:39 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's a total cheat, but I get rave reviews from a salad that is simply red potatoes, crumbled bacon, chopped green onion and ranch dressing.

I've pretty much given up on any other sort of potato salad because I just can't seem to get it where I want it. Well, and out of spite from the time that I had some really incredible yogurt-based potato salad and the chick that made it wouldn't give me the recipe.
posted by Shohn at 12:43 PM on September 15, 2009

My mom always uses dill pickle juice instead of vinegar...and dices up little bits of the homemade dills as well. It's a pretty good mod to the conventional potato salad recipe!
posted by Richat at 12:47 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Boil the potatoes whole, as already mentioned. Slice with a serrated knife while they're still hot and douse the warm potatoes with white vinegar (or pickle juice) -- refrigerate -- drain off the excess liquid -- then make your salad.
posted by kmennie at 1:02 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Chipotle peppers and adobo sauce. Easy and awesome; you won't be able to stop eating it. Can be vegan if you make it with "Nayonaise"; can be meaty if you want to include crumbled bacon. Here's one chipotle bacon potato salad recipe, but it can be very simple: do the usual things for potato salad, get a small can of chipotles in adobo sauce, add 1-3 tblsp sauce (taste as you go) to the mayo, chop up a couple of peppers (again taste as you go, they're hot; remove the seeds if you want it less hot) and add to the mixture.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:04 PM on September 15, 2009

Flavor your potato salad with pickle juice. Seriously.

Yes. This. I use the juice from bread & butter pickes, and I make sure to add all of the marinated mustard seeds that are in the pickle jar too. It's very yummy.
posted by dogmom at 1:07 PM on September 15, 2009

-Potatoes, blanched green beans, pesto

-Potatoes, blanched green beans, olives, capers, canned tuna, vinaigrette of some sort, possibly with mustard in it (sort of a nicoise-esque, could add hard boiled eggs as well)
posted by yarrow at 1:10 PM on September 15, 2009

I haven't looked at @troika's, but from the same source (prob. subscription required), is an Austrian Potato Salad: some vinegar, red onion, etc. Vegetarian friendly--the dressing is mostly also potato--and similar to German Potato Salad without the heavy fat, bacon, etc. The dressing trick was a matter of mashing the hell out of some of the salad potatoes, so I expect the technique would work as well with American or other flavors. Drop me a line through my MeFi profile if you want/need the recipe.
posted by phrits at 1:11 PM on September 15, 2009

Apples. Granny Smith, or equally tart apples with a crisp flesh. The key is a mix of textures. You've got the potatoes, which can't be too mushy, but can't be too raw. The teeth have got to get through with little resistance. That's why celery and apples are so important. They break up the texture, and add little explosions of "hey, that flavor is different."

The potatoes must still be warm when you mix the salad, or they won't take on any of the flavor. I use miracle whip (it's got that tangy zip) as the binder, but sparingly. For herbs, oregano is a good standby, but sage and rosemary would work too.

It would be really easy to turn it curry by using cumin, garam masala, coriander (powder), and a touch of chili powder. If going the curry route, use something other than miracle whip. Never tried it, but perhaps coconut milk, the above spices, perhaps almonds. Maybe a citrus fruit mixed in?
posted by Ghidorah at 1:19 PM on September 15, 2009

Try subbing aioli for mayonnaise. NOM.

posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:21 PM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

Potatoes are the perfect carriers for savory foods. I love potato salad. Here's how I learned to make it from my Mom:

Potatoes, boiled & chunked. Red-skinned new potatoes are pretty.
while hot, douse with home-made vinaigrette
- vinegar, mustard, herbs, a little bit of olive oil

while the potatoes cool, chop
red onion
lots of green olives - get the ones labeled salad olives; they're chopped already.

add to potatoes, along with mayo, salt & pepper.
posted by theora55 at 1:42 PM on September 15, 2009


1. Make your own Mayo.
Blend an egg yolk with a little lemon juice, salt, and olive oil until emulsified. Keep adding bits of oil and blending / emulsifying. A hand blender in a mug works really well. Homemade Mayo does not taste anything like store bought. You don't leave open home made mayo in the fridge because the fat will literally soak up the refridgerator smell and take on that taste. It's that powerful.

2. Let your boiled potatoes sit in the vinaigrette / mustard / mayo for 10 mins.
While they're hot they'll soak in all that flavor goodness.

3. Pack in flavor with Olives or Pickles or Adobo chili, etc.
These ingredients will make your salad sing.

Here's a recipe for a two tone (sweet and baking) potato salad. I made it for my wedding, and believe me, I was only making dishes I KNEW were going to succeed. You won't believe how much flavor the green olives bring to the dish.
posted by xammerboy at 3:56 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've made this recipe from Chatelaine magazine a couple of times (it was in August's issue so it's new to me) and it's gone over well. I ended up using tikka paste (since that's what was in my fridge) instead of Indian curry paste, and the little bit I used that gave it a nice flavour, not overpowering at all.

Warm Curried Potato Salad.

I've eaten it warm or cold and it's good both ways.

Once I learned I didn't have to make potato salad a la Grandma, I discovered that I liked potato salad.
posted by melissa at 4:21 PM on September 15, 2009

I had some potato salad the other day that looked ordinary but had a distinct nutmeg flavor. It was surprising and tasty.
posted by beandip at 4:47 PM on September 15, 2009

Don't just dice the potatoes, rice them! Seriously, use a potato ricer. I love the extra-creamy texture this gives, especially if you use lots of hardboiled egg & bits of pickle. Dressing is mayo & a healthy plop of yellow mustard. A good dose of dill. Pioneer Woman's recipe is excellent. Ironically, her potato salad is identical to the stuff they serve in a local Korean restaurant in my town and I've been looking for a recipe like theirs for years.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 4:51 PM on September 15, 2009

Arugula and feta work wonderfully in a potato salad. Here's how I do it:

Pick a bowl. Mix a mustardy dressing in it, whatever type and instructions you like. Wash and pull apart a whole lot of arugula.

Now crumble some feta into the bowl. Put in whatever else you'd like -- mint leaves, fresh parsley, celery seed, freshly ground pepper. Alliums of your choice, but reasonably delicate ones: sweet onions, shallots, or scallions.

Boil your potatoes. Cut them up, put them in the salad while they're all warm, mix everything up.
posted by tangerine at 6:03 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

All the basic potato, eggs, celery and so forth, then: slaw dressing, curry powder, garam masala, and turmeric. AMAZING.
posted by motsque at 8:19 PM on September 15, 2009

One tip that (I think) applies to any salad: when you've finished boiling your potatoes, drain them in a colander and then let them steam dry for a few minutes. This gets rid of all the cooking water and ensures that you don't end up watering down your dressing. Then put them in a bowl while still hot with enough of the dressing to coat them, and let them sit for 5 minutes. They will soak up the dressing (especially if it's a vinaigrette-type one). Then continue with the rest of the dressing/ingredients.
posted by primer_dimer at 2:34 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

There's a disturbing lack of pickled ghurkins in this thread, so I thought I'd mention that pickled ghurkins will improve your potato salad by a factor 1000 or so. Dice them very finely, slightly larger than the onions.

Hard boiled eggs
Red Onion
Pepper & salt
posted by NekulturnY at 2:46 AM on September 16, 2009

Upon rereading the thread: and dill, yes.
posted by NekulturnY at 2:50 AM on September 16, 2009

Grated yellow onion.

I use about 2 tablespoons of finely grated yellow onion (liquidy mush, effectively) mixed in with 100g of good quality egg mayo and 1 tablespoon of hot German mustard, plus salt, pepper, and chives. Then let it sit for a while.

But I think it's the onion that makes it tasty, so maybe incorporate that into your favourite dressing?
posted by Emilyisnow at 5:39 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

This German potato salad by an Irish chef has replaced mayonnaise-based salads in my affections, and I did used to make my own mayonnaise. Goes very well with smoked mackerel.
posted by calico at 1:49 PM on September 16, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you for all the help guys, for one day, I was king of the potluck at my office.

What I ended up with, for those keeping score:

One German recipe (mustard and vinegar) with celery, capers & pickles.
One mayo base with bacon, blue cheese, capers, hard-boiled egg, celery and pickled green beans.

As all answers were great, I've scattered a few favorites about for the items I found most helpful.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 8:59 AM on September 18, 2009

Oh I'm late, but let's ignore that: add smoked or steamed mussels (shelled) to a dilly, mustardy, potato salad.
posted by lester the unlikely at 1:43 PM on September 19, 2009

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