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When you think of barbecue side dishes, a good classic potato salad recipe is a must. This has been my go-to recipe for years.
Ingredients for Classic Potato Salad
The ingredients are really simple and can be altered, if you’re feeling fancy and want to change things up a bit.
Substitutions: In place of half of the mayonnaise, you can mix in Greek yogurt, Miracle Whip or sour cream. If you like your potato salad more on the tart side, stir in a couple tablespoons of Dijon mustard.
Equipment You’ll Need
The Best Kind of Potato for Potato Salad
I used to make potato salad with Russet or Idaho potatoes, you know the big brown ones. But those skins are still pretty firm, even after you cook them, so it was best to peel them first. But who has the extra time for that?
Now, I use these mini gold potatoes. Their skin is so soft and tender, once they’re cooked, they blend right in and add just a subtle texture.
You can use the regular size Yukon gold potatoes, too, but I like the mini ones, because they’re the most tender. My grocery store carries them in 1 1/2-pound bags, so I buy two for this recipe.
After rinsing them, slice them into 1/2-inch bite-size pieces.
Then, get a pot that is large enough to hold all of the diced potatoes and enough water to cover them. Add a generous pinch of salt to the water. Bring the water to a boil. That will take about 15 minutes. Then boil the potatoes for 10-15 minutes.
You want them to be at least fork tender. Personally, I do the full 15 minutes in boiling water, because I prefer a potato salad that is a mix between firm bites and mashed potatoes consistency.
Strain the potatoes and rinse them with cool water and let them continue to cool for 10 minutes before mixing with the sauce.
The Potato Salad Sauce
This classic potato salad recipe uses mayonnaise as the base for its sauce, but as I mentioned above, you could substitute some of the mayo with Greek yogurt, sour cream or Miracle Whip. Heck, you could even try a little ranch dressing in there.
Then, you need an acid and sweet element. Most recipes call for vinegar and sugar, but I just use pickle juice, because the brine is basically vinegar, salt and water. And most of the time the pickle juice goes to waste, unless I’m making my grilled Chick-Fil-A nuggets.
In addition to the mayo and pickle juice, flavor the sauce with salt, pepper and celery seeds. The celery seeds accentuate the fresh celery and give the potato salad that classic flavor we all love.
Potato Salad Mix-Ins
Once the sauce is made and the potatoes are slightly cooled, it’s time to mix everything together. The remaining ingredients provide both flavor and texture.
When it comes to the pickles, the type you use is completely up to you. I prefer bread and butter pickles and sweet pickles, but if you’re a dill fan, go with those. Just give them a rough chop.
The recipe calls for a total of 1 cup of celery, that’s about 3 ribs from the stalk. I also like adding sweet onion. You could go with white onion, red onion or green onions, but again, I’m using sweet pickles, so the sweet onion matches them well.
If you’re using dill pickles and adding a bit of yellow mustard or Dijon to the sauce, the white onions would be a nice addition.
For the hard boiled eggs, you’ll need three that are chopped and one that is sliced.
I like using an egg slicer. If you place the egg in the slicer and drop down the blades once, you’ll have a perfectly sliced egg.
After that, if you rotate the egg 90 degrees and press down the blades another time, the eggs will be perfectly chopped.
How to Garnish Potato Salad
Once the potato salad is mixed together, cover it with plastic wrap and let it set in the fridge for at least an hour. It’s even better if you have time to leave it overnight.
Then, just before it’s time to serve, place it in your presentation bowl and top it with hard boiled egg slices, sliced celery and celery or parsley leaves. I use the celery leaves, because they’re usually on the stalk of celery. No need to buy anything extra.
If you want to add a little pizzazz of color, give the salad a light dusting of smoked paprika.
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Frequently Asked Questions
The time it takes to cook potatoes will vary, depending on the type of potatoes you use and the size of the pieces. With this recipe, I place the raw potatoes in a pot of water. Once that water comes to a boil, I let the potatoes cook for 10-15 minutes, until they are fork tender.
When you make a fresh batch, you can keep it in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Once you remove it from the refrigerator to serve, it should only be kept at room temperature for two hours. If you’re planning for a longer party, consider placing the salad bowl in a larger bowl of ice to help keep it cool. If you have leftovers from the party and you refrigerate within the two-hour period, you can save it in the fridge for one more day.
Technically you can, but personally, I don’t recommend it. The celery, onions and pickles will start to lose their crunchiness when frozen, so the salad will lose its fantastic texture.
This depends on what else you’re serving. If you just have a platter of hot dogs, potato salad and potato chips, people will likely eat 3/4 to 1 cup of salad. But if you have a bunch of sides and proteins, people will tend to eat around 1/2 cup. This recipe makes 11 cups, so it should feed 15-20 people.
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Classic Potato Salad
- 3 lbs mini gold potatoes
- 2 cups mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup pickle juice
- 1 tsp celery seed
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp coarse ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup celery, chopped
- 3/4 cup pickles, chopped
- 1/2 cup sweet onion, minced
- 3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
- 1 hard boiled eggs, sliced
- 1/4 cup celery, sliced
- 1/4 cup fresh celery leaves, chopped
- dash smoked paprika, optional
- Cook the Potatoes: Rinse the potatoes and cut them into half-inch pieces. Place them in a large stock pot with enough water to cover them and a large pinch of salt. Bring to a boil. Then cook for 15 minutes, until fork tender. Rinse with cold water and let cool for 10 minutes.
- Make the Sauce: In a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, pickle juice, salt, pepper and celery seeds.
- Assemble the Salad: Add the cooked potatoes to the bowl and gently mix. Fold in 3 chopped hard boiled eggs, 3/4 cups chopped celery, the pickles and onions. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.
- Garnish: Just before serving, top with sliced hard boiled eggs, sliced celery, freshly chopped celery leaves and a dash of smoked paprika.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.