This isn’t my first potato salad recipe rodeo on this bloggity blog, but it’s for sure my favorite and dare I say, the best.
Okay, that might be a pretty bold statement, stating this potato salad as the best. I’ve shared several variations of potato salad here including the more complicated, throw everything in but the kitchen sink Stetson Chunky Potato Salad to my Roasted Potato Salad with Bacon Dressing to my Loaded Baked Potato Salad that has definitely risen in the ranks of favorites.
But I’ve yet to share the number one potato salad that worms its way into nearly every BBQ, picnic or just good old fashioned supper at my house, the one I’m proud as punch to share when I go to other’s homes as well.
This classic potato salad is the one I grew up on. It’s the recipe my Grandma Mary Jane made, then passed onto my mom who made it to accompany every hamburger, grilled ribs or other summer deliciousness, and who then passed it onto me and my sister. It’s the recipe I spent many a summer afternoon making alongside my amazing mama, just like she did with hers. In fact, I’ve made it so many times I don’t even need the recipe. You know a recipe is that good when you know it by heart.
So, here’s how to make the best potato salad ever. Let’s get started…
About the recipe:
We use white potatoes, or Yukon Golds, in our family potato salad. White potatoes are a little creamier, a little sweet and hold their shape well after cooking. And becauses they have a thinner skin, they’re really easy to peel after boiling. I’ve tried using waxier potatoes in this mayo-based recipe but it simply resulted in a potato salad that was swimming in watery mayo because the potatoes didn’t absorb the sauce.
I’ve found the best consistency for boiled potatoes comes from adding the potatoes to cold water and then bringing them to a boil, rather than adding the potatoes to hot, boiling water. Like pasta, adding salt to the water, 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons, gives the potatoes some much needed flavor, so don’t be shy. Per my husband’s request, I add the salt once the water begins to bubble so it doesn’t sit on the bottom of my pan and pit the pan. He’s totally right.
Adding a few hearty splashes of white vinegar to the potatoes gives the salad it’s secret and subtle flavor punch. The key is to add the vinegar while still the potatoes are still warm, then let them rest so they absorb the tart flavor as the starches come out in the potatoes so they soften and absorb the flavors.
Chunks of celery and bites of mellower green onion add the needed crunch to classic potato salads. I’ve added diced pickles before because everything tastes better with pickles. Except this version of potato salad. I’m saving them for my tuna fish sandwiches.
In my mom’s recipe, she uses Miracle Whip rather than mayo for it’s slightly sweet flavor. And because that’s just what she’s always done. I’ve used both because as I’ve gotten older, Miracle Whip has exited the building for my taste buds. But lately, I’ve returned to my roots and gone back to the Miracle Whip because that’s what mom uses, and I must say, I’m gonna stick with it. If you’re a mayo fan, by all means, make the move but maybe, just maybe, give the old Whip a try.
My mom’s original recipe calls for just three eggs, but I’m a super fan of eggs in potato salad so I added an extra two. It probably stems from my adoration of egg salad. Feel free to adapt to your own taste.
Let’s talk celery seed. This is probably the only recipe besides a bloody mary (my favorite recipe is right here) that I use celery seed. But it’s an integral part of the flavor profile, so don’t skip it.
Don’t even dream about getting fancy schmancy with German browns, hearty seeded or Frenchy dijon mustards. Just like hot dogs, plain old yellow mustard is the best.
Allowing the potato salad flavors to meld is important here. If I’m planning on eating the salad on the day I make it, I’ll prepare it at lunch so it can sit and build the flavors or even overnight and will stay good in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. If it doesn’t get eaten up before then.
Hail to the best potato salad. Enjoy!
How to Make the Best Potato Salad
- 6 medium white potatoes or Yukon golds about 2 1/2 to 3 pounds, quartered
- 3 tablespoons white vinegar
- 2 large celery stalks diced
- 6 green onions diced
- 5 hard boiled eggs peeled
- 1 1/2 cups Miracle Whip or mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
- 1 1/2 teaspoons celery seed
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- paprika for garnish
Bring potatoes to a boil in large pot of cold water that's been liberally salted. Reduce the heat to medium high or a lightly rolling boil and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are easily pierced with a pairing knife. Drain and let cool until just able to handle.
Peel the skins from the potatoes and cut into large diced pieces. Transfer the warm potatoes to a large mixing bowl and sprinkle with the white vinegar and stir. Allow the potatoes to cool, about 15 minutes. Add the celery and green onions. Chop 4 of the hard boiled eggs and add to the potato mixture.
In a medium bowl, mix the Miracle Whip or mayonnaise, yellow mustard, celery seed and salt and pepper. Mix well into the potato mixture and season with more salt and pepper if needed. Slice the last egg into thin slices and place the slices on top of the salad. Sprinkle with paprika if desired. Chill for at least 1 hour or overnight before serving.
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