This easy, classic Southern potato salad recipe with eggs, has been handed down from my grandma to my mom and then to me and includes their secret tips that make it the very best potato salad recipe every single time.
How to Make the Best Potato Salad
It may be pretty bold to claim, but saying this potato salad recipe is the best is a statement I totally stand behind. I’ve shared several variations of potato salad recipes here on the blog including my German potato salad, a creamy dill potato salad, my no-mayo potato salad with herbs, a bacon and sour cream loaded baked potato salad, and even more. But this salad is the one that readers have made a top recipe here on the blog, and definitely ranks as my personal childhood favorite.
This classic potato salad is the one I grew up on. It’s the recipe my Grandma Mary Jane originally made, then passed down to my mom, aunts, cousins, and me and my sister. It’s accompanied burgers, grilled ribs, and every other favorite summer dinner recipe under the sun. As favorite family recipes do, it’s a food memory none of us can, or want, to forget. It shows up at nearly every BBQ, picnic, or good old-fashioned supper soirée at my house, and it’s one I’m proud as punch to share when I go to other’s homes as well. It’s extremely popular with readers who love it all year round, at Thanksgiving and Christmas too. Who knew? Looks like this recipe has found its Southern potato salad roots. So now it’s your turn to give it a try. Here’s how to make the best potato salad ever. Let’s get started…
What’s in Potato Salad
I spent many a summer afternoon making and taste-testing this salad alongside my amazing mama, just like she did with hers. 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.
Here are the ingredients you’ll need for this classic potato salad:
- Yukon gold potatoes (see below why they’re the best)
- white vinegar
- hard-boiled eggs
- green onion
- Miracle Whip—it’s the secret sauce to this potato salad dressing
- yellow mustard
- celery seed
- kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
What Type of Potato Is Best for Potato Salad
We use white potatoes, or Yukon Golds, in our family’s potato salad recipe. Because they have thinner skin, they’re easy to peel after boiling and taste creamier, a little sweeter, and hold their shape well after cooking. Avoid using starchier potatoes like russets that too easily turn to mush in salads like this. Choose potatoes around the same size for the most consistent cooking.
How to Keep Potato Salad from Getting Watery
There are a couple of reasons potato salad can become watery or runny. Here’s how to troubleshoot the problem.
- Use the right potato. Yukon golds are our go-to and absorb the dressing well.
- Be sure to add the dressing to cool potatoes. Potatoes will sweat water as they cool, and that can contribute to watery potato salad.
- Reader Vicki sent in an email with her suggestion to avoid watery potato salad. I like to salt my potato water to add flavor, so test this tip and decide for yourself: “I asked a renowned chef what I was doing wrong, and he told me NEVER to salt the potatoes either during cooking or preparing the salad. The salt makes the potatoes seep water. Ever since I took his suggestion, I have never had a problem with watery salad. You can season the salad with salt, pepper, and other seasonings just before serving and it won’t affect the potatoes once they have been mixed with the mayo. Just an FYI.”
How to Cook Potatoes for Potato Salad
- Do you cut potatoes before boiling for potato salad? My mom says, no. Boil them whole with skin on.
- My mom cooks her potatoes whole with the skin on. I follow her lead. However, some commenters have suggested peeling and cutting the potatoes before cooking. But, my mom says that allows the potatoes to absorb more water that could make a watery potato salad so I do what mama says and cook them whole.
- To cook the potatoes, add them to cold water, bring to a boil, then reduce to medium heat so the potato temperature rises at the same rate as the water. Don’t add the potatoes to hot, boiling water.
- Boil the potatoes until fork-tender and the skin just begins to crack about 20-25 minutes.
- Another cooking method a reader suggests is steaming the potatoes in 1 inch of water for 30 minutes, which works too. Just be sure to watch you don’t boil your water away and burn the pan.
My Mom’s Secret Tips
- Add vinegar to the warm potatoes. One of the biggest flavoring secrets to the success of this recipe is white vinegar. That’s why I add a few hearty splashes of white vinegar to the cooked potatoes giving the salad its secret and subtle flavor punch. Add the vinegar while the potatoes are still warm so they absorb the vinegar’s zing while they cool.
- My mom’s next key ingredient is Miracle Whip. As noted in the comments, there is much debate over using Miracle Whip or traditional mayonnaise. Even though I’m a mayo fan, I’ve found that MW adds a sweet creamy flavor mayo just doesn’t have. That’s why time and again I’ve returned to my roots and back to Miracle Whip. It’s what mom uses and it’s the classic flavor I can’t get otherwise. If you’re a mayo fan, by all means, make the move. But maybe, just maybe, give the old Whip a try.
- Always add eggs. My mom’s original recipe calls for just three eggs, but since I’m a super fan of eggs in potato salad, I’ve added two more. It probably stems from my adoration of egg salad, so feel free to adapt to your own taste.
- In our family recipe, chunks of celery and bites of green onion add the needed crunch to classic potato salads. I’ve added diced pickles before because everything tastes better with pickles. Except for this version of potato salad. I’m saving the pickles for my tuna fish sandwiches.
- Let’s talk celery seed. This is probably the only recipe besides a bloody mary (find my favorite bloody mary recipe here) where I don’t miss using celery seed. It’s an integral part of the flavor profile, so don’t skip it.
- Mustard adds the tang. Just like on my hot dogs, plain old yellow mustard is the best. We don’t even dream about getting fancy schmancy with German browns, hearty-seeded, or Frenchy dijon mustards. I save that for my German potato salad.
- Give this salad time. Allowing the potato salad flavors to meld is important here, that’s why 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 make it a day ahead. Potato salad will stay good in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. If it doesn’t get eaten up before then.
- Hail to my mom’s best potato salad. Enjoy!
Potato Salad Substitutions and Variations
Everyone has their favorite ingredients that make up a pasta salad, just check out the comments below. Here are a few additions and variations you may be craving now.
- Can you use mayo instead of Miracle Whip? If you prefer to, go for it. Personally, the sweetness in Miracle Whip is what I have the most fondness for.
- Try a half-and-half situation by subbing in half sour cream or Greek yogurt for any part of the mayo/Miracle Whip combo.
- Try adding pickles. For more zing, adding diced sweet pickles, dill pickles or pickle relish will give this salad another layer of flavor.
- Chopped red onion or radishes will add a bit more heat.
- Add bacon for an earthy bite (or just make my Baked Potato Salad with bacon, sour cream, and cheddar cheese instead.)
- Instead of Yukon gold potatoes, try red potatoes instead and leave their jacket skins on for a more colorful potato look.
Recipes That Go With Potato Salad
- How to Make the Best Grilled Salmon
- The Best BBQ Chicken
- The Best Garlic Burgers EVER
- Bacon Double Cheddar Cheeseburger With Caramelized Onions
- The Best Greek Chicken
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
My Grandma's BEST Potato Salad Recipe
- 3 pounds medium white potatoes or Yukon golds , skin on and quartered
- 3 tablespoons white vinegar
- 2 celery stalks (ribs) , diced
- 6 green onions , diced
- 5 hard-boiled eggs , peeled
- 1 ½ cups Miracle Whip or mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
- 1 ½ teaspoons celery seed
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- paprika for garnish
- Add the potatoes to a large pot of cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a lightly rolling boil over medium heat and add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Cook for 20-25 minutes or until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork or paring knife. Drain and set aside until cool enough to handle.
- Peel the skins from the potatoes and cut into ½" to ¾" square pieces. Transfer the warm potatoes to a large mixing bowl and sprinkle with the white vinegar. Toss the potatoes with the vinegar and set the potatoes aside to cool, about 15-20 minutes.
- Add the celery and the green onions to the potato mixture. 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. Fold into the potato mixture and season with more salt and pepper to taste. 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.
- If you prefer, substitute the Miracle Whip with mayonnaise. Or, use half mayonnaise and half Greek yogurt or sour cream for more tang.
More Classic Potluck Recipe Ideas
- The Best Homemade Mac and Cheese
- How to Make Classic Macaroni Salad
- How To Make The Best Creamy Coleslaw
- Fresh and Easy Vietnamese Noodle Salad
- The Best BBQ Baked Beans
- 20 Potluck Side Dishes For The Classic Summer BBQ
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