Classic potato salad is my not-quite traditional spin on the potato salad we all grew up with, containing hard-boiled eggs, celery, onion, mayo, and more. Plus, hacks to ensure that this classic potato salad never turns out bland!
Classic potato salad: the traditional* potato salad
(Updated post) A potluck just isn’t a potluck without potato salad, am I right? This take on the traditional, hard-boiled-egg-containing, classic potato salad is always a hit with my family.
So, why the asterisk?
*Although this classic potato salad recipe features a fairly traditional, mayo-based dressing and the requisite hard-boiled eggs, there are several departures from traditional recipes that NOBODY in the family need know about, but that WILL kick the flavor out of the park:
I add a tablespoon of capers. GASP! You’re FIRED! Seriously: I can almost guarantee you that NOBODY will be able to put their finger on the source of the briny, piquant awesomeness conferred by this addition.
I add dried herbs in the form of tarragon and a Bavarian Herb mix.
I toss the potatoes with vinegar and salt immediately after they’re done cooking (i.e., still very warm). This is where many potato salads fall down, in my opinion: the potatoes are never adequately seasoned. Seasoning in stages (1. tossing with vinegar and salt, and 2. tossing with the final dressing while the potatoes are still warm) results in a well-seasoned classic potato salad. You’ll end up adding more salt if you wait until the end and then try to fix the blandness.
The jury is out on whether this next is an actual departure from tradition: I use actual mayonnaise in this recipe as opposed to Miracle Whip, which is NOT technically mayonnaise, and which I absolutely despise. I understand that many folks out there prefer its [cloying, sickeningly-sweet, IMO] flavor to mayonnaise, but it really doesn’t work in this recipe.
Potato size, flavoring, and variations
I use baby potatoes in all my potato salads. Although I used to cut them in half, the hubster has requested that I quarter them. Why? It’s a surface-to-volume thing, which I explain in nauseating detail here. What it boils down to is this: compared to the whole potato, smaller cubes have more exposed surfaces that flavor can stick to.
The only thing to keep in mind with cutting potatoes into smaller and smaller chunks is that they take less time to cook. And if you cut them TOO small, they’re no longer recognizable as potatoes. So quartering, which, in baby potatoes, gives about 1/2″ chunks, is as small as I go.
The last time I made a batch of this classic potato salad, I substituted some beautiful garlic scapes I found at the Farmers’ Market for the scallions. Garlic scapes are in season from late spring to early summer. They taste like scallions and garlic had a love child, producing a mildly garlicky-green flavor. (Can a color have a flavor? I say YES.) The result was FANTASTIC, so I highly suggest this as a seasonal variation. Another fun twist: if it’s near the Fourth of July, I like to be festive and find red, white, and blue-colored fingerling potatoes.
Classic potato salad is better if you make it the day before so that the flavors have a chance to meld and get happy together. And remember, kids: if you’re taking this potato salad to a potluck, be sure to take food safety precautions and keep the salad chilled—bacteria are really fond of things like warm mayonnaise, and there’s nothing worse than everyone at a potluck getting sick, then pointing to YOUR DISH as the culprit. SHUDDER.
Without further ado, here’s my family’s favorite potato salad!! I hope your crowd loves it.
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Traditional* Potato Salad
- 2 lbs baby potatoes - halved or quartered
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions - (see Recipe Note #1)
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced and chopped celery
- 1 tbsp capers - finely minced
- 2 hard-boiled eggs - sliced or chunked
- 1 cup mayonnaise - NOT Miracle Whip!
- 1 tbsp yellow mustard
- 1 tbsp sweet pickle relish
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tbsp dried tarragon
- 1 tbsp dried mixed herbs - (see Recipe Note #2)
- 1/2 tsp Salt - (or to taste)
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper - (or to taste)
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the baby potatoes; boil until easily pierced with a paring knife, 15-18 minutes (check several pieces: there should be no resistance, and when you lift the chunk out of the water, it should slide off the knife).
- While the potatoes are boiling, make the dressing. Mix the mayo, yellow mustard, sweet pickle relish, onion powder, all herbs, scallions, capers, salt, and black pepper.
- When the potatoes are done, drain them well and add them back to the pot. Sprinkle with the rice vinegar and 1 generous pinch of salt; toss well. Pour the potatoes onto a sheet pan and spread them out to cool at room temperature for 20 min.
- Add the still-slightly-warm potatoes to the dressing; mix well to combine. Check the seasoning and adjust as necessary. Add the hard-boiled eggs; stir gently.
- Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving (this salad is better if it's made the day before! See Recipe Note #3). Enjoy!
- Garlic scapes make a fantastic seasonal substitution.
- Use your favorite dried herb or spice mix (my fave is Penzey's Bavarian Seasoning)—just be sure to check and see whether the mix contains salt. If it does, add less salt to the dressing.
- BE SURE to keep the potato salad chilled to reduce the chances of food poisoning.
Loaded baked potato salad is an addictive, perfect side-dish for BBQs & potlucks. Lighter than traditional potato salads, but just as yummy.