This old fashioned potato salad recipe is creamy with mayonnaise, tangy with mustard and crunchy with celery and onion. Perfect for any back yard bbq or Summer pot luck thrown your way. This is a classic American style potato salad recipe.
This is the classic potato salad that I grew up on. It’s a 3rd generation old fashioned recipe passed down from my great grandmother, grandmother and my mother. It’s a southern potato salad recipe that’s just what you’d expect as a classic.
It’s been a Summer side dish for years for grilled burgers, ribs and my favorite grilled chicken recipe. It’s simply Summer perfect.
Classic potato salad is one of those true comfort food side dishes that brings with it memories of family gatherings, and Summer outdoor picnics or bbq’s.
When I think of potato salad, I think “All-American…summer…picnics…back yard BBQ’s…” But is Potato Salad really All-American? From what I read on a Google search, our cold mayonnaise based version was surely inspired by German immigrants who served their German potato salad warm and with vinegar.
Our version, a creamy sauce wrapped around a dependable American potato just can’t be beat.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Small Red Potatoes: Red potatoes, no matter what their size are ideal for potato salad. They are lower in starch so hold their shape better. And higher in sugar, they make a better tasting potato salad.
- Onions: We prefer sweet or yellow onions.
- Olives (optional)
- Yellow Mustard: Adds the tang.
Ingredient Swaps and Substitutions
- Potatoes: You can also use Yukon gold potatoes or purple potatoes. Each of those varieties are low starch potatoes so will help their shape. Like red potatoes, they are also higher in sugar content for a tasty potato salad.
- Olives: We like to use pimento stuffed green olives, but black (ripe) olives would also be a good choice to add a bit of a briny flavor to this classic potato salad recipe.
- Mayonnaise: My mom always made with Miracle Whip Dressing rather than mayo. It brings a sweeter end flavor result and makes this more of a Southern Potato Salad recipe.
Step By Step Instructions, How To Make The Best Potato Salad
Be sure to see the recipe card below for complete ingredients and instructions.
- Step 1: How Long To Cook Potatoes for Potato Salad: Rinse potatoes and cut out any unsightly spots. There’s no need to peel the potatoes. You can peel them once they are cooked if you simply don’t want the peel for appearance reasons. Add enough cold water to cover the potatoes by a couple of inches. Slowly bring the potatoes to a simmer over medium heat. Add about a 1/2 cup salt. Don’t let them come to a hard boil. We don’t want them bouncing and bumping all over the place, just a good simmer. Watch them closely. If you cook them too long, you’ll have mashed potatoes when you mix the salad, not enough and you’ve got that raw potato taste.
- Step 2: Drain potatoes in a colander: How do I know when potatoes are done? Insert a sharp knife into one of the potatoes. When it slides out easily and feels tender. The potatoes are done enough for potato salad. Remember, when you drain them in the colander, they’re so hot, they’ll continue to cook for a few minutes more. Here’s where you can decide to leave skins on or off. The skins will peel off easily since they’re cooked. With a sharp knife very coarse chunk them while they’re sitting in the colander.
- Step 3: Meanwhile, chop your vegetables. I use about 1 cup of sweet onion, preferably Vidalia. 1 cup chopped celery, 1/2 cup sliced pimento-stuffed green olives and sometimes some chopped bacon. Place them in a large bowl.
- Step 4: Pour steaming chunks of potatoes over the bowl of chopped vegetables and let sit for about 5 minutes before stirring. I like to do this to steam the vegetables and let the flavors marry a little bit.
- Step 5: Top with mayonnaise and mustard. With a large spoon gently fold the potato salad together. Don’t stir too much, this may cause the potatoes to break apart and cause the potato salad to become mushy. At this time I start adjusting the flavors, adding more mustard and mayo, if needed, for both texture and flavor. NOTE: Remember, the potatoes were boiled in some salty water. Taste before adding salt and pepper.
- Old fashioned potato salad is routinely topped with sliced hard boiled eggs. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Pro Tip: Hard Boiled eggs will slice cleaner if they’ve been sitting in the refrigerator for a couple of hours after boiling. Plan accordingly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Potatoes with a high starch content, like russets, bake well for baked potatoes, and and also yield light and fluffy mashed potatoes. Those with a low starch content, like red-skinned potatoes, hold their shape after cooking, and are great for making potato salads and scalloped potatoes.
If you’re using russet potatoes, you may have over cooked them. Russet potatoes are high in starch and if cooked too long will become watery and mushy, which will result in a “mashed potato” mushy potato salad. Red or Yukon gold potatoes are recommended. Mushy potato salad may also result in stirring the potato salad too much. Every turn of the spatula or spoon may cause potatoes to break apart too much.
When I attended culinary school, it was advised to always cook potatoes with the skin on and cook them whole. Cooking them this way helps to maintain that potato flavor that we all love.
Yes, and all the better. Potato Salad can be made a couple day in advance of serving. And doing so will allow the flavors to marry for a better flavor experience.
Pro Tip: If you’re planning on serving potato salad for dinner, make it in the morning or at lunch time. This will allow for the flavors to blend. Even better, make it the day ahead and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Instead of adding olives, try a dollop of sweet pickle relish or even dill pickles. On occasion, my mom would even pour in a little pickle juice.
- Everything is better with bacon. Add 1/4 cup of chopped cooked bacon.
- Red onions will change the flavor profile. They’ll add a bite and a stronger onion experience.
- Potato salad with dill is a natural flavor combo. Garnish the potato salad with some chopped fresh dill fronds.
- Want even a little more tang? Add a splash of apple cider vinegar. Or try a splash of red wine vinegar.
- If I think this potato salad recipe needs a little more of a creamy factor, I like to add a generous tablespoon of sour cream rather than more mayo.
Potato salad will keep in the refrigerator for about 4 days. Store covered and an air-tight container is preferred.
And remember, potato salad is a mayo based side dish. If taking potato salad to a picnic or outdoor bbq, don’t let it set out more than two hours. A trick to keep that potato salad “safe” is to place it on ice.
If the potato salad has set out in warm temperatures for more than a couple of hours, you’ll need to toss it out. And that’s a shame to miss out on all of those leftovers.
Old Fashioned Potato Salad Recipe
I spent many hours making this potato salad with my mom whenI was growing up. She didn’t use a recipe, but rather taste testing as we went to get that perfect flavor. Potato salad with mustard and mayo is a classic and beloved recipe. And for me it’s a perfect potato salad recipe.
More Potato Salad Recipes
If you’re looking for more Summer Side Dishes, check out my Side Dishes Category. You’ll find a ton of recipe ideas. And the most popular side dish recipe on my site Broccoli Cheez Whiz Casserole. A classic casserole recipe that everyone still loves.
And don’t miss this lineup of 37 Summer side dish recipes, 4th of July Side Dishes.
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Old Fashioned Potato Salad
- 2 pounds Potatoes preferably small red skinned
- 1/2 cup celery chopped
- 1/2 cup onion sweet, chopped
- 1/4 cup green olives pimento stuffed, sliced (optional)
- 1 cup mayonnaise 1 generous cup
- 1 1/2 Tablespoon mustard yellow
- ' Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 Hard Boiled Eggs for garnish
- Paprika for garnish
- Rinse and remove any bad spots or eyes from the potatoes. Don't peel.
- Place potatoes n a large sauce pan and cover them with cold water by two inches.
- Slowly bring the potatoes to a boil. Cook them until just about done. When you insert a knife into the potato and it slides out somewhat easily, those potatoes are done enough for potato salad. Depending on the size of the potatoes, plan on 30 – 45 minutes cooking time.
- Drain potatoes in a colander. Remember, when you drain them in the colander, they're so hot, they'll continue to cook for a few minutes more. The skins will peel off easily since they're cooked, or I like to leave skins on.
- Meanwhile, chop your vegetables. Place them in a large bowl.
- When the potatoes are cool enough to handle (they'll should still be hot) With a knife, coarse chunk, or cut the potatoes in half, while adding them to the bowl with the celery and onions. Let sit for a couple of minutes before stirring. I like to do this to steam the vegetables and let the flavors marry a little bit.
- Top with mayonnaise and a tablespoon or more of mustard. This all depends on your taste preference. Add the olives if using. With a large spoon gently fold the potato salad together. At this time I start adjusting the flavors, adding more mustard and mayo, if needed, for both texture and flavor.
- Remember, the potatoes were boiled in salty water. Taste before adding salt and pepper.Top with sliced hard boiled egg if you'd like. Remember, those eggs will slice cleaner if they've been sitting in the refrigerator for a couple of hours after boiling. Refrigerate at least one hour before serving.
Old Fashioned Potato Salad … It’s what’s for a Summer Side Dish
Linda Glimco says
The potato salad is one of our family traditions with one more ingredient – sweet gherkins sliced.
Lea Ann Brown says
Yay for sweet gherkins. I have added them also.
Lynn Greenleaf says
My recipe is very similar to yours with one exception. Instead of adding salt to taste, my mom would add celery seed. It takes very little and adds a salty taste without adding sodium to the dish.
Lea Ann Brown says
Hi Lynn! Love that idea of celery salt. I think my mom used to do that too and I forgot about it.