We took a beloved family recipe from Taste of Home Senior Editor Ellie Martin Cliffe to our Test Kitchen to be tweaked into the best potato salad out there. Lead Test Cook Nick Iverson and our tasting panel tried red potatoes and russets and bunches of ingredient combos. We even figured out how to keep the potatoes from falling apart.
Here’s how you can make the ultimate potato salad, too. (Find Ellie’s family recipe here.)
6 Steps to the Best Potato Salad EVER
1. Gather all your ingredients. Having everything on the counter ready to go makes the cooking part go so much more smoothly. If you don’t have hard-cooked eggs on hand, you can make them in no time.
Nick knows the recipe off the top of his head: Place the eggs in a large saucepan and cover them with about an inch of cold water. Bring it just to a boil. Pull the pan from the heat, put on the lid, and let it stand for 13 minutes. Drain the water and quickly dunk the eggs in an ice water bath to stop the cooking. They turn out perfectly every time! See?
2. Start cooking. Use a toothpick to skewer a peeled clove of garlic. This does two things: It helps you find the garlic clove later among all the potatoes, and it releases some of that garlicky goodness into the cooking water (and, therefore, the potatoes). Cooking the garlic mellows its flavor, too.
3. Grab a Dutch oven and add the garlic kabob, red potatoes, cider vinegar and salt. We picked red potatoes because the waxy flesh has a firmer texture, and the skin adds earthy flavor and a pretty color to the finished dish. And it turns out that vinegar helps set up the flesh of the potatoes so they won’t fall apart when you stir everything together. Add enough water to the pan to cover the potatoes.
4. Bring the pot to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender—about 10 minutes. While the potatoes cook, whip up the dressing. We tried mayonnaise, sour cream and cream cheese. In the end, a mixture of sour cream and mayo best delivered the smooth texture and bright flavor we were after.
Set the dressing aside and chop the celery, onion and hard-cooked eggs. To “chop” the eggs, Nick has a cool trick: Use a grid-style cooling rack. It’s faster—and less slippery. Position the rack over a bowl and push the peeled egg through.
Set the chopped ingredients aside and go back to the potatoes.
5. Finish it off. To figure out if the potatoes are done, pull out a piece and cut it in half. The firm flesh is kind of deceptive! Eating a partially cooked spud won’t hurt you, so feel free to take a bite. It should be soft and almost buttery inside. When you drain the potatoes, don’t forget to take out the garlic. Mince it up, add it to the dressing, and fold in the veggies, eggs and warm potatoes so they can absorb the creamy, tangy amazingness.
6. Be patient. Let the salad chill for at least 4 hours before eating—trust us, it pays to wait. Just before chow time, top the salad with a sliced egg, parsley and a dash of paprika. Done!
10 Potato Salad Twists
This basic (but awesome) recipe is just a jumping-off point. Take a cue from a few Taste of Home Facebook fans and invent your own version!
- “I use the standard ingredients plus a few veggies like cucumber and celery…but the real standout is a cubed apple! You don’t see it but you get this lovely, refreshing crunch!” —Sue Vail, St. Catharines, ON
- “My secret ingredient is a pinch of curry powder added to a mayonnaise base. Everyone loves it!” —Cheryl Boots, Corunna, MI
- “I make a bacon-ranch version that’s to die for. Boil red potatoes (no need to peel) and add hard-cooked eggs, celery, cooked bacon, cheddar cheese, ranch dressing and pepper to taste. Add a little more bacon on top—so good.” —Katie Lapare, Tucson, AZ
- “I use red potatoes, cooked with skins on, and add a drained jar of marinated artichoke hearts, a small jar of green olives, and thinly sliced red onion. I use a zesty Italian dressing with lime, starting with a little and adding until all the ingredients are nicely covered.” —Jane Kirkham, Grants Pass, OR
- “I mix in some minced habanero. We like things spicy around here!” —Christianna Madden, Big Bear, CA
- “I make a simple potato salad but use honey mustard instead of regular mustard. Wonderfully tasty.” —Bo McCollom, Decatur, AL
- “Miracle Whip, plenty of eggs, plus pickle relish, mustard and slightly cooked green peas. Sometimes I stir in shredded carrots. It’s always eaten up.” —Lelia Maguire Oster, La Salle, CO
- “Unpeeled red potatoes, hard-cooked eggs, celery, green onions, sweet pickle relish and my favorite addition: sliced radishes. A little pickle relish juice in the dressing thins it out a bit.” —Leoda Johnston Barr, Lincoln City, OR
- “To make it extra creamy, we use mayo and ranch dressing. All the credit goes to my husband; everyone requests his potato salad.” —Kathy Luka, Chicago, IL
- “My mother always added tomatoes to her potato salad, so I do the same.” —Laura Prince, Weaver, AL