Grandma’s Top Tips for Making Potato Salad
Whether you're making Grandma's classic potato salad or a fun-and-funky modern version, we know a few tricks for making potato salad taste fantastic.
Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.
Use the right potatoes
It’s a pretty lousy feeling when you finish a potato salad, only to realize it bears a strikingly close resemblance to mashed potatoes. To keep your salad from falling apart into mush, it’s important to use the best potatoes for potato salad. Skip the russet potatoes and use a waxy variety instead, like Yukon gold, red potatoes or fingerlings.
Learn more about the right potato for every job.
Consider steaming instead of boiling
The best way to avoid watery potato salad is to prevent the potatoes from getting waterlogged in the first place. That’s why we like to grab the steamer basket and keep the potatoes out of boiling water. When they’re cooked, season them with a light sprinkle of salt. It’s easy to cook perfect potatoes with these pointers!
Don’t undercook (or overcook) the potatoes
Grandma knew that potatoes are like Goldilocks: They have to be cooked just right. Poke them with a fork after steaming for 15 minutes (or, if boiling, after the water has boiled for five minutes). Don’t wait until they fall apart when pierced with a fork. When the fork enters cleanly with the slightest bit of resistance, the potatoes are finished.
Toss cooked potatoes in apple cider vinegar
To keep the potatoes from tasting dry and lifeless, it’s best to dress potato salad while it’s warm. The only problem? Eggs in mayo-based dressings can break down when they contact hot potatoes, making the dressing greasy. As a workaround, toss your potatoes with plain apple cider vinegar instead. It will add a tangy flavor and protect the potatoes from drying out.
Let the water evaporate
No one loves a watery potato salad, so save yourself from that fate by letting the water evaporate before mixing the ingredients. After tossing the potatoes in vinegar, let them cool completely in a single layer on a baking sheet. The water will escape, giving the dressing a better chance to cling to the potatoes.
Find your new favorite potato salad recipe in this collection.
Let the salad chill
It’s tempting to toss your potato salad together and dig right in, but it’s best to give the flavors at least an hour to come together. If you really don’t have time, you can make the dressing ahead of time and let it marinate while the potatoes cool, but the salad will taste better when it marinates as a whole. This is our go-to marinated potato salad.
Don’t skimp on the eggs
Not all potato salad recipes are mayonnaise-based. Some are made with an oil-and-vinegar dressing, while others are heavy on the mustard, yogurt or sour cream. But most of our favorite potato salads contain eggs in one form or another. No matter which type of dressing you choose, don’t be afraid to add hard-boiled eggs to the mix; the yolks add a rich, creamy, unforgettable flavor.
Add flavorful ingredients
Classic potato salad recipes don’t stray far from chopped onions, celery and pickles, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with the ingredients. Look to fresh herbs, thinly sliced jalapenos, radishes or chopped fennel to add a pop of flavor. You could also try salty ingredients like capers, olives or anchovies. Don’t be afraid to add meat, either. Smoked meats like ham, bacon or smoked salmon are especially flavorful.
We eat with our eyes first, so try to add a few colors to your potato salad. Otherwise, it’s just boring white potatoes swimming in a yellow dressing! Try using purple and red potatoes for a red, white and blue potato salad, or add a splash of color with chopped celery, bell peppers, red onions, pickles, fresh herbs or smoked paprika.