Authentic German Potato Salad Recipe photo by Taste of Home

Authentic German Potato Salad

Total Time
Prep: 30 min. + cooling Cook: 20 min.
The most popular salad at the table? Hot German potato salad with smoky bacon and a sweet-tangy dressing.

Updated: May 10, 2024

Give those bland, heavy, mayo-based potato salads a break. Instead, make an old-fashioned, warm German potato salad. In this delicious dish, the tender, sliced potatoes and onions get tossed with bacon and a sweet and tangy dressing. Like all the best potato salad recipes, it has tons of flavor and texture.

What really sets this dish apart from other potato salads is that it’s served warm from the skillet. While it’s always been one of the more popular side dishes for summertime potlucks and barbecues, German potato salad is versatile enough to serve year-round as a side for roast beef or chicken, bratwurst with sauerkraut or pork chops.

The Difference Between American and German Potato Salads

The differences between American and German potato salad lie in both their ingredients and how they’re served. Traditional American potato salads use mayonnaise as a base, whereas German potato salad recipes use vinegar and bacon drippings.

Because American potato salads use mayo, the potatoes are cooled after cooking, and the assembled salad is chilled before serving. In contrast, old-fashioned German potato salads like this one feature a cooked dressing; after mixing, these salads are served while they’re still warm.

Ingredients for Hot German Potato Salad

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  • Red potatoes: There’s a reason why we specify red potatoes for this salad. A waxy type of potato creates a good texture for this salad. They keep their shape after they’re cooked, which makes them easy to slice. Other waxy types you can use include Yukon gold and fingerling potatoes.
  • Bacon: Smoky, salty bacon gives this salad an unbelievable flavor. Diced, cooked bacon is tossed with cooked potatoes. The drippings are also used to cook the onions and flavor the dressing. There are more than a dozen types of bacon. For this recipe, you can choose the one you like the most.
  • Sugar: German potato salad dressing is a balance of sweet and tangy—the sweetness comes from sugar. On paper, the amount of sugar that goes into the recipe may look like a lot, but remember that it’s a large salad. The sweetness is also balanced with plenty of vinegar.
  • Vinegar: A hefty pour of apple cider vinegar brings tangy flavor to the party. Its acidity creates a delicious balance with the sugar for this potato salad. Plus, the apple flavor is a lovely pairing with bacon and onion in the salad.


Step 1: Cook the potatoes

Scrub the potatoes clean and place them in a large Dutch oven or stockpot. Fill the pot with enough water to just cover the potatoes. Bring them to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat, cover the pot and simmer the potatoes for 25 to 30 minutes until they’re tender and easily pierced with a fork. Drain the potatoes and allow them to cool.

Editor’s Tip: Don’t overcook the potatoes! Begin checking for doneness after 15 minutes, and continue checking them every few minutes. As soon as they’re easy to pierce with a fork, carefully drain the boiling water.

Step 2: Cook the bacon and onions

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the diced bacon and cook until crisp, about 7 to 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to move the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Drain off all but four tablespoons of the bacon drippings. Add the chopped onions to the skillet and cook them in the bacon drippings until tender and translucent.

Step 3: Make and cook the dressing

Add the flour, salt, celery seed and pepper to the skillet with the onions, and stir everything together. Slowly add the sugar, cider vinegar and water, stirring the mixture as you do. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the dressing to a boil; stir and cook the dressing for about two minutes until it has thickened. Turn off the heat.

Step 4: Assemble the salad

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, use a sharp knife to cut them into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Add the sliced potatoes and cooked bacon to the skillet and turn the heat to low. Stir the potatoes, bacon and dressing together gently until the salad is heated through, about five minutes. Sprinkle freshly minced parsley over the top and serve the salad warm.

Editor’s Tip: Another reason we like using red potatoes for this recipe is that there is no need to peel them! Just slice and go. If you use another potato variety with a thicker skin, you’ll need to peel them before you slice.

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Recipe Variations

  • Reduce the sugar: The sugar in this recipe compliments the amount of cider vinegar to create a sweet and tangy salad. However, many readers have also had success with cutting the amount of sugar by as much as half. If you want to try this, add the reduced amount in Step 3. Taste the mixture as it simmers, and add more sugar back in if you’d like.
  • Use white vinegar: If you don’t have apple cider vinegar (or don’t care for the flavor) white vinegar can be used in its place. White vinegar is more acidic than cider vinegar and has a more neutral flavor, but it still works well to create a tangy balance in the salad. Here’s our breakdown of the difference between apple cider vinegar and white vinegar.
  • Make it vegetarian: The only meat ingredient in this salad is the bacon. To make the salad vegetarian, use plant-based bacon strips instead; dice and heat them as directed. Since there will be fewer drippings from plant-based or vegan bacon, add a little vegetable oil to the skillet when sautéing the onions.

How long does German potato salad last?

German potato salad typically lasts for three to four days in the refrigerator. Let it cool completely before storing. We recommend keeping the salad in an airtight container to keep it as fresh as the first day.

Can you make this German potato salad recipe ahead of time?

Making German potato salad a day ahead of time will help the flavors blend more and the salad will taste even better. Just remember to reheat it before serving: Spoon the salad into a large skillet and stir gently over low heat until it’s heated through. Add a little water if the salad dressing needs loosening up.

Can you freeze German potato salad?

On one hand, because German potato salad is not mayonnaise-based, it can technically be frozen. However, freezing may still affect the quality of the salad, such as causing the dressing to separate or the potatoes to lose some of their firm texture. Ideally, this salad should be stored in the fridge only. If you do decide to try freezing it, store it in an airtight container and keep it in the freezer for one to two months. Allow the salad to thaw in the fridge before reheating it on the stovetop.

German Potato Salad Recipe Tips

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Should you cook whole or already sliced potatoes for German potato salad?

It’s best to cook potatoes whole and slice them when they’re cool enough to handle. This ensures each slice stays intact for the potato salad. When sliced first, there’s a greater chance of overcooking them and they can fall apart. You want nice tender potato slices to better soak up the dressing.

Why is German potato salad served warm?

Serving German potato salad warm is traditional—the warmth brings out the tart, sweet, rich flavors. If you don’t have the means to keep the salad warm or to warm it up the next day, don’t worry: German potato salad is also very tasty when served cold. Plus, like no-mayo picnic salad recipes, it’s safely served at room temperature for a longer period of time.

What should I serve with hot German Potato Salad?

This German potato salad recipe goes with many grilling recipes. Pair it with any of our fabulous grilled chicken recipes or with grill classics like hamburgers and hot dogs. Try German potato salad alongside a tasty sauerbraten or pork schnitzel. Prost!

Watch how to Make Authentic German Potato Salad

Authentic German Potato Salad

Prep Time 30 min
Cook Time 20 min
Yield 8 servings.


  • 3 pounds medium red potatoes
  • 5 bacon strips, diced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley


  1. Place potatoes in a Dutch oven; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until tender. Drain and cool.
  2. In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp; using a slotted spoon, remove to paper towels. Drain, reserving 4 tablespoons drippings in pan. Add onion, saute until tender.
  3. Stir in the flour, salt, celery seed and pepper until blended. Gradually add the sugar, vinegar and water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.
  4. Cut potatoes into 1/4-in. slices. Add potatoes and bacon to the skillet; cook and stir gently over low heat until heated through. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve warm.

Nutrition Facts

3/4 cup: 344 calories, 7g fat (2g saturated fat), 12mg cholesterol, 719mg sodium, 63g carbohydrate (34g sugars, 3g fiber), 6g protein.

This authentic German potato salad recipe came from Speck’s Restaurant, which was a famous eating establishment in St. Louis from the 1920s through the ‘50s. I ate lunch there almost every day and always ordered the potato salad. When the owner learned I was getting married, he gave me the recipe as a wedding gift! —Violette Klevorn, Washington, Missouri