Last Updated on July 28, 2022 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD
This Classic Homemade Potato Salad recipe is the best I’ve made. It is super easy with a tangy, lemony, creamy mayonnaise-based dressing that I lighten up with Greek yogurt. I just live for every forkful when it offers a bite of waxy potato, tender egg, a bit of crunch, a bit of something tangy, and the perfect amount of creamy dressing to bind everything together. The mix-in possibilities are endless with this tested-till-perfect, from-scratch recipe as your canvas. SO good.
How to Make This Potato Salad Your BEST Potato Salad
It doesn’t feel like rocket science, right? But hear me out: there are FIVE THINGS things you can do to make the best potato salad ever. Truly even the equipment you reach for makes a difference. Read on:
- Choose a large pot. Promise I’m not trying to pad the word count of this article – it MATTERS that you choose a big pot. A small pot will encourage your potatoes to bump into each other much more during cooking. This friction roughs up the potato surface and releases more starch, making for less-distinct potato cubes in your salad bowl.
- Salt the water well. Again, not writing this because I love the tippity-tap of my keyboard. Salting the cooking water is ESSENTIAL to a vibrant, well-seasoned, delicious potato salad. Treat the cooking water with as much care as an actual recipe ingredient (just like with my fav Macaroni Salad recipe). Measure about two teaspoons kosher salt per litre or quart of water (which is what I also advise in my *gulp* holy-cow viral rice-making video).
- No rolling boil. Once the water has come to a full boil, reduce the heat to maintain a brisk simmer. This ensures the middles cook through to fork tender without overcooking the outside, and prevents turbulence-inflicted potato mushing.
- Drain your potatoes well. I run cold water over the cooked potatoes to quickly stop the cooking process (residual heat can cause overcooking). Then I let the potatoes stand and drain for a full 10 minutes to eliminate all water left over. Any excess cooking liquid left in the potatoes will dilute the flavour and creaminess of the salad.
- Choose a large bowl and a large spoon to stir. Again, this is about friction (and also mess). Stirring everything up in a massive bowl with your biggest silicone spatula means you’ll be able to incorporate the dressing easily with a few sweeping strokes, instead of many small-spoon stirs you’d need to avoid the mixture spilling out of a smaller bowl. The less you work the potato salad, the more distinct the potatoes will remain.
Choosing the BEST Potatoes for Potato Salad
An amazing potato salad starts with choosing the best potatoes for the job. Choose a waxy potato variety that holds its shape well through cooking.
- I like yellow potatoes (such as Yukon Golds), but red potatoes, fingerling potatoes, or little baby potatoes work as well.
- Steer clear of russets, which will turn into mashed potatoes as soon as you stir in the dressing (unless that’s the way your mom made it and it’s nostalgic; I respect that). If using a red potato, feel free to leave the peels on. They have a super thin-skin and add a great flash of colour to your potato salad.
- Whatever potato you choose, the best way to cook the potatoes for potato salad is in cubes instead of cooking potatoes whole to ensure the potatoes aren’t overcooked and watery on the outside by the time they are cooked to the middle.
My Favourite Potato Salad Dressing
What is potato salad dressing made of? More often than not, it’s just mayonnaise. And that’s just fine! I have no problem with an all-mayo potato salad dressing, but I just love this lightened-up version with an extra flavour punch. To make my version, whisk together half Greek yogurt and half mayonnaise, along with lemon zest and juice and minced red onion. I love this punchy, tangy dressing that is still classic in creaminess, but vibrant and fresh and not at all cloying. Feel free to just use mayo, if you prefer.
What Should You Put In A Potato Salad?
Potato salads are made of potatoes and mayonnaise and everything beyond that comes down to personal choice. Chopped hard-boiled egg and celery are my favourite add-ins but eggs seem to be a divisive ingredient. This is probably because overcooked boiled eggs take on a sulfury smell and taste. I promise you that won’t happen if you use this method.
In any case, you don’t have to put eggs in your potato salad if you aren’t a fan (just omit from the recipe, you don’t have to change anything else). You can also mix in any of the following ingredients as you wish:
- 1/2 cup chopped cooked bacon
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh herbs like dill, chives, tarragon, basil, thyme or parsley
- 1-2 tablespoons chopped dill pickles or a spoonful of sweet relish
- A teaspoonful of dijon mustard
- A sprinkle of black pepper or paprika (smoked paprika is also yummy)
- A couple of teaspoons of vinegar or dill pickle juice in place of the lemon juice and zest
- BOSS MOVE: top your potato salad with some crispy-baked tater tots and walk into the room with your serving bowl like the royalty you are
How to Store Potato Salad and How Long Does it Last?
I recommend making potato salad no more than one day before you plan to serve it for optimum freshness, but leftovers will keep refrigerated for up to 3 days in a tightly-sealed container. Because this is a distinctly summer side dish, it bears emphasizing that for food safety, potato salad should be left at room temperature for no more than 4 hours. Keep it cool with ice packs if you’re taking it on a picnic. Only store leftovers if the potato salad was kept cold while out for serving, if out for any period of time.
If you make the salad a day ahead, you can stir in up to 1/2 cup more mayonnaise as needed if it has dried out.
Other Delicious Side Dishes
Creamy Classic Homemade Potato Salad with Egg
- Kosher salt
- 2 lbs yukon gold potatoes or other waxy potato variety, peeled and cut in 3/4″ cubes
For potato salad dressing:
- ½ cup mayo
- ½ cup 10% greek yogurt or another 1/2 cup mayo
- 2 tbsp minced shallot or red onion
- Zest of lemon
- Juice of ½ lemon
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ cup diced celery
- 2 tbsp capers see notes in post on substitutions/add-ins
- 3 chopped hard-boiled eggs optional
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil with 2 tsp kosher salt per litre (see notes in post on why this matters). Add potatoes and return to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cook covered until potatoes are fork tender.
- Drain potatoes into a colander and run cold water overtop until cool. Let potatoes stand in colander for 10 minutes to drain completely.
To make dressing:
- Whisk together all ingredients and set aside.
- Transfer cooled potatoes to a large mixing bowl. Add celery, capers and hard-boiled eggs and pour dressing overtop of it all. Use a large silicone spatula to gently fold the dressing in (use a sweeping motion to scrape the bowl under the potatoes and turn them over – it’s just a gentle mixing method.)