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Potato salad is a quintessential side dish for any American outdoor eating situation. Camping, picnicking, backyard BBQs, block parties, potlucks. Basically anytime the sun’s shining and you’re eating outside, it’s a good time for potato salad.
This cold potato salad recipe is a distillation of all those happy summertime memories. Tender potatoes, hard boiled eggs, a mayo-relish-mustard dressing, and loaded with crisp celery and green onions. All it needs is a dusting of paprika on top for color, and you’ve got the classic potato salad of our childhood!
While people can be pretty secretive about their family’s recipes, we’re going to break it all down for you. So if even you’ve never made potato before, after reading this article, you’re going to be a pro!
Why It’s Great For Camping:
- Can (and should) be made completely ahead of time.
- Lasts for up 5 days in a refrigerator or cooler.
- Goes with virtually everything!
What Potatoes are Best for Potato Salad?
To get the best flavor and texture out of your potato salad, we recommend using small to medium sized, thin-skinned, waxy potatoes, like new potatoes, fingerlings, and Yukon Golds.
These types of potatoes have a great flavor, firm texture, and stand up to being boiled quite well. There are lots of different varieties, so see what your local grocery store has available. We used Yukon Gold in the particular recipe.
Avoid using large, starchy potatoes like Russets or Idaho. They can take a very long time to boil and tend to crumble into a dry, floury texture.
How To Boil The Potatoes
Boil your potatoes whole, skin on, in a pot of unsalted water. Not only does this approach require the least amount of effort, but it also yields the best potato salad texture.
That’s because you want to limit the amount of water the potatoes absorb during the boiling process. Water absorbed into the potato will eventually release once everything cools down. This can lead to one of the most common potato salad issues: a watery salad.
So leave the potatoes whole, skins on, and skip the salt for now (we’ll add it into the dressing later!) .
Potatoes should boil for approximately 30 minutes, depending on the size of your potatoes. You will know the potatoes are done when the outside skin starts to split and they are easily pierced with a fork.
When you think they’re done, remove the largest potato and cut it in half with a knife. If center is still hard, put it back in the water and continue boiling. Don’t dump your water until you’re confident all the potatoes are cooked through.
Err on the side of overcooking: for potato salad, slightly overdone potatoes are vastly preferable than slightly underdone potatoes.
How To Peel & Cut Potatoes
Once the potatoes are tender, remove them from the boiling water. Now, while the potatoes are still warm, is the best time to peel them… But not with a peeler!
Using a tea towel (or just your fingers) firmly rub the boiled potatoes and the skin should come right off. The tea towel will allow you to handle the potatoes even while they’re still hot.
Cut the potatoes into large chunks (approximately 2 inch by 2 inch). The potatoes are going to continue to break down in size as we stir in additional ingredients, so it’s a good idea to start off kind of big.
The Vinegar Zinger
You should now have a bowl of freshly peeled, chopped, and still quite warm potatoes. The potatoes are as open and as porous as they’re ever going to be, so now is a great time to add your vinegar. It will get absorbed into the potatoes as they cool, and give them a delightful zing that will shine through even after we add the rest of the dressing.
We learned about this clever trick from Alton Brown, although it sounds like grandmas have been doing the same thing for generations as well. Both sources are beyond reproach.
Boil Your Egg, Chop Your Veggies
The next step is to boil your eggs. You can use the already hot potato water to boil your eggs (but you can’t use boiled egg water for the potatoes). Place the eggs into boiling water, set a timer for 10 minutes, and when times up, transfer to an ice bath.
While the eggs are boiling, you can chop your celery and green onions. For the celery, trim the ends off the celery, slices lengthwise in half, and then chop into 1/4” chunks. For the green onion, trim off the bottom and chop to 1/4” chunks.
Once they are cool enough to handle, peel, and roughly chopped your hard boiled eggs. Then fold in your celery, green onions, and eggs into the potatoes.
The Best Potato Salad Dressing
Mayonnaise: The creamy fattiness you get from mayonnaise is a hallmark of a good potato salad dressing. Use your favorite store-bought mayonnaise or make your own.
Yellow Mustard: This is no time to be pretentious with your mustard. Yes, a nice whole grain Dijon mustard will a more refined flavor. But the color and classic Americana taste that you want in potato salad is best found in a bottle of yellow mustard.
Relish: The pickley, tangy flavor of your favorite store-bought relish will add a really nice dimension to the dressing.
Seasonings: In this dressing we lean on some of the classics—garlic powder, onion powder, and pepper. This is also when we are going to add the salt, which should stay mostly suspended in the dressing and penetrate into the potatoes too much.
Mix all of your dressing ingredients together in a small bowl, taste for salt, and then fold into your potatoes.
How to Store & Serve Potato Salad
This style of potato salad is meant to be served cold. So if you are making the day-of, we recommend getting an early enough start to allow it chill out in the fridge for a few hours.
If properly stored in a resealable container, potato salad will last for up to 5 days in a refrigerator or cooler (and honestly, it tastes better after a day in the fridge). So this is a perfect side dish to make before a weekend camping trip or BBQ and toss in your cooler.
To serve, sprinkle the top with a light dusting of paprika. Want to dropkick this potato salad to all the way to next Sunday? Top with crumbled bacon.
tl;dr What am I doing?
- Boil, peel, chop potatoes, add vinegar
- Fold in hard boiled eggs, chopped celery, and green onions
- Build the dressing and fold in
- Allow time to cool, then serve
- 6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, 2½ to 3 lbs
- 2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 4 eggs
- 2 celery ribs, chopped
- 5 green onions, chopped
- ¼ cup sweet pickle relish
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup chopped fresh herbs, such as dill, parsley, chives
- Paprika, for sprinkling on top
- Place the whole potatoes in a pot of unsalted water and bring to a boil. Boil for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and easily pierced with a fork.
- Remove the potatoes from the boiling water. Using a tea towel (or just your fingers) firmly rub the boiled potatoes and the skin should come right off.
- Cut the potatoes into 2"x2" pieces and place in a bowl. Toss with the apple cider vinegar and set aside.
- To hard boil the eggs, bring a pot of water to a boil (you can reuse the potato water). Carefully add the eggs and boil for 10 minutes, then transfer to an ice bath. Once cool, peel and chop the eggs and add to the potatoes.
- While the eggs are cooking, chop the celery and the green onions and add to the potatoes
- Make the dressing by mixing the mayo, relish, mustard, herbs, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and stir well. Fold it into the potato salad to evenly distribute.
- Set the potato salad in the fridge to cool. It will last about 5 days. If transporting, pack in a sealed container in a properly packed cooler or ice chest (41°F or below) and consume within 2 hours of removing it (or 1 hour if it's over 90°F out)