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Potato Salad 101

Updated on January 30, 2022
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Vanessa earned her MA in English and Creative Writing from SNHU. She has been writing food articles since 2009.

Shanghai Potato Salad


How to Create Great Recipes for Potato Salad

Potato salad is one of the best loved dishes in America. And why not? It;s one of the most versatile and reasonably priced dishes you can create. It's possible to make a bowl of potato salad big enough to feed 50 people for under $15.00. Potato salad can be served hot or cold. And the flavor can be adapted to the taste and talents of any cook.

If you don’t have a recipe of your own, there are literally thousands of recipes available on the internet. You can probably collect as many potato salad recipes as you have friends. But if you want to make a salad that's all your own, here are a few basic tips:

Choose the right potato. There are many varieties of potatoes, and the variety you choose will contribute to the success of your recipe. Potatoes come in many colors including red, white, purple, yellow, and orange. The color is not always important to the taste of the recipe; that depends on the marriage of ingredients. But it is important to the presentation of your dish.

In culinary terms, potatoes come in two groups. The first is the floury potatoes. These potatoes have more starch than other varieties and tend to be slightly drier when cooked. They are usually used for baking or frying, so they are not suitable for traditional potato salads. The other type of potato is known as a waxy potato. These potatoes are somewhat softer, yet they hold together when boiled. The new potatoes, red or yellow potatoes, and many smaller varieties fall into this category. These are used for the potato salads that you see most often.

Choose your cooking method. Most potato salads are made from boiled potatoes. If you decide to do your potatoes this way, be sure to cut them before you boil them. They will cook much faster than if you boil them whole and then dice them. Also be sure to cut the pieces all about the same size so that they will cook evenly.

You don’t have to boil your potatoes, though. There are many recipes out there for vegetables that are grilled, baked or fried, and potatoes are no exception. You can use your left-over home fries to make a wonderful breakfast salad or add grilled potatoes to other grilled vegetables and a light vinaigrette to make a wonderful salad for your outdoor supper.

You should cook your potato pieces al dente, that is, soft but slightly firm. If you undercook them the flavor will not be completely developed, but if they’re too soft they will fall apart when you stir in the other ingredients.

Choose your components. Most potato salads are made up of vegetables, condiments and some sort of dressing. There are not hard and fast rules for what to add to it. You can buy exotic ingredients or just use what you have in the fridge. You should choose your components for both taste and texture. It’s good to have some crunchy veggies, something salty or sour to compliment the sweetness of the potatoes, and something smooth and creamy. But these are suggestions, not must haves.

Another way to choose the elements of your salad is to plan them to compliment the rest of your meal. For example, if you are having a southwestern barbeque, you might decide to add corn and some hot chilies, and then use a dressing of lime zested mayonnaise. Or you might want to make a main dish potato salad by adding nuts, fruit, chicken and a French dressing. Play around until you find a mixture of ingredients that you love.

Finally, a note on potato salad dressing. Most traditional potato salad recipes are made with dressings that have a base of mayonnaise or mustard. This is ok, but certainly not necessary. New potatoes are wonderful with fresh herbs and olive oil. Grilled potato salad is wonderful with Italian dressing, and a mixture of salsa and sour cream is great on potatoes that are piled onto a bed of seasoned salad greens. So don’t feel boxed in by your grand mom’s recipes. Experiment. Have fun with it.

I once had a lot of French fries and a dish of coleslaw left over from a trip to my favorite restaurant. I cut the fries in half and mixed them with the slaw to make an absolutely wonderful potato salad, To this day, it’s one of my favorite recipes. So you see, the sky’s the limit!

Hawaian Yam Salad

This is a recipe I created while playing around with some yams. It is sweet and creamy. It's wonderfully with your salty ham or some spicy ribs.

In a large bowl place 1 cup cream cheese, 2 tablespoons pineapple juice,1 tablespoon grated ginger root, and the juice and zest of 1 lemon. Whip until smooth and creamy. Drain 3 small cans yams and 1 can pineapple chunks. Add to mixture. Then add 1 small red onion, diced, one mango and one papaya, diced and 1 1/2 cups grated coconut. Gently toss all ingredients together until the cream cheese mixture coats the salad. Taste to check the salt and spice level. This can be served immediately, but it will taste a little better if you chill for an hour first. Also note that sweet potato can be used instead of yams, and fresh potato can be used instead of canned. If you use fresh yams, they need to be diced, peeled and boiled first, and then allowed to cool, so make them ahead.

Cajun Potato Salad

Korean Potato Salad

Super Simple Potato Salad

Here is a super simple and super-fast way to make potato salad. You need the following:

2 lbs. diced potatoes, cooked fork tender. 4 hard boiled eggs, diced. 1 small jar India relish, or sweet hamburger relish, drained but with liquid reserved. 1 cup mayonnaise. 1/4 cup crisp bacon bits.

Mix potatoes, eggs and relish, 2 tbsp pickling liquid which you saved from the relish and the mayonnaise together in a large bowl until well blended and garnish with the bacon bits.

If you don't want to peel the potatoes, use Yukon gold or red baby potatoes. These you will have some success with if you just wash them, then cook with the skin on.

You can buy already boiled eggs in some stores if you are in too much of a hurry to peel them. You will usually find them in with the other egg products, or in a salad bar. If you are cooking them yourself, you can add the eggs to the potato pot and boil them together.

Do not add the bacon bits until the very end, especially if they are commercially prepared. They may get soggy and will not taste as good.

This is the easiest and fastest recipe for potato salad that I know. I hope you enjoy it!

Betty's Homestyle Memorial Day Potato Salad

Salad Potatoes


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