Classic Southern Potato Salad

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This Classic Southern Potato Salad recipe produces a creamy, smooth, crunchy, and well-seasoned potato salad that’s been in my family for centuries.

Classic Southern Potato Salad

Let’s address the elephant in the room right fast. Raisins do not go in potato salad.

In a black family, two dishes make you the best cook in the family, mac and cheese and potato salad.

If you ever go to a black cookout or family gathering with an African-American question. Once everybody is allowed to eat, the first question they want to know soon as they see potato salad is, “who made the potato salad?”

Every family makes theirs a little different when it comes to a soul food potato salad recipe. In my family, all 5 of my grandmother’s kids make it different to their taste.

But they all learned how to make it from my grandmother. My grandmother’s creamy potato salad has put a lot of other grandmother’s potato salads to shame because the attention to detail, layers of flavors, and seasoning she puts in it is amazing.

I didn’t use to eat potato salad, but one year my taste buds changed, and I found myself eating potato salad in the middle of the night; at that point, I knew life would never be the same.

So let’s dive into how to make a life-changing southern potato salad recipe.

southern potato salad in a serving pan

Where did Potato Salad Originate?

Potato salad has been around for centuries, and we can thank the Germans for introducing potato salad to American culture.

There are several variations of potato salad; the German version is normally made with potatoes, bacon, onions, mayonnaise, and a little vinegar. Some recipes also include celery or pickles. The potatoes are usually cubed or diced, and the salad is often served cold.

Southern potato salad is just as important as the grilled meats at southern cookouts. It can also be eaten as a main course, side dish, or midnight snack.

Potato Salad4

Key Ingredients

Here are the ingredients you’ll need for making southern potato salad.

Potatoes

The best potatoes to use in potato salad, even if it’s not Southern, are russet potatoes. The high starch content allows them to absorb all the flavors and moisture of the creamy and tangy sauce. Yukon gold potatoes work great too.

Hard Boiled Eggs

Eggs serve two purposes, the cooked egg yolks add body to the sauce, and the egg whites hold onto the sauce flavor.

Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise is part of making a creamy potato salad, but it’s a delicate balance.

Yellow Mustard

Mustard adds color, but too much will make a yellow mess.

White Vinegar

Vinegar adds a slight tang that cuts through all the starch and seasonings and helps reduce the amount of salt used in the recipe.

Seasonings

We consider onions, celery, and bell pepper in New Orleans as seasonings because they add flavor. You’ll also need kosher salt, cayenne pepper, and dried Italian parsley.

overhead shot of potato salad in serving dish

How to make a southern potato salad recipe?

I want my southern-style potato salad recipe to be easy, tasty, and a crowd-pleaser! I’m letting you know up front that I do not put dill pickles, sweet pickles, sweet pickle relish, dill relish, or sugar in my potato salad. This version is savory and loaded with flavor!

Add potatoes to a large pot and cook potatoes for 25 minutes until tender; drain and set aside. Depending on how large or small you chop your potatoes will alter the time it takes.

While potatoes boil, fill a medium pot with water and bring to a boil; add eggs gently, one at a time, being careful not to drop them; bring to a boil, cover, remove from heat and cook for 10 minutes.

While everything is boiling, add onions, bell pepper, and celery into a food processor and blitz on low until chopped fine. If you have a smaller food processor, do one at a time.

Drain eggs and cover with ice water; peel and cut eggs in half, then divide the egg whites from the egg yolk. Chop egg whites and place in a medium size bowl.
Place the yolks in a large bowl. Mash the egg yolks and yellow mustard together with a fork, then stir in mayonnaise until smooth. Stir in potatoes.

Add vegetables, egg whites, white vinegar, kosher salt, and cayenne pepper, and mix with a hand mixer on medium speed for 1-2 minutes until creamy. Garnish with cayenne and parsley, cover, and pop in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours or overnight. Serve cold the next day.

side shot of potato salad in serving dish

Pro Recipe Tips & Tricks

Here are the best practices, techniques, substitutes, and flavor builders you’ll need for an amazing southern potato salad.

  • For the best southern potato salad, only use russet potatoes; its high starch content is perfect for absorbing all of the liquid added. Think mashed potatoes.
  • Red potatoes are waxy potatoes and will not absorb 95% of the flavor.
  • Russet or Yukon gold potatoes are perfect for potato salad.
  • Hot potatoes soak up the sauce better than cold potatoes.
  • If you do not have a hand mixer, you can use a fork or potato masher to mix the potatoes.
  • If cayenne pepper is too spicy for you, swap it for black pepper.
  • I know seeing onions, celery, and bell pepper are different, but it adds flavor and texture to this creamy potato salad.
  • Hard-boiled eggs shouldn’t have a grey ring around them.
  • Creamy potato salad tastes better than cubed potatoes because the potatoes soak up more flavor.
  • You can use dijon mustard instead of yellow mustard if you like.
  • If you like a sweeter potato salad, use apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar instead of white vinegar.
  • Add sweet dill pickles, sweet pickles, sweet pickle relish, or dill relish for a sweet crunch.
  • If you don’t want to use fresh celery, you can use 2 teaspoons of celery seed.
  • I tested adding a bay leaf to my boiling potatoes but didn’t notice any flavor benefits.
  • You can use green onions as a garnish instead of dried parsley.
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potato salad in a ramekin

FAQs

Here are the questions

How long should I boil potatoes for potato salad?

Russet potatoes take about 25 minutes to become fork-tender when boiled. Depending on how large or small you chop your potatoes will adjust the time.

Should you rinse potatoes after boiling for potato salad?

You do not need to rinse potatoes after boiling them for potato salad. You want all the starch to soak up all the flavor. You do want to skim off any foam that rises to the top of the pot as it boils.

Is it necessary to add eggs to potato salad?

It is not necessary to add eggs to potato salad.

How do you keep potato salad from getting too watery?

The best way to avoid watery potato salad is to let your boiled potatoes drain properly after boiling. The other way is to measure the mayonnaise, mustard, and white vinegar accurately.

What kind of mayo makes the best potato salad?

The type of mayonnaise used in potato salad depends on how you were raised. If you like a sweeter potato salad, Miracle whip should be your go-to, but Blue Plate or Duke’s mayonnaise will do great if you like a savory southern potato salad.

Why do you put vinegar in the potato salad?

Adding vinegar to potato salad adds a tangy flavor to balance out the layers of flavors in the dish. Plus, it’s a great way to add flavor without adding more salt.

What are some ways to fix salty potato salad?

The best way to fix a salty potato salad is to add something spicy or sweet or add another boiled potato to balance it. Cayenne pepper, black pepper, or sweet relish should do the trick.

How to store potato salad?

Potato salad will remain fresh in an airtight container for 7 days in the fridge. I do not recommend ever freezing potato salad.

More Southern Recipes

If you love potato salad as much as I do, then I know you’ll love these recipes too!

  • Southern Sweet Potato Pie
  • New Orleans Mac n Cheese
  • Instant Pot Collards Greens
  • Southern Cornbread Dressing
  • Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows

Latest Recipe Video:

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Before You Begin

Before getting started, here are the steps I use to get organized. 

Step 1: Get all ingredients for the potato salad on the counter.

Step 2: Put everything measured into individual bowls.

Step 3: Follow the recipe and get ready for the best southern potato salad!

Southern potato salad is the perfect side dish for any summer cookout, potluck, or holiday spread. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family has over the years! Please leave a comment and star rating below if you give it a try.

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potato salad on fork

Classic Southern Potato Salad

Kenneth Temple
This Classic Southern Potato Salad recipe produces a creamy, smooth, crunchy, and well-seasoned potato salad that’s been in my family for centuries.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Resting Time 1 d
Total Time 1 d 40 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Creole, Soul Food, Southern
Servings 15 persons
Calories 249 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 5 lbs. russet potatoes peeled, chopped medium
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery chopped
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup yellow mustard
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons dried Italian parsley

Instructions
 

  • Add potatoes to a large pot and cook for 25 minutes until tender, drain and set aside. While potatoes boil, fill a medium pot with water, bring to a boil, and gently add eggs, one at a time, being careful not to drop them, bring to a boil, cover, remove from heat and cook for 10 minutes.
  • While potatoes boil, add onions, bell pepper, and celery to a food processor and blitz on low until chopped fine. If you have a smaller food processor, one at a time.
  • Drain eggs and cover with ice water, peel, cut in half, then divide the egg white from the yolk. Chop egg whites medium size and place the yolks in a large bowl.
  • Mash egg yolks and yellow mustard together with a fork, then stir in mayonnaise until smooth. Stir in potatoes.
  • Add vegetables, eggs white, vinegar, kosher salt, and cayenne pepper, and mix with a hand mixer on medium speed for 1-2 minutes until creamy. Garnish with cayenne and parsley, cover, and pop in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours or overnight. Serve cold the next day.

Notes

Pro Recipe Tips & Tricks
Here are the best practices, techniques, substitutes, and flavor builders you’ll need for an amazing southern potato salad.
  • For the best southern potato salad, only use russet potatoes its high starch content is perfect for absorbing all of the liquid added. Think mashed potatoes.
  • Red potatoes are waxy potatoes and will not absorb 95% of flavor.
  • Russet or Yukon gold potatoes are perfect for potato salad.
  • Hot potatoes soak up the sauce better than cold potatoes.
  • If you do not have a hand mixer you can use a fork or potato masher to mix the potatoes.
  • If cayenne pepper is too spicy for you, swap it for black pepper.
  • I know seeing onions, celery, and bell pepper are different, but it adds flavor and texture to this creamy potato salad.
  • Hard-boiled eggs shouldn’t have a grey ring around them.
  • Creamy potato salad tastes better than cubed potatoes because the potatoes soak up more flavor.
  • You can use dijon mustard instead of yellow mustard if you like.
  • If you like a sweeter potato salad, use apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar instead of white vinegar.
  • Add sweet dill pickles, sweet pickles, sweet pickle relish, or dill relish for a sweet crunch.
  • If you don’t want to use fresh celery, you can use 2 teaspoons of celery seed.
  • I tested adding a bay leaf to my boiling potatoes but didn’t notice any flavor benefits.
  • You can use green onions as a garnish instead of dried parsley.
Storage:
Potato salad will remain fresh in an airtight container for 7 days in the fridge. I do not recommend ever freezing potato salad.

Nutrition

Calories: 249kcalCarbohydrates: 29gProtein: 7gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 6gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0.03gCholesterol: 92mgSodium: 1044mgPotassium: 712mgFiber: 3gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 168IUVitamin C: 16mgCalcium: 45mgIron: 2mg
Keyword southern potato salad, soul food potato salad, black southern potato salad, potato salad southern,
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