How to Make Potato Salad as Tasty as Your Grandmother's

Plus, we're sharing six delicious potato salad recipes that are easy to make ahead.

Potato salad served in a white bowl
Photo: Getty Images

It's a summer staple for a reason: Potato salad is one of the best barbecue side dishes. And forgetting to serve it—or worse, screwing up the recipe—is punishable by law (we wish). Creamy, fork-tender potatoes plus a tangy mayo- or vinaigrette-based dressing and some crunchy veggies is nothing less than peak summer-meal perfection.

Use these five simple tips to learn how to make a perfect potato salad and nail this classic dish once and for all. Then try any of our six favorite potato salad recipes to upgrade your current go-to option.

01 of 05

Choose the Right Potato

Confused about which type of potato to use? It depends on your personal preference.

If you like a salad with contrasting textures—think firm potatoes and creamy dressing—go for waxy potatoes like Yukon gold or red potatoes, which hold their shape better after they're boiled.

If you prefer creamier, starchier potatoes that absorb more dressing (and you don't mind if they fall apart in your final product), russets are where it's at.

02 of 05

Season the Water

Heavily salting the water you're boiling in helps infuse your potatoes with seasoning from the inside out. Skip this step and your spuds will be bland, as they'll only be salted on their outsides.

03 of 05

Don't Overcook or Undercook

The only thing worse than a mashed potato salad is a crunchy one. To avoid undercooking your potatoes, make sure you start boiling them in cold water. Why? Dropping raw spuds in boiling water allows their outsides to get mushy before the insides are cooked through. (More often than not, the insides will still be raw.)

On the flip side, to make sure you don't overcook them, remove your potatoes from the boiling water when they're al dente, meaning just fork tender.

04 of 05

Cut Potatoes Evenly

Cutting potatoes the same size is key to maintaining a consistent texture throughout. If your spuds vary in size, the small chunks will be overcooked while the large ones are still raw. Take your time when slicing and dicing—the final results are worth it.

05 of 05

Dress at the Right Time

If you're making a mayonnaise-based dressing, allow cooked potatoes to cool completely before you add them to avoid melting the mayo. (This results in an overly oily dish.) For a vinegar-based dressing, mix potato chunks with the vinaigrette while they're still warm to fully infuse the flavors.

Potato Salad Recipes to Try

Once you've perfected your grandmother's—or your own—potato salad recipe, change things up with one of our takes on the classic summer side dish.

BBQ Potato Salad

BBQ Potato Salad Recipe
Jennifer Causey

This recipe uses your favorite BBQ sauce and cooked bacon bits to kick a traditional potato salad up a notch, and pairs well with just about anything off the grill. Feeling ambitious? Make your own BBQ sauce.

Garlic-and-Herb Potato Salad

Garlic-and-Herb Potato Salad

This mayo-free recipe calls for multicolored baby potatoes: No peeling required! Their thin skin adds color to this garlicky dish, as well as fiber and iron.

Creamy Potato Salad With Bacon

Creamy Potato Salad With Bacon
Con Poulos

New red potatoes are key for keeping the spuds in this dish firm and colorful. Red potatoes have thin, colorful skin and characteristically retain their shape after cooking. Celery and bacon bring the crunch.

Sesame-Ginger Potato Salad

Sesame Ginger Potato Salad
Greg DuPree

You usually don't think "umami" in reference to potato salad, but with this recipe you do. The addition of ginger, sesame, fish oil, and cabbage gives this American dish an Asian twist (and leaves the mayo in the fridge).

Herb Potato Salad

Sides for kebabs - Herb Potato Salad
Anna Williams

What sets this potato salad recipe apart is a ton of fresh herbs—parsley, tarragon, chives, or whatever you have on hand (or in your garden). Its olive oil-and-red vinegar dressing features mustard for tang and scallions for crunch.

German Beet-and-Potato Salad

German Beet-and-Potato Salad
Victor Protasio

This is not your traditional vinegar-based German potato salad recipe. Obviously, it calls for beets (preferably gold or Chioggia variety, if you can get them) along with potatoes. The second deviation is that these veggies are oven-roasted (instead of boiled), giving them a creamy, tender texture.

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