Classic Potato Salad

Potato salad is one of those recipes that comes in two different versions - the classic mayonnaise-based salad or the vinaigrette salad. It's fun to play around with these recipes and add creative touches, but I always find myself yearning for the classic version.

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This is your classic mayonnaise-based potato salad recipe that is as simple to put together as anything. There are only a few decisions to make. The first is what sort of potatoes to use. There are three general groups of potatoes – starchy (Russet, Idaho, etc..), waxy (Red Bliss, fingerling, etc…) and all-purpose (Yukon Gold). The way to decide which of these types of potatoes to use depends on what sort of potato salad you want. Starchy potatoes will break down more easily, which means that your potato salad will be thicker, more uniform in texture with fuzzier chunks of potatoes (if you know what I mean). Waxy potatoes tend to hold their shape better and can handle being stirred with mayonnaise without crumbling. Generally, waxy potatoes are used for potato salad. I, however, like my potato salad to be somewhere in the middle between crushed, fuzzy chunks and slippery, solid chunks and so I use an all-purpose potato, the Yukon Gold. In a pinch, you can use any potato on hand, but if you’re out shopping for ingredients, pick the potato that will give you the potato salad you’re looking for.

The second decision to make is whether or not to peel the potato. Much of this depends on what type of potato you are using. If you’re going for the starchy potato, I would peel it first, then cut it into bite-sized pieces and boil it. Other potatoes have thinner skin and I think seeing the skin of potato adds some interest to the salad. You might disagree or want a more uniform look in which case, grab your peeler.

Potato Salad in a black bowl on a wooden table.

Finally, you’ll need to decide if you want to rinse your diced potatoes after you’ve boiled them. I’m a rinser. Rinsing washes off some of the starch from the potatoes so that the potato chunks are more defined and easily coated with the dressing. Rinsing the potatoes in cold water also stops the cooking process so you know exactly what texture your potatoes will be and won’t risk over-cooking. If you want your potato salad to be a little thicker, starchier, then don’t rinse the starch away, but spread the potatoes out on a baking sheet to cool and make sure you drain them out of the boiling water just before you think they are perfect. 

That’s it. Just a few decisions to make and then you can roll into auto-pilot and put together a delicious potato salad to go with burgers, sandwiches, fried chicken, the list goes on…

Potato salad with a burger and pickles on a wooden table with more potato salad in the background and a glass of iced tea.


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Classic Potato Salad

  • Prep Time: 15 m
  • Cook Time: 20 m
  • Chilling Time: 1 h
  • Total Time: 1 h 35 m
  • Servings:


  • 3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes ½-inch dice
  • ½ red onion diced
  • cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons yellow or Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 stalks celery diced
  • cup bread and butter pickles chopped
  • 5 hardboiled eggs chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives


  1. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil and boil the diced potatoes for 15 to 20 minutes, until they are fork tender. Drain and rinse the potatoes under cold water and set aside to cool.
  2. Place the red onion in small bowl and cover with water. Let the onion soak for at least 15 minutes before draining well. This will tame the harsh taste of the onion.
  3. Combine the mayonnaise, mustard, cider vinegar, celery seed, salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste in a small bowl.
  4. Combine the potatoes, celery, bread and butter pickles and red onion in a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss everything together. Stir in the chopped hard boiled eggs and chives and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Chill for at least 1 to 2 hours before serving.
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Comments (20)Post a Reply

    1. If you want to peel the potatoes you can. I prefer to leave the skins on my potatoes, but wash them well.

  1. 5 stars
    This is the potato salad my mom made so it’s the one I love and have many fond memories of eating at family dinners. Very good and easy to make! Thanks for posting the recipe!

  2. Fabulous! My version is so close except for the sweet pickles and mustard. I had to try this. My family loved it. Thanks. You are the best💞

  3. No celery seeds…too bitter for me…just diced celery. I always “pickle” my diced red onion in the vinegar, no sweet pickles…dill only. potato salad is indeed a comfort food.

  4. Your mode of explaining all in this article is really nice,
    all be able to effortlessly be aware of it, Thanks a lot.

  5. Do you have a recipe for potato salad with a cooked dressing? My Aunt made one & I loved it. She has passed and I would like to be able to make it.

    1. Hi Sue. You could try this warm bacon dressing. I don’t know if it is like your aunts, but it is cooked.

  6. Hi Meredith, I am going to make this potato salad for the 4th. This really sounds like my mom’s potato salad from many years ago. I love the celery seed and most recipes do not include them. Cannot wait for a yummy potato salad.

  7. 5 stars
    Love this “classic” potato salad – very much like my mother made every summer while I was growing up. I use red potato’s or Yukon gold, diced and with the skins on ! Just made a batch this morning to have with pork chops on the grill. Leftovers will go great with burgers, brats or hot dogs over the Labor Day weekend. Love your recipes and your very informative videos !

    1. Hi Nancy. You can certainly leave the salt out of this, and any recipe. It’s important for people to customize the recipes for their own tastes and health needs. My recommendations for salt, sugar, seasonings are just that – recommendations for the best flavors.

  8. 4 stars
    I make my grandmother’s salad dressing recipe, passed down by my mother. I would have to guess at the amounts of ingredients….. but I’m sure you can work it out with a couple tries.
    In saucepan beat 2 raw eggs with a fork or whisk. Add 2 Tlb flour, 1 cup+ sugar / Spenda, salt & pepper, whisk well.
    Mix Approximately 1/4 cup vinegar with 12-16 ounces water and stir into saucepan mixture. Add 1-2 drops yellow cake coloring ( this makes a yummy look to final dish.) med low heat whisking ….bring to a soft boil and it should thicken nicely. ( this is where you must use your judgement first time.) let cool until slightly warm. Taste , do you need more sweeter……or if too sweet add a dab more vinegar.
    Add 1-2 Tbl Mayo / or salad dressing/ or Miracle Whip….your choice and 1 teaspoon mustard ( optional). Whisk well and pour on potato salad. I moisten ours fairly well bc after the night in refrigerator the potatoes soak up dressing and can be a bit dry. Saved leftover dressing is handy if this happens.

  9. 5 stars
    My mom’s recipe was just like yours, but she used to always add some coarsely grated tart green apple (like Granny Smith) to the potato salad. That gave it a real nice, fresh flavor. If the salad got too sour with all the vinegar, pickles and so on, she just added some sugar.

  10. 2 stars
    One concern: I think you probably should revise the potato cooking time. While 15-20 minutes seems about right for WHOLE potatoes, boiling potatoes that have been precut in 1/2″ dice will result in dissolved potato starch.

    I do enjoy classic recipes with great flavor and encourage those kinds of recipes. Keep up the good work!

  11. I have always boiled new potatoes or now Yukon Gold in their jackets until a fork tender, then drain. At that point you can decide if you want to peel them. I then cut them into cubes while still warm and sprinkle some oil (or Italian Dressing) over them to keep from sticking together and to seal them. Then add veggies, eggs and mayo mix. Using sweet onions eliminates need for soaking onions. Sometimes I mash the hard boiled egg yokes in the mayo, sometimes just chunk the eggs.

  12. 4 stars
    NO sweet pickles— I use sliced green olives with pimentos, and course black pepper, a dash of paprika, small dice pepper-jack cheese— for a little kick.

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