I’ve never met a potato salad that I didn’t like. Use mayo or Greek yogurt, season it with dill or throw in some Kalamata olives and sundried tomatoes – they’re all good.
And since no cookout, picnic or backyard party is complete without a giant bowl of potato salad, there are ample opportunities this summer to try them all.
Today, let’s pare it down to the basics and talk about how to make an easy, classic, all-American potato salad. Serve this just as it is or use the recipe as a jumping-off point for the potato salad of your dreams.
The No. 1 concern when making potato salad is picking and cooking the potatoes. Waxy potatoes are the best choice; they hold their shape after cooking and have a soft, creamy texture. Red-skinned potatoes like Red Bliss are my stand-by for salads. For a slightly softer “mashed” texture in your salad, you can also use any all-purpose potato.
Chop the potatoes and simmer them in water until tender. I usually leave the skins. I like the spots of color they add, plus they’re usually tender. If you’d prefer to peel your potatoes, it’s easiest to boil them whole and then peel and cut them into chunks.
Classically, mayonnaise and mustard are used to bind together those tender chunks, while celery and shallots add crunch. Fresh herbs or diced green onions give the salad fresh flavor. Many traditional recipes also fold in diced hard-cooked eggs; personally, I keep things focused on the potatoes and save the eggs for egg salad. Of course, all these ingredients can be tweaked or toyed with.
If you serve potato salad outdoors, keep it out of sunshine and don’t leave it out for longer than 2 hours. It’s not the mayo that goes bad (commercial mayonnaise is acidic enough to prevent bacteria from growing) but the other ingredients that have been handled. If you introduced bacteria, hot temperatures give it a chance to grow.
Emma Christensen is recipe editor for TheKitchn.com, a website for food and home cooking.
2 pounds waxy potatoes, such as red-skinned potatoes
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon mustard
2 ribs celery, diced (about 3/4 cup)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 large shallot or 1/4 small onion, minced (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup diced green onions, parsley, tarragon or dill, plus extra to garnish
3 large hard-cooked eggs, peeled and diced (optional)
SCRUB the potatoes. Cut them into large bite-sized chunks. (Or boil the potatoes whole, then peel and/or dice them after cooking.) Place the potatoes in a medium-sized pot. Cover with an inch of water and stir in a teaspoon of salt.
BRING the water to a simmer over medium-high heat; adjust the heat to keep the water at a gentle simmer. Cook until the potatoes are tender all the way through when pierced with a fork, 8 to 12 minutes (the time will vary depending on the size of the pieces and the type of potatoes).
DRAIN the potatoes and rinse them under cool water. Transfer them to a mixing bowl.
ADD the mayonnaise and the mustard to the potatoes. Mix well.
ADD the celery, shallots, green onions (or herbs), and eggs (if using) to the bowl with the potatoes. Stir until thoroughly combined. Taste a bite of the salad; add salt and pepper to season and more of any of the other ingredients to taste. This recipe is a base template; add more or use less of anything to your taste.
SERVE the salad while still warm, or cover and refrigerate for up to a day before serving.
Yield: About 7 cups, or 6 to 8 servings as a side dish.