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Potato Salad Basics

Apr 10, 2008
Making a potato salad can be an exercise in creativity. All you need are simple ingredients and a willingness to experiment.

Potato Salad is one of the most social and well traveled salads there is because it's always showing up at picnics, barbeques, parties, camping trips, weddings and even funerals. Potato salad is similar to people in that each one is unique and a little different to any other one that has been made before.

Here is the basic structure of the salad with some optional ingredients to consider:

1- Potatoes:

Any kind will work here. Most people peel them but you don't have to. If you prefer them unpeeled make sure you wash them well before slicing them. I usually slice them into 1/2" slices before cooking. Boil until tender, drain and rinse with cold water in a colander. Chop cooled potato slices into bite-sized pieces and add to a large salad bowl.


The standard dressing is mayonnaise, the sweeter Miracle Whip or its generic equivalent. This is good by itself or you can add small amounts of other condiments to enhance the flavor. Mustard is the most popular one to add, either a plain one or one of the many fancy types out there these days.

There are a few alternatives to using mayonnaise as a dressing base. Yogurt is a healthy alternative, and you can choose from regular, reduced fat or even fat free. A light or fat-free sour cream can also be used. A mixture of these 3 can also be tried if one by itself is too bland.

There are also some soy-based yogurts for those who prefer non-dairy.

If you prefer a lighter dressing you could make a simple oil and vinegar dressing such as this one:

1/2 cup salad oil
1/4 cup cider or wine vinegar
2 tbsp. dill weed
1/2 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp salt

The easiest option is to just use your favorite bottled salad dressing from your refrigerator. Either a creamy one or oil/vinegar type will work fine.

It's best to make the salad first and then add dressing a little at a time until the right consistency is achieved. Again, that is a personal preference.


Most potato salads have some form of onion in them. Sweet onions are popular as they are not as strong as regular onions. Green onions are also good. Another main ingredient is celery, and from there the options are endless. Here are some more to choose from:

Bell peppers-any kind
Tomatoes-small cherry or grape ones work the best, cut in half and squeeze the seeds out before adding.
Radishes-thinly sliced
Carrots-thinly slices or grated
Zoukini-seeds removed, thinly sliced or chopped

4-Eggs & Cheese:

Potato salad recipes sometimes call for hard-boiled eggs. For a standard sized salad made with 6 potatoes usually 4 eggs are mixed in and 2 are sliced and placed on top as a garnish.

Any type of cheese can be added and can be sliced, cubed or grated. A 3-cheese ranch dressing goes well with this.

5-Fruit & Nuts-Not something you normally find in a potato salad but well worth considering:

Any dried fruit
Sunflower seeds


Olives can go well if the salad has cucumber, tomatoes and feta cheese for a Mediterranean style salad.

Pickles-any kind thinly sliced or chopped.

Garlic-a little chopped fresh garlic if you are a garlic lover, otherwise leave this one out.

Spices-a pinch or two of your favorite will always add a little flair.

Bacon-cooked and crumbled or use bacon-bits

Taste Test & Garnish:

Taste your salad and add salt and/or pepper if desired. Sprinkle a little paprika over finished salad for an attractive garnish.

Cool and serve.

The basic recipe is a fine salad to make but with all the options available it's easy to come up with a unique, different tasty salad every time.
About the Author
Gordon Angrignon is a sea-urchin diver from Cumberland, British Columbia on Vancouver Island. When not on the fishing grounds he's busy researching and making salads for his website Easy Salad Recipes.com, a compilation of free salad recipes including Potato Salad Recipes.
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