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classic potato salad with pickles

UPDATE: THIS POST AND RECIPE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN 2015. I HAVE UPDATED IT TO REFLECT NEW INFORMATION AND HELPFUL CONTENT!

Anybody craving potato salad? We pull this classic potato salad with pickles recipe out at least once a summer over here, and the time is now.

White bowl with chopped hard-boiled eggs, radishes, potatoes, and celery  ready to make classic potato salad on a marble counter with raw sweet corn stacked up ready to cook.

My Dad was often the potato salad maker growing up, whether cooking for a crowd at family camp, a summer gathering, or the 4th of July. He swears he never added radishes, though I’m pretty sure I got that idea from Richard. I love the color and the crunch.

Next tip, pickled vegetables, which are super easy to make and keep on hand. A few years ago I replaced my Dad’s trusted sweet pickle relish trick with some quick pickled red onions. Both taste fantastic.

pickled red onions in mason jars sitting on counter with lid open and a fork of pickles for the topping to potato salad

You can make these pickles right before you begin your potato salad prep, and they’ll be ready in an hour. If you want them savory, skip the sugar. Or, like me, double the recipe below and make one savory and one sweet.

How to make the best classic potato salad?

Start by getting your eggs boiling. While I’ve tried a lot of different ways over the years, this how-to-boil an egg method is my go-to. Surprisingly, I like to use less-fresh eggs when possible, and those shells will usually slip right off. In other words, give this strategy a try and tell me what you think!

Split hard-boiled eggs on a white plate with salt and pepper to snack on next to a colander of peeled hard-boiled eggs for potato salad.

Next, peel and boil your potatoes just until soft. Test the texture as you go because you don’t want the potatoes to disintegrate on the edges by cooking too long. Consequently, good for mashed potatoes, not for salad. Pierce with a fork and when they poke through easily but don’t fall apart they are ready. When cooked, take them off the heat and drain carefully with a tilted pot lid or in a colander. See the recipe below for further drying instructions.

Pot of peeled potatoes in water ready to boil for potato salad next to pile of potato peels on marble counter.

You are ready to pull this potato salad together when:

  • Eggs are peeled and divided into whites and yolks
  • Dressing is chilling
  • Potatoes are cool
  • Radishes and celery are chopped
  • Pickles are ready
Classic yellow potato salad with pickles on green leaf of lettuce on white plate with pickled red onion strips on top with jar of pickled onions and fork on marble counter.

As per usual for me on this specific holiday, we’re still undecided about what we’ll do and what we might make. As of last night, we narrowed it down to about six different non-classic ideas. Oh brother. However, I’ll need this salad no matter what and maybe that’s all. Are you with me?

While I pull the rest of my menu together, here’s my old favorite with a pickle twist.

classic potato salad with pickled onions

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Prep Time:55 mins
Cook Time:15 mins

Ingredients

  • 5 pounds potatoes peeled and quartered
  • 8 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups of mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup yellow mustard
  • 3 tablespoons pickled onions, pickles, or relish juice – sweet or savory
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 small bunch of radishes, about 6, ends removed and diced
  • 1/2 cup celery diced, about 1-2 stalks
  • Garnishes: pickled red onions, chives, extra radish, or herbs you love instead.

Pickled onions (optional)

  • 1/2 red onion sliced into half moons or chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/4  cup white or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2  cup water
  • 3/4  teaspoon salt
  • 2-3 teaspoons sugar (optional for sweet pickles)

Instructions

  • Cover quartered and peeled potatoes with water and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, set to simmer for about 15 minutes until just tender. Taste test potatoes so they're not too crunchy or too mushy. Let them go for another 5 minutes as needed.
  • Remove hard yolks from egg whites. Mash the egg yolks and put them in a medium bowl. Dice the egg whites and set them aside.
  • In your medium bowl with egg yolks, whisk in mayonnaise, mustard, pickled juice, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Refrigerate dressing until ready to serve.
  • Dice radishes and celery and set aside with egg whites.
  • Once potatoes are done, drain them gently and let them cool while spread out on a cookie sheet to dry.
  • When cool enough to handle, slice each potato quarter into 1/2 inch pieces. Lightly salt these potato slices.
  • Combine cooled potatoes, celery, radishes, egg whites, and dressing in a large bowl. Stir gently to combine. Taste and add more salt, pepper, and extra pickle juice to adjust the taste to your liking. (This process of tasting makes for the best potato salad each time, don't skip it!)
  • Garnish with pickled onions, chopped chives, radishes, or herbs you love.

Pickled onions

  • Fill a mason jar with or container with sliced onions.
    chopped red onions in mason jars ready to pickle with vinegar in measuring glass and slat nearby on marble counter
  • In a liquid measuring cup, whisk the remaining ingredients together to start dissolving salt and sugar if using.
  • Pour liquid mixture over your onions, scraping any residual salt and sugar into the jar or container.
  • Cover your jar with the lid and shake it up and down a few times.
  • Let your onions sit at room temperature for at least an hour before using. Shake every once in awhile to keep onions mixed with juice.
  • Refrigerate leftovers for a couple weeks. This recipe can easily be multiplied.

Equipment

1 small jam or mason jar with lid for making quick pickles
2 pots for boiling eggs and potatoes
2-3 mixing bowls – 1 large

This post contains affiliate links to products I know and love. I recommend any of them for this recipe!

Servings :15
Author: Heather Bursch
cost: $18
Keywords: 4th of July, classic potato salad, pickled onions, potato salad, quick pickles, summer salad
Did you make it? Mention @heatherbursch or tag #shemadeit so we can admire your work!

Classic Potato Salad: Frequently Asked Questions

Should potato salad be eaten right away?

For the freshest color and textures, I like to eat this salad on the day of preparation, but not immediately. If you can, plan about 4-8 hours to chill, letting the flavors meld in the fridge. With that said, make enough for leftovers!

Can potato salad be made ahead?

Yes! I do LOVE the leftovers and the convenience of prepping ahead when needed. Make it all the way to the end though as prepping the parts on this one can let the potatoes turn brown. Cover finished potato salad tightly with wrap or cover and press down so it touches the top. Tightly covered, your potato salad can last well for 2-3 days.

What can I use instead of radishes?

If you don’t care for radishes, think of the crunch factor and add more celery.

What kind of potatoes work best?

I like to use organic russet potatoes. This article from Food Network will tell you many opinions worth reading if you’re curious about more potato particulars. Russet or Idaho potatoes are the usuals used for classic American potato salad like my recipe above. But because they are starchy potatoes, you have to test as you boil them so they don’t overcook. If you want to try another more waxy potato, go for it! Just taste test as you go, and follow the above guides in the recipe to know when they are done.

Do I have to peel the potatoes for potato salad?

For this classic potato salad recipe, yes. You want the dressing and flavors to soak into the potatoes and give them a great taste. Don’t forget to season at the end with extra pickle juice, salt, pepper, and herbs!

My potato salad seems dry. What should I do?

In a small bowl whisk together more mayonnaise (a spoonful to start), a smaller teaspoon or squiret of mustard, and a splash of pickle juice. Add to potato salad and gently stir. Taste again and season for your preferences.

What if I want to serve this outdoors or take it on a picnic?

When I’m serving potato salad in the hot summer, I like to keep a bigger bowl of ice holding a smaller bowl of salad. Just nestle the bowl of salad into the ice and the bowl will stay chilled. If you are transporting it, keep it in a cooler between serving and seconds.

Want to stay in touch? This month (July of 2022), I’m sending out my first she made it, she might email. Curious about what I’ve been making or thinking about making? Scroll down and get on the list!

Happy summer!

~ Heather

Last Updated on July 3, 2022 by Heather Bursch

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