My grandmother’s easy potato salad recipe is a staple at almost every summer picnic, family cookout, and holiday celebration. Best of all, the crowd-pleasing side dish comes together with just 5 ingredients! Serve the red potato salad alongside an Easter ham, grilled burgers, or bbq chicken for a cool, creamy, and flavorful dish that’s always a hit.
Red Potato Salad
While there are dozens of varieties of potato salad out there, sometimes simple is best! This easy potato salad recipe is made without eggs, comes together with just a handful of kitchen staples, and requires very minimal effort. It’s the perfect side to pair with barbecue, burgers, fried chicken, or just about any grilled meat.
This traditional potato salad recipe comes from my grandmother, who shared it with my mom, who then shared it with me. We’ve been enjoying the dish for three generations…and counting! It’s just one of those recipes that instantly reminds me of the women I love most, and I hope it becomes a regular in your family’s home as well.
What is Potato Salad?
Potato salad is a classic side dish that’s made with boiled potatoes and a variety of other ingredients. It’s believed to have originated in Germany, eventually making its way to other European countries and the European colonies.
A classic German potato salad is typically served warm or at room temperature and is dressed in a vinegar-based sauce. By contrast, American-style potato salad (shown here) is often served cold or at room temperature, and is coated with a creamy dressing made from mayonnaise, sour cream, or yogurt. Most potato salad recipes include other seasonings, herbs, or vegetables in addition to the potatoes.
The Best Kind of Potato to Use for Potato Salad
With so many different varieties of potatoes available at the market, it can be confusing to know which potatoes will work best in a creamy potato salad recipe. I’ve shown red potatoes here (which are the traditional choice), but Yukon Gold potatoes or other waxy potatoes will also work well. These potatoes hold their shape when cooked and keep their firm texture in the salad when you chop them up and toss them with dressing. You’ll want to stay away from starchy, thick-skinned potatoes like russet potatoes, which will fall apart during the cooking process.
This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for an easy potato salad recipe. As always, specific measurements and complete cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.
- Potatoes: red potatoes or gold potatoes work best.
- Celery: for crisp crunch.
- Green onion: adds savory flavor.
- Mayonnaise: we love Duke’s brand best, but any variety will work.
- Sour cream: adds a bit of tang and richness to the potato salad dressing.
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper: to enhance the other flavors in the dish.
How to Make Potato Salad
This fast and easy potato salad recipe only requires 5 simple ingredients, as well as salt and pepper. It’s a perfect make-ahead side dish for entertaining, or for casual cookouts at home. I’ve served it with everything from an Easter ham to a grilled burger!
- Boil the Potatoes. Start with the whole potatoes (skin-on) in a pot of cold water, and then bring the water to a boil. Add a couple of teaspoons salt to the boiling water, and cook the potatoes until fork tender (about 15-20 minutes). Drain.
- Peel and Cube the Potatoes. Once they’re cool enough to handle, peel and dice the potatoes into bite-size pieces.
- Add the Remaining Ingredients. Place the potatoes in a large bowl, and then stir in the celery, green onion, mayonnaise, and sour cream. Don’t forget to season the mixture with salt and pepper, too!
- Chill. Cover the potato salad and refrigerate the dish for at least 1-2 hours before serving. You may need to add a little bit more sour cream or mayonnaise just before serving so that the salad reaches your desired consistency.
What to Serve with Creamy Potato Salad
The options are practically endless, but here are a few great entrées that go well with the easy potato salad recipe:
- Baked Chicken Wings, Crispy Fried Chicken or Crispy Oven Baked Chicken Tenders
- Fried Chicken Cutlets and Country Gravy
- Dutch Oven Pork Roast or 5-Ingredient Pork Sirloin Roast
- Baked Baby Back Ribs
- Ham Steak with Brown Sugar Glaze, Pineapple Glazed Ham, Baked Ham with Apricot Glaze
- Grilled New York Strip Steak
- Chicken Fried Steak with Gravy
- Fried Pork Chops
- Roast Chicken
- Dutch Oven Pot Roast or Mississippi Pot Roast
- Slow Cooker Turkey Breast or Oven Roasted Turkey
- Crock Pot Pulled Pork, Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork, or Cider-Braised Pulled Pork
- Mississippi Roasted Pork Shoulder
- Grilled BBQ Pork Chops
- Grilled BBQ Chicken, Oven BBQ Chicken Breast, or Crockpot BBQ Chicken
- Dutch Oven BBQ Beef
- Oven Baked Pork Tenderloin or Mustard and Brown Sugar Baked Pork Tenderloin
- Crispy Southern Fried Catfish
Preparation and Storage for a Classic Potato Salad Recipe
- Potato salad can be made 1-2 days ahead of time. Leftover potato salad that has been kept properly chilled will stay fresh in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.
- If your potato salad has been sitting out at room temperature (or in the hot summer weather at a picnic) for more than 2 hours, you should discard any leftovers.
- I do not recommend freezing this old fashioned potato salad. The ingredients will not retain the same consistency when thawed.
How Much Potato Salad Per Person?
It’s safe to assume that 1 pound of potatoes will feed about 3-4 people. In this case, 2 pounds of potatoes for the potato salad yields about 6-8 servings. If you plan to feed 20 people, you will need to triple all of the ingredients. To feed 50 people, you will need about 8 batches; for 100 people, about 15 batches…and so on.
- Garnish the dish with about a tablespoon of fresh herbs, such as parsley or dill.
- Sprinkle paprika on top of the salad just before serving. My mom does this for a colorful touch.
- Stir in cooked, crumbled bacon, add a few hard-boiled eggs, include a dollop of yellow mustard or Dijon mustard, or stir in some pickle relish or chopped dill pickles. Take the basic recipe and make it your own!
Tips for the Best Potato Salad Recipe
- Put the potatoes in the pot of water before you heat up the water and bring it to a boil. This ensures even cooking. If you drop the potatoes into already boiling water, the outside of the potatoes will cook quickly, while the inside will stay hard.
- Boil the potatoes whole. Do NOT dice or peel the potatoes before they go in the water. Cutting or dicing the potatoes causes them to release steam while cooking, which will result in a mushier potato.
- The potatoes will take about 15-20 minutes in the boiling water to become fork-tender. If you’re using baby potatoes, they may only require about 10 minutes, so keep a close eye on them — you don’t want to overcook them and end up with mushy potatoes.
- Use full-fat mayo and sour cream for the best flavor and texture. With so few ingredients, you want the highest quality in this dish.
- The potatoes will absorb some of the sour cream and mayonnaise while the salad chills in the fridge, so you will likely need to add an extra spoonful of mayonnaise and/or sour cream right before serving.
More Easy Potato Recipes to Try
- Southern Potato Salad
- German Potato Salad
- 3-Ingredient Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
- Mashed Potatoes with Sour Cream and Chives
- Mashed Sweet Potatoes
- Twice Baked Potatoes
- Easy Au Gratin Potatoes
- Cheesy Sour Cream Potato Casserole
- Chunky Skin-On Mashed Red Potatoes
- Baked Potatoes
- Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows
- Baked Potato Wedges
This recipe was originally published in April, 2020. The photos were updated in April, 2022.