No summer BBQ is complete without a good potato salad. Learn how to make potato salad without a recipe and find out our favorite variations on this summer classic.
Step 1: Boil Your Potatoes
Here’s what to keep in mind in terms of potatoes and quantity. You want around 1/4 lb to 1/2 pound of potatoes per person. You can use any kind of potato you want, just stick to one kind for each salad. Different varieties of potatoes cook at different rates and you want them all to be the same texture and cooked evenly. You can peel them (if you like) and cut them into bite-size pieces.
We follow the Epicurious method for cooking potatoes for salad: To cook potatoes, always start them in cold water. If you toss potatoes into hot water the outsides will overcook and the insides will undercook, and it’ll be a textural mess. So have a pot of cold water next to you as you peel (or don’t) and slice your potatoes, and put them directly into that water as you go, which will prevent the potatoes from oxidizing. Add a generous sprinkling of salt and a splash of vinegar to the water to season as well as help keep the potatoes from overcooking, and then bring it to a boil over medium heat. Turn it down to a simmer, and cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, 15 minutes to half an hour depending on the size and type of your potatoes.
Step 2: Make Your Dressing
This is the fun part. How are you going to dress your potatoes? You can go creamy with mayonnaise, sour cream or yogurt based dressings. Or you can treat it more like a green or veggie salad and whip up a vinaigrette-style dressing.
We love the following ideas from Anna Stockwell and we’ve also included some of our favorites featuring We Olive products at the end of this post.
Making dressing for potato salad doesn’t need to be any different from making dressing for a salad. You start with a mix of oil and acid, then add something creamy if you want, then season and spice it up to taste. I love a mix of olive oil, pickle juice, Dijon, and mayonnaise—the pickle juice takes care of the acid as well as the seasoning all in one. Or sometimes I cook sliced bacon to add to the potato salad and then use the hot bacon fat as the base of a dressing whisked with grainy mustard and apple cider vinegar and balanced with a little honey and black pepper. EVOO, lemon juice, and just a touch of mustard whisked with finely chopped shallots and a pinch of red pepper flakes is especially nice on fingerling potatoes. Taste your dressing, add more salt or spices if desired, and you’re ready to go. Make more dressing than you think you’ll need—if you don’t use all of it on the potato salad you’ll use it for another salad soon enough.
Step 3: Dress Your Potatoes While They’re Warm
Warm potatoes will absorb more of the dressing than they would if they were cold, so drain your potatoes and get the dressing on there right away. If you plan to serve the dish cold, let it chill for a bit and then adjust the seasoning and add in any extras. If you’re serving it warm, taste, adjust the seasoning, add in your extras and serve. .
Step 4: Add in Some Extras
There are a lot of ways to add flavor, color, and texture to your dressed potatoes. We love the addition of chopped fresh herbs to potato salad. If you love onions, try diced red onion or minced shallot. If you want a little crunch, celery is a classic addition, but we also like to blanch crisp veggies like broccoli or green beans and add them in for texture. Olives, capers, and tapenade offer an extra dose of flavor, just go easy on the salt in the dressing if you’re adding them in. We also love topping a potato salad with crumbled bacon and toasted nuts.
We Olive Favorites
Add-in: Chopped chives and crumbled bacon
Add-in: Chopped fresh parsley and minced shallots
We Olive Fresh Basil Olive Oil + Lemon Juice + Basil Pesto
Add-in: Minced sundried tomatoes and arugula