Southern potato salad is an easy summer recipe that is great for a crowd.  Classic, old fashioned ingredients like mustard, mayonnaise, eggs, and pickles are combined to make a creamy, low carb side dish that will be an instant hit at your next potluck, cookout, or backyard dinner.

Prep Time: 55 minutes
bowl of potato salad with a wooden spoon
Potato Side Dishes, Salad

Southern Potato Salad

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This post was originally published on May 1, 2018.

Are you looking for a crowd pleasing side dish to bring to your next cookout?  This classic southern potato salad recipe is what you need to make.  Really, who doesn’t love a creamy zesty potato salad?

holding a spoonful of potato salad

What potatoes are best for potato salad?

You’ll want to use a waxy potato because they hold their shape better when boiled.  They also have a firmer texture than starchy potatoes.  Many waxy potatoes have thinner skins, so peeling is optional.  Choose from the types below.

  • Red potatoes
  • White potatoes
  • New potatoes
  • Fingerling potatoes

How to buy and store potatoes for potato salad

  • Don’t buy potatoes that are sprouted, wrinkly, or have a greenish hue.
  • Look for small potatoes, as they will provide the best flavor.
  • Use potatoes that are similar in size.  When boiled whole, they will be fork tender at the same time.
  • Store completely dry potatoes in a cool, dark place for up to a few weeks, preferably in a brown paper bag.

white bowl of southern potato salad with two black spoons and gray fabric

Do you peel potatoes before or after boiling?

If you are using a potato with a thicker skin, you’ll probably want to eventually remove the skins.  But what is best: peeling before or after boiling?  Below are some reasons why you might want to peel the potatoes after boiling.

  • The potatoes absorb less water.
  • More starch is preserved inside the potato.
  • It’s quicker and easier to do.

How do you keep potato salad from getting watery?

  • Drain the boiled potatoes in a colander.
  • Shake excess water off.
  • Transfer the potatoes back to the hot cooking pot, and place the pot back on the burner with it turned off. 
  • Cool until lukewarm, or cool completely.

holding a bowl of potato salad

What kind of dressing should I use for potato salad?

With most potato salads, the dressing is the deciding factor if it will be a hit with your crew.  When your dressing is all combined, taste it, and adjust any of the ingredients, so it’s perfect.

  • Cream Base:  Real mayonnaise is the most popular, but sour cream, Greek yogurt, and crème fraîche can be good substitutes. 
  • Vinegar: You’ll also want to add some vinegar to your dressing to bring in the acid.   Try apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, or white wine vinegar.
  • Another Acid: If you are a pickle lover, add some pickle juice.  If you love lemon, add some freshly squeezed juice to your dressing.
  • Mustard: This other staple ingredient can be Dijon, whole grain, yellow, dry ground mustard, or a combination.  This will give your dressing a wonderful color and improve the flavor.
  • Spices: The type and ratios of spices you use can also customize your dressing.
  • Sweetness: If you want, add a pinch of white sugar or a pinch of ground cloves.

holding a spoonful of potato salad

What add ins are popular in potato salad? 

Well, that depends on what kind of salad you are after.  German potato salad has crumbled bacon, Southern potato salad has sweet relish or diced pickles, and Texas-style potato salad has pickled onions.  Potato salad is very personal, so add what you like best.

  • Boiled Eggs: a popular add in because they add creaminess and a nice texture to the salad.
  • Onions: red, sweet, scallions, shallots, or yellow. 
  • Celery: provides crunch, color, and texture.
  • Green or Red Peppers: adds crunch, color, and vitamins. 
  • Green Olives or Capers: adds color and saltiness.
  • Pimentos: add color.

What herbs are used in potato salad?

  • Dried Herbs: celery seeds, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne, pepper
  • Fresh Herbs: chives, dill, parsley, mint, basil, or tarragon

Can potato salad be made ahead?

Yes, it most certainly can.  Most kinds of potato salads taste best when chilled.  If you want to make it a day ahead, it will have more time for the flavors to meld.  Just remember to taste and adjust the seasonings before serving.

bowl of potato salad with a wooden spoon

What should I serve with potato salad?

  • Fried chicken
  • Hamburgers and hot dogs
  • Pulled pork
  • Sausage and sauerkraut (with a German potato salad)

How long can you keep potato salad?

  • 2 hours at room temperature
  • 1 hour outside with temperatures above room temperature
  • 3 to 4 days in the fridge, stored in an airtight container

Can you freeze potato salad?

Unfortunately, potato salad doesn’t freeze well.  If you are using a mayo based dressing, the mayo will separate.  Chopped up eggs and celery don’t freeze well either.

How to Make Potato Salad

Gather all the ingredients.  Chop up the red onion, dill pickle, and parsley.

ingredients for potato salad

Scrub and rinse the red potatoes, leaving the skins on for extra color and texture.  Cut into small cubes, making sure the potatoes are uniform in size.

diced red potatoes in a bowl

Add the potatoes to cold water.  Cover the potatoes with an additional 1 to 2 inches of water.

pot of diced potatoes for potato salad

Once the potatoes start to boil, add the salt.  Reduce the heat and simmer the potatoes until fork tender.

adding salt to the pot of water and potatoes

Drain in a colander and shake out the excess water.  You can choose to leave the potatoes to cool in the colander, or return them to the cooking pot so the hot pot can eliminate any extra water.  If you want the potatoes to absorb more vinegar, add the vinegar to the potatoes while they are still warm; otherwise, wait to add the vinegar to the dressing.

draining the cooked potatoes in a colander

While the potatoes are cooking, boil the eggs in a separate pot for 9 minutes.  Drain the eggs, then submerge them in a ice bath to stop them from cooking.  Let the eggs sit in the ice bath for 10 minutes, then peel and rinse off any eggshells.

shocking boiled eggs in a bowl of ice water

Chop the eggs on a cutting board.

chopping hard boiled eggs for the potato salad

For the dressing, combine the mayo, Dijon, yellow mustard, celery salt, white pepper, and white wine vinegar.  If you choose to add your vinegar to the potatoes when they are still warm, just omit it from the dressing.

adding vinegar to the dressing for potato salad

Whisk the dressing until smooth and creamy.  Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.

whisking the dressing for potato salad

Use clean hands to mix the potatoes with the egg, red onion, and dill pickle.

mixing the potato salad ingredients in a bowl

Add the dressing.

pouring dressing on the potato salad

Carefully fold in the dressing with a spatula, making sure each potato has dressing on it.  Always taste and adjust seasonings because different potatoes soak up dressing differently.

stirring dressing into potato salad

Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.  When ready to serve, taste and adjust seasonings.  This step is important, as the potatoes will absorb the dressing.  Feel free to add a bit more mayo, vinegar, or spices.

Don’t forget to garnish with a sprinkle of paprika and fresh parsley.

sprinkling chopped parsley on potato salad

Pro Tips for Making Potato Salad

  • Unpeeled, unsliced potatoes will absorb less water while being boiled and will keep more starch.
  • Start cooking the potatoes in cold water. It provides more even cooking.
  • Once the water begins to boil, add the salt.  The potatoes will absorb some of the salt and will taste better.
  • Don’t under or overcook the potatoes.  Cook until just tender when pierced with a  fork, as you don’t want mushy or crunchy potatoes. 
  • If you want more of a tang, add vinegar when potatoes are still hot, as it will absorb better.
  • Let the potatoes cool 30 minutes before adding the dressing if you’re using a mayo based dressing.
  • Apply the dressing when potatoes are warm if using a vinaigrette dressing.
  • Always adjust to taste.  Different potatoes soak up the dressing ingredients differently.

Try one of these other mouthwatering recipes for your next cookout.

serving dish of baked beans on a chalkboard with fresh parsley and garlic bowl of creamy coleslaw with hamburger buns, barbecue sauce, and pulled pork small jar of refrigerator dill pickles with a fork

The pleasure of a 5-star review for this southern potato salad would be greatly appreciated.

bowl of potato salad with a wooden spoon

Southern Potato Salad

  • Author: Brooke
  • Prep Time: 55 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Yield: 7 cups 1x


Southern potato salad is an easy summer recipe that is great for a crowd.  Classic, old fashioned ingredients like mustard, mayonnaise, eggs, and pickles are combined to make a creamy, low carb side dish that will be an instant hit at your next potluck, cookout, or backyard dinner.



For the Salad

  • 4 pounds red potatoes, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
  • 1/3 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup dill pickles, finely chopped

For the Dressing

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper

For the Garnish

  • sprinkle paprika or smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon flatleaf parsley, chopped


  1. Rinse and dice the red potatoes, making sure each piece is a similar size.  Place the potatoes in a large pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil; then add 1 tablespoon of salt.  Reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are fork tender, then drain in a colander and shake off the excess water.  Let the potatoes cool for 30 minutes in the colander.
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, boil some water in a smaller pot to cook the eggs.  Carefully lower the room temperature eggs into the boiling water and boil for 9 minutes.  Drain and submerge the eggs in an ice bath to stop the cooking.  Allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then peel and rinse off any eggshells.  Finely chop them on a cutting board.
  3. Cut up the red onion and dill pickles.  Set aside.
  4. To make the dressing, whisk together the mayo, vinegar, mustards, and spices in a medium bowl.
  5. Gently mix together the potatoes, eggs, pickles and onions in a large bowl, then fold in the dressing with a large spoon.  Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.  Cover tightly and refrigerate until cool or overnight.
  6. When ready to serve, taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.  The potatoes will absorb the dressing and will may need additional mayo, vinegar, or spices.  Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle paprika and fresh parsley on top.


  • I used Duke’s mayo, which has a lemony taste.  If you are using another kind of mayo, I suggest adding some freshly squeezed lemon juice to the dressing.
  • The pleasure of a five star review for this southern potato salad would be greatly appreciated.
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Chopped
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Easy, Traditional, Southern Potato Salad

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2 thoughts on “Southern Potato Salad

  1. I love creamy potato salad! Potatoes are so good! The potatoes are soft and the onion and pickles adds some crunch. This is the best salad ever!!!

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