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Mar 14, 2012 02:37 PM

Potato salad secrets?

I have a friend who makes THE best potato salad-and I have tasted a lot of potato salads in my day. It is amazing! Anyway, she wont give the recipe as it contains a secret ingredient but says she will confirm it (the secret ingredient) if guessed. I've been shy about guessing beyond the usual stuff and I need your help!!
PS this might sound odd, but I recently tried a potato salad from a deli that I swear had a slight flavor of liverwurst. This seemed to be a flavor combo that could work but I have been unable to find any recipes that include it-I've looked everywhere! Anyone heard of a potato salad recipe that uses liverwurst in the dressing???

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  1. There is no such thing as a secret in the kitchen! What are the known ingredients in the potato salad?

    1. what does your friend's potato salad taste like that makes it taste different to you from others?

      1 Reply
      1. re: mariacarmen

        It's so hard to's extra creamy and savory... I just can't put my finger on it!

      2. I am a potato salad "snob", lol! I spent a long time adapting recipes to make it to near perfection (again lol). But it's still true and my potato salad is my most frequently requested item to bring to family/friend summer events.
        And for me, a great potato salad is like a symphony... it has many different elements. Good ingredients, fine dicing those ingredients and slowly simmering the potatoes.

        The ingreidents that I think makes it over the top? Bacon, sauteed and chopped finely. Hard boiled eggs and a good mustard to mix in with the mayonnaise.

        Here's my recipe:

        5 pounds of baby red bliss potatoes.
        6-8 eggs
        5 large stalks of celery, finely chopped
        1/2 large red onion, small diced
        6 slices of bacon, slowly cooked and chopped
        1& 1/4 cup of good mayonnaise
        1/4 cup of Dijon mustard
        1 T. kosher salt
        1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

        Place potatoes in bottom of a large dutch oven. Place the eggs on top of the potatoes, gently. Fill pan until the water covers everything by an inch.

        Bring water to a boil, and turn down to a low simmer immediately. Set timer on 15 minutes and remove eggs and set aside. Take a very thin paring knife and slide into the largest potato. It should slide through without any hesitation, to be completely done. Keep heat on low and check potatoes every few minutes. When a knife slides through the potatoes easily, drain and set aside to cool.

        Chop celery, onion, eggs and bacon and add to a large bowl.
        Finely dice the potatoes when they are cool enough to handle.
        Place potatoes in the bowl with the veggies, bacon and eggs.
        Add salt and pepper and stir. In a separate bowl, mix mayo and mustard. Pour over potato salad and gently fold everything in until
        it's incorporated.

        Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for a few hours, or overnight.

        After a few hours, check potato salad for too little mayo mix. If a little dry, then add a couple of tablespoons of mayo and a bit of mustard. Adjust salt and pepper also.

        I also cube my potatoes very small and watch them like a hawk while boiling.

        12 Replies
        1. re: mcel215

          Sounds very good - I think you hit it with "eggs, mustard and mayo" as essentials. Though as a matter of personal preference, I've always find red potatoes to be too firm (and russets not firm enough). I go with Yukon's, mostly.

          I do like some of the other suggestions for pickle juice and I always add celery seed.

          1. re: sbp

            Thanks sbp. I use either baby red bliss or or yukon gold potatoes. I haven't run into a problem with the red being too firm though. I think it's because I cut them into 1/2" cubes perhaps.
            My mother used to put vinegar in hers, didn't care or it. To me it left an after taste. The celery seed sounds like a great idea too. Thanks.


            1. re: sbp

              sbp - I agree with the celery seed!! I use quite a lot and then let it sit for a whlle to flavor the dressing. Also, I like to add some pressed garllic (not too much though) and some green onion. I always use Best Foods mayo and lots of hard boiled eggs. I LOVE potato salad!!!

            2. re: mcel215

              I'm not a huge fan of red potatoes and typically wont eat them unless they are roasted. But, I am going to try your recipe, that sounds really good!

              1. re: eksophia

                Thanks, eksophia... I hope you like it.

              2. re: mcel215

                I have one tiny suggestion for your great-looking recipe. When I want crispy bacon bits, I cut the raw bacon into small pieces before cooking it. It cooks very quickly and becomes much more crisp more easily than when cooking big pieces and then crumbling them.

                Making your recipe tomorrow!

                1. re: sandylc

                  I haven't tried to cut the bacon up beforehand, I'll give it a try. Thanks sandy.

                  1. re: mcel215

                    Using kitchen shears to cut bacon is easier than a knife.

                    1. re: melpy

                      Yes - I should have mentioned that, too...thanks1

                      1. re: melpy

                        Nice to know, I would have never thought of it. I usually cut mine while it's still frozen.

                  2. re: mcel215

                    Thanks Mcel215. My search for the perfect potato salad may end here with your recipe :). This might be a dummy question, but how do you slow cook bacon? And I don't have a Dutch oven so how should I cook my potatoes to achieve the desired texture?

                    1. re: pearlyriver

                      I cook my bacon in a non stick skillet. I lay the cold slices of bacon in one layer and turn the pan on medium low. I turn it after a few minutes and just keep an eye on it. It will start to turn brown quickly, so I make sure I turn the stove on low after a few minutes. When the bacon is medium brown with just a little fat showing, I remove itand lay it on a paper towel.

                      And pearly, I never had a DO until recent years. But I always cooked/boiled potatoes. I just used a large pot, big enough for my potatoes to make one layer on the bottom of the pot. If you don't have a large enough pot to do this, stacking the potatoes in a medium pan works fine. One of the things I mentioned in my post is that cooking the potatoes is essential to a good potato salad (my opinion). So after I bring the potatoes to a boil, I turn the heat on low. After 15 minutes, I take a very thin knife and gently slide it into one of the largest potatoes in the pot. Repeat every 5 minutes or so, keeping your pot on low. When the knife slides in the center of a large potato easily, your potatoes are ready. Gently pour the potatoes into a colander and let cool a bit before dicing them.

                      And thank you for the compliment. :)


                  3. My mother's secret ingredient was "pickle juice" from a jar of dill or polski orgorki pickles. I find it makes a real difference to the mayonaise based, traditional dressing.

                    13 Replies
                    1. re: vanderb

                      I go with the juice from bread & butter pickles, matter of taste, and add a good amount of coursely chopped stuffed green olives in with the standard stuff.

                      1. re: vanderb

                        Sounds good- I use vinegar. After the potatoes are cooked, I drain them, then pour vinegar over them, cover and let sit for a few minutes before I peel them. I also think that making the salad, and adding your dressing of choice is best done while the potatoes are still hot- or at least warm.

                        1. re: macca

                          I totally agree with the vinegar onto warm potatoes. My mom's secret is to pour the warm potatoes into a bowl that has some vinegar, oil and chopped garlic, toss those and let it sit a while. Then dress with a bit of mayo, and whatever else your heart desires. The vinegar really makes the potatoes savory without making the whole thing taste of vinegar

                          1. re: macca

                            I think this is the secret, too. Mix the salt, oil and vinegar, and combine with the chopped onions. Let sit while the potatoes cook, then peel and chop potatoes and toss together. Let cool, then combine with the rest of the ingredients.

                            No mustard! (personal preference...)

                          2. re: vanderb

                            +1 on pickle juice making so many salads delicious. I like using pickle juice in my tuna salad. It moistens the tuna and cuts down on the mayo calories.

                            1. re: monavano

                              thanks for the tip on tuna salad, I'm going to try that

                              1. re: laliz

                                I use sweet and dill pickles with their juice, and throw in the juice of capers or cornichons if the mood strikes ;-)

                              2. re: monavano

                                I will say yes to the pickle juice in tuna salad for sandwiches too.

                                I wonder why I thought everyone did that?

                                But then there are the David Rosengarten's who believes in tuna&mayo on grocery store white sliced bread, each his or her own

                                1. re: monavano

                                  I've never used pickle juice but I've noticed a ton of people are suggesting it. It really makes sense! Adds a bit of tart, garlic, dill, and saltiness all in one! ...Now I want pickles, lol!

                                2. re: vanderb

                                  +1 for pickle juice. A friend's grandmother told me about this and it really makes a difference. Dill pickles, and just a splash.

                                  1. re: vanderb

                                    Same here. On the rare occasion that I have no pickles or pickle juice, some dill pickle relish works nicely as well.

                                    I also like chopped fresh dill and whole grain mustard in my potato salad, and use a smidge of sour cream withe the mayo.

                                    1. re: BabsW

                                      My grandmother used half sour cream and half mayo, plus pickle juice. That's how my sister and I make it now.

                                    2. re: vanderb

                                      "My mother's secret ingredient was "pickle juice" from a jar of dill or polski orgorki pickles. I find it makes a real difference to the mayonaise based, traditional dressing."

                                      Amen to that, Vanderb! I like using juice from dill pickles, and I also like a lot of fresh dill chopped up in it.

                                    3. some of my off tradition add ins have included: the juice of an onion, celery salt, cider vinegar and light cream. Ours always includes one grated boiled egg and the usual suspects. What type of potato does your friend use? Any herbs (fresh or dried) in hers?