The best potato salad is made by dousing hot potatoes with French Dressing so they take in the flavour before tossing in a creamy dressing. Complete with essential add-ins: bacon, cucumber and celery. Every bite is perfection!
A Potato Salad you’ll make again and again…
This is a potato salad recipe given to me by the mother of a friend. To respect her privacy, let’s call her Mrs B.
The very first time I heard how Mrs B makes her potato salad, I instantly knew that this was one that would stand out from the crowd of thousands – millions – of potato salad recipes “out there” in the world wide web.
The thing that makes it so special is pouring French Salad Dressing over the hot boiled potatoes. By dressing while hot, they absorb the French Salad Dressing flavour rather than just coating them. Which means, flavour inside the potatoes not just on the outside.
Combined with the creamy sour cream-mayonnaise dressing, salty bacon, and fresh bursts of celery, cucumber and onion, every mouthful is the perfect bite!
Plenty of dressing….but not overly greasy
The other thing I really like about this potato salad is the dressing. While I love a creamy dressing, I find using only mayonnaise too greasy. But I also don’t want to skimp on dressing. There’s nothing worse than a dry potato salad!
The solution: break up the richness of mayonnaise by combining with sour cream. I use a 50/50 ratio.
The addition of tang and hint of zing from a dab of Horseradish Cream also helps to cut through the richness. It’s optional but adds an extra little something-something to it.
And don’t forget, all this mingles together with the French Dressing the potatoes are soaked in!
After a creamy no-mayo version? Try this Creamy Yogurt Potato Salad Dressing – it’s terrific!
Ingredients for the Best Potato Salad
Here’s what you need to make the best potato salad on the block!
The potatoes and add-ins
Potatoes – Potatoes vary widely in texture when cooked. For potato salad, I like to use starchy (floury) and all-rounder potatoes which become soft and fluffy when cooked and are a sponge to absorb the French dressing. The edges of the potato cubes mash up a bit when tossed with the dressing (nobody wants sharp-edged cubes in their potato salad!) and the surface becomes a little ragged so the creamy dressing clings to every surface
Starchy/all-rounder potato types:
– Australia: Sebago (dirt-brushed common potatoes), Coliban (white skin potatoes common at supermarkets)
– US: Russet, Idaho and Yukon gold
– UK: Maris Piper, King Edward, and Russet
Waxy potatoes, on the other hand, do not absorb flavour nearly as well and have a firmer texture when cooked. While the potato cubes will hold their shape more perfectly when cooked with sharp cut edges, the surface is slippery so the dressing doesn’t adhere to it as well.
Celery and cucumber – Welcome freshness! The celery is sliced finely so you get soft crunch but it becomes floppy rather than stiff sprigs sticking out. And the cucumber is finely diced rather than the typical slicing so you get great soft juicy little crunchy pops. Love!
Raw onion (finely minced) – This cuts through the creaminess of the dressing and adds great subtle fresh flavour into the whole salad. The fact that it’s finely minced rather than just chopped or sliced helps – better dispersion throughout the whole salad plus you get the juiciness too. It kind of takes the place of garlic which I put in “everything” but is a little harsh in this particular potato salad.
Bacon – Essential for a classic potato salad!
Dressing 1: The French Dressing
This is the dressing the hot potatoes soak up! The original recipe shared with me by Mrs B used store bought French Dressing which is an option. However, I just make my own – here’s all you need:
White wine vinegar – The classic vinegar used for French dressing but can be substituted with apple cider vinegar, sherry or champagne vinegar (last resort: plain white vinegar).
Olive oil is the oil of choice. The better the quality, the better the flavour!
Dijon mustard – For flavour and thickening.
Water – Missing from the photo! 🙂 I use just 1 tablespoon of water to stretch out the dressing, rather than more oil (simply for health reasons).
Garlic – flavour!
Sugar – Just a touch, which takes the edge off the tang a bit too.
Dressing 2: The creamy dressing!
As noted right up front, I like my potato salad nice and creamy but I find just using mayonnaise is overly heavy. So I use a 50/50 sour cream/mayo combination.
(Reminder – mayo free version here!)
Mayonnaise – Whole egg mayo is best as it is creamier and less tangy than ordinary mayonnaise. Readily available these days in grocery stores (it will say “whole egg mayo” on the label).
Sour cream – Full fat please! Yogurt can be used as a substitute but sour cream does have a creamier mouthfeel.
Horseradish cream – This is pickled fresh horseradish which has a zingy spiciness like wasabi. Because it’s pickled, it is vinegary. So this adds both a hint of spicy warmth and tang to the dressing.
If you’re lucky enough to have fresh horseradish, use half the amount and add a couple of teaspoons of vinegar.
How to make potato salad
IMPORTANT! Creamy potato salads really are better made with starchy potatoes for texture and flavour, but you really need to take care not to overcook else they will crumble too much when tossing. Waxy potatoes would be easier to use because they hold their shape….but the eating part is not as good! I’ve done a lot of potato salad eating in my time to arrive at this conclusion.
Start in cold water – Cook cut potatoes starting in cold water. Never start potatoes in boiling water else they will cook too much on the outside before the inside cooks and crumble when tossed!
Check frequently – Once the water comes up to the boil, start checking at 4 minutes and every 30 seconds thereafter. As soon as you can pierce a potato with almost no resistance, drain immediately. They will continue cooking with the residual heat.
French Dressing – Shake French Dressing ingredients in a jar until combined.
Creamy Dressing – Mix the ingredients in a bowl until smooth.
Soak hot potatoes – Gently transfer the potatoes in a bowl and pour over the French Dressing. Toss very gently using a rubber spatula. Minimum tosses just to coat, then set aside for at least 2 hours for the potatoes to cool and absorb the dressing. We are essentially marinating the potatoes here. You know this is going to be good!
The cooled potatoes are also less fragile less susceptible to breaking when we mix with the remaining ingredients.
Add-ins – Add the cucumber, celery, onion, most of the bacon and all the creamy dressing. Toss gently until mixed through. If time permits, set aside for a few hours or better yet overnight, to let the flavours meld together. But honestly, even if you serve it straight away, it will still be the best potato salad of your life! 🙂
Proof of excellence
This potato salad will last 4 to 5 days in the fridge, and it just gets better with time. Make it once, and it will be a staple at all gatherings for years to come. I have never strayed from this recipe since the moment I tried it!
And as final proof of how great this potato salad is, even my mother who is a die-hard Japanese Potato Salad devotee couldn’t stop eating this. That’s just about the highest praise you can get.
Thank you Mrs B! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
The best Potato Salad
- 1 kg / 2 lb potatoes peeled and cut into 2cm/ 3/4" cubes (Aus – Sebago, Colban; US – Russet, Idaho Yukon; UK – Maris Piper, King Edward) (Note 1)
- 2 tsp cooking / kosher salt , for cooking potatoes
- 250g / 8oz streaky bacon
- 1/2 cup French Dressing – homemade (below) or store bought (Note 2)
- 3/4 cup cucumber, finely diced (1 x 15cm/6" cucumber, cut lengthwise and remove watery seeds first)
- 1 cups celery, finely sliced diagonally (~ 2 ribs)
- 1/4 cup white onion, finely minced , ~ 1/2 onion (Note 3)
Potato Salad Dressing
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise , preferably whole-egg
- 1/3 cup sour cream , full fat (sub yogurt)
- 1 tbsp horseradish cream (or horseradish relish) (Note 4)
- 1/2 tsp cooking / kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
French Dressing (essential! Note 2)
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar (sub apple cider vinegar)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp water (for volume, rather than more oil)
- 1/2 tsp white sugar
- 1/2 garlic clove , finely grated or minced
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- French Dressing – Shake ingredients in a jar until well combined.
- Cook potatoes (CAREFUL! Note 5) – Put potatoes and 2 teaspoon salt in a large pot of cold water. Turn the stove on. Once the water is simmering, cook for 4 minutes or until the potatoes are JUST cooked (still bit firm in the middle) – they will keep cooking with residual heat. Drain immediately (gently!).
- Douse hot potatoes! Carefully transfer potatoes into a large bowl and pour over French Dressing. Gently toss to coat then set aside for 2 hours so potatoes absorb the dressing and cool (less fragile).
- Crispy bacon – Lay half the bacon in a cold non-stick pan. Turn onto medium high and cook until golden (the fat will melt as the pan warms up so it cooks in its own fat). Turn and cook the other side until golden. Drain paper towels, repeat with remaining bacon. Once cool and crisp, chop into small pieces.
- Creamy Dressing – Mix ingredients in a bowl until combined.
- Toss – Add creamy dressing, celery, cucumber, onion, and most of the bacon. Toss gently to combine.
- Serving – Serve garnished with remaining bacon. If time permits, I recommend setting aside for a few hours, or even better, overnight, to give the flavours a chance to meld. But still amazing served straight away! Always serve at room temperature, not fridge cold.
Originally published August 2014. This is such a staple recipe in my life, I had to re-publish it with a video, sparkling new photos and of course add a Life of Dozer section!!
The potato salad family
Summer salads I love
Life of Dozer
The Fun Police (council) wouldn’t let Dozer into a food show. So I took the next best thing – a life size cardboard cut out. We’re getting a lot of mileage out of 2D Dozer! 😂