Add These Ingredients To Your Potato Salad And You Won't Go Back

If you've ever attended a barbecue or a picnic, chances are you've come across a heaping bowl of cold potato salad. Maybe you love the stuff. Or maybe it strikes you as some unappetizing mayo-y nonsense that could never live up to the glory of a plate of french fries or hold a candle to a bag of chips. But like it or hate it, potato salad is here to stay. It's filling, affordable, and has the potential to be a delicious and flavorful crowd-pleasing side.


Many families have their own secret ingredient twist on this dish. It's an American classic; but did you know that lots of other versions of potato salad can be found in cultures across the world? Some are served hot. Some are mayo-heavy, and some have swapped the mayo out entirely. From Spain to Germany to Japan, taking a few tips from these other cuisines can seriously upgrade your potato salad and introduce new flavors to a sometimes stale staple.

Whether you're incorporating some fresh produce or a sprinkle of spice, a handful of easy-to-find ingredients will revolutionize your next potato salad. Give them a try, mix and match, and play around with these ingredients until you've created your own signature take on this family favorite.



Who doesn't love bacon? Okay, so it's not for the vegetarians out there, but most people will not be mad at the addition of some smoky salty bacon bits in the potato salad. You can cook up a few strips, chop them into pieces, and crumble them in to add a whole new dimension of flavor. And if you do have some vegetarians at the picnic, you can always serve the bacon on the side as a topping.


But when you're not concerned about accommodating all dietary preferences, definitely don't waste that bacon fat! You can actually use the fat rendered in the pan to flavor the potatoes. In fact, German potato salad relies on this method. This delicious vinegar-based take on a potato salad has no mayo. Instead, it uses bacon fat and a sprinkle of sugar to bring the salad together. After cooking the bacon, remove it from the pan and drain off just a little of the fat. Then, with the pan still hot, stir in the vinegar, and a little sugar, scraping up the bacon bits on the bottom of the pan. Once it's reduced a little, add back in the potatoes and chopped bacon, and top with some fresh parsley. This dish has a tangy, salty, and sweet finish and isn't too creamy. It can be served warm or cold.



Another ingredient that commonly makes its way into a potato salad is mustard. A spoonful of mustard adds color and flavor. Many opt for classic yellow mustard which you'll probably already have on hand if you're hosting a family barbecue. Yellow mustard will lend the brightest color and a sharp zing, but dijon mustard is another great option with a slightly more sophisticated flavor. Or go for grainy mustard and you'll get a little added texture in the mix.


You can also cook with mustard seeds themselves for a pop of flavor. Black mustard seeds are a key ingredient in many Indian potato-based dishes. If you want to turn the potato salad on its head at your next gathering, why not give aloo masala a try? This is a common vegetarian dish in India that mixes spices like ginger, turmeric, and black mustard seeds with potato for a vibrant, bright yellow potato dish. It is served hot, though it tastes just fine cold the next day as well. You can make a version with just potatoes, or try aloo gobi, which adds cauliflower, or chana aloo curry with chickpeas for extra texture and nutrition. These renditions can be served as a main dish.


Vinegar is highly acidic and an excellent ingredient to have on hand to cut the creamy, fatty flavor profile of certain dishes. A little splash will go a long way toward elevating the flavor profile of your dish. Vinegar-based potato salads are lighter and fresher tasting than the typical creamy dairy or mayo-based varieties. They're also a wonderful way to keep this dish vegan when you need to. A roasted potato salad can use a vinaigrette instead of mayo to help keep things crisp. 


A French-style potato salad is typically made with vinaigrette and resembles more of a...well, salad! You can throw in some chopped green beans to up the veggie content, or stick with fresh herbs and green onion or shallot. The vinaigrette is usually made with champagne vinegar or red wine vinegar. These fruity vinegars are less astringent than plain white vinegar, but less sweet and dominating than balsamic.

Of course, German potato salad uses a vinegar-based sauce, but it's certainly not vegan with all that tasty bacon. This classic German side dish has a tangy, salty, and sweet finish. It uses about a quarter to a half a cup of white or apple cider vinegar, depending on how big of a portion you're preparing.


Fresh herbs

Nothing brightens up a dish like fresh herbs. Just as you might find them among the toppings at a baked potato bar, many herbs will compliment a potato salad extremely well. Not only do they add freshness and natural flavor, but they also add a little color to what can sometimes be a whole lot of beige. Chop your herbs up finely and toss some in with the potato salad mixture, but make sure to reserve a little handful to sprinkle on top for presentation as well.


You can never go wrong with crowd-pleasers like parsley and chives whose relatively mellow flavors will rarely offend even the most delicate of palettes. If you want to try something a little more interesting though, go for dill. Dill is a perfect addition to potato or egg salad. Give this creamy dill potato salad a chance at your next picnic. Other herbs like thyme and tarragon or basil can also be tasty additions. These herbs have stronger flavors, however, so make sure to start with less and taste and add more as you cook. 

If you want to make something extra herbaceous and striking, you could consider flavoring your potato salad with pesto. The vibrant green color is sure to turn heads at the picnic table. Pesto can be store-bought or homemade. It is a fairly simple blend of basil, garlic, nuts, olive oil, and parmesan cheese. Stir in enough and you can probably leave out the mayo. 



You've heard of egg salad and you've heard of potato salad, but did you know that many classic versions of potato salad include hard-boiled eggs as an ingredient? They're essentially a hybrid of these two beloved picnic staples. "Russian salad," also known as "Olivier salad," is a potato salad variation found across Europe that includes carrots and pickles and often incorporates eggs, peas, and sometimes even meat. 


The addition of chopped hard-boiled eggs will add protein to an otherwise carby dish. It will also lend a nice pale yellow color from the yolks as they break down into the mixture. You can dice the egg up finely if you want it to blend into the potato or leave larger slices so the egg is more visually present. Either way, next time you want to add some oomph to your potato salad, add an egg or two. This deviled egg potato salad combo might just be the ultimate side dish.


Tuna salad is another stalwart of the mayo-based salad family, and much like with egg, tuna can be added to potato salad to create a tasty hybrid. While this option is not for the vegetarian among us, canned tuna is a great protein-packed addition to potato salad. But this doesn't have to be a mayo-y affair. Italian, Greek, and French potato salads often incorporate tuna with a vinaigrette, sometimes along with sliced red onion. 


The iconic French "Niçoise" or Italian "insalata nizzarda" salad is a complete meal unto itself. Sometimes it is made with fresh seared tuna, other times canned tuna, along with potatoes, sliced boiled egg, tomatoes, olives, and green beans atop a bed of leafy greens. Whip up a nice shallot vinaigrette to top it all off. How's that for a potato salad? Sure, you may be stretching the definition, but no one is complaining when you serve up a Niçoise.

Tuna, egg, and boiled potatoes are a common combination. When paired together you get a filling and protein-packed lunch. The Spanish "ensalada rusa" is a popular take on the Russian potato salad incorporating tuna and finely diced potatoes. Commonly served as a 'ración' dish or tapa in restaurants across Spain, it has become a classic feature of local cuisine.



A spoonful of relish can add a bright, briny, and tangy flavor as well as a little texture to any potato salad. Borrow some relish from the condiment bar at the barbecue and add it to the mix. If you want that salty pickle tang without the sugary sweetness of relish, you can opt for dill pickles or a little cornichon and chop them up to add to your potato salad.


"American Salad" as it's called in Turkey, is a potato salad (like Russian salad) that features small pieces of chopped potato with pickles and other vegetables. It's a common baked potato topping in Turkey. That's right, potato on top of potato. Can you have too much of a good thing?

You can use other kinds of pickles too. Pickled cabbage or kimchi will add some crunch, color, and heat as well as briny flavor. Or add a handful of chopped pickled jalapeños to potato salad and you'll find yourself with a rendition of a classic that's just a few bold steps from the norm.


Chances are you've got a ton of spices kicking around in your cupboard, and you may not always know when to bust them out. If you don't want to add a lot of work but would like to add a lot of flavor to your next potato salad, the answer is in your spice rack. Potatoes are a wonderfully neutral canvas you can add layers of flavor to. Few spices will actually taste bad on potatoes, but some are real star additions to a potato salad. 


Paprika is a classic spice addition often found in potato salad or sprinkled on top of deviled eggs. It adds a little smoky kick and a pop of deep red color. Curry powder and Turmeric are also colorful spices that add a whole new dimension of flavor when making an Indian-inspired potato salad. Celery seeds are another great seasoning option with an herbaceous aroma. Try adding celery seeds to your next potato salad

Hot Sauce

Anytime you feel the flavor is lacking but you've already left your kitchen full of herbs and spices behind, hot sauce is there for a last-minute upgrade. Mayo-based potato salad can run the risk of becoming overly fatty on the tongue, and a few dashes of hot sauce can cut through the cream with a nice pop of fiery flavor.


You can find lots of recipes online for Cajun-style or buffalo-style potato salad that feature hot sauces and their specific unique flavors. You can experiment with your own recipe and choose from many different hot sauce options that take your potato salad from just a little extra kick to all the way spicy hot. Add a little, taste, then add some more until the ratio is just right. Tabasco and Frank's Red Hot are two popular, easy-to-find, and affordable hot sauces that are not too spicy for the average guest. So next time your potato salad is looking a bit bland, turn up the heat!

A dollop of dairy

If creaminess is what you seek, look to add some dairy to your next potato salad. You can reduce the amount of mayo in your recipe or sub it out entirely for tangy sour cream, crème fraîche, or even yogurt. These ingredients will have a bit more zing than mayo, and create a lighter fluffier potato salad that feels more upscale and restaurant quality.


If you crave a rich, salty, and decadent potato salad, consider some cheese. Cream cheese, blue cheese, or even chevre goat cheese can be incorporated into the mixture. This blue cheese potato salad is a rich and daring variation worth making for your guests. You can also grate some sharp cheddar into any potato salad. Basically, anything that tastes great on top of a baked potato will probably be yummy in potato salad.

If dairy isn't on the table and you're looking for a creamy vegan rendition of potato salad, you can give coconut yogurt a whirl. Vegan mayo is also widely available and can be substituted in any potato salad recipe with similar results.

Crunchy fresh vegetables

Texture can be just as important as flavor when considering additions to potato salad. If you're not into a uniform creamy mouth feel, a little diced fresh veg may be just the ticket. Celery is a classic addition that adds a lot of crunchy texture without dominating the flavor of the dish. 


If you want to try something a bit different, Japanese potato salad is a tasty side dish that features thinly sliced cucumbers and carrots along with kernels of corn and sometimes little slices of ham. Peas can also appear in several variations of potato salad. And onion is another classic ingredient that gives crunch, color, and a lot of flavor. Red onion is the punchiest option. It's pretty common to find thin slices of red onion in both mayo and vinaigrette potato salads. Green onions are milder in flavor than regular onions and also add a pop of bright green color. The mellowest option in this flavor profile would be chives. 

Feel free to play with other veggies here. Anything you'd find in a coleslaw could work, for instance. Raw broccoli is nice. Even a crisp sliced apple has been known to find its way into a potato salad now and again.


Caramelized onions

If you like onion flavor but don't want the sharpness of raw onion, caramelized onions are a great upgrade that adds tremendous depth of flavor. They take a little longer to prepare, but the result is well worth the effort. Any kind of onion can be caramelized, but yellow onion is the top pick for this. Cook two whole sliced yellow onions low and slow in a pan on the stove with a little splash of water and a generous pinch of salt. The volume will reduce considerably and you can use much more caramelized onion in your potato salad than you would raw.


More mellow than raw onions, with much-added sweetness, caramelized onions will be an addition to your next potato salad that's sure to impress. These flavors complement other ingredients like bacon, herbs, and cheese. Give caramelized onions a shot next time you want to put a little extra love and effort into your potato salad.