The 7 Cardinal Rules for Making the Best Potato Salad

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Potato salad is an American classic. It’s loved by parents and kids alike, can be made ahead of time, and is as delicious on the kitchen table as it is on a picnic blanket. If that’s the case, then why is so much potato salad bland, mushy, and watery? Follow these the cardinal rules for makng your potato salad fab not drab and you’ll avoid the pitfalls:

1. Thou shalt use waxy potatoes, not starchy potatoes

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Using waxy potatoes, like red skinned, new, or Yukon gold potatoes helps the potatoes cook their shape afer they are boiled. Russetts or other startchy potatoes may fall apart into a pile of mush, which is not what you’re after in a classic potato salad. Get our Basic Potato Salad recipe.

2. Thou shalt embrace the herb garden

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Why stick with plain old celery salt as the only seasoning other than salt and pepper? Herbs like tarragon, parsley, and dill add an earthy, elegant flair to this oil and vinegar based potato salad. Get our Herbed Potato Salad recipe.

3. Thou shalt drop it like it’s hot

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Because why should cold potatoes get all of the love? Toss freshly grilled potatoes in a dressing made from warm bacon, green peppers, brown sugar, and other ingredients. Serve it warm for a hearty potato salad that is almost a main dish on its own or perfect for a BBQ side dish. Get our Warm German Potato Salad recipe.

4. Thou shalt get your kids to eat their vegetables

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Instead of serving peas with mashed potatoes, how about mixing them into potato salad? Some sweet peas, some crispy bacon, and a touch of cream make this one vegetable dish that is bound to please everyone – just leave out the bacon if there are vegetarians at the table. Get our Potato Salad with Peas and Mint recipe.

5. Thou shalt taste the rainbow

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Purple potatoes are not just beautiful, they are a perfect counterpart to a spicy, garlicky marinade. If you can’t find chile caribe, or if it’s too hot for you, feel free to substitute habaneros, jalapenos, or any zesty spice that adds the kick that you prefer. Don’t forget the queso fresco for a hint of richness. Get our Marinated Purple Potato recipe.

6. Thou shalt put on fancy pants

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Who says that potato salad must be relegated to blue jeans affairs?  This potato salad, made with licoricey fennel and sweet onions, is an elegant side dish for any upscale soiree. It pairs especially well with salmon: Get our Marinated Potatoes and Fennel recipe.

7. Thou shalt think outside the tuber

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Kohlrabi, a relative of cabbage, tastes like turnip-meets-jicama and becomes wonderfully creamy when boiled. Dress it in a classic mayonnaise, mustard, and red wine vinegar dressing and be sure to refrigerate it for at least 2 hours so the flavors have a chance to meld. Get our Mock Potato Salad recipe.

Sarah Spigelman Richter is a New York City–based writer, blogger, and social media manager. She has developed recipes for Tabasco, blogs about her favorite restaurants and recipes at Fritos and Foie Gras, and can be found, most Friday nights, watching "Arrested Development" reruns.

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