Potato salad is one of those things that no two cooks make quite the same. If you were to bounce from barbecue to barbecue all across America, you’d likely come across it in a number of different forms, from the eggy, to the vinegary, to fanciful versions decked out in spices, pickles, and more. But if you travel even further afield to the taverns of Germany and the izakayas of Japan, you’ll find that potato salad comes in seemingly endless iterations, adapting to local customs and tastes with each stop.
Although potato salad styles run the gamut, it’s possible to break them down into a few regional or ingredient-based categories. Here are eleven to know and have at the ready during summer entertaining season.
1. Creamy and Classic: Basic Potato Salad
A creamy, mayonnaise-based potato salad with egg and diced celery is as essential to a barbecue spread as the main meat itself. In fact, some might argue that it tastes best when you let it mix and mingle a bit with the runoff sauce from your ribs or chicken. Get our Basic Potato Salad recipe.
2. Flavor Forward: Herbed Potato Salad
If brats, sausages, or grilled meats are on the menu, however, a vinegar-based salad with plenty of herbs is the way to go. The tang helps balance out all of those rich and robust flavors. Get our Herbed Potato Salad recipe.
3. Old School: Swabian Potato Salad
Germany is home to a plethora of potato salad styles, many of which influenced the those you see in America today. You’ll often find that German recipes, however, call for letting the potatoes soak in a beef broth (along with vinegar), a step that seems to have gotten lost on this side of the Atlantic. This Swabian-style recipe shows you how it’s done. Get the recipe here.
4. Newfangled: Warm German Potato Salad with Bacon
A lot of potato salad recipes try to riff on more traditional versions by bringing in a hodgepodge of add ons. This one really runs with that idea. Featuring bacon, capers, onion, bell pepper, spices, and more, it’s about as fully-loaded as can be. Get our Warm German Potato Salad with Bacon recipe.
5. The Seasonal Favorite: Swedish Potato Salad (Farskpotatissalad)
Farskpotatissalad is Sweden’s way of celebrating the arrival of new potatoes in the summer. Using a bare minimum of dill and mustard, it lets the flavor of the seasonal spuds shine through. Get the recipe here.
6. Spuds in Translation: Japanese Potato Salad
Japanese potato salad has an everything goes philosophy to it: it’s not uncommon to find carrots, peas, and even quick pickled cucumbers tucked into the mix. Based around kewpie mayo, it’s especially sweet, creamy, and easy on the palate. Get the recipe here.
7. À la Russe: Olivier Salad
Olivier salad is a favorite throughout Russia, yet it’s origins are thought to lie in the ingenuity of one Belgian chef. Although its recipe has morphed over the years, nowadays, the salad is reliably stuffed with meat, pickles, and carrots. Get the recipe here.
8. The OG: Causa Rellena
Potatoes were first domesticated in the area around modern day Peru. Naturally, the country has an endless array of ways to prepare the tubers. Causa rellena is a sort of cold potato and chicken terrine dressed with mayo and lime, possessing all the basic flavors of a potato salad, if not the shape. Get the recipe here.
9. The Outlier: Potatoes and Green Beans with Sour Cream and Chives
Sour cream is something of a dark horse in the potato salad battle. It isn’t quite as in your face as mayo nor does it have the intensity of vinegar. But it subtly brings together the creaminess and tartness of both, for a head scratcher that might have you questioning which side you’re on. Get the recipe here.
10. Chunky Yet Funky: Smashed Potato Salad
Got some aggression to work out? Meet smashed potato salad. This recipe calls for smacking whole baby potatoes one by one using nothing but a flat surface and the sheer force of your hands. Get the recipe here.
11. The Not-Potato Salad: Mock Potato Salad
Potatoes too basic for you? Okay, fancy pants, we’ve got a recipe that will be right up your alley. Swapping in kohlrabi for the spuds, this mock potato salad is anything but pedestrian. Get our Mock Potato Salad recipe.
Miki Kawasaki is a New York City–based food writer and graduate of Boston University's program in Gastronomy. Few things excite her more than a well-crafted sandwich or expertly spiced curry. If you ever run into her at a dinner party, make sure to hit her up for a few pieces of oddball culinary trivia.