Food

A Potato Salad Trick

Potato salad

Of all the little pearls of culinary wisdom I’ve collected over the years — pasta water must be salted, a salad must include crunch — the tip I think about the most often… 

…especially this time of year, is one I heard from Bobby Flay while watching one of his cooking shows in the 90s. And that is this: When making potato salad, toss your potatoes in the dressing while the potatoes are still warm and therefore optimally absorbent. It makes such a difference in terms of overall flavor and depth especially when you’re making a vinegary potato salad (my favorite kind) and not a mayo-based one. This Potato Salad with Bacon and Dill below is the perfect way to see for yourself.

Potato salad

Also good to remember? For prettier presentation, wipe the inside rim of the bowl, and reserve a handful of the mix-ins for garnishing after the tossing. That one goes for all salads — don’t you hate how all the goodies sink to the bottom of the salad bowl post-tossing?

Potato salad

Potato Salad with Bacon and Dill
I make this salad on repeat all summer long. Sweet and tangy, herby and bright, it’s my favorite part of any cookout spread. If you omit the bacon, add an extra 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the dressing. (This recipe first appeared in my book How to Celebrate Everything.) Serves 6-8

3 pounds unpeeled small firm potatoes (red, white, Yukon Gold), quartered
5 slices bacon (optional)
⅓ cup white wine vinegar
1 heaping tablespoon whole-grain mustard
1 tablespoon sugar
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
⅓ cup good-quality olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 bunch of scallions, white and light green parts only, chopped (about ¼ cup)

Add the potatoes to a large pot, cover with water, and generously salt the water. Bring to a boil and boil gently, until a knife slides through the potatoes easily, about 15 minutes.

While the potatoes are boiling, fry the bacon in a skillet until cooked. Drain on paper towels, reserving 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease. Crumble the bacon. Add the grease to a large bowl and let cool slightly. Whisk in the vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper, and olive oil. 

When the potatoes have finished cooking, drain, then immediately toss them in the dressing in the large bowl to allow them to absorb the dressing. Reserve a handful of the the bacon crumbles, dill, and scallions, then toss the rest with the potatoes to combine. Garnish with reserved goodies and another drizzle of olive oil if you’re feeling it.

P.S. Nine rules for better salads and ten quick dinners perfect for this time of year.

  1. Yasmin Bartlett says...

    Thank you Jenny, I was in need of a side for tonight’s dinner and had everything excluding the bacon. The potato salad was wonderful and I’m already looking forward to making it for friends later in the week!

  2. Brad Lucente says...

    I like to add this cut pieces of haricot vert and capers.

  3. This is a great tip – and with the summer weather with us now, it’s one to make a bbq a little bit more exciting with some great new sides.

  4. My mother taught me to cook, peel, chop, and let cool the potatoes in broth. Then you take them out of the broth and use them in any salad you like with any dressing you like – they are moist and delicious without needing to douse them in mayo or oil.

  5. Amanda says...

    Made this tonight with grilled chicken and corn and it is *delicious*. Thanks!

  6. If you haven’t tried canned , cubed potatoes for potato salad or fried potatoes you haven’t lived!

  7. Moira Smith says...

    Made this tonight, and WOW, was so good – definitely our keeper potato salad recipe from now on!

  8. Bev Kirkpatrick says...

    Funny, I make a family Miracle Whip potato salad and my grandmother and mom always said to dice warm potatoes to cover the bottom of a bowl and shake vinegar on them. Continue with the rest of the potatoes dicing and shaking vinegar on each layer. Let covered potatoes sit in the fridge for 20-30 minutes while you mix up the dressing and get eggs ready. The potatoes are never dry and mealy! They are firm, tangy and moist. Much like adding the oil to warm potatoes, I think!

    • OCL says...

      That is exactly what my grandmother and mom do! Amazing..

  9. Kathe Irowez says...

    This is somewhat similar to the “German” style potato salad I make with our Wiener schnitzel Christmas Eve dinner my husband always makes. Just curious – you say to leave the peel on, but I see not a hint of it in your photos of the finished product. Looks yummy – thanks!

  10. I can’t wait to make this potato salad, it honestly sounds like a German potato salad I have a recipe I’d have to take it out thank you Linda

  11. Islay Corbel says...

    Dressing potatoes while warm is a traditional method and not new!

  12. Tabitha says...

    For potato salad crunch and vegetarians, I add crumbled potato chips (usually sour cream and onion), it really makes a difference and is a hit!

    • Donna says...

      I also add potato chips to my salad.

  13. KimS says...

    Interestingly, I was just talking to my mom about a friend’s potato salad recipe. My friend said that she pours some oil on the potatoes right after draining, and then adds the Mayo. For me—I’m the one that always cuts back (not eliminate) on the fats! But my mom said that coating the potatoes with oil right after draining actually allow you to use less Mayo (or other oil dressing). Super funny to see this post basically backing up my mom’s (and friend) wisdom!

  14. silly lily says...

    For a fat-free version of potato salad, just toss warm potatoes and thinly sliced onions (or scallions) with flavored rice vinegar to taste, nothing else. Delicious!

    • PA says...

      Life is too short for fat-free anything.

    • silly lily says...

      Sorry, I failed to mention — I always pair it with a wildly fat-filled dessert.

  15. Ezz says...

    I used to hate potato salad because the potato chunks always seemed so powdery and gluggy. Until! it occurred to me to cube (pretty small) the potatoes and roast the, until they’re really brown and crunchy, like little square oven fries, and THEN add them to the salad. It makes SUCH a difference, the potatoes don’t lose their shape or mush together, and the roasting adds so much flavor.

    • Antonia says...

      That sounds delicious! I will try that :-)

    • Amy K Rusch says...

      Wow! Never thought to do that but I will definitely try it! I love ANY roster veggies! Thanks for the tip!😉

    • Carol says...

      Yup.roast instead of boil.

  16. Maria says...

    The potatoes in the picture are peeled, but the recipe doesn’t say to peel them. Why? I would hate to chew on bits of cold potato peel.

    • Antonia says...

      Haha, I was also wondering when to peel the potatoes! If I peel them after cooking, I will have to let them cool down a bit so I can touch them. But then the whole point of tossing them in the dressing while they’re still warm doesn’t work…?

    • Maureen says...

      Curious on this too, I always skin them when cool

    • HL says...

      Many German potato salad recipes allow you to not bother peeling the potatoes. The secret is to use what used to be called “new” potatoes; i. e., small, young potatoes that have very thin skins. These potatoes are also more waxy in their texture so they will not break apart as easily or have as floury a texture as larger potatoes. If you still want to peel them, drain all but a small amount of water out of the pot after the potatoes are cooked. Take a couple of potatoes out of the water, let them cool just a minute or two, and then, working quickly, peel them with the aid of a sharp knife. If you have left the potatoes whole, make a shallow slit in the skin. Then you should be able to use the edge of the knife to peel it off in strips. The reason you don’t drain off all the water is that the skins will peel away more easily if they are still damp. Then slice the peeled potatoes and put into a warmed bowl (can even cover it while you work if you wish). As soon as all the potatoes are peeled and sliced, pour enough of the dressing on them to coat them well. Allow the dressing to soak in and then add a bit more if you like. If you like to chill the potato salad, you may want to add the last bit of dressing right before serving. Also, if you like a mayo dressing on your potato salad, using this sort of vinaigrette dressing first, will add a lot of flavor and allow you to use a lot less mayo later (after salad is chilled). My grandmother always added paprika to the dressing.

  17. Definitely trying this. Looks appetizing too

  18. Allison says...

    I abhor mustard. And every time I have gone ahead and added it anyway because someone swore I wouldn’t taste it, I totally tasted it. Is there anything you would recommend to replace the mustard in this recipe? Just leave it out? Thanks!

    • Alex says...

      Hi Allison, my mum makes similar salad but without the mustard and it tastes great. So I think no replacement needed, you can just omit it :)

    • Johana says...

      You have to use a quality mustard. Not that crap for hotdogs

    • Nathalie says...

      Just leave it out! The simplest french dressing: no sugar, no mustard, only some apple cider vinrgar and olive oil over still warm potatoes!
      A dream!!
      All the flavors come out! No need for bacon either!
      Just oignons and parsley = perfect flavors

    • Diane's says...

      I leave it out. It tastes just fine with Miracle Whip, onions, celery,

  19. suniva says...

    This is German potato salad. I grew up on it with bacon but for years we’ve eliminated bacon and it is just as good. Eaten room temperature – it’s a reliable comfort food.

    • Katie Lepine says...

      That’s what I was thinking! My opa’s recipe is super similar. Using a Salata, of course, and grated cucumber. Heart eyes.

    • Alexandra says...

      I agree, my mom used to make it this way. I have to revive it …

  20. Liz says...

    Just made minus bacon for dinner and it was delish!! Didn’t feel like it was missing a thing. Saved my old potatoes from their demise in the compost bin, too. We ate it warm with some striped bass and it was a perfect summer meal.

  21. Rosie says...

    Mixing when it is warm is key, but the secret to my French potato salad is using melted butter instead of oil in the vinaigrette. It makes it so much richer.

    • Diane Boysen says...

      Yes, mixing while warm is key.

  22. Ann says...

    This looks so good!!!!

  23. Amanda says...

    German Potato salad… YUM!

  24. Cynthia says...

    I’ve always dressed the potato salad while the potatoes are still warm and I make it ahead of time so the flavors can mingle.

  25. Jill says...

    Oh this is heavenly! It’s such a great tip to add the dressing while the potatoes are still hot/warm. But…………………you better make sure you actually like the dressing before you add it to warm potatoes. Can’t change it up after the fact. Hahaha!
    Thank you, Jenny!

  26. Jessica Camerata says...

    Love a good mustard seed vinaigrette for a potato salad. This looks so delicious!

    xo Jessica

  27. Megan says...

    This sounds delicious, and similar to a Belgian classic that I love – salade liegeoise (green beans, potatoes and bacon)

    • Alex says...

      Wow I have to try that one!! sounds delicious…

  28. Anna says...

    My top tip for sides like this is to make it a day ahead! It gives the flavors time to mingle, and makes things easier day of. Also, if you are making coleslaw, it gives the cabbage a chance to soften (but it’s raw cabbage we’re talking about so it’s still plenty crunchy).

  29. Oh YUM.
    I make what I think is a French potato salad – you put the warm, newly cooked potatoes in a vinaigrette with onions and after it’s chilled, you add a little mayo and mustard with celery, HB egg, and parsley. It is the best of both worlds!

  30. Denise says...

    This looks delicious and what a great tip! I’m not a fan of mayonnaise-based potato salad but I love the vinegary ones and dill & bacon are personal favs. I’m making this one for an upcoming party. Yes – a real in-person party! A party with dear friends in-person! A party! Even the word party sounds illicit these days but my little circle of middle-aged friends are all finally vaccinated and I’m so relishing the concept. I hope we have way too much fun and regret it the next day. I hope to hurt from laughter. :)

    • Tamara says...

      ❤️ Everything about this comment!
      I hope you have sore belly muscles from laughing & absolutely no regrets about any regret you might have the next day.

    • cilla says...

      Denise, enjoy! Sounds perfect!

    • Blondie says...

      My brothers entire family now has covid in spite of their all having the vaccine. Please be careful.

    • Rosemary Foreman says...

      🎉👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽

  31. allison says...

    I love vinegary potato salads – looking forward to trying this one! I also LOVE Ina Garten’s Provencal potato salad from the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook – it builds on her herby, vinegary French potato salad by adding green beans, cherry tomatoes, tuna, capers, red onions and anchovies… it’s a like a potato salad version of Nicoise salad. So, so good for summer.

    • rachel in berkeley says...

      Yes! Agreed. It’s is a summer staple salad.

    • Alexandra says...

      Yes! I meant to add a comment, but here it is. I make the simple version, Barefoot Contessa French Potato Salad. And friends ask me to bring it for potlucks. It’s good for several days, best when the dressing has soaked in for a night. And you can use all your herbs in it. Even my kids who despise anything green normally love it. I often make it on Sunday night to go with barbequed anything, and then we eat it for a few days, with changing protein and vegetables. A staple in our house.

  32. Meghan says...

    A request for Jenny, if you’re ever looking for new ideas for articles. My best friend’s husband is allergic to alliums (garlic, onions, etc.), which are pretty much in EVERY savory recipe. His whole family have variations of the allergy, and it’s brutal (more than once he’s had to run to the bathroom in a restaurant because they swore the dish was allium-free and it wasn’t). Before they got married, I even asked my BF if she was sure she wanted to commit to a life of never being able to cook with shallots or green onions again (I was only partly joking).

    Whenever I cook something for them, I really struggle to figure out something that has enough flavour without garlic or onions. Technically, it’s easy – just leave them out of the recipe – but you can always tell there’s something missing. What are some ways to build layers of flavour without using alliums?!

    Thanks, Jenny!

    • Kat says...

      Hi Meghan

      As a fellow sufferer I can advise checking out recipes for “Low FODMAP diets” – depending on their allergy details – I can’t eat garlic or onions but garlic infused oil is fine and a welcome addition! Also, celery and carrots, chopped small, add some flavour, and if not vegetarian then anchovies also work well in some recipes.

    • Emily says...

      Also can’t eat alliums! I empathize…they sneak into everything. It’s not easy. My strategies:
      – Amp up another strong flavor like ginger, citrus (juice/zest), fresh herbs, etc. to compensate (depending on recipe)
      – Fody brand products, which do not include onions/garlic
      – Garlic infused olive oil (which I can eat bc I have a sensitivity and not an allergy…not sure this would work for your friend?)
      – Pick recipes that do not rely heavily on garlic/onion for flavor. I find recipes with many layers of flavor, especially those with strong/complex/umami flavors like miso, soy, fish sauce, coconut aminos, etc., to be a bit more flexible

      Good luck!

    • Mara says...

      My mom had a variation of this allergy (which was so bad that it would sometimes send her to the ER) and she accidentally discovered that she could tolerate alliums as long as they did not contain anything sprout-related. For example, we would have to remove that little green part at the center of the garlic (or just toss the garlic altogether if it was truly sprouting), and we would always have to remove a good chunk of the center of the onion, but after we did that she was always OK.
      Does he also have issues with bean sprouts by any chance? My mom (and I, I inherited this allergy but it’s a bit milder for me) could not eat bean sprouts, or anything super sprouted, either.

    • Meg says...

      Seconding everything Kat said. My sister has this same allergy, and also follows a low fodmap diet. I use the same substitutions Kat mentions when cooking for her. Especially the garlic infused oil.

    • Maya says...

      Hi! I dont know if you’re a fan of Indian food, but if yes, look up Jain recipes! They are a community in India which sometimes avoids aliums in food. Another tip: buy asafoetida if you don’t mind STRONG flavors. This helps bring some pungency even without onion and garlic! But only use a teeny pinch!

    • Emily Tan says...

      Also look up asfoetida – Indians use it to replace aliums in their dishes as some vegetarians are forbidden to eat garlic.

    • Jeannie says...

      This is my husband, except instead of running to the bathroom, alliums bring on days’ worth of migraine headaches – sometimes bad enough to require IV pain killers at the ER. It’s one of the hardest things of our marriage. Eating out is always a risk, cooking at home can be very lackluster (I cook a lot of Asian food, so can compensate with ginger, white pepper and other flavors, but nothing comes close to garlic). Would love some more ideas too!

    • Meghan says...

      Wow, thank you everyone for such great ideas! I have just finished an intense googling session and have so many new recipes/ingredients to try. As Cher from Clueless said, “Eeeeee…project!”.

      Maria, I am so fascinated by the beansprout question. I have given my BFF the list of things for her husband to try. When he’s at home. And close to his bathroom. Just in case.

  33. Meghan says...

    My family loves potato salad; my mum has several different versions she makes. But for each one she uses the same trick. Alongside the main type of potato (often Yukon Golds, sometimes Japanese sweet potatoes), she will boil up one or two russet potatoes. When you mix everything together, the Russets pretty much disintegrate and help to make the salad creamy and hold together better (for lack of a better description). It works really well if you’re using a mayo/mustard dressing; you can use less dressing without sacrificing any of the creaminess.

  34. K says...

    This sounds so good! I often feel like potato salad is too much mayo so I like the avoidance of it all together. I could imagine this as a perfect side with schnitzel.

  35. Kristen says...

    This looks so good! Do you have a recommendation for an herb to use instead of dill?

    • Carla says...

      Tarragon!

  36. Charlotte K says...

    My mother made divine potato salad (the mayo kind). She always sprinkled cider vinegar on the potatoes while they were still warm and then let them sit around to cool before dressing them.

    • rachel simmons says...

      ohh yes! I like this, I can get behind this! I love mayo potato salads!

  37. celeste says...

    This looks good! Not a fan of the mayo/mustard combo in others.

    • Andrea says...

      Mustard does not belong in potato salad. They mayo version should have Hellman’s alone. My Mom’s perfect potato salad:

      -Boiled (or pressure cooked) and peeled Russet potatoes, cubed
      -Cubed boiled eggs
      -Celery diced pretty small
      -Yellow onion, also diced pretty small
      -Some finely shredded carrot
      -Hellman’s mayo, possibly thinned with a little milk
      -Salt
      -Some pepper

      It will take a lot of salt. You want the celery and onion small enough that you get some in each bite.

  38. karen says...

    And if you are making a mayo-type potato salad, you can still toss the hot potatoes in vinegar – just let them cool before you dress with the mayo/mustard dressing.
    Now, I’m craving potato salad, Jenny!

  39. Maria says...

    This is such a smart tip, Jenny! If you’ve never tried it, I love this green bean and potato salad – it somehow makes potato salad elegant. And when my mom makes it she still uses the hard copy Bon Appétit magazine it was originally published in from 1994, ha!

    https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/member/views/new-potato-green-bean-salad-599cade96bec5936dd6ed5fd?intcid=inline_amp&_gl=1*1em85iu*_ga*YW1wLTlJZXdoYnBUOWNBVldyLWc5NzRNX1pPUFpOY1VnZmNyd19PVGZjNWJ6MVk5QnVWMjFTZEN2dm8wOFNSdzh1aDM.

  40. katie says...

    Thank you so much for the tip about saving a handful of the mix ins. I made a wilted lettuce salad w/ warm bacon dressing last night with goodies from my CSA. All of the spring onions and bacon bits sat sadly at the bottom of my bowl. Your tip is so simple but something I hadn’t considered.

  41. Deanna says...

    Hi! Do you have any mayo-based potato salads you do like? Asking for myself, a big mayo fan.

    • Sid says...

      Oooh! So excited to spread the delicious joy that is: https://iheartumami.com/japanese-potato-salad/ – though this recipe uses a replacement for Kewpie mayo, I highly recommend trying it with.

    • Maggie says...

      Hands down, Barefoot Contessa Old Fashioned Potato Salad. It will look like to much dressing when you first put it on, but it soaks in (as Jenny says) as the potatoes cool and it is potluck/picnic/summer perfection for mayo fans!

  42. Jo says...

    any chance i could use purple potatoes in this? got em in my CSA and they’re sitting on my shelf, looking at me…

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      Of course!

    • Irina says...

      Keep in mind that purple potatoes tend to be more crumbly when cooked than the firmer varieties that Jenny recommends in her recipe. Your salad will still be delicious, just a little more mushy than what’s pictured. On the other hand, it may be even more flavorful because the fluffier purple potatoes will absorb more dressing.

  43. Lisa says...

    My mother in law is Algerian and makes potato salads for Shabbat. It’s a very different type of salad from the Mayo ones I’m used to, but so tasty and simple. She does with olive oil and ground cumin, or olive oil and harissa. Another tip is if you have the time, instead of boiling the potatoes, you bake them (as if making baked potatoes), only not for too long. You come out with potatoes that are almost caramelised and very tasty

    • Liz says...

      Wow! These salads sound amazing. I’d love a recipe if you feel like sharing :)

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      that sounds so good

    • Meghan says...

      Lisa, you had me at “caramelized potatoes”!

    • Lisa says...

      Liz – they’re very simple. I think she peels and then microwaves the potatoes (I bake them) or you can peel, chop and boil. When the potatoes are still warm you mix in olive oil and ground cumin, or olive oil and harissa (though use sparingly unless you’re fine with spice) and mix until the potatoes are well coated. Season to taste. She normally makes it a few hours / the day before so the flavours are nicely mixed. That’s it! She does them along with a bunch of other salads, so things like grilled peppers sliced and cooked with tinned tomatoes, carrots with cumin, garlic, olive oil and parsley, cooked beetroot dressed with lemon and olive oil and parsley.

  44. Susannah says...

    Sounds tasty!
    One of your pearls of culinary wisdom I think about most often is: “If a dish tastes like it’s missing something, it’s usually acid”. This has saved us from over-salting many a dish.

  45. Amy says...

    Hi Jenny! Love your recipes and the thought that goes into them. I’ve noticed that most of them contain sugar, gluten and/or dairy. Could you add dietary modifications if/when possible? Thank you!

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      Will keep that in mind, thank you for the comment!

  46. Ari says...

    Yes! I do this with my potato salad and made some just the other day. My husband is Texan, so I throw a bit of dill pickle juice and apple cider vinegar on the warm potatoes before adding the rest of the ingredients. Incredibly flavorful.

    • Timmy Miller says...

      When do you cube? Before or after the pickle / vinegar is added?

  47. Jen says...

    Any recommendations for a bacon substitute, besides just skipping it? I’m wondering if it would miss the added texture and flavor. Thanks!

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      you could add a little more mustard or a different kind of mustard. Mark Bittman has a recipe for a Double Mustard potato salad that we use all the time — whole grain mustard, Dijon, then lots of herbs and vinegar. Totally different salad, though! :)

    • Irina says...

      Try to replace bacon with fried shallots! Yum.

    • Bonnie says...

      Irina… GREAT IDEA! Never once did adding sauteed or fried shallots in place of bacon in a recipe enter my mind. But now… Mmmm. I think it’ll work in more than a few recipes. Thank you!!

    • Jen says...

      Thank you! I plan to try it out this weekend!

  48. Steph says...

    This looks delicious! To make the salad with peeled potatoes, as pictured here, do you boil the potatoes with the skin on or off?

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      off! potatoes should be peeled

    • Steph says...

      Recipe says unpeeled, oops!

  49. Maria Anagnostopoulou says...

    you can change the sugar with honey!

  50. Anya says...

    This looks delicious. Cooking potatoes in an instapot is also a time and heat saver in the summer. Small potatoes can take only a few minutes at high pressure (there is additional time to get to pressure).
    Jenny, could you consider testing some of your recipes with the instapot and include instructions too? Thanks!

  51. Anonymous Potato says...

    I make this exact potato salad, except I sub the vinegar for 1-2 cups (yes, cups, potatoes are absorbent) of lemon juice and toss in a bunch of chopped mint. This recipe feels like a version of the Turkish potato salad I grew up eating!

  52. anothermomma says...

    Do you serve this warm or cold? Should it sit in the fridge for a couple hours?