Martha's Favorite Potato Salad


This much-loved family recipe uses steamed red potatoes in a tangy, creamy dressing.


The Kostyra family’s favorite potato salad is a recipe Martha grew up eating and learned to make from her Aunt Catherine. It calls for red-skinned potatoes, like Red Bliss, because of their sweet, creamy flavor, which are then steamed, rather than boiled.

While they’re still warm, the potatoes are peeled, sliced, and tossed with white vinegar, which gives this much-loved side dish a tang to balance the creamy dressing. The dressing is mayonnaise thinned with buttermilk, with sliced cornichons added for color, crunch, and flavor. 

Cornichons are small, tart gherkin pickles.

Usually for a potato salad, the dressing is stirred into the potatoes, but this time-honored recipe uses a different technique. The dressing is added to the potatoes, then the potatoes and dressing are poured into another bowl, and the process repeated. This more gentle method ensures all the potatoes are coated in dressing and pieces aren’t broken by stirring. 

After chilling in the refrigerator, the potatoes absorb some of the creamy dressing and the salad is thickened and ready to serve. Martha garnishes the dish with thinly-sliced hard-boiled eggs, just like her Aunt did.


  • 5 pounds medium red-skinned potatoes

  • 1 medium white onion, finely grated

  • ½ cup distilled white vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt

  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 cup mayonnaise, preferably Hellman's

  • 1 cup buttermilk

  • cup sliced cornichons

  • ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish (optional)

  • Hard-boiled eggs sliced, for garnish (optional)

  • Freshly ground white pepper


  1. Prepare steamer:

    Fill a large pot with about 2 inches water and add a pinch of salt. Set steamer basket in pot; make sure water doesn't seep through holes. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a rapid simmer.

  2. Steam potatoes:

    Add potatoes to steamer basket. Cover and steam until tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 20 to 25 minutes.

  3. Cool, peel, and slice potatoes:

    Remove potatoes and allow to cool slightly. Peel potatoes, and slice into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

  4. Combine onion and vinegar, add potatoes:

    Combine onion, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add potatoes and use a large rubber spatula to gently combine, trying not to break up potato slices. Let stand for 10 minutes.

  5. Add mayonnaise, buttermilk, and cornichons:

    Add mayonnaise, buttermilk, and cornichons. Add mixture to another bowl and repeat process of transferring potato mixture from one bowl to another to mix gently until well combined and creamy. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours; the mixture will thicken as it stands.

    Use finely chopped dill pickle or sweet gherkin in place of the cornichons if you prefer.

  6. Garnish and serve:

    Garnish with parsley and/or sliced hard-boiled eggs, if desired. Season with salt and white pepper.

martha stewart cooking school potato salad
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