Potato salad is Americana in a bowl. Fine-tune it with our tried-and-true tips—evenly cut spuds for consistent bites, grainy mustard for zip—and it’ll be the hero of your next picnic or block party. Also critical: using the right cooking technique for the potatoes. Steaming is a popular method but can produce too-soft exteriors and undercooked centers. Our test kitchen favors starting in cool water and boiling, which ensures evenly textured spuds that are seasoned to the core.
- Russet potatoes
- Distilled white vinegar
- Whole-grain mustard
1. Prep Potatoes
Peel 3 pounds russet potatoes (about 6 medium). Slice lengthwise into 1-inch-thick planks. Lay flat and slice again into 1-inch-thick strips. Stack strips together and cut crosswise into even cubes.
2. Cook & Season
In a large pot, cover potatoes with at least 2 inches of water and season generously with kosher salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-high and continue boiling until potatoes are tender and easily pierced with the tip of a knife, 8 to 9 minutes. Drain and transfer to a bowl. Toss with 2 tablespoons vinegar; season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Let cool completely, about 30 minutes.
3. Dress to Impress
Meanwhile, whisk together 3/4 cup mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons mustard, and 1 tablespoon vinegar. Stir in 1 cup finely chopped celery (from 3 stalks); 1/2 cup sliced cornichons (from about 20); and 1/3 cup finely chopped scallions (from 3). Gently fold mayonnaise mixture into cooked potatoes; season with salt and pepper. Serve, or refrigerate in an airtight container up to 1 day (bring to room temperature before serving, about 30 minutes).
Every kind of potato has good qualities, but we like three in particular for this dish. Once cooked, starchy russets will stay intact if handled gently, yet easily break down for a semi-mashed finish (shown above). Yukon Golds are a great all-purpose spud with a creamy bite. And waxy new potatoes (the densest, least starchy option) stay firm, so they’re ideal if you prefer a more structured salad.
2 More Ways to Work Potato Salad
Try a Warm German Style
Use scrubbed, unpeeled Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces, in place of russets. Boil until fork-tender, about 6 minutes. Let cool slightly. Whisk together 2 tablespoons each melted butter and extra-virgin olive oil with 3 tablespoons apple-cider vinegar and toss with warm potatoes (omit white vinegar, mayonnaise, and mustard). Replace celery and scallions with 1 cup crumbled cooked bacon (from 8 ounces), 2 thinly sliced shallots, and 1 teaspoon toasted caraway seeds. Season with salt and pepper; serve warm.
Go Fresh and Herby
Replace russets with unpeeled whole mixed new potatoes, boiled until fork-tender, about 9 minutes. Drain and lightly smash. Toss with 2 tablespoons each red-wine vinegar and fresh lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest, and 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (omit white vinegar, mayonnaise, and mustard). Let cool completely. Replace scallions and cornichons with 1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion, and stir in 1/2 cup each roughly chopped parsley and celery leaves, plus 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano. Season with salt and pepper; serve.
Watch our Everyday Food host Sarah Carey whip up this bright, tangy new potato salad with red-wine vinaigrette: