Recipes and Stories

4 July 2017: Old-Fashioned American Potato Salad

July 4, 2017

Tags: Classic American Cooking, Classic Southern Cooking, Potato Salad, Potatoes, Summer Cooking

For Independence Day, Old-Fashioned American Potato Salad
Because it's Independence Day and I'm missing my grandmother more than usual today, tonight's dinner includes the very old-fashioned American-style potato salad that MaMa always made, with celery, sweet onion, sweet pickles, hard-cooked eggs, and mayonnaise (she used Duke's) laced with a little yellow mustard for zip and color.

My grandmother diced the potatoes and then boiled them, but I've always boiled the potatoes whole, in their skins, to preserve their flavor and keep them from being sodden. But lately I've been cutting them up and steaming them instead. The flavor stays more intact than boiling them diced, and I don't have to go through the rather painful ordeal of peeling hot potatoes.

We'll have the salad with pan-broiled sirloin steaks, oven-roasted whole ears of corn, and maybe broccoli to balance the plate with green.

But first, because I'm a Georgia boy and am also missing my grandfather, I'll tuck into my first batch of boiled peanuts.

Old-Fashioned American Potato Salad
Serves 4-6

2½ pounds large boiling potatoes (I used Yukon Golds for this one)
Cider Vinegar
½ medium Vidalia Sweet Onion, peeled and diced small
½ cup small-diced celery (about 2 large ribs, washed and strung)
1/3 cup chopped sweet bread and butter pickles
2 large hard-cooked eggs, peeled and diced
About 1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Whole black pepper in a mill

1. Bring at least an inch of water to a boil into a large, heavy-bottomed pot fitted it with a large steamer insert. Peel and cut the potatoes into 1-inch dice. Put them into the steamer insert, cover, and steam until they’re tender, about 8-10 minutes.

2. Have ready a large mixing bowl. When the potatoes are tender, transfer them to the bowl and while they’re still hot, sprinkle them with vinegar, gently toss, and season well with salt. Gently toss again. Let them cool until just warm.

3. Gently fold in the onion, celery, pickles, and eggs. Add about 1/3 cup of mayonnaise gently fold it in. Fold in the mustard and 1 tablespoon of the parsley, adding more mayonnaise as needed until the potatoes are lightly coated. Season well with black pepper and gently fold it in.

4. Let the salad finish cooling completely, taste, and adjust the salt, pepper, and mustard. Cover and refrigerate until well-chilled, about 2 hours. Just before serving, garnish with the remaining parsley and a light grinding of black pepper or sprinkle of paprika if you prefer.


  1. July 9, 2017 6:03 PM EDT
    I love potato salad. This is the best--close to the way I have always prepared it but with a few new twists.
    - Lydia Ramsey
  2. July 9, 2017 6:46 PM EDT
    Thank you, Lydia! I love this one, too. For a number of years I got into making this French-style potato salad that's dressed with oil and vinegar, and had forgotten how much I like this style.
    - Damon Fowler