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My Mom’s Potato Salad

There are a whole lot of potato salad recipes out there. Cookbooks and blogs and magazines and grandma’s 3 x 5-inch recipe cards–everyone’s got their favorite. Here’s how I make my mom’s tangy creamy totally satisfying potato salad–the way she taught me.

Mom knew that potatoes love salt and acidity. So she boiled the potatoes in amply salted water.  Then, while they were still warm, as soon as she could handle them without jumping from the hot steam, she cut them into cubes and tossed with vinaigrette dressing.


If she’s planned ahead, she’d leave the potatoes to marinate in the dressing half a day or overnight, because more time means even more flavor. Mom used a purchased dressing; nowadays I make a simple vinaigrette, like this one I serve with buttery heirloom tomatoes and herby croutons.

While the potatoes cooled and soaked up the vinaigrette dressing, she prepared the rest of the ingredients.  Mom always added chopped celery to her potato salad. And 9 times out of 10, a couple of diced hard-boiled eggs. I added chopped fresh basil–because I had some in the fridge.

When I take my Mom’s potato salad to potluck parties, everyone asks for the recipe, even folks who thought they didn’t like mayonnaise.  Win friends and influence people–make this zippy potato salad yours!

Make it a fabulous week–get in the kitchen and cook something delicious!

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My Mom’s Potato Salad
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
40 mins

It takes about twenty minutes to cook the potatoes. While they cook, make the marinade. While the potatoes cool in the marinade, chop and ready all the other ingredients. You want the potatoes to sit with the dressing at least 1/2 hour. Count on an hour to prep and cook this salad. If you have the time, let it hang out in the fridge--this potato salad. 

Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Servings: 8 servings.
Author: Letty Flatt
  • 2 pounds red waxy potatoes , or any potato for that matter
  • 1 clove garlic , minced
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 or 3 stalks celery , cut in 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves , optional
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs , chopped in 1/2-inch pieces, optional
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper , to taste
  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil, enough water to cover the potatoes by an inch or so. Salt the water, about a teaspoon per quart of water. Add the potatoes and simmer, partially covered, with the lid ajar, until they are just tender, about 20 minutes. Drain.
  2. Make a vinaigrette dressing: whisk the garlic and mustard with the vinegar. Drizzle in the olive oil, whisking, and season with the salt and cayenne.
  3. While the potatoes are still hot, but cool enough to handle, cut into 3/4-inch chunks. Toss them with the vinaigrette to coat and allow to marinate, covered and refrigerated, for 2 hours or even overnight.
  4. Mix the mayonnaise into the marinated potatoes. Stir in the celery and basil, if using. Add the eggs, if using. Season to taste with salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper.
Recipe Notes

Mom usually slipped the skins from her cooked potatoes before tossing with the oil and vinegar marinade.The skins are easy to rub off as the potatoes cool. I always buy organic potatoes and leave most of the skin on. It's up to you.

1 comment

  • My mother (and I) also marinated the potatoes with Italian dressing while still warm! I like chopped pickles, scallions, radishes and sometimes olives. Reply · 17 August, 2009

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