Here are the keys to crafting a classic potato salad, the ultimate make-ahead side dish

This recipe uses celery seeds and pickle relish for extra pops of flavor

Published July 24, 2021 4:30PM (EDT)

Creamy Potato Salad In A Fancy Blue Bowl (Getty Images/Debbi Smirnoff)
Creamy Potato Salad In A Fancy Blue Bowl (Getty Images/Debbi Smirnoff)

Potato salads are arguably the ultimate make-ahead salads. They need time to chill, and doing the prep work ahead of time means that you don't have to scramble at the last minute before a picnic. But this make-ahead recipe abbreviates the waiting time too and offers flavorful, tender potatoes and crunchy bits of onion and celery, accented by a creamy dressing. We found that seasoning the potatoes while they were hot maximized flavor, so we tossed hot russet potatoes with white vinegar. One celery rib added just enough crunch. Choosing between scallions, shallots and onions, we picked a red onion because we liked it best for its bright color and taste. 

For a pickled flavor, we decided to use relish, which required no preparation and gave the potato salad a subtle sweetness. Note that this recipe calls for celery seeds (which add complexity of flavor), not celery salt; if only celery salt is available, use the same amount but omit the salt in step 3. When testing the potatoes for doneness, simply taste a piece; do not overcook the potatoes or they will become mealy and break apart. THe potatoes must be just warm, or even fully cooled, when you add the dressing. If the potato salad seems a little dry, add up to 2 tablespoons more mayonnaise. 


Recipe: Classic potato salad
Serves 4 to 6


  • 2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4 -inch pieces
  • ½ teaspoon table salt, plus salt for cooking potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 celery rib, chopped fine
  • 2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley or chives
  • ¾ teaspoon dry mustard
  • ¾ teaspoon celery seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut into ¼-inch pieces (optional) 


1. Place potatoes and 1 tablespoon salt in a large saucepan and add water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender and paring knife can be slipped in and out of potatoes with little resistance, about 8 minutes. 

2. Drain potatoes and transfer to a large bowl. Add vinegar and use rubber spatula to toss gently to combine. Let sit until potatoes are just warm, about 20 minutes. 

3. While potatoes sit, combine mayonnaise, celery, relish, onion, parsley, mustard, celery seeds, pepper, and salt in a small bowl. Using rubber spatula, gently fold mayonnaise mixture and eggs, if using, into potatoes, Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. Serve. 

If you like this recipe as much as we do, check out "The Complete Salad Cookbook" by America's Test Kitchen.

By America's Test Kitchen

We help curious cooks become confident cooks. (Est. 1993)

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