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"my people" classic southern potato salad recipe

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This is a classic recipe for real deal Southern potato salad, the one that with get you elevated to potato salad duty for all family barbecues. It's the perfect side dish for any cookout whether it be July 4th, general family gatherings, or your next family reunion.

Potato salad is serious business in black family households and neighborhoods. Only certain people are allowed to be in charge of the potato salad. If it's not yellow, seasoned well with a good dose of paprika, doesn't include relish, and is absent of eggs it ain't real potato salad.

And god forbid you add foreign ingredients like raisins. This is the kind of shit that will get you banned from the cook-out and absolutely murder your chef credentials. You could be Marcus Samuelson, Gordon Ramsey, or Bobby Flay and it wouldn't matter. My people don't eff around when it comes to classic potato salad.

If you think I'm kidding, there are articles written by very smart people on matters of the importance of potato salad to black people.

potato salad in green bowl

Southern-style Potato Salad Ingredients

  • Potatoes - I'm a Yukon guy. They have great texture and flavor. Russet potatoes also get consideration and often times are blended 50/50 with yukon gold.
  • Large Eggs - eggs are a most for legit potato salad
  • Mayo - Miracle Whip was the standard in my house growing up, but after working on that business for a while as an insider I go with Hellman's or Duke's. The combination of mayo + sour cream + sweet relish make for a more natural alternative to Miracle Whip.
  • Yellow Mustard - Need the tang and the collard to make this pop and for street cred lol
  • Sour Cream - under the radar sneaky ingredient that adds some zip and creaminess to the dish
  • Celery, Onions, Relish - this is where the crunch comes from. If your potatoes are crunchy, this is not a good look. I prefer dill relish or even diced dill pickles, but others are more on the sweet pickle relish tip
  • Rice Vinegar - is mild so doesn't compete with the many flavors present, but still has some tanginess and helps with moisture in the potatoes
  • Kosher Salt
  • Paprika - prefer a good quality smoky sweet paprika for that earthy and smoky flavor.
  • Garlic powder
  • Sugar - just enough to balance against the many salty/savory ingredients
  • Chicken Broth and bay leaf - these along with some salt are used to season the potatoes. You want to season at every level and boiling the potatoes in seasoned liquid is a highly effective way to maximize flavor.
  • Fresh dill - finishing touch to add that fresh dill flavor.
  • Celery Seed (optional)

How to make potato salad (step by step)

The ingredients and measures are included, but note that I never saw my grandmother measure anything when she made her potato salad and I learned from her. The measurements included are meant to be a guide. You should taste and adjust the seasoning and quantities as needed based on tasting as much as needed.

Step 1: Prepare Potatoes

Boil potatoes in seasoned broth (salt, bay leaf, chicken stock, and optional fresh oregano). Drain and set aside.

Step 2: Prepare the Eggs

Boil the eggs, then drain and set aside. Peel once cooled.

Step 3: Mix the Potato Salad

Mix potatoes with the mayonnaise, mustard, sour cream, and seasonings (sugar, salt, garlic powder, paprika). 

Add dill, celery, vinegar, and eggs mixing well. Taste for flavor, then adjust with more seasoning and/or mayo and mustard. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. Garnish with paprika and green onions.

Serving Suggestions

Serve the potato salad with fresh dill and a nice smoky paprika. Add as a complimentary side dish to your next cookout featuring BBQ recipes such as these:

Sous Vide Brisket

Smoked Rib Tips

Air Fryer Pork Ribs

Smoked Pork Spareribs

Smoked Lamb Ribs

Smoked Jerk Chicken

Jerk Baby Back Ribs

Smoked Rib Sandwich

Grilled Piri Piri Chicken

potato salad in green bowl

Tips For Making Potato Salad Southern Style

Beats and Eats (music to pair with potato salad)

The possessive, irrational, and polarizing nature of potato salad in the minds of Southern and/or black folks necessitates a pairing that ties to a highly culturally appropriate song like Erykah Badu's "My People" which has a strong Afrofuturistic vibe to it.

  • Use Yukon gold potatoes for better potato salad
  • Try to dice your ingredients as evenly as possible. Smaller chunks are also better than larger ones. You want each bite to get a mix of the different ingredients vs. only the larger diced potato.
  • Sweet pickle relish can be polarizing. Go with your preference and don't look back!
  • Use salted water to cook your potatoes if not going with chicken stock trick.
  • Bring the water and potatoes to a rolling boil vs. heating the water first. Beginning with cool water and the potatoes simultaneously will cook the potatoes evenly this way.
  • Season at each step, especially early. During boiling the potatoes can/will absorb the flavors in the liquid. Boil potatoes in seasoned broth to maximize flavor
  • This is a recipe for potato salad not mashed potatoes, so don't cook the potatoes to a super soft fork tender texture. They should be creamy in the center with a fair amount of disintegration on the outside. 
  • I actually like plain white or yellow onions, but red onion works well. It adds a sweeter taste while still delivering on the crunch. White parts from green onions can also be used for that onion crunch.
  • The sour cream and mayo add a certain level of richness, so you'll want some acidity from the rice vinegar to break up the dairy richness. If you don't have rice vinegar substitute apple cider vinegar. It's not as mild as rice vinegar so you don't have to use as much.
  • Crunch on some level is necessary. Celery, green onions, dill pickles, etc. are good sources of crunch!
  • Don't add the mayo too early. Wait till the potatoes are close to room temperature otherwise, the potato salad will end up very oily. Waiting to mix the ingredients with the potatoes also provides the needed time for the water to evaporate. Trust me, you don't want a watery potato salad. That's another no-no. The more evaporation the better the dressing mix clings to the potatoes.
  • If I don't have dill relish on hand I will simply dice up dill pickles and use instead.

FAQs - Potato Salad

What kind of potatoes are best for southern potato salad?

Starchy potatoes are the enemy in potato salad. You actually want waxy potatoes like fingerling or even Yukon which is my preferred. Yukon are low in starch and have a smooth texture, plus they're easy to find.

How Long Do I Boil Potatoes For Potato Salad?

Both undercooked and overcooked potatoes are absolute no-nos. The key to determining "just-right" is the fork test. The fork should slide in cleanly with just a tiny bit of resistance. The time to finish will depend on the size of the potatoes, but generally, about 10 minutes should be sufficient.

For other BBQ sides, try these:

Collard Green Salad

Black-eyed Pea Salad

Collard Green Slaw

Southern Baked Mac and Cheese

BBQ Baked Beans

Southern Fried Cabbage w/ Brisket Fat Cap

If you make this classic southern potato salad recipe or any other please come back and leave me a comment below with your feedback. Definitely take a photo of the dish and be sure to tag #foodfidelity so that I can see them.

You can also keep up with my food exploits as well as original recipes! You can find me on InstagramFacebookTwitter, and Pinterest. If you like any of the music you find on the site, visit me at Spotify to find curated monthly playlists.

potato salad in green bowl

Southern Potato Salad

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 344kcal
Author: Marwin Brown

Ingredients

For Boiling the Potatoes

  • 2 lbs Yukon Potatoes peeled and diced
  • 2 cups Chicken Broth
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

For The Salad

  • 4 Eggs hard-boiled
  • 1 cup Mayo
  • 3 tablespoon Yellow Mustard
  • 2 tablespoon Sour Cream
  • 1 Celery rib diced
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • ¼ cup Sweet Relish
  • 2 tablespoon Rice Vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoon Paprika plus extra for garnishing
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoon Sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Fresh dill

Instructions

Boil The Potatoes

  • In a medium saucepan add potatoes, broth, bay leaf, and ½ teaspoon salt. Add water to make sure the potatoes are covered. Bring everything to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for roughly 10 minutes until potatoes are fork tender.
  • Drain the potatoes. Remove the bay leaf and set potatoes aside.

Make The Salad

  • Place eggs in the saucepan and add water then boil eggs. Drain and allow to cool before peeling.
  • Mix potatoes with the mayonnaise, mustard, sour cream, and seasonings (sugar, salt, garlic powder, paprika). Add dill, celery, vinegar, relish, onions, and eggs mixing well. Taste for flavor, then adjust with more seasoning and/or mayo and mustard. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  • Garnish with fresh dill and paprika.

Notes

  • Use Yukon potatoes
  • Try to dice your ingredients as evenly as possible. Smaller chunks are also better than larger ones. You want each bite to get a mix of the different ingredients vs. only the larger diced potato.
  • Bring the water and potatoes to a boil at the same time vs. heating the water first. The potatoes will cook evenly this way.
  • Season at each step, especially early. During boiling the potatoes can/will absorb the flavors in the liquid. Boil potatoes in seasoned broth to maximize flavor
  • This is a recipe for potato salad not mashed potatoes, so don't cook the potatoes to a super soft texture. They should be creamy in the center with a fair amount of disintegration on the outside.
  • The sour cream and mayo add a certain level of richness, so you'll want some acidity from the rice vinegar to break up the dairy richness.
  • Don't add the mayo too early. Wait till the potatoes are close to room temperature otherwise, the potato salad will end up very oily. Waiting to mix the ingredients with the potatoes also provides the needed time for the water to evaporate. Trust me, you don't want a watery potato salad. That's another no-no. The more evaporation the better the dressing mix clings to the potatoes.

Nutrition

Calories: 344kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 13g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 95mg | Sodium: 997mg | Potassium: 609mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 448IU | Vitamin C: 28mg | Calcium: 44mg | Iron: 2mg
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Recipe Rating




Tracy Snipes

Saturday 16th of April 2022

Cooking the potatoes in chicken broth w/a bay leaf is genius, thank you for that. I added a little celery salt, plus celery salt in the dressing mixture since my husband doesn't like celery.

Marwin Brown

Sunday 17th of April 2022

Good Deal! Thanks

Dianne West

Tuesday 5th of April 2022

And never, never, never nasty relish. I shudder at the thought.

Dianne West

Tuesday 5th of April 2022

Oh no! I forget a very important ingredient! White vinegar. Or you could use cider vinegar, if you prefer. I just use white.

Dianne West

Tuesday 5th of April 2022

Relish? H--- no! I put celery, onion, grated carrot, sliced radish, and red and green bell pepper in mine--just like Grandma used to make. Mayo--never that horrible Miracle Whip--brown mustard, salt, pepper, paprika, hard- boiled egg and sometimes a little minced cornichon (tiny tangy pickles). My grandmother used to used sour pickles, but just try to find them in the grocery store today! Oh, and use the pink skinned potatoes, as they have the more waxy texture needed to hold up to the big stir at the end.

Marwin Brown

Wednesday 6th of April 2022

Yeah everybody makes their potato salad in different ways. My grandmother made hers with relish, but my mother didn't. Both were good though.

Joy

Tuesday 14th of December 2021

This rescipe looks amazong!! Can you use dijon mustard instead of yellow mustard? And if so does that mean I still need to add the vinegar or not ?

Marwin Brown

Tuesday 14th of December 2021

Thank u! You can definitely substitute dijon, but keep in mind two things - 1. the color of the potato salad will look a lot different. 2. most dijons actually have less vinegar than yellow. dijon uses wine for acidity and flavor. As far as adjustments to vinegar amount, you should be okay since rice vinegar is pretty mild. In the end you'll have to taste and make some minor adjustments at most (e.g. more salt if skews on the sweeter side).