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Grandma’s Southern Potato Salad

Grandma's Southern Potato Salad

Grandma’s Southern Potato Salad is exactly what it sounds like: my own North Carolina-born and bred gramma’s recipe for Potato Salad. This recipe is kind of a mystery in my mind; I hated potato salad growing up (still not a huge fan but I’ll take a spoonful here and there) and my grandmother didn’t really encourage me to be in the kitchen with her when she was cooking, but I have very vivid memories of her making potato salad, I can literally picture the entire process, down to her peeling hot potatoes with a knife at the kitchen table.

Maybe I was washing dishes? That sounds right; let’s go with that. Anyway, my Grandma’s Southern Potato Salad recipe might be a bit different because it’s not like she wrote it down and handed it to me, but it tastes the same as I remember hers did, and people that ‘don’t eat everybody’s potato salad‘ tend to enjoy it: that’s good enough for me. This recipe was originally called “MJ’s Potato Salad” (her name is Minnie Jean) in my ebook Who Made The Potato Salad? and when I shared it on Twitter last year and those that tried it returned with rave reviews:

Grandma’s Southern Potato Salad Ingredients

Feel free to jump to the full recipe, but here are useful notes about the ingredients you will need to make this Grandma’s Southern Potato Salad recipe:

  • Russet potatoes: Cheapest, starchiest, and best for potato salad, at least the creamy Southern kind. As it breaks up it both thickens and brings together the dish. A waxier potato would just kind of float in the sauce that forms.
  • Eggs: Large. Hard-boiled. I use four but you can increase that if you like it eggier. Up to six without having to adjust any other ingredients. If you’re feeling fancy you can arrange deviled eggs along the top at the very end. People tend to love grabbing the scoopfuls topped with those first.
  • Mayonnaise, mustard: Mayo acts as our binder. Grandma’s Southern Potato Salad doesn’t taste like mayonnaise so don’t worry if you’re one of those “I use sandwich spread” folks.
  • Sweet salad cubes, sweet pickle relish: It’s not tater salad without pickles! We use sweet versions. I have no idea how it would taste if you swapped for the dill versions and I don’t want to find out.
  • Granulated sugar: To amp up the sweetness. Don’t get me wrong: Grandma’s Southern Potato Salad doesn’t taste like dessert either! It’s very sweet and savory, but the sweetness is important. You can adjust the amount of sugar called for to your own taste and even omit it.
  • Celery: I mince it very small so it’s there for mainly texture, not flavor. If you’re sensitive to celery you can grate it in, or omit it and double the amount of celery seed instead.
  • Seasoned salt, onion powder, celery seed, cayenne pepper, paprika, cracked black pepper: Our flavorings. The cayenne pepper doesn’t make it spicy, it only helps the other flavors cut through the heaviness of the other ingredients, but you can omit it if you like. Paprika doesn’t go in Grandma’s Southern Potato Salad, just gets sprinkled all over the top.
ingredients for Grandma's Southern Potato Salad

How to Make Grandma’s Southern Potato Salad 

Full instructions are included in the recipe below, but here is a basic overview of what you’ll need to do, along with some important tidbits to help you make the most of my Grandma’s Southern Potato Salad recipe:

  • Boil ’em (mash ’em, stick ’em in a stew!). Begin by peeling your potatoes. Cut them into even-sized chunks. About 1 1/2″ inches or so is fine. You can also opt to boil them whole and unpeeled, then do the peeling and chopping after they’re cooked, but I find this way easier. Whichever you choose, add the potatoes to a large pot and add enough cold water to cover them by an inch. Place the pot on a burner over high heat and bring to a boil.
  • The eggs, too. Repeat this process with your eggs: cover with cold water and place over high heat.
  • Double double, boil and bubble. When the potatoes reach a boil, cover with a lid and reduce the heat to medium. Cook the potatoes until fork-tender, 10-15 minutes. When the eggs reach a rolling boil cover them tightly with a lid and remove them from heat. Let the eggs sit – without removing the lid – for 12 minutes. Drain your potatoes when they’re done (peel and chop them if you cooked them whole) and set them aside in the colander. Transfer your eggs to a bowl of cold water, peel them, and set those aside too.
  • We got the sauce. In a large mixing bowl whisk together mayonnaise, salad cubes, half a cup of sweet pickle relish, celery, and mustard. Once everything is combined, add the potatoes to the bowl. Sprinkle the seasoned salt, black pepper, onion powder, celery seed, sugar, and cayenne pepper over the potatoes, then use a wooden spoon to mix everything together. You can be as rough or as gentle as you want to be: the rougher you are the more the potatoes will break up – the more you bust them down the thicker the potato salad will be.
  • Chop and fold: Roughly chop your eggs into small pieces, then fold those into the potato salad. Taste it at this point and add more salt or sugar as needed. When you’re happy with the taste, fold in the remaining pickle relish.
  • Alternatively: If you have a serrated food chopper, you can follow my preferred method: toss everything in a bowl – including the whole eggs – and use the chopper to both chop and mix everything together. You can watch me do that when I make Grandma’s Southern Potato Salad on TikTok or Instagram.
  • Chill. Sprinkle paprika over the top, then cover and chill for at least four hours before serving, preferably overnight. I hope you love it!
Grandma's Southern Potato Salad

What To Serve With Grandma’s Southern Potato Salad

You can make endless variations with this Grandma’s Southern Potato Salad recipe, so please feel free to customize yours to taste!  For example, you could…

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Grandma's Southern Potato Salad

Grandma’s Southern Potato Salad


  • Author: María
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x

Description

It’s sweet because that’s how we like it. Find another recipe if you want it savory. 


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 lbs russet potatoes (about 6 medium potatoes)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 C mayonnaise
  • 1/4 C sweet salad cubes
  • 1/2 C + 2 tbsp sweet pickle relish, divided
  • 1 tbsp yellow mustard
  • 1 celery rib, minced
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar, optional
  • 2 tsp seasoned salt, to taste
  • 1 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 tsp dried dill 
  • 1/4 tsp celery seed
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Instructions

  1. Peel your potatoes and chop them into large, even-sized chunks. Add them to a large stockpot and cover with cold water. Place the pot on a burner over high heat and bring to a boil. When the potatoes are boiling cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook until the centers can be easily pierced with a fork, about 10-15 minutes.
  2. While cooking the potatoes, add your eggs to a medium saucepan, then add just enough cold water to cover. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, remove the pan from heat and cover tightly with a lid for 12 minutes. Remove the eggs, peel them under cold water, then chop them into small pieces and set them aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl whisk the mayo, mustard, salad cubes, half cup of relish, and celery into a sauce. When the potatoes are done drain them well, then add them to the mixing bowl along with the chopped eggs. Sprinkle in all of the seasonings except paprika. 
  4. Fold the ingredients together with a wooden spoon. The potatoes will break up more the rougher you are, so how much force you use is up to you, but I recommend purposefully smashing at least a third of the potatoes with the back of the spoon. The more potatoes you smush, the thicker the potato salad will be.
  5. Once you’ve mixed everything together well and have the texture you’re looking for, taste and adjust for salt or sugar. When you’re happy, gently stir in the remaining relish. Spread into a serving dish and dust with paprika. Refrigerate in an air-tight container for at least 4 hours before serving.

Notes

  • More detailed instructions live in the post above the recipe, under the “how-to” heading. 
  • Prep Time: 20
  • Cook Time: 20
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