This crowd-pleasing potato salad recipe features bite-sized potatoes, sweet pickles, and onion mixed with a tangy dressing with a zippy finish.
Let’s talk about Mama Rosa’s Potato Salad.
This recipe makes the best potato salad I have probably ever eaten. It’s our favorite side dish with smoked beef brisket, baby back ribs, grilled country-style pork ribs, or just about anything that comes off the grill or smoker.
David got the recipe from her many years ago from his mama, Rosa. Since then, he has made large batches of this potato salad recipe to take to company potlucks. He always brings an empty bowl home because people eat it up!
Let us show you how to make this delicious potato salad!
What’s In This Potato Salad
This crowd-pleasing southern potato salad recipe features bite-sized potatoes with chopped homemade sweet pickles and onions mixed with a dressing of mayonnaise, spicy brown mustard, white vinegar, sugar, and lightly sprinkled with celery seeds.
The potato salad is garnished with slices of hardboiled egg, which allows people to incorporate them into the potato salad or pick around them as I do.
What You’ll Need To Make This Recipe
The recipe card at the end of this post provides a detailed list of ingredients.
- Potatoes: Russet, Idaho, or Yukon Gold potatoes work best, peeled and cut into 1-inch bite-sized cubes.
- Onion: chopped sweet onion is best for the salad. The sweet onion is not only sweet but has a softer texture. You could also use red onion or shallots for a sweet milder flavor.
- Pickles: David uses my homemade sweet pickles. He chops them up extra chunky so that they add texture to the salad. Pickle relish will work but will not add the same texture. We highly recommend chopping sweet pickles yourself by hand.
- Mayonnaise: We use Duke’s Mayonnaise because it is our favorite. Use your favorite brand, but do not use Miracle Whip, as it will change the entire flavor profile of this salad.
- Mustard: David uses spicy brown mustard instead of yellow mustard. Spicy brown mustard adds a delicious zip and zing to the salad. Use dijon mustard if you don’t have any spicy brown mustard on hand.
- Vinegar: Use white vinegar when making this potato salad. White vinegar adds twang without overpowering the salad.
- Sugar: white sugar adds more sweetness to offset the sourness and twang.
- Celery Seed: Don’t skip this! I can tell every time David forgets to add them into this salad. Celery seeds are tiny but add so much flavor. The seed is perfect for celery haters like David.
- Eggs: Hard-boiled eggs are optional. Using them as garnish is best for those who aren’t fond of eggs in potato salad like me!
- Paprika: garnish the potato salad with some paprika; it’s the southern thing to do!
The Best Potatoes to Use
This potato salad recipe works best with starchy potatoes such as Russet potatoes, Idaho potatoes, or Yukon Gold potatoes.
David always uses Russet potatoes for making this salad. Starchy potatoes are low in moisture and absorbent, making them excellent for soaking up every last drop of the potato salad dressing.
However, it depends on your taste. Use yellow, white, or red potatoes with thin waxy skins if you like them better.
What To Look For When Shopping For Potatoes
Regardless of what variety of potatoes you use. Look for the following when selecting potatoes for your potato salad:
- Firmness: the potato should be completely firm when you squeeze them gently.
- Visual Appearance: smooth, clean skin, without bruising or discoloration.
- Size Matters: select potatoes of the same shape and size so they have the same texture.
How to Cook Potatoes for Potato Salad
Potato salad isn’t called mashed potato salad, so don’t overcook the potatoes, or that is exactly what you will end up with. If you don’t cook the potatoes enough, they will have a crunchy texture. When cooking potatoes for potato salad, they should be cooked until they are tender and creamy.
For best results, add the potatoes to cold water and bring them to a boil rather than adding the potatoes to boiling water. This helps them cook more evenly.
How to Cut Potatoes for Potato Salad
We do not recommend cooking the potatoes whole, but rather chop them before cooking. The potatoes will not cook evenly throughout when they are left whole. The outside will become softer than the center, causing the texture of the potato salad to be inconsistent.
Cut the potatoes into uniform pieces about 1-inch in size before boiling them in water for a more consistent cook.
Should I Peel The Potatoes For Potato Salad?
For this potato salad, we highly recommend you peel the potatoes. This is a creamy potato salad, and the starchy texture of the potato absorbs the dressing. If you leave on the skins, the dressing won’t absorb into the potatoes very well.
On the other hand, if you are using a waxy potato with thin skins, then, by all means, leave the skin on.
How Long Do Cook the Potatoes For Potato Salad?
Potatoes cut into 1-inch pieces typically take about 8-12 minutes to become “fork tender,” which means they give when pierced with a fork. Ultimately, the cooking time depends on the size of the cut potatoes and the type of potatoes you use.
How to Keep Potato Salad from Getting Watery
There are a few reasons why potato salad can become watery. Follow the guidelines below to ensure your potato salad doesn’t become watery.
- Use starchy potatoes that absorb moisture.
- Drain the potatoes well before pouring them into a bowl. David lets the potatoes drain into a colander while they cool to make the salad.
- Allow the potatoes to cool before mixing them with the dressing. Hot potatoes sweat and drain out water. They also cause the mayonnaise to break down and become oily, which causes the potato salad to become watery.
- Don’t add salt when cooking the potatoes. Salt will cause the potatoes to extract water instead of absorbing it. For best results, season the potato salad with salt and pepper when putting it together.
How to Make Mama Rosa’s Potato Salad
This is a mix-to-taste recipe, and the amount of dressing you make up will depend on the size of the potatoes. You will need to taste the potato salad and adjust the seasoning to your taste. Don’t be afraid to add more pickles, onions, dressing, or celery seeds. Use your best judgment as to how you want it to taste. This side dish is all about personal preference.
Detailed instructions are provided in the recipe card at the end of this post.
- Rinse and peel.
- Cut into 1-inch bitesize pieces.
- Put the potatoes inside a large pot. Add enough water to cover the potatoes with at least one inch of water.
- Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce to simmer. Keep the water at a gentle simmer. Cook until the potatoes are fork tender (tender all the way through when pierced with a fork), about 8 to 12 minutes.
- Drain the potatoes well and allow them to cool before transferring them to a large bowl. Add the onions and pickles to the potatoes and gently toss.
In a separate small bowl, stir in mustard and mayo until lumps are smooth. Mix vinegar and sugar in another small bowl until sugar dissolves. Next, whisk the sweetened vinegar into the bowl with the mustard mayonnaise mixture. Combine well.
Pour the dressing mixture over the potatoes, onions, and pickles. Stir carefully, trying not to mash up the potatoes too much. Sprinkle in the celery seed and stir in until well combined.
Add hard-boiled egg slices, if desired.
For best results, cut the potato before boiling them. They will cook more evenly.
We aren’t sure if they go with the dressing or not. We recommend you mix up the dressing and a bit of chopped dill pickle to a spoonful to see if dill pickles are something you want to use.
We recommend Duke’s because it’s our favorite, but use whatever mayonnaise you prefer and adjust the ingredients to suit your taste.
If your salad is dry, you may need to mix up more of the dressing to add to it. You could start by adding about a teaspoon or so of sweet pickle juice to it if you desire.
No, potato salad does not freeze well. It’s just nasty when thawed!
This potato salad will keep up to 3-5 days in the fridge before the onions start to take over.
In my opinion, this is the best potato salad recipe when the eggs are left out, but David says it has to have the eggs.
Will you opt for the eggs or not? We’d love your feedback. Leave us a comment and a star rating below. We value your opinion and appreciate your time.
See ya on the mountain!
Mama Rosa’s Potato Salad Recipe
- 5 cups potatoes 1-inch bite-sized pieces
- ½ small sweet onion diced
- ¼ cup sweet pickles roughly chopped
- 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- ½ teaspoon celery seed adds flavor. do not omit!
- 3 hard-boiled eggs sliced on top as a garnish (optional)
- paprika for garnish (optional)
- Wash and scrub the potatoes. Peel them and cut into large bite-sized cubes pieces.Place the potatoes inside a medium-sized pot. Add enough water to cover the potatoes with at least one inch of water.
- Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce to simmer. Keep the water at a gentle simmer. Cook until the potatoes are fork tender (tender all the way through when pierced with a fork), about 8 to 12 minutes. The cooking time depends on the size of your pieces and the type of potatoes.
- At this time, boil the eggs if you are adding them as garnish.
- Drain the potatoes well and transfer them to a large mixing bowl. Add the onions and pickles to the potatoes and gently toss.
- In a separate small bowl, stir in mustard and mayonnaise until lumps are smooth. Mix vinegar and sugar in another separate small bowl until sugar dissolves. Whisk the sweetened vinegar into the bowl with the mustard mayonnaise mixture. Combine well.
- Pour the dressing mixture over the potatoes, onions, and pickles. Stir carefully, trying not to mash up the potatoes too much. Sprinkle in the celery seed and stir in until well-combined.
- Peel and slice hard-boiled eggs. Cut into slices and top the potato salad, if desired. Garnish with paprika to add color.
Updated recipe from February 2017.