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A picnic or cookout would not be complete without this delicious Southern potato salad! The easy side dish is a crowd pleasing classic that pairs nicely with just about any entrée — from barbecue to burgers, steak, chicken, and ribs.

Close up side shot of a blue bowl full of homemade Southern potato salad.
Table of Contents
  1. Why You’ll Love this Recipe
  2. Ingredients
  3. Directions
  4. Serving Suggestions
  5. Preparation and Storage Tips
  6. Recipe Variations
  7. Expert Tips
  8. Southern Potato Salad Recipe

If you love potato side dishes, check out these red skin mashed potatoes, a pan of crispy Parmesan potatoes, and my great grandmother’s potato pancakes, too!

Horizontal image of southern potato salad on a white surface.

Why You’ll Love this Recipe

  • Easy. If you can boil potatoes, then you can make this dish! It’s really just a matter of assembling the ingredients and giving them time to chill.
  • Flavorful. This old fashioned Southern potato salad is incredibly satisfying, thanks to a variety of flavors and textures. It’s sweet, savory, tangy, creamy, and a little crunchy. This one has it all, and is always a crowd-pleaser.
  • Versatile. The year-round favorite works well with an Easter ham, alongside a grilled hamburger at your next cookout, or with fried chicken on a Sunday afternoon. Southern potato salad is one of those great sides that pairs well with almost any entree!
Boiling red potatoes in a Dutch oven.

Southern Style Potato Salad vs. Regular Potato Salad

A mayonnaise-based potato salad has been a staple in Southern homes for generations. While every grandma has her own variation, there are a handful of commonalities that make a potato salad truly Southern: potatoes, pickles, mustard, and boiled eggs.

Whisking mayonnaise dressing for potato salad.

Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for this southern potato salad recipe. As always, specific measurements and step-by-step instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Potatoes: I use red potatoes, but other waxy potatoes (like Yukon gold) are also fine. These potatoes are ideal for potato salad because they hold their shape when cooked and maintain a firm texture in the salad. Avoid using russet potatoes, which are high in starch and tend to fall apart during cooking.
  • Mayonnaise: Duke’s mayonnaise is always our first choice!
  • Sugar: for a hint of sweetness that nicely balances the savory ingredients.
  • Yellow mustard: a tangy addition to the dressing. Dijon mustard would be a perfectly fine substitute.
  • Pickle juice: some Southern recipes add apple cider vinegar to the dressing for a bright, acidic note, but we love the flavor of pickle juice instead.
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper: enhance the flavors of the other ingredients.
  • Hard-boiled egg: a classic addition to a Southern potato salad!
  • Green onions: for savory, mild onion flavor.
  • Celery: that delicious crunch!
  • Pickle relish: we love sweet relish, but dill is also fine. If you don’t have relish on hand, you can sub with chopped dill pickles or chopped sweet pickles.
Stirring together ingredients for southern potato salad.

Directions

This Southern style potato salad comes together easily, but needs plenty of time to chill in the fridge. You’ll find detailed directions in the recipe card below, but here’s the quick overview:

  • Boil the potatoes and let them cool. Also, remember to salt the potatoes’ cooking water so that the base of your salad is properly seasoned.
  • Peel and dice the potatoes. Wait to peel the potatoes until they’re boiled and cooled. Once the potatoes are cool, you can peel them and dice them into bite-sized pieces. Add them directly to the bowl and toss with dressing quickly so that the potatoes don’t oxidize and turn a weird color.
  • Whisk together the dressing.
  • Combine the potatoes with the rest of the ingredients.
  • Toss to coat in the dressing.
  • Cover and chill.
Process shot showing how to make a classic southern potato salad recipe in a white bowl.

Serving Suggestions

This southern-style potato salad goes well with a variety of entrées, such as crispy fried chicken, bourbon glazed ham, grilled pork chops, blackened salmon, Crock Pot beer pulled pork with maple bbq sauce, Dutch oven bbq beef, Southern fried catfish, and marinated steak.

Square side shot of southern potato salad recipe served in a blue ceramic bowl.

Preparation and Storage Tips

  • Potato salad can be made 1-2 days ahead of time. Leftovers that have been kept properly chilled will stay fresh in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.
  • If your potato salad has been sitting out at room temperature (or in the hot summer weather at a picnic) for more than 2 hours, you should discard any leftovers.
  • I do not recommend freezing this potato salad recipe. The ingredients will not retain the same consistency when thawed.
Overhead image of southern potato salad recipe with sliced green onions and paprika on top.

Recipe Variations

  • Substitute dill pickle juice and dill pickle relish for the sweet pickles if you prefer a more savory dressing.
  • Add fresh herbs of choice, including chopped fresh chives, fresh parsley, or fresh dill.
  • If you prefer a potato salad without eggs, simply omit the hardboiled eggs and add an extra potato instead.
  • Stir in some diced pimentos or diced bell peppers for a colorful Southern addition to the potato salad.
  • Add crispy chopped bacon to the salad for even more flavor.
  • Make it spicy with the addition of hot sauce or cayenne pepper.
  • Swap out some of the mayo and replace it with sour cream for a tangy addition to the dressing.
Square side shot of a bowl of southern potato salad on a white table.

Expert Tips

  • Start the potatoes in cold water. This ensures even cooking. If you drop the potatoes into already boiling water, the outside of the potatoes will cook quickly, while the inside will stay hard.
  • Boil the potatoes whole. Do not dice or peel the potatoes before they go in the water. Cutting or dicing them in advance will result in a mushier potato.
  • Don’t overcook the potatoes. The potatoes will take about 15-20 minutes to become fork-tender in the boiling water. If you’re using baby potatoes, they may only require about 10 minutes, so keep a close eye on them — you don’t want to overcook them and end up with mushy potatoes.
  • Allow the potatoes to cool before tossing with the dressing and other ingredients.
  • The potatoes will absorb some of the dressing while the salad chills in the fridge, so you will likely need to add an extra spoonful of mayonnaise right before serving.
  • Sprinkle paprika on top of the salad just before serving. My mom and grandmother have always done this for a colorful touch!
Close overhead shot of southern potato salad in a blue dish with paprika garnish on top.

More Potato Salad Recipes to Try

Square side shot of southern potato salad recipe served in a blue ceramic bowl.

Southern Potato Salad

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Chilling Time 2 hours
Total: 40 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 334 kcal
A picnic or cookout would not be complete without this delicious Southern potato salad!

Ingredients
  

  • 2 lbs. (about 4 large or 8 medium) red potatoes or Yukon Gold potatoes
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise (I like Duke’s brand)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sweet pickle juice
  • kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 large hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1 large celery rib, diced
  • 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish (or sub with dill pickle relish if you prefer)
  • Optional: 3-4 slices of crispy cooked, chopped bacon
  • Garnish: sliced green onions, chopped fresh parsley, or a dash of paprika

Instructions

COOK THE POTATOES

  • Rinse and scrub the potatoes. Place the whole potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and season the boiling water with a good amount of kosher salt. Cook until the potatoes are fork-tender (about 15-20 minutes for medium-large potatoes or about 10 minutes for small potatoes). Drain; let the potatoes cool. Peel the potatoes and dice them into bite-size pieces.
    Boiling red potatoes in a Dutch oven.

WHISK TOGETHER DRESSING

  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sugar, mustard, and pickle juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
    Whisking mayonnaise dressing for potato salad.

STIR TOGETHER SALAD

  • Place the diced potatoes in a large bowl. Add the eggs, green onions, celery, pickle relish, and bacon (if using).
    Stirring together ingredients for southern potato salad.
  • Pour the dressing over the salad and toss gently to combine.
    Process shot showing how to make a classic southern potato salad recipe in a white bowl.

CHILL AND SERVE

  • Cover and refrigerate the salad for at least 1-2 hours. Garnish with sliced green onion, fresh parsley, or a dusting of paprika just before serving.
    Horizontal image of southern potato salad on a white surface.

Notes

    • Start the potatoes in cold water. This ensures even cooking. If you drop the potatoes into already boiling water, the outside of the potatoes will cook quickly, while the inside will stay hard.
    • Boil the potatoes whole. Do not dice or peel the potatoes before they go in the water. Cutting or dicing them in advance will result in a mushier potato.
    • Don’t overcook the potatoes. The potatoes will take about 15-20 minutes to become fork-tender in the boiling water. If you’re using baby potatoes, they may only require about 10 minutes, so keep a close eye on them — you don’t want to overcook them and end up with mushy potatoes.
    • Allow the potatoes to cool before tossing with the dressing and other ingredients.
    • The potatoes will absorb some of the dressing while the salad chills in the fridge, so you will likely need to add an extra spoonful of mayonnaise right before serving.
    • Sprinkle paprika on top of the salad just before serving. My mom and grandmother have always done this for a colorful touch!
    • How much potato salad for a crowd? It’s safe to assume that each person will eat about ½ cup of potato salad.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/6 of the recipeCalories: 334kcalCarbohydrates: 27gProtein: 5gFat: 23gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 13gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 74mgSodium: 266mgPotassium: 756mgFiber: 3gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 204IUVitamin C: 14mgCalcium: 34mgIron: 1mg
Keyword: Creamy Potato Salad Recipe, old fashioned southern potato salad, Potato Salad Recipe, Southern Potato Salad, southern potato salad recipe
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: Southern
Author: Blair Lonergan

This recipe was originally published in May, 2019. It was updated in May, 2024.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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