Potato salad–making can be competitive business. Here are six ideas for crafting your way to a great one.
1. Pick a potato. Red potatoes are waxier and tend to hold their shape. Yukon Golds and baking potatoes are creamier. When peeled, they thicken the salad with their starch and help create that scoopable deli-counter texture (if that’s what you’re going for). For a really spectacular multi-toned salad, choose a mixture of colored fingerlings.
2. Choose your cooking method. The classic picnic salad is made with boiled potatoes, and that’s definitely the best option if you’re going to serve it chilled. Roasted potatoes add depth to the flavor of the salad; they’re best served warm or at room temperature with vinaigrette-style dressings. To give your potatoes a subtle charred flavor that works well with any type of dressing, grill ’em.
3. Mayo or not? Your choices here go way beyond the classic mayonnaise dressing. If you like a creamy-style salad, there’s also buttermilk. Or yogurt or hummus. (Bonus: Both add a hit of protein.) For a brighter salad, you can dress it with a lemony salsa verde or super-simple vinaigrette. Or, for a salad that’s indulgent but not necessarily creamy, try a luscious brown butter vinaigrette.
5. Flavor it up. Potatoes are a blank slate, so they love lots of bright, bold ingredients. You can go the classic route and add mustard and pickle relish (as well as hard-boiled eggs). Or add plenty of herbs. And, of course, there’s always bacon (along with a hit of barbecue sauce).
Kristin Donnelly is a former Food & Wine editor and cofounder of Stewart & Claire, an all-natural line of lip balms made in Brooklyn.