Variations on a Theme: Potato Salad

Rachel Tepper Paley
May 19, 2014

Memorial Day is around the corner, which means Memorial Day picnic menu planning starts now. Are you going to serve up the same soggy potato salad drenched in oily mayonnaise? Heck, no!

But of the many potato salad variations in this wide world of ours, where does one begin? We suggest settling on an overarching flavor profile first, then moving on from there.

Here’s a breakdown of the major players:


Photo credit: Everyday Food

Ranch dressing is your best friend if you’re in need of tanginess, though we prefer a homemade version to the bottled stuff. Try this 'tater salad dressed in a creamy dressing made from Greek yogurt, buttermilk, and mayonnaise.

Photo credit: Everyday Food

Sour cream does the tangy trick, too; it’s the central player in this zingy potato salad with scallions and bacon.

Photo credit: Food52

This sour cream-spiked number is herbed up with fresh dill weed, minced fennel fronds, ground fennel seed, and thinly sliced scallions.


Photo credit: Food52

Need to clear your sinuses? Raw garlic and plenty of fresh black pepper will do the trick in this Spanish roasted potato salad.

Photo credit: Food52

So, too, will the grated horseradish in a salad flecked with minced fresh dill and scallions.


Photo credit: Everyday Food

Who says tradition is a given with potato salads? If you’re an iconoclast when it comes to side dishes, consider ditching white ‘tater varieties for sweet potatoes. Orange juice and minced fresh ginger brighten this sweet potato salad, which has savory character thanks to Dijon mustard and olive oil.

Photo credit: Everyday Food

Alternatively, go with golden beets and chopped walnuts to sweeten up a fingerling potato salad. Red wine vinegar, olive oil, and fresh chives round out the flavors and add sparkle and freshness.

Photo credit: Getty

If tradition is more your thing, German-style potato salad is perfectly respectable. This version, which also calls for sliced deli ham and asparagus, is sweetened with a touch of sugar and finely chopped sweet gherkins.

Of course, there’s no law that says, “Thou must only serve one kind of potato salad.” If you can’t settle on one, why not pick a salad from each flavor category? Variety is the spice of life, folks.