German Potato Salad
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In this German potato salad, the typical American mayo dressing is replaced with pickled onions and a tangy vinaigrette. It is ridiculously good!
My friend Kelly had this German potato salad at a bbq, and she said that no one could stop picking at it, even after they finished the meal. I made it at home and Michael and I had the same problem — it is that good.
Modestly adapted from David Hagedorn’s recipe in the Washington Post, this is a traditional German-style potato salad, meaning a tangy vinaigrette replaces the typical American-style mayonnaise dressing.
The recipe makes a ton, improves over time, and can be served cold or room temperature, so it’s the perfect do-ahead dish for a potluck or picnic.
What you’ll need to make German potato salad
The recipe calls for new potatoes, such as baby gold or red bliss. These waxy potatoes hold their shape when cooked and have soft, creamy texture — and the best part is that they don’t need to be peeled.
The recipe also calls for a whole red onion, which might seem like a lot but have faith: the sliced onions get pickled in the vinaigrette, which tempers their sharp edge and makes them tangy and sweet. They are 100% the best part of the salad (and I say that as a raw onion-phobe).
How to make German potato salad
To begin, place the potatoes in a large saucepan and fill the pan with enough cold water so that it covers the potatoes by about 1 inch. Add one tablespoon salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until the potatoes are just tender when pierced with a knife, 10 to 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the oil, rice vinegar, sugar, remaining tablespoon salt (I know that sounds like a lot; feel free to add less and season to taste at the end but keep in mind that potatoes require a lot of salt), pepper, smoked paprika, red onion and parsley.
Stir to combine. Set aside, stirring occasionally and allowing the onions to marinate and pickle in the dressing while the potatoes cook.
Drain the potatoes in a colander. While they are still hot, cut them bite-size into halves, thirds, or quarters, depending on the size, and place in the bowl with the dressing.
Using a large rubber spatula, toss the potatoes with the dressing, being careful not to break up the potatoes too much. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally until the potatoes soak up all the vinaigrette.
Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Before serving, stir well and taste to adjust seasoning, if necessary. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with more smoked paprika and parsley.
You may also like
- Chickpea & Red Onion Salad
- A Better Macaroni Salad
- Sweet and Tangy Citrus Slaw
- Fresh Corn Salad with Scallions and Basil
- Classic Coleslaw
German Potato Salad
In this German potato salad, the typical American mayo dressing is replaced with pickled onions and a tangy vinaigrette. It is ridiculously good!
- 3½ pounds baby gold or red bliss potatoes
- 2 tablespoons salt, divided
- ⅔ cup vegetable oil
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, plus more for serving
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 medium red onion, halved and very thinly sliced
- ½ cup chopped parsley, plus more for serving
- Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and fill the pan with enough cold water so that it covers the potatoes by about 1 inch. Add one tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Continue cooking until the potatoes are just tender when pierced with a knife, 10 to 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the oil, rice vinegar, sugar, remaining tablespoon salt (I know that sounds like a lot; feel free to add less and season to taste at the end but keep in mind that potatoes require a lot of salt), pepper, smoked paprika, red onion and parsley. Stir to combine. Set aside, stirring occasionally and allowing the onions to marinate and pickle in the dressing while the potatoes cook.
- Drain the potatoes in a colander. While they are still hot (as hot as you can handle), cut them bite-size into halves, thirds, or quarters, depending on the size, and place in the bowl with the dressing. Using a large rubber spatula, toss the potatoes with the dressing, being careful not to break up the potatoes too much. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally until the potatoes soak up all the vinaigrette. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. When ready to serve, bring the potato salad to a cool room temperature. Stir well, then taste and adjust seasoning with more salt, pepper, or sugar, if necessary. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with smoked paprika and parsley.
- Potato salad should be left out for no more than two hours (or one hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees). Leftovers should be promptly refrigerated.
- Make Ahead: This potato salad can be made and stored in a covered container in the refrigerator up to 3 days ahead of time.
- Serving size: 1 cup
- Calories: 355
- Fat: 21 g
- Saturated fat: 1 g
- Carbohydrates: 38 g
- Sugar: 4 g
- Fiber: 5 g
- Protein: 4 g
- Sodium: 591 mg
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.
Gluten-Free Adaptable Note
To the best of my knowledge, all of the ingredients used in this recipe are gluten-free or widely available in gluten-free versions. There is hidden gluten in many foods; if you're following a gluten-free diet or cooking for someone with gluten allergies, always read the labels of your ingredients to verify that they are gluten-free.
Love all your recipes, Jenn. I’m not a fan of mayo based potato salads; this one is very appealing. Can I substitute white wine vinegar (or something else) for the rice vinegar? Thank you.
Sure, that should be fine (and so glad you like the recipes)!
Just made this to serve tomorrow for Mother’s Day. I followed the recipe and added fresh dill and parsley, shaved the red onion on a mandolin. I just tasted it warm and it is the best potato salad I’ve ever had so I know it will only get better when the flavors meld.
Like Jenn said – it is ridiculously good.
It has that smoky flavor that is reminiscent of bacon but really doesn’t need it.
Another fool proof recipe from Jenn. As others have commented, I never try out a recipe first before I make it for company because I know it will be good if Jenn has made it.
I do not have any parsley or dill on hand. Are there any other herbs I might be able to substitute the parsley? Would replacing it with some green onions work? Thank you!
Hi Patrick, You can use some green onion, but keep in mind that you’ll already have red onion in there. Some other alternatives are fresh, oregano, tarragon, or even celery greens. Hope that helps, and that you enjoy!
Can leftovers be frozen?
Hi Diane, Potatoes generally don’t freeze well so I wouldn’t recommend it — sorry!
Made it today. Excellent salad and a great side to go with my Lobster tonight.
After decades of bringing the same delicious egg and potato salad to family get togethers I now serve this amazing potato salad. The change was prompted by my daughter becoming vegan and the rest of us trying to be more plant based. I tried a few tofu/vegan mayo style potato salads first but nothing compares to this. In addition to being vegan, there is no worry about keeping it ice cold so it won’t spoil. Of course, it disappears so quickly spoiling is not an issue any way. Thanks for sharing another awesome recipe!
I absolutely love all of your recipes! I want to make this recipe tomorrow but only have white onions on hand – would that work or should I get red onions?
Hi Diana, You can get away with white onions if that’s all you have in hand. Hope you enjoy!
I’m not a fan of German potato salad so hesitated about making this, but it’s 105 degrees in Texas and a mayo-based potato salad felt way too heavy. This was absolutely delicious! Made it the day before, refrigerated it overnight, then took it out an hour before serving to bring it to room temperature. A huge hit and I’ll definitely make this again! Usually, I don’t serve dishes to company that I haven’t previously tested on my own family, but I never hesitate with Jenn’s recipes as they never disappoint.
Hi Jenn! Would shallots or leeks be OK as a substitution for onions? I really hate onions, including scallions and green onions… but this recipe looks so yummy (and I’m such a fan of your recipes), that I’d really like to try it.
Thanks in advance for any onion alternatives you can suggest!
Sure, Ruth, I’d go with shallots. Hope you enjoy!
Thank you so much! And thanks again for your awesome recipes.
So the potatoes peel themselves?
Hi Judy, You don’t need to peel the potatoes for the salad (it may look like they’re peeled in the picture, but they’re not).
So my father in law who is from Germany, puts Dijon mustard, vegetable oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, sugar in his dressing, he also cooks his potatoes with a caraway seeds for the flavor. Then while cooling the cut potatoes, puts a little chicken bullion with water(broth), so the potatoes suck up more flavor. He then always adds capers, pickles, sweet white onion, and parsley. Sometimes he adds cooked bacon. It the best I’ve ever tasted.
I forgot also Japanese rice wine vinegar to the dressing, since it is mild in flavor.
I am actually from Germany, the southern part, where the salad is made like this, i.e. without mayonaise. In northern Germany, the mayonaise-based version is more popular. Obviously, I prefer the non-mayo version. It is so much lighter and even tastier. I would, however, strongly advise to add pickled cucumbers (cut into small cubes), which is always included in this type of salad. Most recipes don’t include onions and then the pickles add a nice tang.
Hi Jenn. Do you think that I could substitute olive oil for vegetable oil in the dressing? excited to try this potato salad recipe over the weekend. I have tried so many of your recipes with great success. Thanks again for creating such an amazing site.
Hi Hailey, Thanks for the nice words about the recipes — so glad you like them! I like vegetable oil here because it’s milder in flavor than olive oil, but you can definitely use olive oil if you prefer. Enjoy!
Made this yesterday morning for a family dinner last night. It is a wonderful, delicious potato salad that is easy to pull together. I dislike all the mayo heavy salads, and this was perfect. It easily serves 10.
This is absolutely delicious, and I agree with your comment Jenn once you taste it you keep going back for more—I did that exactly! At first I took a little taste on a fork but within minutes I wanted to go back for more, and can’t wait for dinner tonight when I will have it with a hamburger, can’t wait!!
I love this potato salad. I’ve used yellow onion with great results, and even big old russet potatoes when I didn’t have the right variety called for in the recipe. I peel the russets once they’v been boiled, though. They fall apart more but absorb the vinaigrette really well. I love that you can do it ahead of time. It makes hosting much easier when you want a potato accompaniment without having the bother of peeling and making fries or oven baked potatoes a well as making main course and other salads for a crowd.
I made this for Memorial Day with ribs and grilled asparagus and it was a huge hit. The smokiness imparted by the smoked paprika and the quick pickle the rice vinegar gives to the onion makes for a fresh but complex flavor. I will definitely be making this again!
This potato salad is crave-worthy! The short ingredient list had me wondering, but it’s another home run which is not surprising. We had it with your turkey burgers, and what a great duo – I will definitely be making both again.
Delicious, it was a big hit at our Super Bowl party! I made it according to recipe with one exception I added cooked and chopped bacon.
This is always huge hit. Delicious, and the onions really make the dish!
Excellent! Only had olive oil on hand and still soooo delicious! Thank you for yet another incredible recipe. Everything I’ve tried on this site is phenomenal. Can’t wait to buy your new book!
Good flavor but I would cut the amount of oil to this recipe
I’ve been meaning to try out this recipe for ages, but have had to make our regular creamy version due to popular demand. When I ran out of an essential ingredient last month, that was my chance.
This was really light and lovely and flavoursome (thanks to the pickled onions – very similar to the wonderful pickled onions in the Once Upon a Chef cookbook) and it made a refreshing change from the mayo-loaded version.
(Mine came out a little on the wet side, but I’m sure that’s my fault as I was boiling the potatoes late at night and probably didn’t drain them properly!)
Only one family member could not find it in them to make the transition from creamy to vinaigrette, so I added a mixture of mayo and sour cream to his, which worked really well, too.
Just to add to the confusion, my Berlin family’s ‘traditional’ potato salad is different again: Mayonnaise +/- yoghurt, with dill pickles and Maggi liquid seasoning!
(Maggi seems to work its way into everything… although I admit it is worth trying on fried eggs/ scrambled eggs at least once!) I’ve asked around and creamy versions are the only ones we’ve personally heard of, i.e. what would be served in restaurants or what you could buy at Lidl. But I suspect German potato salad had developed its own tradition in the USA – or may be even come about by some different etymological route, like German chocolate cake – or may be comes from a different region in Germany?
(I personally only every use American recipes for potato salad, even the creamy one, and think yours is super – it’s also ideal for my German grandmother, who had a colonectomy and can’t eat fatty dairy).
Thanks again for the recipe, Jenn! I hope to be making it again very soon 😉
I love this recipe. So delicious! I have been microwaving portions of it so they are just slightly warm. Thanks for yet another winning recipe.
What substitute would you use for a family that doesn’t like onions, especially red onions?? They’re ok with green onions would those work??
Can’t wait to try it!
Hi Rochelle, Green onions should work. I’d use a bunch of them. Please LMK how it turns out
I’ve been meaning to make this very appetising- looking potato salad for ages, but held off as my family keeps requesting the mayo version! Tonight I finally had the chance, as by good fortune I was missing an essential ingredient for our ‘regular’ recipe.
Made it in advance for tomorrow’s lunch and had a taste – it’s wonderful!
Quite smokey, which makes it feel somehow ‘German’, and the pickled red onions are really great. Should go well with frankfurter hotdogs (which is what I’ll be serving them with).
To complicate the debate even further, we live in the UK and our Berlin relatives make ‘traditional’ German potato salad completely differently again –
Mayo + gherkin + dill (or just dill gherkin) + S&P + Maggi liquid seasoning! This is what they make for New Year’s eve and eat with German Wurst.
Apparently the mayonnaise version is the only kind they have heard of, and if you go to a restaurant and order Bockwurst with Kartoffelsalat, that is what you will get. Our Lidl stores also sell only the mayo version.
Although I suspect that ‘German’ potato salad in the USA has a completely different tradition of its own – may be even a completely different etymology like ‘German’ chocolate cake?
And how glad I am that it is completely different – I never could bring myself to eat ‘Kartoffelsalat’ – especially the Lidl one…!
Thank you once again, Jenn. I am so happy to have found your version and looking forward to making it for long time to come!
(And perhaps even taking it to the relatives 😉
Can’t wait to try this for an upcoming BBQ… what oil could I substitute instead of vegetable?
Hi Bambi, I like vegetable oil here as it’s very mild in flavor, but you can replace it with another oil like olive or avocado oil. Hope you enjoy!
From what I’ve read, Kartoffelsalat is different depending on the region. The northern Germans use mayonnaise where the southern Germans prefer a vinaigrette.
Absolutely delicious, unfortunately, I didn’t have any leftovers. Another wonderful recipe, thank you.
I made this for a family BBQ along side our family’s old fashioned mayo style potato salad….everyone raved about this one and wanted seconds!!!! Another winning recipe! Thanks Jenn, you never disappoint!!
My German family was not impressed. Maybe call it something besides German Potato Salad. Really missed bacon, really missed the warm salad.
Hi Jenn!! I only have seasoned rice vinegar. Can I use that and omit the sugar? Thank you!!
Hi Michele, I haven’t tried it but I think that should be fine. 🙂
Absolutely incredible. The “pickled” onions were delicious and this was a nice alternative to our traditionally heavy mayo potato salads.
This recipe is already disappearing and I made it about 10 minutes ago. Really good. Can’t wait to taste it in a couple of hours. My husband might not have any to take to his games night. 😬
Update: huge success with the lads! Even the guy who doesn’t like anything with vinegar in it. Not a scrap left. Another winning recipe.
this is Marina from Germany and i appreciate all your receipes. Very good all the time.
(Sorry for bad english but I hope you will understand)
This receip for German Potato salad is not really German. I love Potato salad but in Germany there are more or less 2 ways making Potatosalad.
In the northern part of Germany you need mayonnaise,onions, apple, cucumber pickles, (cornichons) and sometimes special kind of sausages.
In the sothern part of Germany you take only vinegar, oil, sometimes cucumber and broth.
You always put some mustard in the dressing. Never smoked paprika.
Perhaps this a very special receip from a very special lady 😉
Thank you again for inspiration
Made this to go along with Jenn’s southwestern sliders. This potato salad was very easy to make yet delicious!!!
Forgot to mention I used red wine vinegar because I didn’t have rice vinegar and a white onion instead of red onion but still came out great!!! Jenn was the red wine vinegar an “ok” substitute for rice vinegar?
Yes, that’s fine, Michelle. 🙂
Take note: says total time 40 minutes, but recipe states refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight!! Glad I read ahead.
Sorry about that and glad you read ahead too! I just updated the recipe. Hope you enjoyed! 🙂
Can I substitute with apple cider vinegar?
Sure, Amy. Enjoy!
This is incredibly tasty…have made it so many times and it’s a nice change to the usual potato salads.
Love this recipe! One of the simplest german potato salad recipes I’ve tried, but still super tasty.
I did swap rice vinegar for apple cider vinegar simply because thats what I had in the pantry. Kept the sugar. The swap didnt seem to have any bad effect.
I also added bacon and used a couple of tablespoons of the rendered bacon grease in the overall dressing. Probably doesn’t make this recipe any healthier, but it tasted quite good 🙂
Otherwise, followed recipe as written and it was delicious.
Cut the recipe in-half and used Idaho Potatoes, since I already had a 5lb. bag and boiled them whole (the peels come right off after they cool down a bit) added some bacon and it was a big hit! Reminds me of Summer Family Picnics in Ohio as a kid.
Just made this. I cut my potatoes before boiling them to save my fingers, used yellow onions instead of red, and omitted the parsley. (Didnt have time to run to the store) it was amazing!!! It’s for a party tomorrow but I was soo glad I had bowls worth that wouldn’t fit in the Tupperware. My husband even loved it, he typically puts his nose in the air if I make a vegetarian version of something that could of had meat, especially bacon! I’ll def be making this again, thank you for the awesome recipe.
In our German/Norwegian household, German Potato Salad is bacon, onions, vinegar, sugar and flour to thicken and is served hot. Never made with mayo, sorry! I’m madly in love with it! But…can’t wait to try this version that can be served cold. Your recipes are my “Go To”!
Hope you enjoy!