German Potato Salad

Tested & Perfected Recipes

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

ingredients for 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

baby potatoes in cold water

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.

simmering baby potatoes

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.

German potato salad vinaigrette ingredients in mixing bowl

Stir to combine. Set aside, stirring occasionally and allowing the onions to marinate and pickle in the dressing while the potatoes cook.

mixed German potato salad vinaigrette

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.

adding potatoes to the vinaigrette

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.

mixed German potato salad

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.

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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!

Servings: 8
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 30 Minutes
Total Time: 40 Minutes, plus 4 hours chilling time

Ingredients

  • 3-1/2 pounds baby gold or red bliss potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons salt, divided
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 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
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley, plus more for serving

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Make Ahead: This potato salad can be made and stored in a covered container in the refrigerator up to 3 days ahead of time.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • 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.

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Reviews & Comments

  • This is always huge hit. Delicious, and the onions really make the dish!

    • — Lindsey on September 20, 2021
    • Reply
  • 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!

    • — L :) on September 5, 2021
    • Reply
  • Good flavor but I would cut the amount of oil to this recipe

    • — Beth on August 10, 2021
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  • 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 😉

    • — Savanna Faith on August 4, 2021
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  • 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.

    • — Thomas Rudd on July 29, 2021
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  • 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!

    • — Rochelle on July 17, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Rochelle, Green onions should work. I’d use a bunch of them. Please LMK how it turns out

      • — Jenn on July 19, 2021
      • Reply
  • 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 😉

    • — Savanna Faith on July 13, 2021
    • Reply
  • Can’t wait to try this for an upcoming BBQ… what oil could I substitute instead of vegetable?

    • — Bambi on July 13, 2021
    • Reply
    • 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!

      • — Jenn on July 13, 2021
      • Reply
    • From what I’ve read, Kartoffelsalat is different depending on the region. The northern Germans use mayonnaise where the southern Germans prefer a vinaigrette.

      • — Angelina on July 16, 2021
      • Reply
  • Absolutely delicious, unfortunately, I didn’t have any leftovers. Another wonderful recipe, thank you.

    • — Maria on June 30, 2021
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  • 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!!

    • — Anita R on June 3, 2021
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  • My German family was not impressed. Maybe call it something besides German Potato Salad. Really missed bacon, really missed the warm salad.

    • — Susan Van Aartsen on May 10, 2021
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  • Absolutely incredible. The “pickled” onions were delicious and this was a nice alternative to our traditionally heavy mayo potato salads.

    • — Rebecca on February 18, 2021
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  • 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. 😬

    • — Cathy H. on November 6, 2020
    • Reply
    • 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.

      • — Cathy H on November 8, 2020
      • Reply
  • hi there,
    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

    • — Marina on September 3, 2020
    • Reply
  • Made this to go along with Jenn’s southwestern sliders. This potato salad was very easy to make yet delicious!!!

    • — michelle on August 17, 2020
    • Reply
    • 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?

      • — Michelle on August 17, 2020
      • Reply
      • Yes, that’s fine, Michelle. 🙂

        • — Jenn on August 18, 2020
        • Reply
  • Take note: says total time 40 minutes, but recipe states refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight!! Glad I read ahead.

    • — Chris the cook on August 9, 2020
    • Reply
    • Sorry about that and glad you read ahead too! I just updated the recipe. Hope you enjoyed! 🙂

      • — Jenn on August 10, 2020
      • Reply
  • Can I substitute with apple cider vinegar?

    • — Amy on July 30, 2020
    • Reply
    • Sure, Amy. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on July 30, 2020
      • Reply
  • This is incredibly tasty…have made it so many times and it’s a nice change to the usual potato salads.

    • — Cook on June 29, 2020
    • Reply
  • 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.

    • — Leah on June 27, 2020
    • Reply
  • 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.

    • — Sam on June 21, 2020
    • Reply
  • 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.

    • — Jamie on June 20, 2020
    • Reply
  • 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”!

    • — Trish T on June 20, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on June 21, 2020
      • Reply

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