German Potato Salad

4.5 stars based on 44 votes
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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

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

  • 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
    • Reply
  • 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
    • Reply
  • 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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