Simply Delicious German Potato Salad Like Grandma Made

June 17, 2016

Mayonaisse-y potato salad—that side dish that no American barbecue is complete without—has its roots in Germany, which is why I wasn’t surprised to find a delicious recipe from a wonderful woman named Anke Gelbin who immigrated to New Jersey from Berlin over thirty years ago.

As a young mother, Anke made certain that her children did not forget their roots: A sign in the kitchen read “Only German is spoken at this table," where dishes from the home country were served every night.

It was Anke’s daughter who raved to me about the family’s potato salad and piqued my interest in the dish. But if you Google “German Potato Salad,” you’ll see an overwhelming number of results. As Anke explained, each German home has its own version: There isn’t one recipe to track down. Even her grandmother’s was a bit different than her own, using fresh cucumbers and parsley.

Anke makes the same variation her mother Uda made—and I wouldn't change a thing about it. A chemist by trade, she knows how to formulate the ingredients until she’s happy with the exact ratio of flavors: a little bit of mayo, then a little more mustard, back to more mayo, a sprinkle of salt, a grind of pepper—she keeps tasting until it’s perfect.

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Remember to use Hellman’s mayonnaise: Not only was Mr. Hellman German, but he was also from outside of Berlin, the same area as Anke’s family.

More potato salads to scoop up at your next barbecue:

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • terri
  • AntoniaJames
  • Pegeen
  • lloreen
  • Anna Francese Gass
    Anna Francese Gass
Cookbook Author. Heirloom Kitchen.Food52 contributing editor & Recipe Tester.


terri June 22, 2016
My mom's German potato salad had hard boiled eggs and chopped green pepper doused with a freshly made mayonnaise that was heavenly. Sweet and vinegar-y. Oh it is the best...to me=)
AntoniaJames June 20, 2016
Ah, as noted in the piece, there so many ways of making "German" potato salad. My mother (not German, but whose mother grew up in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia when just about everyone there was, indeed, German) made "German potato salad" by splashing the potatoes with wine vinegar as soon as she drained them so they would soak up the vinegar; she added a bit of bacon, if she had it, and chopped parsley, finely chopped celery, and caraway seeds. She'd whisk a dollop of brown mustard into olive oil and toss with salt and pepper. No mayo, ever.
Soaking the potatoes in vinegar before tossing with the oil results in a sharp, lighter salad, perfect for serving alongside grilled sausages - with which this particular potato salad was always preferred. I carry on the tradition but omit the caraway seeds and add finely chopped sauerkraut -- to make it even sharper! ;o)
Anna F. June 20, 2016
That sounds delicious! Thanks for sharing!!
Pegeen June 19, 2016
Hemingway's version in "A Moveable Feast" was from Paris (not Berlin) and did not include mayo. But everything else in this wonderful recipe made me think of his crisp description.

"There were a few people in the brasserie and when I sat down on the bench against the wall with the mirror in back and a table in front and the waiter asked if I wanted beer I asked for a distingué, the big glass mug that held a liter, and for potato salad.

"The beer was very cold and wonderful to drink. The pommes à l’huile were firm and marinated and the olive oil delicious. I grounded black pepper over the potatoes and moistened the bread in the olive oil. After the first heavy draft of beer I drank and ate very slowly. When the pommes à l’huile were gone I ordered another serving and a cervelas. This was a sausage like a heavy, wide frankfurter split in two and covered with a special mustard sauce."
Anna F. June 20, 2016
Just beautiful!
lloreen June 18, 2016
My grandmother was a notoriously bad cook, but the one dish she was famous for was her potato salad. It's a very similar recipe, except she added bacon and hardboiled eggs. I always assumed it was from an Irish tradition, but we did have German family too. Even to this day I wouldn't change the recipe. Homemade mayo and artisan mustard? Not for this dish.
Anna F. June 20, 2016
Nice additions to the recipe! Glad it reminded you of your grandmother!