Potato Salad

The Best Dang German-Style Potato Salad for All the Pickle Lovers Out There

July 31, 2018
I have two pickles, I have two picks... Photo by Bobbi Lin

I happen to be a member of the traditional potato salad fan club (I love mine creamy), but am empathetic to those who aren’t so enthusiastic about the classic, mayonnaise-based side dish. Regardless of your preference, it’s fair to say that the potato salad is a summertime essential. After all, is a BBQ even a BBQ if you don’t have potato salad?

People who hate traditional potato salad may have a point: It can be quite rich. Especially when paired with something like a thick, juicy cheeseburger, a bucket of crispy fried chicken, or a big T-bone steak, a heaping scoop of something extra creamy and extra carby on the side can sometimes complicate the meal rather than complement it (especially if you’re eating poolside).

To make a potato salad that’s a little lighter, a LOT brighter, and completely mayo-free, a vinegar-based, German-style potato salad is a solid choice. But to give my vinegary, mayo-hater tater salad a much needed twist, I reach for an everyday ingredient many of us probably have chillin’ in our fridges right now: a jar of dill pickles.

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The pickles are a double-duty ingredient here. There are chopped pickles in the salad, but the dressing begins with a splash of pickle brine. A little vinegar, olive oil, and yellow mustard (trust me on this) are whisked together to complete the extra pungent dressing. And, along with the chopped pickles, a bit of diced white onion and crunchy celery get tossed in with the salty, boiled potatoes.

Besides appealing to the mayo haters, this one’s also for the pickle-obsessed—the people who eat dill pickles straight out of the jar, straight out of the fridge (oh, is that just me?).


Additionally: The salty, sour pickles (and their juice), when paired with robust, sharp yellow mustard and crunchy white onions like this, taste like a trip to the drive-thru.

Wait, what?

“It tastes like a Big Mac!” my editor Eric tells me.

Because of this, you may find that this potato salad ends up tasting so similar to a classic burger, you can almost smell the fries. The flavor profiles are all there (pickles, mustard, onions, potatoes of course)—and they’re all delicious. My Happy Meal–inspired potato salad might not come with a toy, but it does come with extra pickles. And though it may be a departure from the creamy classic, it’s a really big dill in its own right.

Mayo or no mayo in your potato salad? Let us know in the comments below.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • d wright downs
    d wright downs
  • Susan D'Agostino
    Susan D'Agostino
  • Laura G. Myers
    Laura G. Myers
  • bluemoon
  • dc1349
Grant Melton is an Emmy Award-Winning Producer of the Rachael Ray Show, food writer and recipe developer. He's a contributor to Food52, NYT Cooking and Rachael Ray Every Day Magazine. He loves cookies, cocktails and kindness.


d W. September 30, 2018
I spent 7 years in Germany during the Cold War era and I lived on the economy. I live in the southern region near Stuttgart and also near Frankfurt. I am an avid cook and learned much about all the food where I lived. Kartoffel Saladt is made with the potatoes cooked with the skins on and peeled while still warm. they are then sliced or cubed. The salt, vinegar, onions, dill, used in the south not so much in Hesse, eggs are lightly tossed into the potatoes. I never had the saladt with the pickles and i didn't put them in it. I have looked in my books and have not seen 'gerkins' mentioned in the 'kartofel saladt.' I am sure they would taste good in there. This isn't German potato salad as those of us who have lived there know it. sounds as though it is a real tasty salad. However, when people get on their bonus miles and fly there they're going to be surprised. It is as though they expect American pizza down the road from the Vatican and are upset when they don't find it...I actually saw that, by the way and didn't know whether to laugh or do something else.
You have such great recipes and wonderful things here. Thanks​ for being a great site.
Susan D. September 30, 2018
I thought I clicked on the link for a "German-Style" potato salad. I literally went back to the email to check -- and Yes, that's what you're calling this. Sorry, Eric, but this is Not even close to anything this German girl has ever seen or eaten.
For starters there's No mention of Bacon -- which is nearly, if not always, the First ingredient. I have to agree with all of the negative feedback. This is the farthest thing from anything German or even "German-Style". Also, German Potato Salad is served hot. There's never any mustard, celery, or dill -- of any kind -- in it. And definitely Not olive oil. Bacon grease is what's used, rather than any kind of oil. I almost want to invite you to my house for some Real German Potato Salad. I have to say that I feel pretty sure this is the first negative comment I've Ever posted in regard to any food. It's That far off. I'm usually willing to try anyone's spin on an old classic, but not this time. I'm a former First Place winner of Pillsbury's Southeast Regional Bake-Off (2002) held in Atlanta, GA. I can't even imagine trying to present this recipe to such an authority in the food industry.
Laura G. August 9, 2018
Made this hours after receiving the email. Fantastic. Super fresh dill, pickle, tart. Don’t think I’d say “German” though. Cut back on oil but upped the other dressing ingredients with a little water so the salad absorbed and was still nicely coated. Make again for sure.
Eric K. August 12, 2018
Isn't it good? Glad you liked, Laura.
bluemoon August 9, 2018
Well, I don't know if to try it or not after reading two very different reviews. Hopefully someone, or a few others, chime in!
Eric K. August 12, 2018
If you're still deciding, there's some more feedback on the recipe itself: https://food52.com/recipes/77271-dill-pickle-potato-salad
dc1349 August 9, 2018
Made this potato salad a few days ago. Not good at all. Very flat and boring even after adding extra of all the ingredients. Find another recipe. Sorry
Eric K. August 12, 2018
Sorry it didn't work for you. Here are some of our other most popular potato salad recipes on the site: https://food52.com/recipes/search?q=potato+salad&o=popular
dshush August 2, 2018
Served this last night to my in-laws with BLTs. It was a big hit!!
Eric K. August 12, 2018
Huzzah. Delicious idea to serve w/ BLTs.