Make Ahead

My Mother's Potato Salad

October  4, 2022
7 Ratings
Photo by Eric Moran
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

I asked her for her recipe recently, and because I’m her daughter, I subbed and swapped and tweaked (to do this to a mother’s idea is just short of genetic obligation), but it’s still her salad, in essence: burly and rich from olive oil and mayonnaise (make your own if you’re inclined; it’s not necessary); brisk from pickles; heady from tarragon. If you forgo the hard boiled egg you don’t know up from down. Well-chilled and left to meld, It bears a lot of flavor resemblance to Sauce Gribiche, which is likely why it tugs my heartstrings quite like it does.

I’d walk you through it, but you know how to make this: Boil the potatoes; toss; mix; do as you do. Potato salad’s beauty is not in its technique.

It’s my mother’s birthday soon, and I think I’ll make it for her, my way. You’d be smart to make it for the Fourth, and every week thereafter, until the temperatures drop and the sun shines shorter. Always make extra -- you’ll want the leftovers -- and then spend the rest of the day outside. —Kenzi Wilbur

What You'll Need
  • 2 pounds baby potatoes, scrubbed and the larger ones halved
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup best-quality mayonnaise (homemade or store-bought)
  • 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 1/3 cup chopped cornichons
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (I use tarragon and parsley)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced radishes
  • Chives and chive blossoms, for finishing, optional
  1. Boil the potatoes in a big pot of salted water until they're fork-tender. Drain, and shock in an ice bath if you want a potato salad that will maintain its shape. (If a few squished potatoes are okay with you, this step is not necessary.) While the potatoes cook, soak the red onion in a bit of water to soften its bite.
  2. Place drained potatoes in a large bowl, and sprinkle vinegar on them.
  3. Mix olive oil, mayonnaise, and mustard together to make your dressing, and set aside.
  4. To the large bowl, add the drained red onion, cornichon, hard-boiled egg, and herbs. Add the dressing -- starting with half, as you may not use it all -- and toss to coat. (You'll want enough dressing to slickly coat each potato, but you don't want a pool at the bottom of the bowl. If for some reason you find you need more dressing, add an extra splash of olive oil and a dollop of mayo to taste.) Add salt, and/or more vinegar to taste.
  5. When it's where you want it seasoning-wise, fold in the sliced radishes. Garnish with chives and/or chive blossoms if you like, and serve. It's even better after it's been in the fridge for a day.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Lucy K
    Lucy K
  • Karen Bateman
    Karen Bateman
  • Heidi - Apples Under My Bed
    Heidi - Apples Under My Bed
  • Miche
  • jvcooks

28 Reviews

Kenzi Dear, as a mother and a grandmother, I had wanted to intercept your serving your mom HER potato salad to her for HER birthday with YOUR inspired improvements! But now, I note that your post was from 2017! So, Kenzi, you have already learned, I hope, that it is hardly kind to present your mom’s dish to her with said inspired improvements. My kids constantly ask me for the recipes I raised them on, and then expect praise for THEIR inspired improvements. Unless you yourself react in a selfless, generous manner when your friends serve a dish of yours to you that includes the fortunate improvements they have made, DO NOT do this again to your own mom!!!
Paige April 12, 2020
Delicious! Made this during quarantine so used shallot in place of red onion (did not soak in water) and only dill for herbs because that's what we had. Excellent side for our brisket for Easter dinner!
Lucy K. September 1, 2019
This is the best potato salad I've ever made. I used ground mustard instead of wet, and I left out the pickles. I sliced the red onion extra thin-you have to trust it when you see it. Don't guess when adding the vinegar it can ruin the dish. BUT it's AMAZING. Thank you for this!!
Karen B. June 23, 2018
What is a cornichon? Thanks, Esttexan
Miche June 23, 2018
A cornichon is a small pickle.
Jordan B. May 27, 2017
This is the best potato salad I've had, just got done with it and the flavor is amazing just made, can't wait to have it tonight after melding together for several hours.
Kenzi W. May 29, 2017
I'm so happy to hear this!!
Therese B. August 26, 2016
This is my new favorite potato salad! I have made it multiple times this summer and am always asked for the recipe. You and your mom have a winner here!
Roger C. October 2, 2015
First time in my life I made Potato Salad. The home made mayo didn't work out first time (used Olive oil) too fruity will know better next time Bottle Maya had to do for today 3 Yums
Rochelle B. July 26, 2015
Many thanks Kenzi, for this fabulous recipe. I made it for the 4th time yesterday, and it's the best potato salad i;ve ever eaten. Even better than MY mother's recipe :-)
I've been using chopped shallot instead of the red onion - no need to soak those little powerhouses of flavor.
Kenzi W. May 29, 2017
The best EVER? :)
Mark May 10, 2015
Made this last night. Wow. What a hit. Added a little extra mustard and vinegar just to let everyone know what's up.
Kenzi W. May 29, 2017
Ha, I like your style.
SBB May 10, 2015
Heidi -. April 19, 2015
Crushing on this hard!!
Miche July 4, 2014
this is a winner
jvcooks June 30, 2014
This was great! I crowd pleaser at our family BBQ over the weekend.
Lorraina R. June 30, 2014
I made this potato salad last night, and it's fantastic! It's my new favorite. I will add a few more radishes next time.
Kenzi W. June 30, 2014
Kristen June 29, 2014
This was good. It's piquant, you need to like that flavor, but I'd make this again. I didn't notice the radishes, I'll cut them less thinly as another poster noted.
Janene June 25, 2014
This is outstanding! What a great change from the normal picnic potato salad.
I put the dressing on first while the potatoes were still warm because I believe it absorbs the flavor better. This will definitely be my go-to from now on.
jane W. June 24, 2014
just made. very easy. so good.
CarlaCooks June 22, 2014
I made this last night and absolutely loved it! It was easy to put together, including the dressing (I ended up using all of it). The only thing I'll do differently next time is to not cut the radishes too thinly. I couldn't really taste them over the dressing, so I think bigger slices will be better. Thanks to you and your Mother for a lovely recipe!
Kenzi W. June 23, 2014
So glad to hear this!
guatami June 20, 2014
The pictures are so gorgeous… I can truly understand how hard it would be to stop making something so addictive. I think its setting off a chain reaction… I feel an overwhelming need to whip out some potatoes and make a batch of my own!
ghainskom June 19, 2014
Sounds like a contender to my current favorite potato salad:
Will post again when I've tried it!