This Southern-Style Recipe Is Perfect for Cookouts and Barbecues
With summer here, it’s cookout time. In fact, next week brings one of the biggest and best barbecue opportunities of the year: Fourth of July.
And what would a cookout be without potato salad? One of the tastiest — certainly the tangiest — is Mustard Potato Salad. It goes particularly well with long-cooked barbecue or meat that has been grilled over hot coals or an open fire (hamburgers, anyone?).
Mustard Potato Salad is no more difficult to make than Mayonnaise Potato Salad. And you know how easy that is.
Recipe: Mustard Potato Salad
Although you can use dry mustard or fancy Dijon or other imported mustards when making this potato salad, I prefer good ole ballpark yellow mustard. It’s convenient to use, it has a nice sharp taste, and it gives great color. Plus you probably already have a container of it in your refrigerator.
This dish is really nothing more than a jazzed up Mayonnaise Potato Salad — the kind we often call “American” Potato Salad (although mayonnaise-based potato salads are quite popular in other parts of the world too, particularly in Europe).
This recipe will serve 12 to 16 as a side dish, so you can heap it on at a big summer get-together. It can easily be halved (or doubled). In fact, I usually make a half recipe. Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few days (they’ll be safe to eat for at least a week, but after about 3 days, their quality starts to diminish).
This recipe takes about 20 minutes to prepare (perhaps a bit longer if you need to hard-boil the eggs). This is one of those recipes where measurements need not be exact; adjust quantities to suit your taste.
- 5 pounds of potatoes, cut into ¼-inch slices or ½-inch cubes, cooked and still warm (see Potato Salad Basics Recipe for notes on what type of potatoes to use and how to cook them)
- 1½ to 2 cups diced yellow onion (may substitute red onion)
- 2 to 3 ribs celery, cleaned and diced
- ½ cup sweet pickle relish (may substitute finely diced dill pickle; if you do so, you may need to add a touch of sugar to the potato salad)
- ½ cup cider vinegar (white vinegar will work, but cider has better flavor; you may increase this amount somewhat if you wish)
- ¼ to ½ cup additional liquid (reserved potato cooking water, chicken stock, or vegetable stock; see Notes)
- ~1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 to 1½ cup mayonnaise (less if you want a salad that’s on the dry side, more if you like a bit of dressing)
- ~¼ to ½ cup commercial yellow mustard (the ball park kind; I like a lot of mustard in mine, but see Notes for measurement discussion)
- 5 or 6 diced hard-boiled eggs (see my hard-boiled eggs post if you need instructions for this)
- 3 tablespoons minced parsley (Italian works best, although curly is fine)
- Cook potatoes using the Potato Salad Basics Recipe. After the potatoes are cooked and you’ve drained them and let them sit from 2 to 4 minutes to firm up (as described in the recipe), place warm potatoes in a large bowl (wider is better than deep).
- Add diced onion, celery, sweet pickle relish, cider vinegar, about half the additional liquid (add more if necessary once you mix everything together), salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper (if using). Gently mix everything together. You want the warm potatoes to absorb the liquids and the flavor of the onion, celery, and seasoning.
- Let this mixture sit for about 10 minutes, tossing gently 2 or 3 times (gently because you don’t want to break up the potatoes). Ideally, the potatoes will absorb all the liquid, though a small amount may remain at the bottom of the bowl.
- Meanwhile, mix mayonnaise and mustard together. Peel and dice hard-boiled eggs, and mince parsley.
- After 10 minutes, add the diced hard-boiled eggs, about ¾ cup of mayonnaise and mustard mix, and minced parsley. Gently mix, and taste. Adjust the quantity of mayo/mustard to suit your taste. If the mixture is too thick, you may thin with milk (though I never bother with this). Add more salt, pepper, and (optional) cayenne if necessary. You can serve this salad right away, or chill for an hour or more before serving.
- Although this is a traditional Southern dish, it tastes so good (and is so easy to make) that you can now find it in deli cases in many parts of the US.
- When I make this recipe, I like to use 1 part of mustard for every 3 parts of mayonnaise. I don’t like a ton of dressing in my salad, so typically I’ll mix a cup of mayonnaise with a third of a cup of mustard.
- You may find that this ratio of mustard-to-mayo makes the taste too sharp. So I suggest trying a bit less mustard at first — perhaps 1 part of mustard for every 4 parts of mayonnaise. As you mix the potato salad, you can always add a bit more mustard if you find the flavor too wimpy.
- I’ve seen recipes that call for half mustard and half mayonnaise. That’s way too much mustard for my taste; but you make think differently.
- You can use homemade mayonnaise in this recipe if you have it. But ready-made works fine too. I generally use Hellmann’s (it’s sold as “Best” in the west). In the south, many people prefer Duke’s mayo. You can also use Miracle Whip, if that’s your preference. I almost never use homemade mayo when I make potato salad.
- Some people like a hint of sweetness in potato salad. Sweet pickle relish helps with this. But if you want more sweetness, you can add sugar to taste.
- In this recipe, you want the flavors of potato, mustard, and mayonnaise to dominate. You also want the taste and crunch of onion and celery, but their flavors should be understated (so less is more). The hard-boiled egg pieces add a nice creaminess.
- The techniques for this recipe are basically the same as those used in French Potato Salad So how does this dish differ from French Potato Salad? In this American version, you use mayonnaise instead of olive oil (while also adding eggs and sometimes other ingredients). In addition, I don’t recommend using wine or dry vermouth as you would in French Potato Salad; the flavoring just doesn’t work.
- This recipe calls for adding cider vinegar and additional liquid (like potato cooking water). Why? Because the warm potato slices will absorb it, and it will enhance their flavor.
- For the added liquid, I often use chicken or vegetable stock — it adds nice flavor. But use potato cooking water if you don’t have stock on hand. Why potato cooking water? Because you salted it well when cooking the potatoes, and some of the potato starch leeched out into the water — giving it a mild, pleasant flavor.
- This recipe specifies potato slices or cubes. Both work well, though I tend to prefer cubes for this dish.
- Which potato to use in this recipe? Any of the waxy potatoes we discussed in the Potato Salad Basics Recipe will work well, but for this recipe I favor Yukon Gold potatoes.
- Some mustard potato salad recipes call for cooked russet potatoes. They break up easier than waxy potatoes, which works for people who like a creamy potato salad. I like the firm little chunks of potatoes that waxy potatoes yield, but you may want to experiment.
- For serving, I’m usually a dump-it-in-the-bowl-and-dish-it-up kinda guy. But you may want a fancier presentation for a special occasion. If so, you can mound the potato salad into a bowl, smooth the top, and spread a thin coat of the mayonnaise and mustard mixture on it. You can then decorate it with hard-boiled egg slices, bacon pieces, pimento — or anything else edible that strikes you as decorative and colorful.
- You can also add pimento or bacon to the potato salad itself. Say, ¾ cup canned pimento cut into pieces, or 4 to 5 strips of bacon cut into small pieces and crisply sautéed. (But if you want to use bacon in potato salad, I would strongly suggest making German Potato Salad.)
Other Potato Salads
Mustard Potato Salad is a tangy, tasty dish, and one I learned to love when we lived in Florida. But if it’s not your favorite, I have plenty of other potato salad recipes to offer.
You might first want to take a look at Potato Salad Basics Recipe, where I discuss what I consider to be the best method of cooking potatoes for potato salad.
A version that almost everyone likes is the basic Mayonnaise Potato Salad, a/k/a American Potato Salad. If you need an easy way to hard-boil eggs for that recipe (or for Mustard Potato Salad), my post on Hard-Boiled Eggs is worth your time.
Want a jazzier potato salad? My recipe for German Potato Salad with Bacon is hard to beat. It can be served hot, warm, or cold — very versatile.
And if I could have only one potato salad? I’d choose French Potato Salad. This is also the potato salad that is used in Salade Niçoise, a classic summer dish.
So there are lots of potato salads to choose from. But at the moment, I’m liking Mustard Potato Salad the best — because I have leftovers in the refrigerator that are calling out to me.
Who can resist that siren song?
You may also enjoy reading about:
Potato Salad Basics
Mayonaise Potato Salad
German Potato Salad with Bacon
French Potato Salad
Creamy Cole Slaw
Barbecued Pork Steaks