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Southern Potato Salad

Follow our step-by-step, photo illustrated recipe to make this Southern Style Potato Salad, just like my Mama always made. Potato Salad is a great side dish to any meal. Perfect for church dinners, picnics, and so much more. Printable recipe included.

Potato Salad, slider.

Southern Potato Salad

Potato Salad recipe, cousins

Meet my cousins: Carolyn and Agnes.

Before I even get started in this recipe for Potato Salad, I’d like to introduce you to two of my favorite cousins. That’s Carolyn in the back, and her older sister Agnes in the front of the photo above.

Age wise, I’m somewhere in between these two. We played together as youngsters, and going to their house was one of my favorite places. They had two brothers around my age, and getting together with them was always an adventure.

Carolyn and I seem to always be competing against each other in the “Dessert” category at the Cousins Reunions we have once a year. I might have defeated her a time or two, but she has done the same to me. She makes some really awesome cakes.

For many years, I’ve always enjoyed the Potato Salad that Agnes brings to our Reunions. To me, hers is the most like what Mama always made, and I can’t help but dig into the big bowls that she always prepares.

At our Cousins Reunion last year, (2016) I finally cornered Agnes and asked her to tell me how she made the Potato Salad that always brings back great memories for me. I’d been wanting to ask for sometime, but just never got one of those “around to it” moments to ask her.

I pulled out my cellphone, turned on the voice recorder, and had her go through it step-by-step. She didn’t have measurements of course, so I had to come up with those on my own.

Like so many other dishes, Potato Salad is one of those dishes that determines just how good of a “Southern Cook” you really are. Naturally, I always thought Mama’s was the best.

When the big Family Reunion decided to publish a family cookbook of recipes back in 1999, Potato Salad like this wasn’t included.

All the “sisters” from my moms side of the family, knew how to make it, and I guess they just never considered that it was one of the recipes that needed to be included in the cookbook. That’s so sad to me, because we have lost a lot of good old recipes that way.

As mentioned, I always thought Mama made the best potato salad. I just never tried to make it while she was still with us, and I regret that to this day. Her homemade spaghetti recipe still eludes me.

Sunday dinner with all the family gathered around that big oval table almost always had a large bowl of Mama’s homemade Potato Salad. Of course, to me, what made hers special was her homemade sweet pickles that she always would put in it. There was just something special about her pickles.

I do hope you’ll give it a try, and of course, I do hope you like it as much as I do.

I think Agnes makes about 10 pounds at a time for the Cousins Reunion each year. I’ve made five pounds in the recipe below. You could easily half that, but why would you want to? Potato Salad needs to be made in large batches because you intend to share it with lots of people. It’s just that good.

So, if you’re ready to give one of our family favorites a try, let’s get in the kitchen, boil some water, and… Let’s Get Cooking!

Potato Salad, you'll need these ingredients.

Southern Style Potato Salad Recipe:  You’ll need these ingredients.

Potato Salad, start by rinsing off the potatoes.

Rinse the potatoes under cold running water.

I like to always wash my vegetables before using them. Yes, we’re going to peel them and discard the peelings, but I just feel better knowing I’ve rinsed the dirt and anything else off of them first. It’s a personal thing I reckon. Smile.

Potato Salad, peel the potatoes.

Peel the potatoes.

I’ve never enjoyed peeling potatoes for some reason. Whether you use a paring knife or a potato peeler, just be careful.

Potato Salad, cut into cubes.

Cut them into cubes or chunks about 3/4 of a inch in size.

Mama always held the potatoes in her hands as she sliced them. She’d end up cutting them into all different shapes by the time she was finished. If you need, or prefer to, just lay them on a cutting board and cut them up that way. Either way will work just as well.

You DO want to be consistent with the size of the pieces. Keeping them all close to the same size will help them cook more evenly. Really small pieces will break up and become mashed potatoes whether you want them to or not, so go for larger, but even sized pieces.

Potato Salad, boil some water.

Place a large sauce pot, filled about 3/4ths full with water, on your stove top. Turn the heat to about Medium-High and bring the water to a low boil.

Add about 1/2 Tablespoon of Salt to the water.

Potato Salad, add the potatoes.

When the water starts to boil, carefully add all of the potatoes.

I had to scoop out some of the water once I added the potatoes, the pot almost ran over.

Potato Salad, simmer until tender.

Simmer the potatoes just to the point of where they are tender.

Okay, this is the only tricky part. You want the potatoes to reach just the point to where they are tender, but not falling apart.  If they get too soft, you’ll end up making mashed potatoes. If they don’t cook long enough, you’ll be biting into hard, raw tasting bits of potatoes.

You really should be tasting the larger chunks of potatoes after a few minutes. See if you can taste the salt in them, if not, add a little more salt. This is the time the salt will absorb best into the potatoes for added flavor.

If you’ll taste some of the larger pieces for softness, then the smaller pieces will take care of themselves. When you think the larger pieces need “about one or two more minutes,” take them up. They will continue to cook after you drain them.

It may take you a few times, but get this part right, and you’ll be on the track to making some great potato salad.

Potato Salad, drain.

Empty your potatoes into a colander, and let them drain.

Potato Salad, rinse to cool the potatoes.

I like to let cold running water flow gently over the potatoes to help stop the cooking process even quicker.

Potato Salad, refrigerate.

Place the drained potatoes in a large mixing bowl. Place the uncovered bowl in your refrigerator to cool down while you prep the other vegetables.

Potato Salad, dice the bell peppers.

Dice the bell peppers into small pieces.

Potato Salad, dice the onions.

Dice the onions.

Potato Salad, chop the hard boiled eggs.

Chop the hard boiled eggs.

I didn’t mention anything above about the eggs. I had already boiled these and peeled them the day before. Boiled and peeled eggs will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week, so this is one step you can do ahead of time if desired.

Potato Salad, add the bell peppers.

Once the potatoes have cooled, add the bell peppers.

Potato Salad, add the onions.

Add the onions.

I ended up not using all the onions I had prepared. I thought it might be a little too much, and knew that I could easily add them later if I decided to do so.

Potato Salad, add the eggs.

Add the chopped eggs.

Potato Salad, add the sweet relish.

Add the sweet relish.

I’m using some of my homemade pickles. I cut them up, but probably should have chopped them a bit more before adding them. I also added some of the sweet pickle juice. Makes it even better.

Potato Salad, add the mustard.

Add the yellow mustard.

Potato Salad, add the sugar.

Add the sugar.

Potato Salad, add the salt.

Add the salt.

Potato Salad, add the black pepper.

Add the black pepper.

As with all the flavors we’re adding, it’s best to start out small and then add more once you have mixed everything together well. It’s much easier to add more salt or pepper, than it is to try to cover up or remove too much.

You’ll want to make this YOUR recipe. Follow the basics, then adjust the flavors to suit your own tastes.

Potato Salad,

Add the mayonnaise.

Potato Salad, fold the ingredients together gently.

Grab a large spoon, and dip down to the bottom of the bowl. Bring the mixture up and fold the ingredients together gently. If you get too ambitious here, you’ll end up smashing the potatoes and end up with mashed potatoes instead of potato salad.

Potato Salad, taste and adjust flavors as needed.

Taste the potato salad at this point.

When you’ve got it mixed, taste the potato salad and add more salt, mustard, relish, mayo or anything else you think it might need. Again, make it your own.

Cover the bowl and place it back in the refrigerator for at least an hour, if possible, to let the flavors meld together.

Potato Salad, serve it up.

Big bowls of Potato Salad like this were common at Mama’s table. She’d make it almost every Sunday for dinner for the family and friends. By the way, this is only a part of what this recipe made. Just saying.

Any church function, dinner on the grounds, family reunion or picnic seemed to always include big bowls of potato salad. It’s one of my favorite dishes, and one of my fondest food memories.

Potato Salad, enjoy.


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