We’ve been enjoying a summer full of salads here on the Five Beans Food blog. One of the salads I reach for regularly on any BBQ buffet table is the potato salad. A traditional favourite, there are many versions of this classic salad. These 3 versions of potato salad are my current favourites. They’re all quite different and each of them tasty for different reasons.
Cooking potatoes for a potato salad
The most important thing about making a potato salad is cooking the potatoes – not too hard, and not too mushy. Ever tried to eat into a crunchy potato salad made with potatoes that weren’t properly cooked? Not cool. Ever tried a potato salad where the overcooked potatoes turned to mush on your fork? Also not particularly appetising.
To avoid either end of this unappealing spectrum, you need to check your potatoes regularly as you cook them. Use a cake skewer or a kebab stick, or even a sharp knife, to test if your potatoes are just cooked through. Remove them from the heat promptly when done, drain and allow to cool.
Another trick to a successful potato salad is the size of your pieces of potato. There are no rules, you can create a delicious salad with all manner of shapes and sizes of potato pieces, but what I think does matter is keeping your pieces a similar size. This helps them cook evenly and it looks better in the salad.
Three fresh versions of the classic potato salad
This one with baby spinach leaves turned out to be the favourite in our house. Without the creaminess factor from mayonnaise or sour cream it’s a much lighter alternative to a traditional potato salad, and has just the right amount of tangy flavour from the red wine vinegar dressing.
1. Potato salad with baby spinach, feta & red onion
If you were looking for shortcuts for this salad, I have tried cooking the potatoes and then putting them in a bowl covered with water (to avoid discolouration) and starting the red onion marinating in the morning, leaving them both in the refrigerator all day. It then doesn’t take much to assemble the salad at dinner time when these steps are already done.
- ¼ to a ½ red onion
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 500g small, white fleshed potatoes
- A couple of big handfuls of baby spinach leaves
- 50g feta cheese, chopped into pieces
- 1 teaspoon each of fresh oregano and mint, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- A little salt to taste
Dice the red onion and place in a glass or ceramic container or bowl. Pour over the red wine vinegar and leave to marinate for as long as you like.
Wash the potatoes but do not peel (except to remove any knobbly bits)
Halve or quarter the potatoes. Cook in a saucepan of water on a gentle boil until just tender. Drain and allow to cool.
Wash and dry the baby spinach leaves and place in a serving bowl.
To make the dressing, add the ingredients to a small jar and shake to combine.
Add the potatoes to the baby spinach in the serving bowl. Pour over the dressing, most of the feta cheese and most of the red onion and stir to combine. Sprinkle the remaining feta cheese and remaining red onion over the top of the salad to serve. Top with extra fresh herbs if you like.
This potato salad is based on a recipe I have kept in my collection for many years and it has long been one of my favourites. The original is from a series of cooking demonstrations my Mum and I went to in the late 1980s. I made a few adjustments to that recipe, the most significant of which was leaving out the bacon and replacing it with fried red onion to make this a vegetarian salad. Trust me, you won’t miss the bacon. In fact, one of my girls asked me if the red onion was bacon – which makes me think it really is a suitable alternative for taste and texture.
- 1 kg red skinned potatoes
- 3 eggs
- ½ red onion
- A little oil, for frying
- ½ avocado
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- 1 teaspoon grainy mustard
Cook the eggs in boiling water for approx. 8 minutes or until hard boiled. Allow to cool, then place the cooked eggs in the refrigerator.
Wash the potatoes, but do not peel (except to remove any knobbly bits). Chop into evenly sized pieces. Place into a saucepan of water and cook on a gentle boil until just tender. Drain and allow to cool.
Dice the red onion. Heat a little oil in a small pan and cook the onion on a low to medium heat until fragrant and a little crispy. Place on a paper towel on a plate and allow to cool.
Peel the eggs and cut into quarters.
For the dressing: Place the avocado in a bowl and mash it with a fork. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
Place the potatoes and most of the red onion in a serving bowl, pour over the dressing and stir until the dressing coats all the potato pieces.
Add the hard boiled eggs and stir gently so as not to break up the egg pieces.
Sprinkle with the remaining red onion.
This one is quite simple. It’s really just potatoes, a creamy dressing and a few chopped herbs. However, using sweet potato makes it a little more interesting and possibly a little more nutritious.
The sweet potato takes longer to cook than potatoes, so either add it to the saucepan earlier than the white potatoes, or use a separate saucepan to cook it.
- 500g sweet potato
- 500g white potato
For the dressing:
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon grainy mustard
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- Salt, to taste
- 2 – 3 teaspoons mixed chopped green herbs, such as parsley, shallots and chives
Peel and chop the sweet potatoes and potatoes.
Add the sweet potato pieces to a saucepan of water and bring to the boil. Cook until just tender, then drain and allow to cool.
Either part way through the sweet potato cooking time, or in a separate saucepan of water, add the white potato pieces and cook until just tender. Drain and allow to cool.
Combine the dressing ingredients in a small jar or bowl.
Place the cooked sweet potato and white potato in a serving bowl, pour over the dressing and stir until the dressing coats all the potato pieces.
Sprinkle most of the chopped herbs over the salad and stir through to combine. Sprinkle the remaining herbs over the salad just before serving.
Hungry for more? Read this post here for 3 versions of another classic salad – coleslaw.