15 Tips From Celebrity Chefs To Make The Ultimate Potato Salad

Celebrity chefs and potato salad
Celebrity chefs and potato salad - Static Media / Shutterstock / Getty

Potato salad, a classic in the realm of picnics, barbecues, and more, holds a special place in our gastronomic landscape, transcending generations and cultures with its timeless appeal. This humble yet versatile dish is a testament to the ingenuity of simple ingredients transformed into a powerhouse of flavors and textures. Since this dish is, indeed, so simple, it's quite possible that it originated in various parts of the world at the same time, independently of others like it. But the potato salad we know and love in America is most likely a descendant of a German recipe that evolved over the centuries, adapting to regional preferences and culinary traditions. Its basic components -- potatoes, mayonnaise, and various seasonings -- serve as a canvas for endless creativity, inviting experimentation and personalization. From creamy types enriched with mustard and herbs to tangy renditions enhanced by vinegar and pickles, each recipe reflects the unique tastes and preferences of its creator.

Beyond its role as a beloved side dish, potato salad has also made its mark on culinary innovation, inspiring chefs to elevate its humble roots into gourmet masterpieces. Modern interpretations feature unconventional ingredients and avant-garde techniques, pushing the boundaries of tradition while honoring its timeless appeal. These are the types of potato salad we want to delve into today, taking inspiration from celebrity chefs to learn how best to elevate our own potato side dishes.

Read more: Ina Garten's 12 Best Cleaning Tips For A Mess-Free Kitchen

Make The Potatoes Crunch — Giada De Laurentiis

Giada De Laurentiis smiling into camera
Giada De Laurentiis smiling into camera - Amy Sussman/Getty Images

The typical picnic potato salad seems to be comprised of a mound of soft, fluffy potatoes. This is all well and good, but Italian American chef and TV show host Giada De Laurentiis has a tip for changing up this potato salad texture element without straying from the joys and comforts of a good old American classic. The trick is to make the salad crunchy by crisping the potatoes in the oven instead of just boiling them.

De Laurentiis also switches up the flavor element. Instead of slathering the potatoes in mayonnaise, which may or may not be your thing, she uses a light Champagne vinegar complemented with orange juice, orange zest, and olive oil. Additional orange wedges are added to the mix to create a fresh and bright acidity, which is perfectly counterbalanced with the powerful gorgonzola and chopped walnuts, which contribute the fat element to the dish. If you're wary of using such a strong blue cheese, try it out in small amounts to start with. You might be surprised at how well it works.

Season The Potatoes Immediately — Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver smiling
Jamie Oliver smiling - James D. Morgan/Getty Images

Since potatoes are, unsurprisingly, the most prominent feature of potato salads, it's important to give them a lot of care and attention at the preparation stage. To that, renowned British chef Jamie Oliver seasons his potatoes generously, specifically by salting the cubed, boiled potatoes as soon as you strain them. This step should not be skipped, primarily because of the composition of starchy potatoes, which are ideal for potato salads, but they also taste somewhat neutral. Since they need a lot of help in the flavor enhancement department, salt works best. And this step is in addition to salting the water in which you boil the potatoes.

To finish off your potato salad a la Oliver, there are a number of recipes you can follow, but whichever one you go for, you'll need to top the potatoes with extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and plenty of salt and pepper while they're still warm. Cold potatoes are less receptive to the infusion of flavors from these ingredients. As he said in his YouTube video, "Often when you flavor things when they're cold, it just sits on the outside." So hurry up and take care of those potatoes before it's too late.

Add Pickling Liquid — Bobby Flay

Bobby Flay smiling
Bobby Flay smiling - Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images

A hint of acidity is a welcome addition to potato salads. This is why many recipes call for some form of vinegar or tangy mustard. But American food writer and restauranteur Bobby Flay has a trick up his sleeve when it comes to acidity, and that involves pickling liquid. If you have leftover pickling juice from a jar of capers or pickled cucumbers, adding that to your potato salad is certainly not going to hurt it, but Flay has another pickled vegetable in mind, one that adds both tang and bite.

Indeed, Flay is a big fan of pickled red onions, which he uses in many of his dishes, including his Texas potato salad. For best results, prepare the pickled red onions the night before you plan on making your potato salad, as Flay does. This will give them enough time to soften and mellow. Be sure to use the proper ingredients for this process -- Flay uses red wine vinegar, mustard seeds, salt, and sugar -- as you'll need the liquid as well as the onions themselves to complete the salad. Once your onions are ready, stir some of that liquid into the vinaigrette base for the potato salad, which will help offset the heft of the mayonnaise and mustard, producing a more lively taste and a more even coating for the potatoes.

Spice It Up With Peppers — Rachael Ray

Rachael Ray smiling
Rachael Ray smiling - Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images

Classic American comfort foods don't tend to be all that spicy, but that doesn't mean you can't add that zing of heat if you're so inclined. That's what American food personality Rachael Ray does with her potato salad, which she makes with several varieties of peppers, from red bell peppers to hot and heavy jalapeños. While the red pepper won't add spice, it will give an otherwise bland-looking salad a pop of color.

Meanwhile, whichever types of spicy peppers you plan to use will give the salad a nice bite. Jarred or canned peppers would be preferable because then you can also use their juices to spice up the potato salad vinaigrette. This last step will ensure the spiciness is evenly distributed through the dressing instead of just appearing in random bites. The fun part of this trick is that you can also play around with a wide range of peppers, spicy and non.

Include A Touch Of Acidity — Sunny Anderson

Sunny Anderson with mouth open
Sunny Anderson with mouth open - Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

The benefits of undercutting the softness of the potatoes and the fat content of the mayo in potato salad have been widely discussed. But it's not always clear how best to do that. In American food show host Sunny Anderson's case, it's a multi-step process.

First, she roasts her potatoes, which improves their texture and helps bring out the flavor. This also guards against overcooking the potatoes into mush, which can happen more easily with boiling than with roasting. Second, she adds ultra-crispy bacon, which brings added fat, saltiness, and crunch, all in one ingredient. Third, she spices it up with chipotle peppers in adobo sauce for a tad of heat. But the most important step of all, the one that brings all of these flavors and textures beautifully together, is the making of the dressing, which needs to be balanced above all else. In particular, there needs to be an element of acidity to complement the mayonnaise, which Anderson includes in the form of stone-ground mustard and a splash of apple cider vinegar.

Save The Potato Water — Ina Garten

Ina Garten smiling
Ina Garten smiling - Manny Carabel/Getty Images

You may already know about the pasta sauce trick, where you save some of the pasta water to put in your sauce. This thins it out without dampening its flavor. Well, the same thing can be done with potato water and potato salad dressing, at least according to Food Network star Ina Garten. It contributes to the creaminess of the sauce and is a trick Garten picked up from culinary legend Julia Child.

And the best part of this hack is that you can perform it with pretty much any potato salad, including your tried and true family recipe. The only difference is that after you boil your potatoes, you'll have to set aside some of the starchy cooking water before you drain them. Then, use this yield to bulk up your potato salad vinaigrette or mayonnaise dressing. Just be sure not to add too much -- you don't want to thin out the sauce completely.

Smash It Up — Emeril Lagasse

Emeril Lagasse half smiling
Emeril Lagasse half smiling - Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images

If you keep making the error of overcooking your potatoes for potato salads, resulting in mushy cubes and an even mushier salad, maybe it's time to lean into this mistake and look to American cookbook author and restauranteur Emeril Lagasse for guidance. Indeed, you can still make a delicious potato salad even if you can't seem to get the potato consistency right -- it'll just end up being a smashed potato salad. It's a different beast altogether, but when done right, it can be just as tasty.

You'll need to boil the potatoes as usual, but once they're cooked through, you'll mash them into a pulp. At this point, it's time to stir in minced onions, chopped hard-boiled eggs, and minced garlic. Combine it with a mixture of brown sugar, mustard, and mayonnaise. Then, a seasoning of Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, lemon juice, and salt and pepper will seep into your potatoes and do the trick. Serve it cold with your choice of protein.

Thoroughly Coat The Potatoes In Dressing — Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart slightly smiling
Martha Stewart slightly smiling - Bloomberg/Getty Images

An unevenly coated potato salad is a disappointing experience. No matter how good the potatoes or the dressing, if you get bites that don't contain any flavor and others that are overwhelmed with gooey sauce, you won't enjoy it to its fullest. Hence, American cookbook author and TV personality Martha Stewart recommends always making sure the potatoes are properly coated.

To pull off this tip Stewart-style, start by steaming red potatoes, which will lend a sweet flavor and creamy texture to the recipe. Peel the potatoes after they're cooked -- peeling them before might allow too much water to enter, diluting the potatoes' flavor. The next step is to toss the sliced potatoes in white vinegar while they're still warm, allowing the tanginess to evenly seep into every inch of every slice. Now, the potato salad is ready for its dressing, which Stewart prepares with mayonnaise, buttermilk, and cornichons. The trick to thoroughly coat the potatoes is to avoid stirring the dressing directly into the salad. Instead, pour the dressing on, then tip everything into another bowl, and continue to repeat until the coating is complete. This technique is more gentle than stirring, so you can keep going without causing the potatoes to fall apart.

Booze It Up With Wine — Ina Garten

Glass of white wine being poured
Glass of white wine being poured - Liudmila Chernetska/Getty Images

Ina Garten has been known to enjoy a good cocktail or two, but she also likes to add some booze to her potato salad, and for good reason. Garten's French potato salad is packed with bright, fresh flavors -- a result that is due in part to her trick of adding a few tablespoons of white wine to her potatoes along with some chicken broth before any other ingredients are added. And be sure to do so when the potatoes are still hot, right after they're cooked. This is the moment in which they are most prone to absorbing the liquids.

The rest of the salad preparation is as simple as you'd expect. Just make a light vinaigrette with Champagne vinegar, Dijon mustard, scallions, and herbs, and toss the potatoes in it. But the key step here will always be the addition of the white wine, so be sure to select a dry, crisp wine. Although the amount used is too slight to give it an alcoholic flavor, the taste of the wine itself will make a difference.

Use Red Potatoes — Ree Drummond

Ree Drummond smiling
Ree Drummond smiling - Monica Schipper/Getty Images

All too often, potato salads look plain and drab on account of their neutral tones. This won't happen if you use red potatoes, as American food writer Ree Drummond suggests. As a bonus, you'll also get a potato salad with a distinct flavor, especially if you follow her red potato salad recipe, which involves boiling them, letting them cool, and coating them in a mixture of mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, sour cream, and seasoning. The last step is to add crunch celery with some dill and crispy bacon.

This combination would work well with most potato varieties, but it is especially good with red potatoes, which provide a firm texture without being too toothy. You also won't have to do the extra work of peeling them or cutting them, as the skin is quite thin and nice to look at, and the potatoes are already bite-sized. Serve cold with your favorite barbecue meats.

Elevate It With Caviar And Lobster — Gordon Ramsay

Gordon Ramsay smirking
Gordon Ramsay smirking - Leon Bennett/Getty Images

Potatoes may be one of the cheapest and most easily accessible ingredients known to our society, which is why caviar or lobster may seem like the last ingredients you'd think of when considering what to add to your next potato salad. Yet, British TV personality Gordon Ramsay has the perfect potato salad recipe to showcase the high and low.

The benefit of this particular recipe is that it doesn't even require the finest beluga caviar, which is overfished and causing the endangerment of the species. Instead, he found a worthy replacement in Spain. The ingredient is still caviar, begotten by a sustainable sturgeon farm. Once you have this ingredient on hand, all you have to do is cook the lobster with fennel, coriander, star anise, bay leaf, lemon, and lime, parboil the potatoes, and make your own mayonnaise on the spot, with truffle oil, of course. Saute the potatoes and lobster as a final touch before adding the caviar and mayonnaise.

Balance Out The Fat — Alton Brown

Alton Brown resting chin on hand
Alton Brown resting chin on hand - Noam Galai/Getty Images

Some potato salads are served warm, while others are best enjoyed cold. American food show presenter Alton Brown's version is good both hot and cold, depending on your preference or the weather. Indeed, the important part is not the temperature of the potatoes but the balance between the fat content (provided by the mayonnaise) and the acidic element (seen here in the form of apple cider vinegar and mustard).

To make this, boil the potatoes and immediately place them in an ice bath once they're cooked through -- this will help you remove the skin more easily. While you may choose to peel the skin before boiling the potatoes, know that this can waterlog them, causing the flavor to dissipate. Brown also has a handy tip for evenly coating the potatoes with vinegar: Once they're sliced and diced, drop them in a resealable bag with the liquid and shake away. Refrigerate overnight to ensure the acid really gets in there, then coat it with your mayonnaise dressing.

Fry The Potatoes In Fat — Guy Fieri

Guy Fieri smiling
Guy Fieri smiling - Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images

You can never go wrong when you pair potatoes with fat. The rich, buttery texture seems to enhance their flavor to extraordinary heights, which is probably why french fries and potato chips are so popular. But why stop at those? American restauranteur and award-winning TV host Guy Fieri uses fat to make the ultimate potato salad.

Start by boiling the potatoes until they're about three-quarters of the way done. Be sure to fully drain them at this point, as they must be dry before you start to fry them in bacon fat. If you haven't been able to render enough fat by cooking your bacon, you can always extend it with a bit of vegetable oil. Once the potatoes are frying, you're nearly done. Just add some capers and roughly chopped red onions and deglaze the pan with red wine vinegar as the potatoes continue to cook. Finish them off with some Dijon mustard and bits of crispy cooked bacon.

Don't Weigh Down The Dressing — Giada De Laurentiis And Bobby Flay

Giada de Laurentiis and Bobby Flay smiling together
Giada de Laurentiis and Bobby Flay smiling together - Robin Marchant/Getty Images

Between their culinary prowess, popularity, and shared love for Italian food, Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis seem to pair up quite often. It should be no surprise that they both have the same secret weapon for making the ideal potato salad, which in both cases involves ditching the mayonnaise and replacing it with something lighter and fresher.

De Laurentiis, for example, uses olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and thyme dressing for her classic potato salad. On the other hand, Flay mixes Dijon mustard, olive oil, and apple cider vinegar to make a simple vinaigrette. Although each potato salad recipe differs from the other after that, the absence of the mayo is notable in both cases. Both of these are perfect potato salad dressing options if you're making the dish for someone who doesn't like the ubiquitous white condiment.

Top It With Pickle Salad — Jamie Oliver

Jars of pickles
Jars of pickles - Vlad Ispas/Shutterstock

Jamie Oliver's version of a potato salad, or one of them, is to create a twofer that is at once potato salad and pickle salad. He makes it by taking new potatoes, parboiling them, and roasting them in the oven with garlic, seasoning, lemon zest, rosemary, and a scattering of flour to create a crispy exterior -- be sure to mash them flat halfway through cooking, as Oliver does, to increase the surface area exposed to the heat.

While the potatoes cook, make your own pickle salad on the fly and plate it on top of the potatoes when they're done and still hot. Mix everything together before serving, and top it with crumbled feta and lemon juice to taste. The combination works especially well with new potatoes, which have a lighter and more delicate texture and flavor compared to the typical varieties used in potato salads.

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