Different Types Of Potato Salad You Need To Try At Least Once

Go to any busy park on a sunny weekend afternoon, check out the offerings at all the picnic tables, and chances are, you'll spot multiple potato salads. If any of them look homemade, chat up the cook — and they're very likely to tell you everyone else makes theirs wrong. While nothing more than a dependably tasty and filling side dish for many of us, for others, potato salad is deeply personal: There's the right way to make it and then there are all the other ways.

We refuse to take sides in the potato salad wars. Taste is subjective, and the way we see it, whichever version of potato salad makes you happiest is the best one. But don't forget there are more versions than you may think. Not only do American cooks boast dozens of regional and newly invented variations, but cooks around the world have their own takes on the popular dish. So no matter how loyal you may be to your family's secret recipe, keep an open mind and give some of these varieties a try — you might just discover a new favorite.

Classic Southern potato salad

Any discussion of potato salad should start with a familiar baseline, and a classic Southern potato salad, or something much like it, is what most Americans expect when they see potato salad in a store or on a buffet. A nearly mandatory part of any picnic or potluck, a typical Southern potato salad features a balance of soft and crunchy textures, with diced celery and onion offering both brightness and a juicy crunch. The salad is bound with a creamy, tangy dressing that gets its punch from mustard and pickles (or pickle relish). And chopped hard-boiled eggs are another expected addition, adding even more richness to the dish.

It's worth noting, however, that there are almost as many versions of Southern potato salad as there are Southern cooks. While sweet pickles or pickle relish are popular flavorings, some versions veer toward the savory with dill pickles instead. And some adventurous cooks add non-traditional ingredients such as bacon, or even tomatoes. In short, a potato salad is Southern if a Southern cook says so.

Warm German potato salad

Potatoes are native to the Americas, but German diners were quick to embrace them. After they were first introduced to what is now Germany in 1630, they became such a coveted commodity that King Frederick II of Prussia stationed armed guards around his potato fields. Today, potatoes are thankfully available to all. With their passion for potatoes came proficiency in potato cookery, and German cooks developed recipes for everything from fried potatoes to potato dumplings to, of course, their own versions of potato salad.

While cold potato salads bound with mayonnaise and accented with pickles are popular in Germany (and maybe the ancestor of the potato salads familiar to most Americans), German cuisine boasts a hot potato salad as well. It's a tangy concoction of just-cooked potatoes tossed with a warm, sweet-and-sour vinaigrette and showered with bacon bits. It's a classic in its own right, a terrific match for grilled meats, and a great one to try if you're not fond of creamy salads.

Amish potato salad

Typical American potato salads fall into two basic categories: Those with sweet flavor profiles and purely savory ones. And if you're a fan of potato salads with sweet dressings, Amish potato salad needs to be on your must-try list. It has all the components of a typical American potato salad – celery, pickle relish, onions, hard-boiled eggs, and mayonnaise — but gets its distinctive sweet-tangy flavor from a touch of vinegar and a generous amount of sugar.

But while it may be romantic to imagine this salad being lovingly concocted by Amish housewives to feed their families after a long day of farming, it's not clear if this salad actually has its roots in the Amish community. The version best known to Amish potato salad fans is that sold at Walmart, and indeed, many recipes for it explicitly name-check Wal-Mart as their inspiration. So if you're craving a potato salad with an extra dose of sweetness, you know where to go.

Salad Olivier

Some dishes are so compelling that cooks from around the world eagerly adopt them and claim them as their own. Among these is Salad Olivier (also known as Russian potato salad), a supercharged salad featuring cooked diced carrots, peas, and meats such as ham or chicken along with potatoes, mayo, and pickles. Invented by French chef Lucien Olivier at his Moscow restaurant L'Hermitage, it was originally a gourmet treat featuring ingredients such as caviar and crayfish tails.

But it was the more proletarian version with simple vegetables and diced meat that enticed cooks and diners around the world. It became popular in Iran in the 1960s and 1970s, where, known as Salad Olivieh, it became a must-have banquet dish (a squeeze of lemon juice seems to distinguish the Persian version from the Russian original). The recipe also traveled across the Atlantic to the Dominican Republic, where it became known as ensalada rusa (Russian salad), picked up a few local touches such as corn and beets, and became a popular holiday dish. You can also find versions of it in tapas bars in Spain and a version with pineapple in the Philippines. So look around hard enough, and you'll find a version of this colorful, almost-a-meal-in-itself potato salad waiting for you to try.

Causa (Peruvian mashed potato salad)

Potato salad has any number of commendable qualities, but elegance is rarely one of them. Most potato salads, delicious as they may be, are drab, humble-looking masses of chopped stuff covered with sauce — not exactly food porn. A conspicuous exception to this is causa, a layered potato salad from Peru, which features molded layers of chilled, chile-infused mashed potatoes surrounding layers of flavorful filling that can feature anything from chicken to crab to vegetables.

It's not only a flavorful dish, but a pretty one — the potato layers, flavored with Peruvian aji Amarillo peppers, are bright gold and contrast nicely with the pale, chunky filling. But it has humble origins: It was originally developed during Peru's war with Chile in 1879. Food was hard to come by, and women supporting the soldiers had to scrounge for provisions to feed themselves and the troops. But potatoes, which are native to Peru, were available, and causa was invented out of necessity. And its name (Spanish for "cause") is a reminder of the patriotic roots of the dish. But today's causa is closer to banquet fare than survival rations — and a dressy, unusual take on potato salad well worth trying.

Kimchi potato salad

A key ingredient in any potato salad is something sharp and tangy. In typical traditional potato salads, chopped pickles, pickle relish, or in some cases, vinegar, can play the all-important role of adding brightness to the dish. But there's no reason other sharp, tangy foods can't play the same role.

With the rising popularity of Korean food and culture, it was only a matter of time before cooks realized that kimchi (Korean-style spicy pickled cabbage) would be a great addition to a potato salad. And while a version of potato salad has emerged as a popular side dish in Korean restaurants, it doesn't contain kimchi – it's a mild, mayonnaise-based salad with bits of chopped cucumber (and sometimes apple) blended in. Instead, most recipes for kimchi potato salad seem to come from North American cooks. And if you like your potato salad on the savory side and enjoy spicy foods, this powerfully flavored cross-cultural creation will be right up your alley.

Italian-style potato salad

If someone tells you they don't like potato salad, it's because they haven't tried the right one yet. The world of potato salads is way more varied than most people think, and not all are dense bowls of diced potatoes bound with mayo and pickles. Even if you have a lifelong hatred of mayo and/or pickles, there are still numerous varieties of potato salad out there you may well come to love.

Consider, for instance, Italian potato salad. Completely mayonnaise- and pickle-free, it's a colorful blend of halved tiny potatoes, cherry tomatoes, and lightly cooked green beans tossed in a tangy, garlicky vinaigrette flecked with fresh herbs (and there's no reason you can't include other summery vegetables, as well). This pretty and refreshing salad makes an eye-catching addition to any buffet and can make a satisfying lunch on its own or topped with a jammy egg. So if creamy potato salads (or creamy salads in general) aren't your thing, give this one a try — it might make you change your mind about potato salad.

Bombay potato salad

The gentle flavor of potatoes makes them such a versatile backdrop for other ingredients that they can take on almost any flavor profile imaginable. This is probably why they've become a beloved staple around the world — they can be seasoned to suit any palate, and the world's cuisines now boast a dizzying array of potato preparations.

Cooks in India, for example, made potatoes their own by infusing them with their signature local spice blends. In one preparation, for example, chunks of potato are boiled, then sauteed in a mix of seasonings that can include cumin, turmeric, mustard seed, and coriander, which give the naturally mild-mannered potatoes a welcome boost of brightness and spice. This preparation, with the addition of a shower of fresh herbs and a few shards of raw onion, can also be adapted into an attractive and different potato salad, just as good at room temperature as it is hot. If you find typical potato salads bland and boring, this one will be a refreshing change of pace.

Potato salad with beets

For those of us who eat with our eyes, it can be hard to get excited about potato salad. Flavorful as it may be, most of it is pretty unimpressive to look at. Part of the problem is its creamy color just blends into the background — no matter what goodies may be hidden inside, all you see is a vast expanse of off-white stuff. Its inoffensively boring look may make typical potato salad an easy sell to children and timid eaters — but those yearning for a bit more visual excitement may be left wanting.

If you're among those seeking a bit of visual drama with your potato salad, you need to check out potato salad with beets. The beets not only add earthy sweetness and textural contrast but turn the salad from boring white to Barbie pink — no one will be able to miss it on a buffet or potluck table. Versions of potato salad with beets are found around the world, from Panama to Finland (where it comes with bits of diced apple) to Haiti. While the flavorings and choice of other added vegetables (or fruit) may vary, all have a festive pink hue — which may be why they're favorite dishes for Christmas and other celebrations.

Sour cream and onion potato salad

Sour cream and onions are a classic topping for baked potatoes and as a dip flavor for potato chips. And since both sour cream and onions are already common ingredients in potato salads, there is no reason why they have to be relegated to bit player roles. Sour cream and onion potato salad lets them enjoy a turn as star players, creating a salad that looks ordinary but boasts a surprising flavor profile that will be irresistible to those who can't stay away from the chips and dip at parties — deeply savory with onions and perhaps a bit of garlic, rather than tangy from pickles.

What's cool about this version is how it shows that just tweaking the proportions of a few ingredients can be enough to transform a familiar dish into something completely different. Yet, the flavors will be familiar enough not to upset traditional potato salad loyalists. And like any good potato salad, sour cream and onion potato salad offers a bit of crunch to contrast with the creamy potatoes — in this case, from a topping of crushed potato chips.

Potato and herring salad

If you love potato salad, at some point you might have been tempted to make a meal of it. Instead, you played by the rules and restricted yourself to a socially acceptable side-dish portion while filling up on other, less desirable foodstuffs. But some potato salads are indeed substantial enough to be a light meal on their own — and among these is potato salad with herring, versions of which are served and celebrated across Europe.

Depending on where you travel, you'll encounter versions with different dressings and types of herring. A version popular in Austria is a tangy main-dish salad featuring pickled herring and punchy flavorings including chopped pickles and capers bound with a creamy sour-cream-based dressing. While it would make a great, just-filling-enough summer picnic lunch, it's traditionally served in the winter, during Lent. In France, you'll find a lighter version of the salad featuring lightly smoked herring dressed with a bit of lemon juice and olive oil.

Creole potato salad

Louisiana's Cajun and Creole cooks have a well-earned reputation for being a bit extra. The state's heady mix of French, Spanish, Black, and Caribbean food traditions, combined with the state's natural bounty of seafood and game, resulted in a repertoire of deeply flavorful dishes that draw in hungry visitors from around the world. Even the state's version of potato salad — Creole potato salad — packs a punch of flavor you won't find in a typical supermarket tub.

What makes Creole potato salad distinctive is its use of Creole mustard, a grainy mustard with added seasonings such as garlic, cayenne, paprika, and thyme. Besides the usual potato salad ingredients — potatoes, celery, and onion — it can also include flavorful ingredients such as Worcestershire sauce, diced pepper, and olives. Some versions include added spices, such as store-bought Creole spice mixes, while others include ingredients such as ketchup and horseradish to add extra tang and color. There are many variations to be found, but all have one thing in common: They aim to be anything but bland and boring.

Japanese-style potato salad

Just as American cooks have put their own spin on traditional Japanese dishes (California roll, anyone?), Japanese cooks have enthusiastically adopted Western dishes, tweaking the seasonings and presentation to suit local tastes. This tradition of cultural borrowing in Japan is so entrenched there's even a term, yōshoku, that refers to Japanese-style Western food. Among the dishes embraced by Japanese cooks is potato salad.

At first glance, Japanese-style potato salad looks like standard American supermarket stuff, except a bit mushier (the potatoes are lightly crushed, rather than cut into cubes or chunks). It also features mayonnaise, hard-boiled eggs, and a bit of onion. However, it uses Japanese-style mayonnaise, which is richer and a bit sweeter than typical American mayo, along with a bit of rice vinegar for tanginess. Finely diced cucumber and thin slivers of raw carrot add crunch, flavor, and a bit of color, for a delicately different potato salad.