An Authentic German Potato Salad: The Real Deal

Whenever our family gathers together for a cookout, a large bowl of potato salad is one thing that is always on the table.

Oblique view of German potato salad in a white, porcelain bowl.

It is a typical German side dish and although it has no peak season, it is a perfect choice for your summer BBQ because it goes great with every kind of sausage, steaks, ribs, or grilled vegetables.

This typical German side dish is a perfect choice for your summer BBQ, family get-together, or Oktoberfest celebration. It goes so well with every kind of sausages, steaks, ribs, or grilled vegetables. https://foodal.com/recipes/sides/german-potato-salad/

My favorite version will always be my grandmother’s, which she used to make at any given opportunity. And this was year round, not exclusively during the summertime.

Throughout my childhood, New Year’s Eve was always one of those occasions when she prepared a large bowlful for the whole family.

Bowl of Potato Salad with Pile of Potatoes | Foodal.com

Paired with a few weenies and some hot mustard, Grandmother’s potato salad became one of the family’s most beloved dishes.

Of course, you can find countless variations of this classic side dish.

The recipes can usually be distinguished on the basis of their sauce. While some salads require mayonnaise, other varieties call for oil and vinegar.

Unfortunately, I do not have my grandmother’s exact recipe. But this one is very close to it.

Close up of white porcelain bowl full of German potato salad garnished with parsley with raw potatoes in the background.

The mayonnaise is mixed with some plain yogurt, so that the dressing is not too heavy. The gherkin juice provides a tangy flavor, and some fresh herbs top it all off.

Here’s a tip: To make slicing them even easier, I prefer to cook the potatoes a day in advance. The best thing about this is that completely cooled potatoes will not get mushy when you mix them with the sauce.

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Close up of white porcelain bowl full of German potato salad garnished with parsley with raw potatoes in the background.

Classic German Potato Salad


  • Author: Nina-Kristin Isensee
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 12 servings
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: German

Description

This typical German side dish is a perfect choice for your summer BBQ. It goes so well with every kind of sausages, steaks, ribs, or grilled vegetables!


Ingredients

  • 2 lbs waxy potatoes
  • 4 pickled gherkins (plus some of their juice)
  • 3 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • handful fresh chives
  • handful fresh parsley
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)

Instructions

  1. Boil the potatoes in their skins until fork tender and allow them to cool completely, preferably overnight.
  2. Peel the potatoes and cut into slices. Set aside.
  3. Slice or dice the gherkins. Set aside.
  4. Mince the chives and parsley. Set aside.
  5. To make the dressing, mix the mayonnaise with the yogurt, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in a little gherkin juice to create a creamy consistency.
  6. Place the sliced potatoes and gherkins in a large bowl and fold in the dressing to coat. Garnish with parsley and chives, and refrigerate for a few hours before serving, to allow the flavors to meld.

Keywords: German, potato salad, Oktoberfest

Cooking by the Numbers…

Step 1 – Prepare the Potatoes

First, scrub your potatoes well with a vegetable brush and place them in a pot with water to cover, by about an inch. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat.

Reduce the heat to a simmer, and continue to cook for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Slice perfectly boiled potatoes to make this authentic German-style potato salad: https://foodal.com/recipes/sides/german-potato-salad/

After you’ve boiled your potatoes in the skins until they are fork tender (you can also test with a pointy paring knife – if it sinks into the flesh easily, they’re ready to go) allow them to cool on the counter to room temperature, then chill completely in the refrigerator.

Once the potatoes are cool, the skins should peel off easily. Slice into rounds and set aside in a large mixing bowl.

Step 2 – Slice the Pickles

You can dice them if you prefer, but I prefer to slice my gherkins into chips that mirror the shape of the potatoes. Don’t put that jar away just yet – you’ll need a little bit of the juice for your dressing.

You can place your sliced pickles in the bowl with your potatoes.

Sweet gherkin pickles on top of a wooden cutting board.

Step 3 – Prep Your Garnish

Remove the stems from the parsley, and chop about a handful of chives and parsley to garnish your salad. Set this aside until you’re ready to serve.

Dill would also make a nice addition to this salad, in place of the parsley. It pairs well with the pickles.

Step 4 – Make the Dressing

Combine the mayonnaise with the yogurt, and add a few splashes of gherkin juice (about 2-3 tablespoons). Add this gradually, since it’s easier to add more than it is to take away if you’ve added too much!

Close up of dressing being poured on top boiled and drained potatoes and sliced sweet gherkin pickles.

You want your dressing to maintain a thick, creamy consistency, and adding too much juice will result in a sauce that’s runny.

Add salt and pepper to taste, and stir to combine completely.

As an alternative to garnishing with the herbs, you could also choose to add them to your dressing.

Close up of a bowl of German Potato Salad with parsley sprinkled on top.

Step 5 – Mix and Chill

Pour the dressing over your sliced potatoes and pickles, and fold it in with a rubber spatula until the vegetables are completely coated.

Chill for a few hours before serving, garnished with a sprinkling of fresh herbs.

Oblique view of German Potato Salad on a square, white porcelain plate with sweet gherkins.

Want something truly and especially German to pair with your newly made potato salad? Try out this equally German baked onion tart recipe. Onion’s flavors are a perfect match for this dish’s fantastic flavors.

If your stomach is growling for a more American version, try out this bacon-loaded potato salad instead. Or, switch things up completely and check out this Italian potato gnocchi!

What’s your favorite way to make potato salad? Do you have a special family recipe? Share with us, in the comments!


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A collage of photos showing different views of a classic German potato salad recipe.

Originally posted August 16th, 2015. Revised and updated August 12th, 2018. Photos by Nina-Kristin Isensee, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.

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About Nina-Kristin Isensee

Nina lives in Iserlohn, Germany and holds an MA in Art History (Medieval and Renaissance Studies). She is currently working as a freelance writer in various fields. She enjoys travel, photography, cooking, and baking. Nina tries to cook from scratch every day when she has the time and enjoys trying out new spices and ingredients, as well as surprising her family with new cake creations.

Nothing says comfort food like potato salad. Try this tasty German variety as a side for your next backyard barbecue, Oktoberfest, or anytime you need a tasty, traditional side dish. Find the recipe on Foodal now. #potatosalad #sidedish #germanfood #oktoberfest  #foodal

68 thoughts on “An Authentic German Potato Salad: The Real Deal

  1. It always amazes me to find yet another recipe for potatoes salad. It is the wonderful potatoes that can take on so many flavors. This one has a unique twist with the yogurt. To be honest, I do not even know what a gerkin is!Everything else is pretty straight forward. The taste of this salad with barbeque sauce is just the best ever, with so many happy memories and feelings attached to it. It is eternal!

    • That’s so right, there are uncountable varieties of how to make potato salads. I often can’t decide which one to try next.
      Oh and I’ll explain the gherkins. Actually I’d say they are like pickles, just less acidic and more spicy. But you will be fine by choosing regular pickled cucumbers too. 🙂

  2. That’s a good tip to use potatoes made the day before. There are so many versions and I like a few spring onions in mine and a spoon of pesto for added flavor. Sometimes I can eat it by itself as a snack, so I like to make a big batch and then add other items like some peas or corn.

    • Yummy, spring onions and pesto sound like a tasty combination and both provide a nice color too. I also like to experiment with ingredients, sometimes I add halved cocktail tomatoes, diced sweet peppers or things like that. With a good batch of potato salad – everything’s fine 😉

  3. I also agree that there is so many varieties just for this dish! Everyone seems to have there own secret ingredient when making this salad. Unfortunately I don’t like potato salad at all. Maybe I just haven’t eaten one that I would like yet? Don’t get me wrong, I do like potatoes. I’m just not too fond of it until I come across one I like.

    • That’s right, I think this is one of those dishes of which almost every family has a secret recipe on their own. 😉
      Well, maybe you haven’t had the perfect salad yet but I understand what you mean. Sometimes, one really likes a special kind of food but not in that one way it is prepared.

  4. Its like you read my mind! I was just wondering what I was going to do with the 10 lb bag of potatoes I have bought yesterday. Now I’m gonna go make myself some potato salad. I especially like your recipe because it has mayonnaise in it and thanks for the tip with using yogurt. It sound really yummy!
    God know how many recipe I have tried in the past and they were all a disaster. I especially the one that needs vinegar. I’m Asian and I use vinegar for almost everything, but the blend of the two, potato and vinegar, just doesn’t agree with my taste buds.

    • Perfect! I’m happy that it sounds good to you – and I’m sure this is a great way to use your supply.
      I also prefer the mayonnaise-type of potato salad, maybe because it’s the own I grew up with. I really hope you will enjoy this version.

  5. I prefer recipes that can be made in steps, like this one. I haven’t made potato salad in quite a while, and like that this recipe calls for some different ingredients than the usual ones I’ve made. I don’t have gherkins on hand, but will be at the store in a few days, so can pick some up, as well as some plain yogurt. I’ll have to investigate to see what waxy potatoes are, and hopefully we have them here, so I can try out your recipe.

    • The special thing about waxy potatoes is that they will stay firm after cooking. They are best used for this recipe instead of mealy/floury varieties which are suitable for mashed potatoes e.g. The waxy ones can be sliced easily after cooling.
      I hope you will find some to try it out!

  6. Mmm, kartoffelsalat! Delicious with a wurst or two or some Bavarian ham. And yes, it turns out so much better if the potatoes have been cooked in advance. Yum.

    • Oh yes, that makes a match! I’m currently planning an article about German sausage varieties like Bratwurst etc. It may help to find the appropriate companion for this salad, but some nice Bavarian ham would be a proper first choice too 🙂

  7. That stuff looks amazing, and the recipe is so super simple. I love potato salad so does my kids. We have it almost every time we grill ribs it is a favorite side not only for my family, but I’m sure for many more.

  8. I don’t believe I have ever heard of gherkins before, but my family loves a good potato salad. However, every family reunion and Thanksgiving, we are reduced to buying the Publix brand as none of us knows the recipe for this. It looks delicious and far more refined than potato salad in a plastic container for sure! 😀 Thank you for this article; I’ll be sure to reference it in the near future.

    • Thanks, happy you like it! I’m not sure if you read through the first commentaries because I told “aphil” that you can get regular pickled cucumbers instead. It’s just that gherkins I know from here are less sour and more a bit more spicy. I’m sure you will find some that fit 🙂 Have fun trying it out!

  9. I just wanted to let you know that this recipe was amazing! I don’t think I’ve eaten so much potato in my life. Thought, do you think that the taste would be alter too much since I just let the potato cool for only a couple hours? I don’t know, cause it was still absolutely delicious. I just wanted to get your opinion on whether or not it would taste a lot better if I had let the potato cool for one day as suppose to only a couple hours. -Thanks again for the awesome recipe I really love it! 🙂

    • Fantastic to hear! Well, I think if it still had a great taste, you will be fine by cooling them for a couple of hours only.
      I think it won’t influence the taste that much.
      It’s just important that the potatoes mix with the dressing properly and this works best if they are not still hot. The other thing is mostly about the slicing.
      So I think it’s fine the way you did it – and if you have enough time the next time you’re making it, you can still try to wait for one day. Either way I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  10. This looks really good. I’ve only had a more mustard-based potato salad, like an Amish potato salad. I have some potatoes I’ve been meaning to use. I think I’ll try this soon.

  11. I grew up in a Texas-German family, and potato salad was a staple of our diet. We always used dill pickles instead of gherkins though. The greek yogurt is an interesting idea too. It seems like it would make it much creamier. I’m definitely going to have to try this recipe out soon, probably with some bratwurst!

  12. DE-LIC-IOUS! I just cleared the table from lunch, and it was two thumbs-up from everyone! I’d prepped some steak and two racks of ribs the night before, knowing I was having company over today and you were absolutely right! It tastes divine with both. I think we all had to stop ourselves from licking the plates! I generally love coleslaw as a summer side-dish and was unsure at first if I should take the coleslaw off the menu, but it was definitely the right choice. This recipe is genius!! Thank yous so much.

    • Awesome! It makes me happy to hear that it was a winner at the table. 🙂
      Thanks a lot for sharing your experience with the recipe!

  13. Man, this looks awesome! I really can’t wait to try this recipe out. It looks incredible in the pictures and I know my mother is a huge fan of potato salad! Thanks for sharing!

  14. Wow that sounds yummy. I wish I wasn’t on a diet so I could try it! Potato salad isn’t very common here in Italy and the first time I tried it was at a friend’s BBQ. I think that one had vinegar and some meat in it, can’t remember if it was bacon or ham. This version seems great as well and I’ll definitely try making it when I’m done with this diet.

  15. Yummy looking, am definitely setting time out this weekend to make this potato salad …looks quite easy to do 🙂 …on second thought, where will I get chives/parsley?…they are hard to come by where I stay, I think I’ll substitute that and use coriander instead… fingers crossed, this recipe works out 😉

    • I usually buy herbs at farmer’s markets or organic supermarkets. Here in Germany you sometimes also find them in the frozen food section of large grocery stores (if they haven’t got it fresh). I don’t know about your situation but if you can’t find it there either it’s no problem to replace it with coriander – it’s a fresh twist!
      I think basil works out as well. Dill is often used in combination with potatoes too, but mostly (as far as I know) for oil/vinegar based salads. But I’m sure you’ll find a proper herb.
      Have a delicious weekend 😉

  16. Wow! I had never thought about using yogurt in the base. When we were making the base we loved the taste of the yogurt so we ended up adding a little more than what you suggested (oops!) however it was still delicious. If you ever find your grandmother’s recipe please let us know!! I am always on the lookout for other varieties of potato salad. I’m so glad that I found your site! All of these recipes are delicious!

    • Thank you, it’s totally fine to adjust the base the way you like it. It’s great to hear that it turned out well!
      For sure, I will pass it on if I should ever come across it – although I think it was rather on her mind than in a book 😉 But this recipe is quite close to it, she’d be happy to hear that so many people like it!

  17. I like potato salad but I never had it where the potatoes are cut like the ones pictured. I think that this dish is only good if it is prepared a certain way and the way the spuds are cut definitely matter. I never tried it with yogurt either but that sounds like a tasty idea.

  18. Oh my god! I used to have this all the time when I was a child. It was one of my favorite things that my father would make for me! It’s awesome that you posted this because I could’ve gone my whole life without ever thinking about this dish again. I guess I know what I’ll be making this weekend!

    • Awesome, it’s great that I could help to revive some childhood memories 🙂 Sometimes things get out of our mind and in another second we remember how much we liked and missed them. Did you already prepare the salad? I hope it was a success!

  19. I was never really a fan of German potato salad. It was not that I disliked it, I just liked other potato salads better. Truth be told, I haven’t tried it since I was a child though. I might give this recipe a go. I like a lot of things I didn’t used to care for.

    • I completely understand what you’re talking about. It took me a long time to try some certain dishes I knew from childhood once more because I just thought I still won’t like them today. If you are going to try this recipe, I hope you can delight your present taste buds 😉

  20. My personal favourite method of making a potato salad is a s follows:

    Find some baby potatoes, clean them up and rub them in a mixture of olive oil, oregano, fresh finely chopped garlic, fenugreek, black and red pepper and salt. Roast them in the oven at 200°C for 30 minutes or so, until they become nice and crispy!
    (feel free to do this with some cucumber too)
    Set them aside to cool and make up a mixture of mayo, fresh (and roasted if you want) cucumber, mint and yoghurt. Maybe a bit of fritessaus if you’re feeling particularly Dutch, and maybe some olive. Mix them up and let it cool. I think it’s perfect.

    • Thanks for your personal recipe! It sounds great too, I really like that you roast the potatoes with the spices and herbs. I imagine that this will provide a wonderful texture and flavor to the whole salad. With the added mint and cucumber, it’s a winner for me 🙂

  21. I always thought German potato salad was served warm! This recipe looks great, though I like pretty much any potato-based food. I typically make a vegetable-heavy potato salad with tons of celery, cucumbers, carrots, and green peas. I think my family is getting a little tired of my mostly non-potato potato salad, so I’ll have to give this recipe a try.

    • Indeed there are some typical salad variations that are served warm. They are often made with bacon, onions, oil and vinegar. Your combinations sound delicious too, potatoes are wonderfully versatile to use with other ingredients and vegetables. Have fun trying this version 🙂

  22. Thank you so much for reminding me of this recipe! I used to eat it a lot during the summer when my German cousins came to visit and it was so good. And girl, that picture looks so tasty!!
    I’m going to try it right away, and I’ll bring it to a BBQ next week.

  23. This caught my eye when I saw it was German potato salad because I just met some people from Germany last night and have been interested in their culture. Also who doesn’t love a good potato salad recipe?! It looks so good and I can’t wait to try it out and impress the family at our next gathering!

  24. The salad’s color look unique and delightful. Also like how the fork is photographed along the salad. Potato plus salad plus mayonnaise equal yummy. Will bookmark this good looking recipe for later. Good luck on PhD. 🙂

    • Thank you 😉 Cooking and baking is always a welcomed change after lots of desk work, and some delicious salad like this is a perfect dish to have then.

  25. Nothing makes me happier than some homemade, fresh potato salad. My mother-in-law makes something similar to this, though she puts her own twist on it and has eggs as well as relish (and olives!) in it. And man does it get gobbled up when she makes it for a summer-time dinner!

    My husband’s dad’s side of the family is German, so I wonder if I dig far back enough I can find someone in the family with this salad recipe that I can try 🙂 Thanks for sharing, I can’t wait to make some this weekend!

    • I’m excited to hear how it worked once you prepared the salad! And good luck digging for the recipe, that would be interesting too because there are quite many traditional ways to make it. Enjoy!

  26. Totally loved this recipe. I love the surprising yogurt factor. I tried potato salad from one of my German girl friends once, but she added regular pickles and mayonnaise instead. I can’t get enough of foreign dishes. I’m dying to to try this recipe. I will be very soon!

    • Thank you. And if you have tried, you’re welcome to write about your experience and how you liked the composition with the added yogurt. Have fun and enjoy!

  27. This recipe looks so yummy. Potato salad is always a hit at picnics, and for me it is kind of a pain in the butt to make. I never thought about preparing the potatoes a day in advance, that is such a great idea and would make it much more manageable. I love the detailed pictures and angles in all these recipes!

    • I agree with you, cooking and peeling the potatoes, mixing the dressing etc. – that’s kind of a lot of work for one day. My grandmother started to cook them one day in advance and I maintained this habit until today, because it is so practical. Plus, the potatoes are easier to cut and won’t make the salad mushy, because they could cool down completely. Once you’ve tried it, I’m sure you will keep it that way 🙂 Enjoy preparing your next potato salad!

  28. I’m always a fan of potato salads. I’ve never heard of this one though probably because I don’t know what gherkins is.

    • No problem, gherkin is actually a pickle. You can replace them 1:1, or if you prefer one more or less. I hope you’ll enjoy this variety!

  29. Looks and sounds amazing. And simple!!! I’m not very familiar with gherkins, but I’ll do a little research! German food hasn’t always been my favorite, but I do like to give it a whirl from time to time!! Thanks!

    • You can use regular pickles. They are actually what I meant with “gherkins”. But I suppose that term is not so widely spread. However, enjoy this salad! It is definitely my favorite.

  30. This looks absolutely amazing! Despite my German heritages, my family only made very simple versions of potato salad with mustard, mayo, and chives. I can’t wait to try this recipe out the next time the girls and I have a potluck! Maybe we’ll get a chance to try it this weekend if all goes well!

    • Great, I hope this dish will be a winner at your next potluck! If you tried it, feel free to share your experience here. I’d be interested to hear how you like this special German version 🙂

  31. I think I’ll never get tired saying that I’m always grateful to Foodal as every time I check it out, it always gives me something new to learn. Today, it’s GHERKIN! I actually had to google what it is again, haha. In any case, now that I have a little idea of what it is, I think it makes a very interesting ingredient in this potato salad. I can imagine how the two complement well.

    • Oh no, I didn’t know that this term was quite unknown, I should have done my foreign language research better, I suppose 😉 But luckily you knew how to help yourself. I hope what you’ve found were actually pickles. And they really work well in the salad, so enjoy the combination when you should prepare it.

  32. Well, at least I knew what a gherkin is – perhaps it’s a word used more in Europe or in anglo-saxon languages? I’m a Brit and we call them gherkins in the UK. I live in France where they’re known as cornichons. I buy the jars of very small cornichons and dice them into many varieties of salad – including potato salad. I didn’t realize that this is a dish of German origin.

    • I’m relieved that you have heard of this term before. Here in Germany, the term “cornichons” is common, too. Sometimes, it’s a bit of a puzzle to find the exact word that can be understood in every country. During my work for Foodal, I have learnt so much about the different German/English names of products. It can be confusing 😉

  33. Well I certainly do love a good potato salad, and this one looks delicious. I would not have thought to leave it to the Germans to find the answer, but I guess sometimes it is in some unsuspecting places. I have always been a fan of this as a side dish for really anything that I find myself cooking in the summer, and I might have to squeeze this one in before the summer leaves us for good this year. I am interested in trying this one, so thank you for sharing.

    • Thank you. I have the feeling summer is already saying goodbye here in Germany. This week is going to become really warm, but after that, it will be getting cooler. But no problem for me, there are lots of great fall recipes, too. And this salad is an all-rounder throughout the whole year for me 😉 I hope you will enjoy making this and can enjoy it on another warm and sunny day!

  34. We always have potatoes in the kitchen, it’s a staple in our home. If I notice that the potatoes will be going bad soon, I always make a batch of potato salad, to use as a side dish for our dinners. We get tired of the same old recipe though, so I am looking to switch it up a bit. This looks fairly good, who knew adding a yogurt to potato salad would be good?

  35. A very simple healthy salad to have ready for many occasions, for dinner, lunch or snacks. This potato salad is just perfect. Easy to get the ingredients and no hustle with preparation or the method of making the salad. Great for a picnic. It will be easy to carry in any container or bowl. Easy to serve and enjoy.

  36. I’ve never tasted a potato salad before but this one looks pretty good, the pickles are a nice touch. So it’s pretty much like mashed potatoes without the potatoes actually mashed and some extra ingredients? Looks simple and delicious!

  37. I can’t say there’s any style of potato salad that I don’t like, but authentic German potato salad would definitely be the best choice to have with grilled bratwurst or any other German sausage! The yogurt would add a nice note to this dish.

  38. My mom always makes this salad, but I definitely think that she had no idea it is a German salad, I definitely will let her know about it. Thank you for sharing this, it really will be useful for my mom so she can enhance her actual recipe for this. Thanks again.

  39. I love how easy this recipe is! I grew up in a German family, and this was always at family and holiday dinners. It really is a good winter dish, especially if you have potatoes sitting around that you need to use. It’s also a great dish to bring to a potluck, because it pairs well with a lot of other dishes.

  40. I have to say, the image of the potato salad doesn’t really excite me, but I know from the recipe that the taste is bound to be out of this world. I love recipes like this that are really simple and easy to make. And potato salad is a sort of ‘staple’ at my house, so this is going into my box of special recipes. Thanks for sharing it.

  41. This sounds really good, Nina. I think it would be perfect for my husband. He likes this dish but usually stays away from it. Most people make it too creamy for his taste (he simply is not a mayonnaise person). The addition of the pickle juice to cut that down a bit sounds just right. I’ll have to give this one a try. My bet? It will be his new favorite.

    Chill the beer and let’s get started!

    • Thanks, Zyni! I appreciate your comments about my Octoberfest recipes and this lovely salad here. I hope you had fun preparing the one or the other recipe for your family 🙂 I understand the aspect about the mayonnaise, it’s often the same with store-bought salads here which are usually very fatty. That’s why I like this homemade one much better – and hope you and your husband enjoy it, too!

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