The 22 Absolute Best Ingredients To Elevate Potato Salad

Potatoes are universally loved, whether they're baked, fried, or boiled. When it comes to potato salad, everyone seems to think that their "famous" recipe is best, but the truth is that there are so many ways to add variety to the dish that you should never make it the same way twice. Whether you're using a creamy mayonnaise base potato, bringing some tang by using an oil-based vinaigrette, going heavy with the addition of bacon fat, or keeping things light with a sprinkle of fresh herbs, the options are endless. 

That's why we've compiled the absolute best ingredients to elevate potato salad, so you can sample each and every one of them for yourself. You'll never question what to bring to a potluck once you get elbow-deep into the world of potato salads. From German to All-American, it may take you a lifetime to try them all, but it will be well worth it. Enjoy these additions solo or mix and match to land on the potato salad that best suits you.   


Ever chomp into a potato salad that just tastes bland? It's very likely that the mistake you're making with your potato salad is the lack of an acidic element. That zing or tang gives our favorite barbeque side dish that punch of flavor that is usually found in vinegar. Both mayo and oil-based versions of potato salad should use some element of acid, whether it be balsamic vinegar, Italian dressing, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, or even pickle brine.

Be selective, because the type of dressing in your potato salad matters. Try to pair regional ingredients, like balsamic vinegar with capers, olives, and artichoke heats. Pickle juice and lemon mix well with mayonnaise, celery, dill pickles, and fresh parsley. In addition, note the best time to dress potato salad. Dress a mayonnaise-based salad once it's cooled to prevent melting, and an oil-based salad when it's still warm so the potatoes can absorb all the incredible flavors.

Pesto or fresh basil

This unexpected ingredient can transform any potato salad from standard to memorable. Pesto can be mixed into both creamy and oily potato salads but should be paired with complementary ingredients. Mediterranean ingredients like olives, roasted garlic, capers, and Italian parsley complement the sauce well, and an acid like lemon juice can bring out the flavors. Cracked black pepper and fresh basil make incredible toppers, and balsamic reduction can be used for a sweet and sour finish.

Fresh-made basil pesto makes a huge difference when it comes to potato salad, so consider whipping up a homemade recipe in your food processor. If you are out of pine nuts, try using cashews, almonds, or even peanuts. Add sprouts, kale, or arugula to the mix and get creative with ratios. 

Dijon or whole-grain mustard

Mustard is a universally loved ingredient when it comes to salads, potato or otherwise. Dressings just seem to taste better with the ground seed in the mix, which offers notes of sweetness and spice. Try mixing in Dijon mustard to a mayonnaise-based potato salad dressing. For an oil-based dressing, use whole-grain mustard for a beautiful aesthetic and varied texture.

Whole-grain mustard shines in chef Joe Carroll's mayo-less potato salad recipe, which also includes onions, chives, apple cider vinegar, and a pinch of cayenne pepper which brings a welcome extra layer of added heat. For any mustard lover, this is a guaranteed win. This dish makes for a perfect cookout side dish, as it complements classic burgers and hot dogs beautifully.


Elevate your classic potato salad recipe with creamy, hearty hummus. The beloved garbanzo bean and tahini spread provides a protein-packed, plant-based, hearty way to hold your potato salad together. This is a great option for those of you out there who aren't fans of mayo.  We recommend using hummus in any oil-based potato salad. Mix in as much as you'd like, and pair with acids like Italian dressing, pickle juice, or lemon juice. 

Crunchy vegetables like celery, pickles, red peppers, diced sweet onion, and chopped kale stems add variety to the creamy texture of humus and silky-boiled potatoes. If you want greater depth and variety without purchasing or preparing any extra ingredients, add flavored hummus like roasted red pepper, lemon dill, or even artichoke.


Potatoes are rather mild and are in desperate need of additional flavors to complement them. That's why you should avoid going light on the flavorful additions, crunchy veggies, and sauces. There's nothing worse than a bland potato salad that just tastes like, well, potatoes. Capers make a fantastic addition and offer a puckering punch in a tiny package. But what exactly are capers and what do they taste like?

Capers are small flower buds that are preserved in pickling brine or salt. They have a lemony, salty, tangy taste, and are extremely flavorful. Capers are often used in chicken and fish dishes, as well as in pasta sauce. They pair beautifully with lemon, so be sure to use citrus as the main acid in your potato salad dressing.

Green onions or chives

Name a more perfect pair than potatoes and onions ... we'll wait. You'll have success loading up potato salad with the allium in any form. But if you prefer a milder addition, we recommend going green. Green onions (scallions) and chives are all incredible additions to potato salad, but be sure to pair them wisely. 

Mild green onions can add a beautiful aesthetic to potato salad and are especially delicious in a French potato salad recipe paired with Dijon mustard, Champagne vinegar, parsley, and fresh dill. Chives are a bit stronger in flavor, and smaller in size and make a fantastic garnish or topping. Whichever way you decide to slice it, the addition of green onions or chives (or both, for that matter) to potato salad can certainly elevate your recipe and add an element of depth and flavor that is necessary for the famous side dish.


Pickles are one of those ingredients that people either love or hate. While there are plenty of pickle-less recipes out there, we love a potato salad with a nice briny crunch. Pickles are tangy, refreshing, salty, and crisp. They help to add variety to potato salads in both flavor and texture. Pairing beautifully with mustard, onion, garlic, and fresh herbs like dill, pickles offer a balance of flavor and a refreshing mouthfeel.

There are many different types of pickles so it important to choose your variety wisely. If you don't identify as a cucumber lover, try adding other pickled vegetables. Of course, don't forget about the power of pickle juice. Try using a touch of brine as the acidic element to mix into your potato salad dressing.


If we are being honest with ourselves, hot sauce pairs well with pretty much any savory dish on the planet. Of course, sriracha sauce is a particular favorite and once you start drizzling the blend of hot chili peppers, vinegar, and garlic on your food, it's hard to stop.

So for all of the sriracha fanatics out there, you'll be happy to hear that we highly recommend adding it to your potato salad for a spicy kick. In both oil and mayonnaise-based potato salads, the beloved rooster sauce can add a tangy element, as well as some heat to help the creamy mixture pop. Add it little by little to your dressing, or drizzle it on top.


For those of us that use miso in cooking, we know that it provides a salty umami flavor. The fermented paste adds a savory element to any dish, and that includes potatoes. Be sure to note that There are multiple types of miso that can be used to enhance your potato salad in a variety of ways. Three popular types of miso include mild white miso, the slightly stronger yellow miso, and red miso which is fermented the longest and therefore has the most intense flavor. 

All three are rich, nutty, salty, and carry intense savory umami flavors. For potato salad, we recommend mixing yellow or white miso right into the mayonnaise or oil-based dressing so that it has a chance to disperse.

Sour cream

If you love creamy potato salad but want to skip eggy mayonnaise, then it's time to utilize a favorite potato sidekick, sour cream. The light and refreshing flavors balance the potato's starchy, dense mouthfeel, and the slightly sour taste helps to give your salad some umph. Consider using sour cream to make a potato salad version of a loaded baked potato. Use ingredients like green onion, cheddar cheese, bacon bits, sour cream, yellow onion, salt, pepper, or anything you'd typically layer atop a baked potato.

Use sour cream to replace mayonnaise in any potato salad recipe or mix a few tablespoons into an oil-based potato salad dressing for added creaminess. No sour cream on hand? Make homemade sour cream in a few easy steps by curdling whole milk and heavy cream with lemon juice.

Blue cheese

For those of you who appreciate super stinky cheese, consider making blue cheese potato salad. Obviously, this version of potato salad is quite creamy, and most of the sharp flavors come from the cheese. Although blue cheese was accidentally invented, you won't be making a mistake when adding some crumbles to your potato salad recipe. 

Mix your potatoes with blue cheese, creamy mayonnaise, green onions, parsley, and bacon bits. The result is a decadent and slightly funky potato salad that pairs perfectly with grilled meats. Hot tip: Only combine the blue cheese and mayonnaise mix with the potatoes after they have had a chance to cool, to preserve their structure and texture. 

Green goddess dressing

If you love the tangy smoothness of green goddess dressing on your leafy greens, then it may be time to expand your horizons. Often made with tahini, this creamy, lemony dressing is known for being jam-packed with herbs like parsley, cilantro, and dill. Potatoes are a fantastic vehicle for flavor, and green goddess dressing is loaded with it. Try whipping up a quick green goddess dressing recipe or buying a bottle of the store-bought version to pour over potato salad, along with minced celery, and fresh herbs. 

As green goddess dressing surges in popularity (it was the most searched TikTok recipe on Google in 2022), it is no wonder we want to use it on just about everything. It holds components of creaminess, acid, and quite a bit of flavor.


Mediterranean potato salad is hard to pass up. With balsamic dressing, mayonnaise or aioli, lemon juice, capers, fresh herbs, and artichoke hearts, it makes the perfect side dish for any occasion, casual or fancy. Olives, in all their varieties, make wonderful additions to Mediterranean-style potato salad, adding little pockets of saltiness to each bite.

Try adding soft, purple kalamata olives to Greek or Italian potato salad for a salty intense flavor, and firm green olives to classic potato salad for a tangy, chewier, and more subtle addition. Canned olives are milder, and can fit in almost anywhere. Aesthetically, they blend in beautifully and their citrusy flavor and chewy texture will help to round out the dish.


Horseradish is yet another ingredient that often gets overlooked but can make all the difference when added to potato salad. The root, which looks similar to ginger, offers a sharp, spicy punch, and therefore is often grated into a sauce so that the heat can properly disperse. 

All in all, it gives everything it comes in contact with a punch of heat that is sure to clear out those sinuses. It gives those mild creamy potatoes a little extra zing and pop. If you've ever enjoyed horseradish over a juicy cut of sirloin, then you know it makes an incredible addition to creamy spreads and sauces. In addition, vinegar is often used to stabilize the heat that comes from the root, so potato salad is a wonderful host for horseradish because if there is one thing that potato salad always has, it's some form of acid. 


Bacon is perhaps one of the most universally loved meats in America. It truly is almost everyone's kryptonite, so why not add it as an ingredient to elevate potato salad? In fact, what makes German potato salad different from the American version is the addition of bacon, and bacon grease often combined with mustard, red onions, and pickles. 

Although there are many different versions of German potato salad, they do seem to follow a similar structure. German potato salad is loaded with ingredients that come from the charcuterie board of our dreams, all mixed into one delicious side dish. If you don't feel like preparing a batch of strips, a sprinkle of pre-packaged bacon bits will work in a pinch.  


While we've talked quite a bit about Mediterranean variants, we have yet to mention the addition of a popular, creamy, zingy, yogurt-based sauce to elevate your potato salad. Tzatziki has all the classic elements of a potato salad dressing: the acidic element, fresh herbs, a creamy component, and even a bit of crunch. 

Consider pairing the creamy sauce with tender potatoes, diced dill pickles, chopped cucumber, capers, and sliced olives. Fresh dill, parsley, and mint can all be used as a garnish or can be added right into the sauce. While it may be tempting to buy store-bought sauces, it's easy enough to whip together your very own homemade classic tzatziki sauce recipe (cucumber, Greek yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, mint, and salt are our preferred ingredients), and enjoy the fresh flavors of the Mediterranean.

Fresh dill

The rule of thumb is the more the merrier when it comes to potato salad. Parsley, mint, basil, chives, and tarragon give potatoes that extra punch of refreshing flavor. Dill also adds to the beauty factor, giving potato salad that delicate, whimsical, French look. Make the herb the focus and whip up a batch of creamy dill potato salad

Dill couples beautifully with pickles, celery, mustard seed, vinegar, and potatoes, so it's no wonder it makes the perfect addition to any potato salad. Mix it right into the bowl, and then sprinkle a few extra sprigs on top for an aesthetically pleasing, refreshing version of potato salad. In this case, you definitely want to opt for fresh dill over dried to ensure the flavor of the herb stands out.  

Caramelized onions

While there is nothing more refreshing than the crunch of raw onion in a batch of potato salad, keep in mind that variety is the spice of life. Onions are incredibly sweet when caramelized properly, and they can add a layer of depth to any recipe. Simply dice a sweet onion, brown it, deglaze the pan with broth and simmer it until the onion's sugars and structure have broken down. Chill the onions and then toss them in your potato salad — you won't regret it. 

These little strands of rich, sweet, oniony goodness will make any recipe soar. If you're feeling less motivated, mix in a touch of caramelized onion dip to your potato salad recipe, and enjoy.


If you're a fan of a mayonnaise-based potato salad, consider elevating your potato salad game with mayo's fancy cousin, aioli. Although aioli has been parading around as flavored mayonnaise, it's actually quite different, and although we aren't going to dive into everything you need to know about aioli, we will let you in on a secret: Aioli is not flavored mayonnaise. Rather it is traditionally made with whipped olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and garlic, while mayonnaise is made with oil, mustard, and eggs.

Garlicky aioli is a fantastic dipping sauce for french fries, so it makes sense that it would work well with this potato pairing. If you decide to use aioli in your potato salad, only mix in the sauce once the potatoes have cooled or it will lose its fluffy form. 


Paprika, often confused with cayenne and chili pepper, is quite mild in flavor and has a slight sweetness to it. Though it is actually made from ground peppers, sweet paprika (as opposed to the "hot" version") is typically not spicy.  You may have tasted paprika on deviled eggs, or egg salad, and sometimes paprika even finds its way onto gourmet mac and cheese, scalloped potatoes.

It also happens to be an ingredient you'll want to use to spice up your potato salad. Paprika adds a beautiful aesthetic to an otherwise colorless dish and is best when sprinkled on top of the finished product. Just keep in mind that a little goes a long way so be conservative with your dusting.   

Kewpie mayo

Once you try Kewpie mayonnaise, it's hard to go back. The difference between kewpie mayo and regular is the number of egg yolks used (you'll find more in kewpie), and a few other differences in ingredients including increased sugar content. While your typical mayo is made with eggs, vinegar, mustard, and canola oil, Kewpie, is made with egg yolks, MSG, and a blend of vinegar. It's richer in flavor and mouthfeel and can make any dish dreamy-creamy-rich. 

The Japanese version of mayo has gained popularity in the United States over the last few years and for good reason. It is used in grilled cheese sandwiches, dressings, or as a topping to poke bowls or sushi. For the densest, richest potato salad you've ever had, add kewpie mayo.

Red onion

Does your homemade potato salad need an extra punch of flavor? Enter red onions, which are sweet in nature but still have that oniony nip that we love. Whether you dice it and add it raw, or pickle it first, onions belong in salads, and with potatoes. 

The natural zing complements the creamy mild potatoes elegantly and pairs well with all classic potato salad ingredients. Raw red onions are a welcome addition but giving them the pickle treatment is even better. All you need to do is cut up your red onion and then bathe the slices in a bath of apple cider vinegar, sugar, and salt. Believe us, you'll keep a jar of pickled onions handy in the fridge to top almost any savory dish.