Whole-Grain Mustard Is The Secret To Richer, Tangy Potato Salad

Potato salad is a classic for a reason, but if your go-to recipe is starting to get a little predictable (or even — gasp — boring), look no further than whole-grain mustard. You'll be able to clock the condiment immediately from one dead giveaway: Whole-grain mustard is dotted with visible mustard seeds, which simultaneously create a coarse texture and open up your sinuses. The seeds (brown and black rather than yellow) are often soaked in wine instead of vinegar, and broken down into a spreadable paste but not fully pulverized. By keeping the mustard seeds whole and intact, they retain their natural flavorful oils rather than releasing them, which keeps the mustard more potent for longer and creates a bolder, sharper bite. The result is a tangy, zesty, pungent bite with subtle sweetness and some heat.

As such, a little goes a long way. To incorporate it into your potato salad, start with two tablespoons of whole-grain mustard per batch and go from there. If you prefer a stronger, more acidic profile, simply combine the mustard and some cider vinegar as your wet elements. Or, if you prefer a creamier, milder potato salad, you could also stir in a heap of mayonnaise or sour cream as you normally might. Just keep in mind that these creamier ingredients might snuff the strength of the mustard a bit, so adjust to taste as necessary.

An unexpected profile for a well-known classic

As you brainstorm other mix-ins, lean into the mustard's acidic, savory profile. A scoop of earthy hummus, fresh dill, chopped red onion, salty capers, chives, radishes, blue cheese, or crumbled bacon would all make flavorful additions. If you can't track down the right type of mustard in your local grocery store, stone-ground makes a fitting substitute for whole-grain. Maille and Grey Poupon make good versions that can be found online. 

Potato salad is, at its core, a gem of gastronomic regionality with versions from French to German to Korean. In fitting form, feel free to get a little regional with your choice of mustard. You can often find tasty homemade versions at your local cheesemonger: Murray's, a longstanding pillar of the Manhattan food scene, makes a killer whole-grain mustard (which can be purchased online for non-NYC fans). Cleveland-based foodies can swing by the Old Brooklyn Cheese Company where they have mustards on tap to pour into different jars, among them a knockout whole-grain variety.

For a pro move, roll up to your next potluck or tailgate with your mustardy potato salad in tow, plus a small container of the mustard on the side. Guests can spread this strong, punchy condiment onto their brats, burgers, and sandwiches. This flavorful potato salad also makes a great accompaniment to an Italian deli sandwich, a fried bologna sandwich, or a smoked whitefish sammy from your local Jewish deli.