The Best German Potato Salad

If potato salad could be life changing, this German potato salad would be it. I have a tried-and-true classic potato salad. It’s Brian’s all-time favorite. And I like it. I really do. But one little scoop is pretty good for me and my plate and then I’m fine until the next summer when potato salad makes it’s BBQ debut again. Or in other words, it doesn’t necessarily fill my dreams.

But this. This German potato salad. It’s a whole different animal. Despite the fact that I have some serious German heritage, I’d never had German potato salad until Kate, a kind MKC reader, took it upon herself to share her family’s favorite recipe. The fact that her family has been enjoying it for years and years made me, well, a little jealous. So I made it.

The Best German Potato Salad

And I realized that this is what I’ve always wanted potato salad to be. It is the perfect potato salad. I’m not even kidding. Tender red potatoes (or Yukon Gold but don’t mess with russets here) are coated in a delightfully tangy, slightly creamy dressing that’s whipped up in a skillet while the potatoes cool. There’s no dairy or mayo or eggs – like traditional potato salad (and it’s much easier!) – instead, the simple, cooked sauce adds flavor to the hearty potatoes. Well, that and bacon. So, you know, it’s pretty much perfection.

I’ve made this several times in the last few weeks and yeah, I mean, what else can I say, I’m a completely changed woman when it comes to potato salad, that’s for sure.

The Best German Potato Salad

One Year Ago: Fresh Strawberry Gelato {i.e. Italian Ice Cream}
Two Years Ago: Grilled Honey Chicken and Veggie Kebabs
Three Years Ago: Creamy Spinach Artichoke Pizza

German Potato Salad

Yield: Serves 6-8

So a time or two when I've made this I haven't had real, live bacon on hand (and another time I was just too lazy) so instead of frying bacon at the beginning, I used a tablespoon or two of butter to cook the onion in and proceeded with the recipe that way - using the precooked crumbled bacon (from Costco in my case) to add to the potato salad at the end (I used about 1/2 cup and gave the bacon crumbles a quick 20-second round in the microwave to crisp up a bit). You may not get as much bacon flavor but the salad is still very delicious varied this way.


  • 3 pounds red potatoes (about 8-9 regular-sized potatoes)
  • 4-6 slices bacon (see note for a slight adaptation)
  • 3/4 cup chopped white or yellow onion
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup white or apple cider vinegar
  • Chopped fresh parsley for garnish


  1. In a large pot, add 2-3 inches of water and a teaspoon of salt. Wash the potatoes and add them to the pot (the water doesn't need to cover the potatoes). Bring to a boil over medium high heat, cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and cook for 20-30 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Drain the potatoes and set aside to cool for a few minutes.
  2. While the potatoes are cooling, in a large nonstick skillet, fry the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and drain a bit of the grease from the skillet, leaving just a tablespoon or two.
  3. Heat the skillet over medium heat and add the onion to the reserved bacon grease, cooking until translucent and slightly golden. Stir in the flour, sugar, salt, celery seed and black pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Combine the vinegar and water in a liquid measuring cup and slowly add it to the skillet (still set over medium heat), whisking constantly so the mixture doesn't get lumpy. Bring the mixture to a simmer, whisking or stirring constantly, and cook for 4-5 minutes. It should be thick and creamy.
  5. Slice or cube the potatoes and add them to a large bowl. Pour the hot dressing over the top and gently stir to combine. Crumble the bacon over the top and give it another light stir. Top with fresh, chopped parsley, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe Source: adapted slightly from Kate, a sweet MKC reader who sent her family’s fave recipe to me

42 Responses to German Potato Salad

  1. Marley says:

    Hello, Mel & all: I stumbled across this website when searching for recipes. THANKS! I am also in debt to all the folks that post replies & reviews.The website is very helpful. I, too, thought my potato and chicken salads were superior to all others-I was rudely awakened from my delusion when my youngest child informed me one day that her friend’s mom made better chicken salad than mine. So, I asked that mother her recipe & modified mine to include some of her ingredients & processes in order to improve mine. By-the-way, now, my beloved, potato salad must be modified! I wouldn’t have changed my “world’s best” potato salad; however, due to a new health condition I’ve been diagnosed with I must do so. Unfortunately, I have to change my diet to omit some of my ingredients and processes. Also. where I’ve taken up residence recently is chilly this time of year & this hot German potato salad recipe appears to fit my current needs. I have one question to ask: since I really ought not be consuming celery seeds (which I love to add to my potato recipes & I’d JUST bought a new jar before this diagnosis that’s requiring so many dietary changes) Do you have any alternative suggestions for it? P.S. What a beautiful family you’re blessed with! Thank you for sharing the pic with us here.

    • Mel says:

      Hi Marley! IT’s great when we can be flexible and change our recipes over time, right? Hmmm, about the celery seed – I’d probably just omit and add extra salt (just a touch) for now. If a great substitution comes to mind, I’ll update this comment!

  2. Stephanie says:

    This seems like a silly question, but I’m really wondering… Will it negatively impact the taste or texture to cube the potatoes before boiling? That’s what I usually do when making mashed to save time, but I’ve never made potato salad before. Thanks!

    • Mel says:

      Sometimes cubing the potatoes before cooking can make the texture of the potatoes mushier after cooking (and it’s also hard to get them all the same size so they cook evenly) – that doesn’t matter quite as much with mashed potatoes but it would here because the potatoes are served diced. You could definitely try it, though, especially if that’s what you are used to doing.

  3. Deb says:

    Made it, loved it! The sauce is amazing and the recipe came together easily. Perfect addition to a fall menu. Thanks Mel!

  4. Shar says:

    We love hot German potato salad in our home, but dislike the cold, mayo American-style potato salad. We lived in Germany for 5 years (only been back in the States a year) and were so surprised that German potato salad (kartoffelsalat), although somewhat similar, is actually nothing like the hot German potato salad our family has eaten. Funny enough, we don’t like “real” German potato salad either. It is more bland and very yellow from the mustard in it. So thanks for the recipe, I’m not sure where it actually hails from but I am sure our family will love it.

  5. J says:

    Hi Mel,
    You may want to delete some of the post – really just the one posted Sept 5 at 7:01.

  6. Lindsey Cragun says:

    This was SOOO good! Not much of a potato salad fan myself but woah! I’m a believer now.

  7. Barb B says:

    Good timing. I’m doing an Octoberfest menu for a crowd and will be making your potato salad. I like to do things ahead of time, so what’s the best way to reheat so it doesn’t get dried out or overcooked?

    • Mel says:

      Hey Barb – I haven’t made this ahead of time and I think it’s best served freshly made – but you could try cooking the potatoes and bacon and making the sauce – then refrigerating everything separate and tossing to combine before serving.

  8. Suzanne says:

    10/10 would eat again!

  9. Looks so good! I’ve been making a version very similar to this for years. My husband isn’t a huge fan because it’s not like the ‘traditional’ kind his mom makes but I’m happy with it and as long as I’m making it, I’m making the kind I like!

  10. Holly W says:

    Like many people, I have my own traditional potato salad recipe I love but I have always wanted to try German potato salad. This looks delish! Thanks for sharing Mel and Kate!

  11. Teresa R. says:

    I just tried this recipe with half the vinegar called for because I’m not a lover of vinegar. It was really good. Thanks Mel. This is a keeper.

  12. Louise E. says:

    I made this recipe for supper tonight with real bacon. I have made German salad before with a very similar recipe. This version was fairly easy to make and tasted delicious. I think it tastes best made with cider vinegar.

    • Melanie says:

      Thanks for the tip, Louise. I was just about to ask Mel which type of vinegar she preferred, and then I read your comment.

  13. Alice E says:

    I’m out of potatoes at the moment, but I may try this later. It does sound interesting, but I have trouble getting the family to accept anything with a vinegar taste so I might wait until I am going to a potluck. I would suggest you keep a jar for saved bacon grease in your frig. Then you have some drippings for the dressing when you are using the bacon bits. I am re-using a saved squat shaped salsa jar for saved drippings myself for those times I want the bacon flavor instead of butter or olive oil. I do like using the packaged bits in recipes, but agree they aren’t that great to just eat straight.

  14. Kibellibey says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever met a potato dish that I didn’t love. This looks amazing. But, curses! I just went to the store and didn’t get bacon!
    My recipe binder is bursting with your recipes. I’m sure this one will be a fave, too. Thanks!

  15. Kate P. says:

    Oh, I’m so glad you liked the recipe! It’s the least I could do after enjoying so many of yours 🙂 It’s definitely not at all a traditional potato salad recipe, but it’s still delish. Now I want to try Caren’s variation as well!

  16. You’ve totally convinced me to make this! I love me a good potato salad.

  17. Terry A. says:

    This is nearly identical to the hot German potato salad we make and love!! In the past, we made large batches of this yearly for a local festival. (You can make the dressing ahead of time, even freeze it, and it works great with cooked dehydrated potatoes.)

    We always use regular bacon, though. 🙂 May have to keep your tip in mind for the future.

  18. Melina says:

    I served my mission in Germany and my mission president & his wife(who are German)invited all th sisters in the mission to their home for lunch. They made German potato salad and it was life changing! Soooo deliciously good!! Can’t wait to try this recipe..thanks!!

  19. Peggy McGhehey says:

    It might be interesting to have a column on food traditions. I have my preferences for a lot of foods but in my book, the only thing you don’t mess with is Thanksgiving dinner!

  20. Peggy McGhehey says:

    Nobody will confuse German potato salad with my grandma’s old-fashioned potato salad but they each have their purpose. Sometimes I want a hot potato salad and German works for this and sometimes a cold one and grandma’s it is!

  21. Barb says:

    This is something I will try. By staying open minded to new recipes, I have been able to discover some pretty amazing food to serve my family. Thanks Mel for everything you do. Btw- is the vinegar taste subtle or bold?

    • Mel says:

      Hey Barb – the vinegar taste is definitely present. I wouldn’t say overly strong but it’s not subtle either. Does that make sense?

  22. Jennifer says:

    This sounds delicious! I can’t wait to try it! I have a garden full of potatoes just waiting to be used in this salad. If only I could grow the bacon!

  23. heather says:

    There is nothing better than homemade warm potato salad.

  24. Barbara says:

    Potato salad is such a proprietary family thing. Everyone thinks theirs is the best. Now, mine was my mom’s, and the first time I made it as a new bride, a comment was made about it not being like his mom bought at a deli. I let it be known there and then that mine is one of my most-loved foods, and there was no way I would ever change anything about it, nor would I ever bring it home from a grocery store or a deli. Next month marks our 49 years of marriage. He sneaks small bowls full of my potato salad as a bedtime snack and won’t eat anyone else’s. Some things can be changed and/or improved upon, and I am an adventurous cook who tries lots of new recipes, but I will never make anyone else’s potato salad recipe. I will try a spoonful of someone else’s at a gathering, but I probably won’t finish it. I have adopted several of your recipes. This one won’t be added. There are several things about it I would really dislike; its warm temperature, those big potato chunks, the bacon, the vinegar, missing crisp onions and sweet pickles, and the eggs which equal richness and much needed protein. Sorry Mel, but some dishes are sacrosanct. I have found over 70+ years of sharing meals with others that each family’s potato salad recipe tends to fall into that category probably more than any other food. Our retirement community is having a big barbecue on Wednesday for all the residents. They furnish everything. But I have had their potato salad, which is the worst I have ever tasted, so I will pack a jar to take, and eat their cold hot dogs and wonder again why I went.

    • L says:

      Wow! Add a dose or two of humility to your potato salad and a couple heaping tablespoons of kind words!

      Thanks for all you do Mel!

    • Catherine says:

      This isn’t a traditional american potato salad meant to replace yours, it’s a new dish that you might like if you gave it a chance! You’re going to miss out if you aren’t open-minded enough to try new things!

    • Nicole Hunn says:

      I’ve seen some self-centered behavior on the Internet, Barbara, but yours still stands out. It sounds like your behavior in public is similar. Shame on you.

    • Melanie says:

      With everything going on in the world, you (Barbara) decided that a good use of your time was to gloat about your potato salad recipe and belittle everyone else’s??? Such behavior is juvenile. I also have my “own” recipe that my family adores, but I am VERY excited to try this one!! It’s on the menu for this week. Thanks, Mel!!

    • Mark says:

      my husband also sneaks out for bowl fulls of potato salad at night! what a nuisance my hubby is! wow barbara you seem to have a lot of experience with cooking, probably due to your age of 70+, however this age difference doesnt mean you are superior to my fellow sister Mel and certainly doesnt mean you can say all that stupid stuff, so immature!. no one can prove whos potato salad is better but you dont need to leave awful comments on mels page! love u mel keep doing what ur doing xoxoxo

  25. Sheila says:

    Yum! Thank you so much Kate and Mel!

  26. Bryn says:

    Can you tell me what brand of bacon crumbles you get at Costco? I’ve tried some before and was kinda grossed out by the texture. Thanks! My kids are opposed to all things creamy so potato salad has never really been a hit in our house. Can’t wait to try this one.

    • Mel says:

      Hi Bryn – I use the Kirkland brand – I don’t love them straight out of the package though. I usually put a scoop inbetween two paper towels and microwave them for 30 seconds or so to crisp them up.

    • Holly W says:

      Costco’s Kirkland brand of bacon pieces used to be pretty high quality but it seemed to me that a few years ago, a lot more fat started creeping into their bacon pieces. Now my sister gets the Hormel real bacon pieces from Sam’s Club for me (since I only have a Costco card) and their texture and quality is better. Nonetheless, I think Mel’s tip to put the bacon pieces in the microwave for 30 seconds is a great idea!

  27. Caren says:

    Being German myself, I have never heard of this version, but here in South Germany (North Germany is a whole different story with lots of mayo in potato salads) our family has a really easy dressing which i absolutely love:
    *Cook the potatoes
    *Finely chop 1 small onion, optional 1 garlic
    *Pour about 1/2 cup of broth (still hot) and 1/2 cup of vinegar with 1 tablespoon of mustard in bottom of Salad bowl. Add Onions, Salt, Pepper and mix well.
    * Cut the still warm potatoes thinly into the dressing (they will soak some of it up), top up with more broth/vinegar if it gets to dry.
    *Let it sit for a bit, then add some neutral oil
    *Enjoy still lukewarm

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