I met Grandma Helen not long after my husband and I started dating. She was a small woman with the classic fluffy hairstyle that she died grey to match her friends. Born in the 1920s and raised with her two sisters by a single mom, she was a force to be reckoned with. You could count on being fed immediately and well when you visited her and Grandpa Ted. One of her famous dishes was her potato salad. Another was her 1-2-3-4 Cake.

These days you’re likely to encounter a plastic tub of bland potato salad at a potluck or cookout. Whenever I make Grandma’s Creamy Potato Salad I can count on someone asking for the recipe. People just aren’t used to homemade potato salad anymore. This recipe has some extra ingredients that add color and great flavors to the typical potato salad.

Creamy Potato Salad Recipe

  • 7-8 medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2 in cubes
  • 3-4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1/2 cup red onions, finely diced or green onions, sliced
  • 3/4 cup sweet pickles, diced (Grandma Helen used sweet gherkins.)
  • 2 tablespoons brine from the sweet pickles
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 (4 ounce) jar diced pimentoes, drained
  • Salt and pepper

There are a couple of ways you can cook the potatoes and eggs. Sometimes I use a pot on the stove and other times I use the instant pot. I love my instant pot and always look for ways to use it.

To use the stove, put the potatoes and eggs in a large pot and cover with cold water, add a couple tablespoons of salt, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once it’s boiling, turn the heat to low and simmer for 8 to10 minutes. Check the potatoes to see if they are tender yet.

Potatoes and eggs for Grandma's Potato Salad.

You can boil the eggs separately if you prefer but my mom always cooked them together and I’m going to save on pans to wash up whenever I can. In this photo I’m using my instant pot to cook the potatoes and eggs. If you want to try this method, add 1/2 cup of water and cook at pressure for 5 minutes.

The main advantage of the instant pot is you don’t have to drain the potatoes. I always use it for mashed potatoes. Again, if I can get away with not washing the colander I’m all about it.

Drain and Cool the Potatoes

With either method, scoop the eggs out into a bowl of ice water. Drain the potatoes if you used the stove method. With either method I like to spread the potatoes out on a large rimmed baking sheet to cool before adding to the sauce. Taste to see if they need any salt.

Make the Potato Salad Dressing

While the potatoes and eggs cook or while they cool you can start on the dressing. This is what makes this salad so special and delicious. In a large bowl measure the mayonnaise, mustard, celery seed, celery, onion, pickles, brine from the pickles, lemon juice, and pimentos. Admire all the colors! If you aren’t familiar with diced pimentoes, this is the kind I buy. This is when I add black pepper to taste.

Celery, pickles, and green oinions for Grandma's Potato Salad.
Flavorings for Grandma's Potato Salad.
Mayonnaise added for Grandma's Potato Salad.

Here I used sliced green onion and refrigerator sweet pickles I had made. My kids prefer the sweet gherkins that Grandma always used. However anytime I buy them they eat them before I can make the potato salad. They kind of have an obsession with pickles.

If you use the red onion but don’t love the overwhelming taste of onion there’s a trick you can use. Add the onion to the bowl first and then add the lemon juice. Let them soak for 5 minutes or so and most of the strong taste will be gone. I use this trick for salads and salsas that call for raw onion.

Finish the Salad!

Give the dressing ingredients a mix and then add the cooled potatoes. Peel and dice the eggs and add them. Gently stir everything together and taste to see if you need to add any more salt, pepper, or lemon juice.

Grandma's Potato Salad ready to mix.
Diced eggs added to Grandma's Potato Salad.
Grandma's Potato Salad in a bowl.

Once you’re happy with the seasoning, it’s ready to serve. If you aren’t serving the potato salad right away, cover and store in the fridge until serving. This is one reason I cool the potatoes. You don’t want to put a big bowl of anything hot in the fridge or the temperature of your refrigerator will be off. Since this has mayonnaise in it you will need to keep it chilled or serve soon after making it.

I make this a lot during the summer for cookouts or potluck dinners. My kids have even made a batch of it for lunch to eat on it’s own. One last note, it’s proven to taste better if it’s served in a pretty bowl. The red bowl in the top photo was Grandma Helen’s so I usually chose that one. I think she would approve!