The 1-Ingredient Southern Upgrade for Better Potato Salad

Important questions: Who made the potato salad and did they add this key ingredient?

<p>Simply Recipes / Getty Images </p>

Simply Recipes / Getty Images

Potato salad is easy to love—a bowl of creamy, tangy potatoes is always a crowd-pleaser. But, it can also be a divisive topic. Folks have strong opinions about what ingredients are appropriate and which ones should never grace the tender boiled potatoes.

This leads to the common Southern potluck refrain, “Who made the potato salad?” And just as important as who made it is what ingredients went into the salad, and there’s one in particular that makes a world of difference: yellow mustard.

The Southern Secret for the Best Potato Salad

There are plenty of potato salad styles, from the warm, bacon-laced German potato salad to French-style potato salad with capers and parsley. Southern potato salad is a simple recipe that eschews superfluous ingredients like raisins (shudder) or walnuts and instead relies on a simple combination of boiled potatoes, chopped celery and onions, mayonnaise, yellow mustard, and hard-boiled eggs. (There may be others, including relish, bell peppers, and paprika.)

Each element in the recipe plays an important role, but the mustard’s job is particularly important. It brings a certain zippy brightness to a dish that could veer toward the bland.

This makes sense if you consider what yellow mustard is: It’s a combination of mustard seeds and liquids like lemon juice and/or vinegar, and other spices. The result is a shortcut to a ton of flavor, with bright sour notes from the lemon and vinegar and a zesty blast of sharp mustard flavor that punches above its weight in a big bowl of potato salad.

Eliezer Martinez
Eliezer Martinez

Which Came First, Mayo or Mustard?

Though potato salad is often considered a mayo-centric dish, mustard predates mayonnaise in potato salad recipes. They date back to the 16th century when the dish was introduced to Europe by Spanish explorers, who brought potatoes with them from the New World. The earliest written recipes for potato salad in America are from the middle of the 19th century, and in them, you’ll find zero mayonnaise, but rather oil, vinegar, and spices, including mustard seeds, which reflects the dish’s German influence. In the 1920s and '30s, as bottled mayonnaise became readily available, cooks added it to their potato salad instead of oil.

Tips for Using Mustard in Potato Salad

  • Mix the mayonnaise, mustard, and other herbs and spices before dressing the potatoes so that you can taste the dressing and adjust seasonings, ensuring that you achieve the right balance of flavors.

  • Though yellow mustard is a classic choice, you can use other varieties of mustard, including Dijon, whole grain, and spicy brown mustard.

  • If you like relish in your potato salad, try using mustard relish, which combines pickle-y relish with the tanginess of mustard.

Read the original article on Simply Recipes.