Plato’s Potato Salad Recipe – The Requisite Summer Cookout Side Dish

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Bobbie sez: Bobbie says:

Am I the only one who thinks a summer cookout just doesn’t seem right without potato salad? Whether you’re planning a barbecue for the July Fourth Independence Day here in the states, or planning a small family picnic; this easy potato salad recipe will round out the menu nicely.

I had a fear of making potato salad for a while. When I still lived at home, my parents had a friend, who was a very nice lady; but a rather dreadful cook. Her chili was thin and watery and I doubt a single chili pepper in any form was ever anywhere near it; and her potato salad was crunchy. Not from crisp, fresh bits of celery or onion, or even bacon. It was the potatoes. My husband has a similar story, of a beloved relative whose potato salad was spoken of only in hushed tones so as not to hurt her feelings. I did not want to be THAT person.

And when I finally decided to give it a go, guess who I turned out to be? Yep. The crunchy-potatoes-potato-salad-maker person. Fortunately, it was only for my own household, no guests, and it was only some of the potatoes that were a bit not un-crunchy. So, mostly edible. I kept working at it, trying different methods for getting the potatoes just right, and tweaking the dressing based on family input.

I was certain I’d finally perfected my potato salad on the day my husband referred to it as “Plato’s Potato Salad.”

We’d both had to take the same religion & philosophy course long ago at Grove City College, so I knew exactly what he meant. You’ve heard of Plato, that wacky ancient Greek philosopher? Well, he had this notion that things in the physical world were only cheap knockoffs of perfect things that existed only in the realm of thought. (No, seriously. It’s called Plato’s Theory of Forms. Look it up.) That chair you’re sitting on, comfy as it may be, is nowhere the ideal of perfect chair-ness that exists in your mind. So, when my husband called this Plato’s Potato Salad, I knew he liked it…

A lot.

Now that we’ve gotten the involuntary Greek philosophy lesson out of the way, on to the actual food discussion. I think it’s time for a picture.

Potato Salad - better and cheaper than the deli, with my lame atttempt at garnishing.

And there it is. I’m presentationally-impaired, so forgive my lame attempt at a garnish.

This is a pretty simple recipe, with only four chopped ingredients tossed with a non-sweet dressing. If you prefer yours on the sweet side or with – as we say at our house – “lots of stuff in it” then you might want to check out the potato salad recipe that Heather posted in 2009. That recipe also uses a different method of cooking the potatoes, which of course you could use here, as well. When I try it that way, I tend to end up making mashed potatoes and trying the potato salad again at a later time. It’s probably just my inability to pay attention to a timer beyond setting the thing. My method still uses a timer, but it’s slightly more forgiving in the paying-attention department.


Plato’s Potato Salad Recipe

  • 2 pounds medium potatoes (5 to 6) – enough to end up with 4 1/2 cups cubed, cooked potatoes
  • 6 hard cooked eggs, peeled
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (yellow or purple)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Wash the potatoes, scrubbing well with a brush if they’re very dirty. You want them completely free of dirt before cooking to avoid simmering the potatoes in muddy water. That wouldn’t be conducive to tasty tater salad. Get ’em clean, kids.

Choose a pot large enough to hold all the potatoes in one layer, and make sure it has a lid that fits well. Fill with water to a depth of 1 inch and bring to a boil. Add the whole, clean and not-peeled potatoes. Cover tightly and return to boiling. Reduce heat to a high simmer and cook 30 to 35 minutes or until tender. If you can push a table knife (not a sharp knife) easily through to the center of the largest potato, they’re done. Drain and allow potatoes to cool until you can handle them enough to peel.

While the potatoes are cooking and cooling, combine the mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, salt, sugar and pepper. Set aside. Oh, and if you haven’t cooked your eggs yet, git ‘er done.

Here’s how I peel the cooked potatoes: take a sharp, non-serrated paring knife and use it to scrape the skin right off. I hold the knife so the blade is perpendicular to the surface of the potato. It comes off rather easily.














Cut the potatoes into bite-sized chunks, or smaller if you prefer. Chop up the eggs into bite size or smaller pieces. I like big chunks of egg, but others may not. If you want to garnish with egg slices, cook an extra egg or two, then peel and keep in the fridge to slice just before serving.


Put the potatoes, eggs, celery and onion in a large bowl.

Pour dressing over and gently mix until all pieces are coated well.



Transfer to storage container or serving bowl and cover. Chill a bare minimum of two hours, but preferably several hours or overnight. Salad should be stirred gently before serving (or before adding your garnish if you’re doing that)

Recipe makes 3 1/4 pounds, or about 14 half-cup servings

Bobbie Laughman shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. You could report her, but you know they’ll just laugh at you. Besides, you know he had it coming, so instead you should go check out her blog Gruntled. Sheveled. Whelmed. Send questions to

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10 thoughts on “Plato’s Potato Salad Recipe – The Requisite Summer Cookout Side Dish”

  1. This looks fantastic, thank you for writing it up. There are so many different varieties of potato salad out there. I know I want to eventually get around to adding a German version.

  2. Sounds great. Lil’ tip: Cook your eggs in the high-simmering water for about 11-12 minutes. Fish ’em out and proceed.

    • writercook¬†I’ve kinda thought that might work, but I’m paranoid about overcooking my eggs and getting that green around the yolk, so I just bring them to a boil and turn off the heat and let them sit for about 8 minutes. Then I start running cold water into the pan until I can handle them to peel.¬†

  3. I use red potatoes and cut them prior to boiling leaving the skins on. Check with a fork for doneness. As noted above, sharp knives are a no-no – they’ll go through a potato that isn’t quite done.

    • And one more tip, mix your dressing in the bottom of a large bowl then drop the other ingredients on top. Then mix. One less bowl for prep and the you don’t waste any of the dressing.

      • musingminds¬†I make my dressing in the same 2 cup glass measure that I use to measure out my mayo, so no extra bowl there. And I love my rubber scraper – it gets out every bit.¬†

  4. Except for the addition of yellow mustard this is identical to the Hellman’s recipe for potato salad that has been printed on millions of jars and now on their website for decades.

    • scrodsoundslovely¬†Wow, I just went and checked, and you’re right. Identical. Except I add mustard. Otherwise, identical. Oh, but I¬†use less salt. But otherwise, identical. Except I use¬†three times as many eggs, which they say are optional, when really? They’re essential.¬†But yeah, otherwise, exactly the same. Except that their instructions are completely different, not to mention, quite boring. </sarcasm>I was trying to recreate my grandmother’s potato salad, from memory of how it tasted when I last had it, over 25 years ago.¬†I never got her recipe, but it was quite a basic potato salad, with just potatoes, onions, celery and eggs, in a mayonnaise-based dressing, not sweet. Maybe grandma got the idea for her potato salad from a jar of Hellmanns mayonnaise, all those years ago, but it’s too late to ask her now. When I’m trying to come up with my own version of something, I look at lots of recipes that others have made, to see what ingredients they used, and pull my own ingredients list from several of them, leaving out things that don’t sound good to me. Then I tweak it from there. So, I happened to come up with a version quite similar to Hellmann’s. Sounds like I was on the right track, eh?


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