By Susan Greer

LONDON, Ont. — If the Victoria Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer, it must also be the unofficial start of potato salad season.

“I think potato salad is still as popular as ever, especially in the summer,” says chef Jo Lusted. “For picnics and barbecues, potato salad is the quintessential summer favourite.”

Europeans were introduced to potatoes in the 16th century by explorers who took them home from the New World, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that the idea of potato salad-type recipes began to gain popularity back in the Americas, thanks to incoming European settlers.

In general, food historians suggest cold potato salads evolved from British and French recipes while warm potato salads were more likely to be German in origin.

Light potato salad is shown in a handout photo. If the Victoria Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer, it must also be the unofficial start of potato salad season.

Light potato salad is shown in a handout photo. If the Victoria Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer, it must also be the unofficial start of potato salad season. [The Canadian Press/HO – Mike McColl]

Regional variations developed here depending on available ingredients, and although strong loyalties remain to certain traditions, the range of flavours that can be adapted to the salads are “limitless,” says Lusted, also a cookbook author and TV host.

“While the traditional will always be a favourite, people are really getting into different things, different types of potatoes even, using fingerling potatoes or different coloured potatoes. Purple potato salad — how pretty is that?”

Lusted’s favourite is “pretty traditional with egg and dill — the way my mom made it,” although she has lightened it up by replacing her mom’s Miracle Whip with an apple cider vinegar and Greek yogurt-based dressing.

“But I love a really good German potato salad with the vinegar and some green onions and herbs. I love having it with maybe a Mexican flair or some Asian flavours.”

It’s not known when mayonnaise became the potato salad dressing of choice for many North Americans. The sauce itself was developed in France, but the first potato salad recipes of French origin that seemed to catch on here favoured oil and vinegar dressing.

The mayo versus vinaigrette debate is one that absorbs potato salad stalwarts, as is the question of mashed versus chunked potatoes. On either topic, it’s just a matter of preference.

But loyalties run deep.

Annette Owens of Cochrane, Alta., says she and her sister wouldn’t think of making potato salad with anything except their mother’s homemade dressing recipe. Using commercial salad dressing “would be sacrilegious in my family.”

There’s no telling how many potato salads their mother, Doris Newell of Mansfield, Ont., has made in her 80-something years but, suffice to say, a lot.

The recipe for the cooked dressing came from an older woman in the small community and Newell continued to use it exclusively long after most cooks had stopped making their own salad dressing.

One reason, she says, is she liked the tanginess of the recipe, which calls for equal parts milk and vinegar as its base. Her husband Russell was the taste-tester and if he thought the finished salad wasn’t zippy enough, she stirred in a little more vinegar and some brown sugar to liven it up.

Another reason is that the homemade dressing has stood the test of time better than commercial dressings. There is no oil in her recipe to separate from the other ingredients and the eggs are cooked, eliminating concerns about raw eggs or egg yolks used in some salad dressing recipes.

Ideally, make the salad the day before you want it so the flavours can meld as it sits in the refrigerator overnight. As long as it’s properly refrigerated, it will stay nice for four or five days, Newell says.

Hard boiled eggs are shown in a handout photo.

Hard boiled eggs are shown in a handout photo. [The Canadian Press/HO – Mike McColl]


Some people swear by traditional potato salad while others are venturing into new territory with the addition of grilled potatoes and other ingredients to create a Mediterranean, Mexican or Asian flair.

Here are some recipes to try.


This recipe has all the flavour of a traditional potato salad but with a fraction of the calories, thanks to the substitution of Greek yogurt for mayonnaise. Also, the smooth texture and buttery flavour of Yukon Gold potatoes allow you to use less dressing.

1 kg (2 lb) Yukon Gold potatoes (about 6 potatoes), each cut into 8 pieces
45 ml (3 tbsp) apple cider vinegar
2 ml (1/2 tsp) sea salt, plus more to taste
250 ml (1 cup) non-fat plain Greek yogurt
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
2 celery ribs, finely diced
2 medium dill pickles, finely diced (about 75 ml/1/3 cup)
3 green onions, thinly sliced
30 ml (2 tbsp) yellow mustard
Freshly ground black pepper
5 ml (1 tsp) smoked paprika

In a medium saucepan, place potatoes and cover with salted water by 2.5 cm (1 inch). Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes. Drain well in a colander, then place in a large bowl. Add vinegar and 2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt to hot potatoes and mix well. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine yogurt, eggs, celery, pickles, green onions and mustard.

When potatoes are cool, gently stir yogurt mixture into potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and ideally overnight, as this salad is even better the next day. Sprinkle with paprika just before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

Source: “Dish Do-Over” by Jo Lusted (Collins Canada, 2014).


For perfect hard-boiled eggs — for potato salad or anything else — follow these steps.

Place eggs in a pot in a single layer (do not stack). Cover with cold water by at least 2.5 cm (1 inch) and bring water to a gentle boil over high heat.

As soon as water begins to bubble, remove pot from heat, turn off burner, cover pot and let rest for 8 minutes (10 minutes for extra-firm yolks). Rinse eggs under very cold running water or immerse in an ice bath for 10 minutes. If water in the ice bath warms, discard water and recover with more ice water.

Drain eggs and peel.

Hard-boiled eggs in their shells will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge.

Source: “Dish Do-Over” by Jo Lusted (Collins Canada, 2014).


This classic creamy potato salad is made with a tangy homemade salad dressing.

8 to 10 medium potatoes
4 eggs
1 bunch green onions (about 6), cut into small pieces
175 ml (3/4 cup) sliced radishes
175 ml (3/4 cup) diced peeled cucumber
175 ml (3/4 cup) celery, diced
Salt and pepper, to taste
Homemade salad dressing, to taste (recipe follows)

Peel and boil potatoes. When cooked, mash to a fairly lump-free consistency. Hard-boil eggs, let cool, peel and mash.

Combine potatoes, mashed eggs and rest of vegetables. Add enough salad dressing to make a moist salad and stir well to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. If the salad is not tangy enough, add about 5 ml (1 tsp) each of vinegar and brown sugar and stir well again.

Place in a serving bowl, sprinkle with paprika, cover tightly and refrigerate. Serve chilled.

Makes about 8 servings.


Before microwaves, the dressing was cooked on the stove, but eventually Newell says she started making it in the microwave and found that worked just as well.

250 ml (1 cup) milk
250 ml (1 cup) vinegar
2 eggs
175 ml (3/4 cup) sugar
30 ml (2 tbsp) dry mustard
125 ml (1/2 cup) flour
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a saucepan, combine milk and vinegar and heat on medium until warm. (Don’t worry if the mixture curdles slightly as it heats.)

Meanwhile, combine remaining ingredients and stir into warmed milk/vinegar combination. Continue stirring until it comes to a boil and thickens.

Remove from heat and let cool. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator.

Microwave Method: Heat milk and vinegar in a large microwave-safe container. Add other ingredients as above. Cook on high, but stop every minute or two to stir and check thickness. Remove when desired thickness of sauce is reached.

Makes about 500 ml (2 cups).

Source: Doris Newell, Mansfield, Ont.


Crisp golden potatoes absorb the sweet flavour of white balsamic vinegar in this slightly Mediterranean version of a summer favourite. It can be served warm or cold.

Crisp golden potatoes absorb the sweet flavour of white balsamic vinegar in this slightly Mediterranean version of a summer favourite. It can be served warm or cold. [The Canadian Press/HO – Ontario Potato Board]

6 Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1.125 kg/2 1/4 lb), scrubbed
2 red peppers, quartered
30 ml (2 tbsp) extra-virgin olive oil
30 ml (2 tbsp) chopped fresh basil
15 ml (1 tbsp) chopped fresh rosemary
1 ml (1/4 tsp) each salt and pepper
White Balsamic Dressing
50 ml (1/4 cup) extra-virgin olive oil
30 ml (2 tbsp) white balsamic vinegar
30 ml (2 tbsp) finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
1 clove garlic, minced
75 ml (1/3 cup) halved pitted kalamata olives
30 ml (2 tbsp) chopped fresh basil
15 ml (1 tbsp) capers

Cut potatoes into 8 wedges each and place in a large bowl with red peppers. Add oil, basil, rosemary, salt and pepper and toss to coat well.

Place potato wedges and pepper on a greased grill over medium-high heat and grill for about 20 minutes, turning once or until golden and tender. Thinly slice red peppers and return to bowl with potato wedges.

Dressing: Meanwhile, whisk together oil, vinegar, tomatoes and garlic. Pour over grilled potatoes and peppers. Add olives, basil and capers and toss gently to combine.

Serve warm or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature and toss well before serving.

Tip: You can substitute 1 jar (340 ml) roasted red peppers, drained and sliced, for the 2 red peppers.

Makes 6 servings.

Source: Ontario Potato Board.


This refreshing version of potato salad offers a taste of Mexico.

1 kg (2 lb) round potatoes, unpeeled
6 large leaves red leaf lettuce

1 tomato, diced
30 ml (2 tbsp) finely chopped green onions
125 ml (1/2 cup) diced cucumber
125 ml (1/2 cup) diced green pepper
125 ml (1/2 cup) diced red pepper
125 ml (1/2 cup) diced celery
75 ml (1/3 cup) chopped coriander
30 ml (2 tbsp) lemon juice
50 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
1 ml (1/4 tsp) hot pepper flakes
1 garlic clove, minced
2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt
1 ml (1/4 tsp) pepper
250 ml (1 cup) vegetable or tomato juice

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook potatoes until tender. Drain and cut each potato into 8 wedges. Set aside.

Salsa: In a large bowl, combine tomato, green onions, cucumber, green pepper, red pepper, celery and coriander. Set aside.

In a tightly sealed container or glass jar, shake together lemon juice, olive oil, hot pepper flakes, garlic, salt, pepper and vegetable juice. Pour over vegetables and toss to combine. Chill.

Toss potato wedges with salsa. Serve in lettuce-lined bowl or on individual lettuce-lined plates. Chill until ready to serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Source: Foodland Ontario.

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