German Potato Salad

This German potato salad, made with a hot and tangy vinegar dressing and and crisp bacon and served warm, is authentic through and through. Here’s how to make it.

An oval serving bowl filled with German potato salad

German potato salad flaunts a hot dressing that takes its tang from vinegar and its richness from bacon. Classic German comfort food that knows no borders. And not a dollop of mayo in sight.–Angie Zoobkoff

How To Make This German Potato Salad In Advance

Some people prefer to cook their potatoes for German potato salad the day before, peel, them, and refrigerate them. The following day, the hot dressing is added to the cold potatoes, which helps the potatoes retain their shape better. However, if you toss the dressing with the potatoes while they’re warm, they’ll absorb more of the dressing. It really comes down to personal preference. [Editor’s Note: Although as the author notes, “Personally, I do mine all on the same day. That way, I don’t need to plan ahead and can make the salad the day I’m craving it.” And we are all about satiating those cravings when they happen.]

German Potato Salad

  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 1 H, 10 M
  • Serves 4 to 6
5/5 - 1 reviews
Print RecipeBuy the German Meals at Oma’s cookbook

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Ingredients

  • 2 pounds waxy potatoes or Yukon gold potatoes, unpeeled
  • 1 tablespoon clarified butter or mild vegetable oil
  • 5 ounces bacon, diced
  • 3/4 cup finely diced onions
  • 1 cup store-bought or homemade beef or vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar, plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
  • Granulated sugar or honey, as needed
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives (optional)

Directions

  • 1. In a large pot over medium-high heat, bring the potatoes and enough water to cover to a boil and cook until just tender in the center, 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of your potatoes. To check if they are tender, poke them with the tip of a knife. It should slide in easily. Drain the potatoes and rinse them under cold water to cool them slightly. Peel them while they are still warm using your fingertips. The skins should slip right off. Slice them 1/8- to 1/4-inch (3- to 6-mm) thick and place them in a large bowl. (The thicker the slices, the less likely they are to crumble.)
  • 2. While the potatoes are cooking, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the bacon and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon fat is rendered and onions are translucent, 7 to 9 minutes. Stir in the broth and bring to a simmer. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, and celery seeds. Taste the dressing and add sugar or honey, if needed, stirring until completely combined.
  • 3. Pour about 2/3 of the hot dressing over the sliced potatoes in the bowl and very gently stir to evenly coat the potatoes. Let the salad rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, occasionally stirring to coat.
  • 4. Gently stir the potatoes again and taste to check the seasonings. If desired, add any more sugar or honey, salt, pepper, vinegar, or mustard, or add as much of the remaining dressing as you like. Sprinkle with the chives, if desired.

Recipe Testers Reviews

I hadn't had a potato salad with hot bacon dressing in quite a long time and had forgotten what a distinctively wonderful dish it can be. Despite the presence of butter and bacon fat, this dressing was not heavy and greasy, which is one of my misgivings about this type of recipe.

I was using uncured bacon and it made me nervous to have it not cooked as much as I would have if making this without a recipe. On the other hand, the smokiness I loved in the dressing probably came from the bacon being just on the edge of cooked and more ham-like than crispy bacon-like.

The recipe did, however, make more dressing than the potatoes really needed. It was delicious but they couldn’t absorb it all and were swimming in it. The dressing itself had a wonderful smoky flavor with depth. The heavy dose of vinegar helped cut through the fat. With everything mixed together, it turned into almost a pate in the refrigerator, so next time I would not add all of the dressing or would prepare a couple more potatoes to equalize things.

Although the leftovers from this congealed into an unappealing mass in the refrigerator, a brief reheating in the microwave produced a revived potato salad.

This is a potato salad that I can get behind because I DO NOT like mayonnaise-based salads. The vinegar, bacon, and onions made a very tasty dressing.

It was hard to tell when the potatoes were done with the skin on. A few felt like the knife went easily but some still felt like they were a little hard in the middle. It ends up though that when I pulled them they were all pretty soft, so some broke a little bit as a mixed in the dressing. I had to slice them on the thicker side (1/4 inch) for this reason.

I found adjusting the dressing was easier before adding it to the potatoes. I did add a tablespoon of honey just to take the bite off a bit. I didn’t have granulated sugar so I added a tablespoon of honey, which did the trick nicely. I think the salad could take even more of the chives.

This dish makes a fantastic side dish for the lemon sole oregnata. Yum!

This is pretty much a classic German Potato salad, always served at room temperature with lots of flavor from the bacon, onion, and vinaigrette. It’s important to rest the salad for at least 30 minutes or else there will be a fairly pronounced taste of vinegar. While there was still some presence of vinegar that same day, it pretty much disappeared the next day. I refrigerated the leftover salad and let it sit out for about an hour to get it back to room temperature.

What tipped this recipe over to the TC side is the flavor. It was liked by the extended family. However, the process for making it seemed a bit longer than it needed to be and there was too much dressing. If I make this again, I'd pour in a little, let it sit, and pour in more as needed.

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Comments

  1. My father-in-law made his family’s German potato salad almost exactly like this recipe. But we always use German vinegar and it makes a huge difference. It’s called Surig. For some reason, I have only been able to find the clear version is outside of Germany. In Germany, we can buy the darker which is stronger. He also told me that if I cannot find the German vinegar, a mix of white vinegar and tarragon vinegar is good. Just not as good as the German vinegar. His recipe included parsley and no sugar or honey. If you do find the German vinegar, use less of it as it is stronger.

  2. My mom used to make this German potato salad when we were young. She has passed on so I didn’t know how to make it and loved it do much. Thanks for this delicious recipe.

  3. Please do not be offended by my following comment. It is only to provide a different view of this recipe.

    My parents were about as German as you can get. We never ate potato salad dressed with vinegar. To say that this recipe is authentic, may only be the opinion of the person who created it. All of my mom’s German & Austrian friends never made it this way. It was always made with a unique combo of mayo and a bit of salad dressing for a sweet & sour balance. Potatoes were cooked in their skins and cooled. They were peeled while still slightly warm and cut into cubes. Bacon was definitely one of the characters added to it. Once the potato salad was dressed, decorated with slices of hard boiled eggs, and sprinkled with paprika, the bowl was wrapped tightly with plastic wrap. It was left on the counter at room temperature (all day) to allow the flavors to meld. Never, never was it put in the fridge.

    My mom’s belief was that potatoes became hard when chilled and prevented the potatoes absorbing the dressing. The salad was typically made first thing in the morning, to be eaten by dinner that evening. No one ever suffered from the dreaded food poisoning we fear today. Yes, leftovers had to be refrigerated, if there were any but by that time all the goodness of the dressing had been absorbed. This potato salad is incredibly delicious!

    1. We appreciate you sharing your experience, Evelyn, and your kind caveat. Food from back in the day can be such a tricky thing, especially things that we consider a “classic,” because there are so many different approaches to it. My family, too, is German, and both sides of my parents’ families come from the lineage of warm potato salad with bacon and vinegar with the potatoes dressed while warm. Not that this version is better or more classic, just another approach that, too, has its place in our memory. And that’s all that really matters, yes? That we’re able to come back to something that once brought us pleasure and still does, and brings with it memories that in an instant bring us back to a different time…

    2. I think, perhaps, the ingredients are more representative of the region. Sort of how northern Italy runs on butter while the south swears by olive oil. While studying abroad, vinegary, bacony potato salads were my go-to sustenance during monster cram sessions. This recipe was so reminiscent of that beloved dish that I almost got test anxiety all over again.

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