German Potato Salad
This warm German Potato Salad recipe features tender red potatoes and bites of bacon in a tangy bacon, vinegar, and mustard dressing. It’s a family favorite that we enjoy all year long!
The Best German Potato Salad Recipe
With strong German ancestry on both sides of my family, it should come as no surprise that potatoes and sauerkraut and any variety of sausage were common dishes at our table when I was growing up.
But it wasn’t until my family was on vacation in the Black Hills many years ago, that I had my first experience with authentic German potato salad. And I was instantly hooked!
This German Potato Salad recipe is awesomely flavored with vinegar and mustard, and is served warm or at room temperature. And there’s BACON! I hope you love it, too!
What is German Potato Salad?
First thing’s first. Let’s talk about what makes German potato salad different from the more traditional American potato salads.
Here in America, when we talk about potato salad, it usually means a cold salad with a dressing that includes mayonnaise. Other typical ingredients include peeled potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, some kind of pickles, a touch of fresh celery for crunch, and a bit of yellow mustard. My Dill Pickle Potato Salad is a perfect example of this kind of salad.
German potato salad flips our American ideas upside-down. First, the traditional German salad is most often served warm or at room temperature. Second, it never includes mayo – only bright and tangy vinegar. And finally, it’s loaded with bacon. Sounds WONDERFUL to me!
This potato salad recipe consists of common ingredients. I’m betting you have most of these items on hand, except you might need to make a run for some bacon.
- red potatoes – Medium-sized potatoes work great.
- salt & pepper
- thick-cut bacon – I prefer bacon that’s sliced on the thick side, for more pronounced bites of bacon.
- yellow onion
- apple cider vinegar – For that awesome tangy flavor that German potato salad is famous for!
- whole-grain mustard – This adds beautiful flavor and texture to the dressing.
- Dijon mustard – This adds another layer of mustard goodness and lends a creaminess to the dressing.
- sugar – Just a few spoons of sugar is delightful with the vinegar and mustards!
- fresh parsley – For fresh green flavor and color.
How to Make German Potato Salad
The thing that makes this potato salad so radically different from any that I had ever eaten before, is that it’s most often served warm. At first this felt odd to me. But after just a few bites, I was thoroughly convinced that warm German potato salad NEEDS to be a salad on regular repeat!
Here’s how to make it!
- Prep potatoes: Cut any larger potatoes in half so that all potatoes are approximately the same size. Then boil them in a pot of salted water until tender. Drain and let steam-dry on the stovetop.
- Fry bacon: Cut bacon into bite-size pieces and fry in a large skillet with tall sides. Transfer cooked bacon to a plate with a slotted spoon.
- Sauté onion & garlic: Cook the onion and garlic in the same skillet, in the bacon grease, until softened.
- Make dressing: Stir in whole grain mustard, Dijon mustard, sugar, salt, pepper, and finally the vinegar. Bring mixture to a simmer and cook until thickened.
- Bring it altogether: Add the cooked potatoes, and fold until nearly all the dressing is absorbed. Then fold in the bacon, a bit more salt, and the parsley.
I love how the potatoes soak up all of that sweet vinegar-y, bacon-y goodness. The salad is so many things all at once – tangy, savory, and sweet. Every bite is heavenly!
How Long to Boil the Potatoes
This will depend on a variety of things, such as the size of your potatoes, the size of your pot, and how much water is in the pot. But, in general, we’re looking at about 10 to 15 minutes of boiling time.
I stress to not pay attention to the minutes as much as the texture of the potatoes. When the water starts to boil, I set a timer for 10 minutes. Then I check the doneness by stabbing a potato with a fork. If there is ANY resistance, I set the timer again for another minute or two, and then check again.
You’ll know the potatoes are done when the fork pierces the potatoes easily, with no resistance. When this happens, immediately drain the potatoes. Do not overcook them!
Tips for Success
- Potatoes are the heart of this recipe. Be sure to choose ones that are fresh and mostly blemish-free.
- Scrub the potatoes before you boil them. Get them good and clean!
- Cut any large potatoes, to create chunks that are approximately the same size. This helps all the potatoes to cook evenly.
- Start the potatoes in cold water, before bringing them to a boil. This also helps the potatoes to cook evenly. If you add the potatoes to water that’s already boiling, the outsides will cook much faster than the insides.
- Don’t forget to salt the water. When adding the potatoes to the boiling water, throw in some salt. This will add flavor to the potatoes.
- Let the potatoes steam-dry after they are cooked and drained. Just let the potatoes sit on the still-hot stovetop for a few minutes, until any excess moisture evaporates. This allows the potatoes to absorb the dressing more easily.
- Gently fold the potatoes into the dressing. If you stir vigorously, the potatoes will break down more, and take on a different appearance and texture. But maybe you’ll like it that way?!
- Bacon is also an important ingredient with this recipe. I’ll always recommend a thicker cut, for a more toothsome bite.
- If you like, use white vinegar instead of apple cider vinegar. While I stand behind the depth and flavor that ACV gives this salad, white vinegar is also very acceptable, still very good.
- So you’re a mustard fan? By all means, up the quantity of mustard! I sometimes add in another half-tablespoon of each of the mustards.
How to Serve this Salad
When it’s just our family eating this potato salad, I most often serve it straight from the skillet, hot and fragrant from the stovetop.
But when serving this to guests, around the dining room table or outside on the backyard patio, I will likely transfer the salad to a serving bowl. I aim to serve the salad anywhere between hot and warm…and when it cools to room temperature it’s still awesome!
And if you’re wondering about serving it cold, I have to admit that it’s still pretty darn wonderful straight from the fridge! Just know that when the salad sits in the refrigerator, it absorbs more of the dressing. So you may want to spritz a bit more vinegar (or a little water or chicken broth) over the top, and then give it a stir to loosen it back up.
What Goes with German Potato Salad?
I’m going to get really German on you here. See that plate above? THAT is a plate of German goodness. A tasty grilled bratwurst (we love the ones from our local Hagberg’s butcher shop!), a helping of sauerkraut, and a pile of warm German potato salad.
But, really, this salad is a perfect side for so many meals. It goes with any backyard gathering, with a main entrée from the grill. Think about serving it with my famous Beer Can Chicken, these Easy Grilled Pork Chops, a flavorful Grilled Turkey Tenderloin, or these beautiful Sugar Grilled Beef & Asparagus Kebabs!
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- 2 pounds medium-sized red potatoes
- 1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1 pound thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2" pieces
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard (use a bit more if you really like mustard)
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- Cut any larger potatoes in half so that all potatoes are approximately the same size. Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water by 1". Bring to a boil and stir in 1 tablespoon of the salt. Reduce heat to medium, so the water is just gently bubbling. Cook potatoes until they are easily pierced with a fork, about 10 to 15 minutes. Immediately drain the water so they don't overcook. Leaving the potatoes in the pot, return the pot to the still-hot burner. With the lid off, let the potatoes steam-dry for a few minutes. Then remove to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, cut potatoes into 3/4-inch sized pieces (leave the skins on).
- In a large skillet with tall sides, fry the bacon pieces over medium heat until chewy-crisp. With a slotted spoon, transfer cooked bacon to a plate.
- Return skillet with bacon grease to the stove top, over medium heat. Add onion and stir to coat. Cook for about 4 minutes, or until onion is nicely softened, stirring regularly. If onion starts to brown, turn heat down a little bit and continue cooking until softened. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute more.
- Remove skillet from heat and stir in whole grain mustard, Dijon mustard, sugar, salt, and pepper. Then slowly pour in the vinegar and stir to combine. Return skillet to medium heat and bring mixture to a simmer. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove skillet from heat and add potatoes. Fold the potatoes until nearly all the dressing is absorbed. Then fold in the bacon. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt (use more or less, to taste) and parsley, and fold again.
- Sprinkle with additional freshly ground black pepper, if desired. Serve straight from the pan or transfer the salad to a serving bowl. This dish is known for being served warm or at room temperature, but can also be served chilled.
Keeps well in the refrigerator for up to five days.
Recipe inspired by our lunch at the Alpine Inn in Hill City, SD.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 321Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 45mgSodium: 940mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 2gSugar: 6gProtein: 18g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated by Nutritionix. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee accuracy. If your health depends on nutrition information, please calculate again with your own favorite calculator.
A little bit of history with this recipe! This is where I first tasted German Potato Salad, on a family trip to the Black Hills.
Located just across the street from the train depot, we were seated at a sweet little table on the restaurant’s covered porch, giving our daughters a front row seat to all the locomotive action.
As I perused a menu that included spaetzle, schnitzel, and loads of red cabbage, my eyes caught sight of the German potato salad that accompanied the smoked bratwurst. When the waitress explained this new-to-me rendition of potato salad, I knew I had to try it. And as they say, the rest is history!
This post was originally published in 2016, and then updated in 2021.