Friday, July 03, 2009

Texas potato salad, what is it?


Is there such a thing as Texas potato salad? And if so, what is it exactly?

When I asked my family how they make their potato salad, they all provided recipes that called for similar ingredients: chunky, unpeeled potatoes (either red new, brown russet or Yukon gold potatoes), green onions, celery, hard-boiled eggs, sweet pickles, mustard and mayonnaise. And if you’re on my dad’s side of the family, you stir in some Durkee’s as well.

This is the potato salad that always graced the table at our family barbecues—a thick mouthful that was soft and crunchy, tangy and sweet. But as I asked friends that hail from other regions of the country how they make their potato salads, their recipes sounded shockingly similar.

My family assured me, “Yes, this is how we do it.”

But is it particularly Texan?



People say it’s the mustard that makes a potato salad a Texas potato salad, but doesn’t everyone use mustard? Perhaps we just use more.

Of course, we also eat a lot of German potato salad in Texas. This concoction, most commonly found in the Hill Country, is usually served warm (though it’s also delicious cold). It’s a mix of red new potatoes, bacon, green onions, mustard and vinegar—with nary a dollop of mayonnaise to be found.

Sure, mustard is a quintessential Texas condiment. But so are pickled jalapenos. And why aren’t these in a Texas potato salad? Heck, even my mom—who is the queen of pickled jalapenos and its juice—doesn’t add it to hers. “Why not,” I asked. She didn’t have an answer, but insisted that sweet pickles are a key ingredient that compliments the other flavors.

Even though I’m no fan of sweet pickles, apparently I’ve been eating them in my potato salad my whole life without complaint, so I could see her point. But I still felt that a Texas potato salad needed jalapenos. So I compromised and made a batch of bread and butter jalapeno pickles and added that instead.



I love it when I have a hunch and it’s proven correct. And yes, these bread and butter jalapenos were a wonderful balance—sweet enough to be pleasing to the tongue yet fiery enough to make my lips tingle. Bread and butter jalapeno pickles were just what I needed to perk up my potato salad and make it my Texas potato salad.

But enough about me, what does Texas potato salad mean to you?

Texas potato salad
Ingredients:
2 pounds of red new potatoes, cubed
2 celery stalks, diced
2 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup of bread and butter jalapenos, diced (recipe follows or you can use store bought)
1/4 cup of yellow mustard
1/4 cup of mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon bread and butter jalapeno pickle juice
Salt and black pepper to taste

Method:
In a large pot, cover potatoes with cold water, bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Should be tender but not mushy.

Drain potatoes and rinse in cold water. Toss with vinegar and salt, and let cool in the refrigerator for half an hour.

After the potatoes have cooled, gently stir in the mustard and mayonnaise into the potatoes and then add the rest of the ingredients.

Serves four to six.

Notes: Lots of people like to also add dill pickles and sliced eggs and it always tastes good. And I used red new potatoes because that’s what my grandmother grows on her farm, but you can also use Yukon gold or any other potato that you prefer. I also leave my potatoes unpeeled because I like the texture and flavor of the skins, but feel free to peel your potatoes if that’s how you like them.

Bread and butter jalapeno pickles
Ingredients:
1/2 pound jalapenos (about four)
1 cup of apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon whole allspice
1 cinnamon stick

Method:
Pack into a pint-sized jar the sliced jalapenos
Bring the vinegar, sugar and spices to a boil, and pour over the jalapenos.
Let cool (about half an hour) and then cover and refrigerate.
Will be ready in a couple of hours, but I like to let them pickle overnight.

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63 comments:

anankae said...

Very similar to my Texas potato salad except I use sour pickles, no mustard and lots of hard boiled eggs.

wroxton said...

It would be luck that I found your blog. I was watching Ultimate Tyler and he made Mexican Corn. I wanted to see if his was authentic and so I ended up finding you. I'm so glad, too. I'm also a Texan but I wish I was in NYC. Anyways, great job and I look forward to continue following your blog.

Farah said...

People say it’s the mustard that makes a potato salad a Texas potato salad, but doesn’t everyone use mustard? Perhaps we just use more.

Sadly, no! I thought so too, much in the way I thought that surely every restaurant always had huge tureens of iced tea freshly made.

Since moving to NYC, I've only ever seen white potato salad at at catered picnics and delis. Maybe if I looked into people's kitchens to see what they come up with when they make homemade potato salad... I know I get more than one cocked eyebrow when I spoon in a dollop of mustard. I've also noticed that there are no pickles in the potato salad around here. Mostly it's sweet and mayonnaisey. Not great.

I agree with anankae on the sour pickles -- they add a nice bite.

lorijo said...

I learned how to make potato salad when I worked at a resturant in Michigan (when I was 17) and we always used mustard and mayo, with eggs and dill pickles.
I loved the salt licks potato "salad" with onion, some of their sauce and what I can only believe was meat drippings. I wish I could make that!

Screwed Up Texan said...

To make a true Texan potato salad in my most humble opinion, you must use dill pickles and dill pickle juice along with yellow prepared mustard and mayonnaise. One also must use brown potatoes (skin or no skin is a personal preference, I prefer half peeled and half unpeeled)that have been cubed and just slightly mashed. I mean very slightly mashed. I also like to add chopped hard-boiled eggs to my potato salad.

The jalapeno version sounds interesting. I just may have to try that.

laura said...

A tried & true Southerner, my grandma always put in sweet relish or pickles, a bit of mayo, mustard, celery, paprika & hard-boiled eggs. I'm loving the idea of bread & butter jalapenos, though. A nice bite would really help the cool celery/potato/mayonnaise combination. Maybe even a little red pepper too...

Anonymous said...

My mother - a Texan up in the panhandle under the influence of our New Mexico neighbors just a few hours west on I-40 - adds green chilies to hers. It's tasty.

Lissa said...

I lived in Texas from the time I was 3 until I was 39, and I never have liked mustard in potato salad. I've also never liked German potato salad. *shudder* I make mine with russet potatoes, onion, celery, vinegar, mayo, sour cream and lots and lots of hard-boiled eggs.

When I'm feeling lazy, I just steam some red potato slices, put a dollop of sour cream on top, and sprinkle with dill. Simple, easy and delish.

Sara said...

I cannot wait to make the pickles for my hubby! So fun! I know he will love them. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

Victoria said...

How funny. My most recent post is about potato salad too.

I have discovered that the Four-Minute Egg Gribiche from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook makes a fabulous dressing for potatoes.

But I must say this does sound delicious and definitely worth trying.

Brandi said...

My (east Texas) aunt Wanda made her potato salad the same way, except she mashed the potatoes and condiments together before adding the eggs and pickles. So it was a chunky cold mashed potato kind of thing... the flavors of potato salad but a totally different texture. So delicious.

Mary at My New 30 said...

I don't know about Texan potato salad, though I've got Texas in my blood, but I grew up with potato salad here in south Mississippi that had potatoes - white russet/baking potatoes though, never red, boiled eggs, celery, onion, mayo, pickle relish - sweet or dill, and mustard but not NEARLY that much mustard. We only used just a bit for the flavor - maybe a half teaspoon to a teaspoon but nowhere near 1/4 cup. I've tried heavier mustard and just did not like it - too tangy! I guess we like our tater salad tame & subtle down in these parts.

Andy said...

Man this is very Texan, now I just need a BBQ brisket sandwich w/ extra onions and pickled jalapenos to go w/ this yummy potato salad. Now that's 4th of July Texas style!

Kagee said...

In Austria you use no mayonaise, but instead a salad dressing with vinegar, oil, lots of salt, onions and some warm soup. Some people also use sliced cucumber and either dill or parsley.
Is this style of potato salad particular to Austria or does anybody else prepare it that way?

Meg said...

I am an Idahoan, and we use mustard in our potato salads - as well as dill pickles and hard boiled eggs. Everything store-bought is sweet and mayo-filled though!

Anj said...

Well now, aren't you just brilliant with the 'bread and butter jalapenos' - I think that is just the best idea ever and I'm going to try it for sure. I grew up with the heavier mustard potato salad but over the years the mayonnaise has become more dominant. Your 4th menu looks awesome. Have a happy and save 4th!

MellowRoast said...

Other than the jalapenos, your recipe is strikingly similar to my mother's wonderful potato salad. Having grown up in the South (Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia), I find mustardless potato salad unexciting. I'm not crazy about bread-and-butter anything, but I'll have to try this with regular pickled jalapenos!

lisa said...

My Mom adds sweet pickle relish to her potato salad which I don't really love. Your addition of bread and butter jalapenos sounds much better!

Dr. Bubba said...

Tater salad with Texas BBQ is very important. And not just any tater salad. It must be a yellow mustard tater salad. When I review BBQ I am looking for a mustard tater salad as one of the sides.

Pretty much what you described is what I expect. Traditionally taters chucked (no skin though I will eat it with skins), diced dill pickles (juice), boiled eggs, limited diced onions, mustard, and a bit of miracle whip or mayo. Served warm, but as you say it is still good cold.

My family is Texas German so the warm tater salad is traditional along with mustard. Many folks find me strange to like it that way.

Though my family loves jalapenos in just about everything, they do not traditionally put it in tater salad though one of my aunts has broke with tradition and uses jalapenos all the time. Tastes good but it not my absolute favorite.

Gregg said...

I'm from the Chicago area. My potato salad contains hard boiled eggs, yellow mustard, sweet pickle relish and a few other things. I've always kind of assumed that these are standard ingredients. I like to add a pinch of cayenne pepper, too.

Melanie said...

Yes, I think there is "Texas potato salad". My grandmother has always made one with mayo, mustard, bell pepper, onion, celery, pimentos, hard boiled eggs, and pickles. But she always used dill pickles and she added some of the juice from the pickles to the mixture. She also mashes the potatoes so that they're not very chunky and sprinkles the finished product with paprika. It's delicious!

Chrissy said...

Our family's recipe involves mashed russet potatoes, miracle whip, dill pickles, onions, hard boiled eggs, and the "secret ingredient"--a little bit of pickle juice. As far as I'm concerned this is the be-all, end-all of potato salad. My mother never used mustard, though my Aunt did. Either way is fine by me. I could live off this stuff.

Nikki said...

I've spent years trying to get my West Texas born and raised grandmother's recipe for Potato Salad right and your recipe is pretty close.

Memaw always used peeled russets, mustard, Miracle Whip (mayonaise just doesn't have the same tanginess), chopped sweet pickles (relish doesn't have the same crunch)a little pickle juice, and always some of that mornings bacon (crumbled up) with some of the drippings, along with a small jar of drained pimentoes and chopped hard boiled eggs. Sometimes for the onion lovers in the family, she'd add some diced purple onion too. After a good sprinkle of salt, pepper and paprika, that was it.

What a wonderful, colorful, tasty potato salad! Sometimes if there was any left the next day, my sister and I would snag some for breakfast after all the flavors had had some time to meld together, mmm mmm, just heaven!

jana said...

I make mine with peeled russets, onion, boiled eggs, kosher dills, mayo, mustard, salt & pepper, and celery salt. I think the celery salt sets mine apart from all the others. I've even won a few awards...nothing official, just church cook-offs.

Madcooks said...

I can't imagine potato salad without mustard. For me potato salad is:

Yukon Gold or another waxy potato
White wine seasoned with salt and pepper (sprinkled over the chopped potatoes while the potatoes are still warm)
Red onion
Celery
Eggs
Dijon Mustard
Mayo
and the final grace note
Celery Seed

For me the key element is celery seed - it pulls it all together.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Anankae--Love sour pickles in my salad!

Wroxton--Welcome! I look forward to seeing you again!

Farah--I hear you on the iced tea front--such an economical drink and yet so seldom found. Why is that? And while I have found that commercial potato salad is always cloying, white and sweet, my non-Texan friends have been known to add mustard. Perhaps, just not as much as us.

Lorijo--Meat drippings? Oh, my!

Screwed Up Texan--Pickle juice is amust!

Laura--I'm thinking the sweet pickle thing is more Southern than Texan perhaps.

Anon--I'll have to add green chiles next time!

Lissa--Dill and potatoes are a wonderful combination.

Sara--The pickles are wonderful, and are also great with cream cheese.

Victoria--Tis the season for potato salad!

Brando--Mashed potato salad is very much an East Texas thing.

Mary--Yep, the mustard does make it yellow and tangy!

Andy--Oh, yes--can't have potato salad without a BBQ brisket sandwich!

Kagee--That sounds a lot like German potato salad.

Meg--I agree, I don't know why store-bought potato salad has such an emphasis on the mayonnaise.

Anj--Why thank you! And I hope you had a happy 4th as well!

MellowRoast--Mustard definitely keeps it interesting.

Lisa--Yep, they give a bit of sweetness and a whole lot of fire.

Dr. Bubba--I do like it warm but prefer it cold.

Gregg--Pinch of cayenne will definitely add some heat!

Melanie--Bell peppers and pimentos--I forgot about them!

Chrissy--Pickle juice is a superb secret ingredient!

Nikki--Bacon! Yes!

Jana--I'll have to try it with celery salt.

Madcooks--Another vote for celery seeds!

Kagee said...

I was wondering what exactly a German potato salad is!
Although, that's a funny choice for it's name, as most of Germany (except maybe for Bavaria) staunchly believes in mayonnaise with their potato salad ;)

Thanks for the explanation!

Cynthia said...

I love a good potato salad and am always on the lookout for recipes to try. Like you, I find that there are certain ingredients that are consistent and then are are one or two other ingredients that are different or more of a particular ingredient is added. Love potato salad! :)

Overstreet said...

Equal parts of mayo or Miracle Whip, and mustard, with sweet relish. It has to be cold, not warm, for my family so chill it early in the day for it to be ready for the meal.

Michelle Stiles said...

To me Texas potato salad is warm German potato salad. Yummy!

Monica said...

Mmm! Just like my mom's potato salad! She also always sprinkles some of the paprika over the top of the salad, just like with deviled eggs! :-)

HoustonGurly said...

I nixed the pickles/relish long ago! Instead, I use red and green bell peppers chopped real fine. It gives it that extra crunch factor that surprises people.

Tommy said...

I don't think you can mess up potato salad too badly and I think it lends itself well to so many types of ingredients. I am surprised nobody has mentioned dill. That's a winner.

I recall a warm German potato salad with tons of bacon they serve at Oktoberfest in Kitchener Ontario. Man that was one very tasty dish. It was the bacon and grainy mustard that amped it up.Oh..we were all hammered so that helps intensify the flavor a bit.

Paula said...

Mmmm! Love potato salad! Your Texas salad looks amazing with those glorious potato chunks and those b/b jalapenos! Speaking of which, the cinnamon in the b/b jalapeno recipe took me by total surprise! I bet the juice added to the potato salad lent some great depth of mystery flavors! YUM!

passions and soapboxes said...

From one Texas gal to another it is the mustard but also a little chili powder

Chef Fresco said...

Delicious looking salad! You've got a great site w. beautiful photos!

Esmer said...

Those B & B jalapenos sound YUMMY!!

My mom's potato salad was always peeled potatoes, mustard, mayo, dill pickles, hard-boiled eggs and pimentos! I love it really cold with a little spoonful of BBQ sauce over the top!! Makes me want my dad's BBQ right NOW!!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Kagee--I had no idea, that's too funny!

Cynthia--There are a ton of potato salad recipes, aren't there?

Overstreet--I prefer it cold myself.

Michelle Stiles--That reminds me of home, as well.

Monica--Paprika does add an extra kick!

HoustonGurly--I'll have to try that--I bet the red peppers make it look pretty, too!

Tommy--I have to agree with you, though I have had some potato salad that was too sweet for my tastes. And yes, dill is awesome in potato salad!

Paula--I love to keep people guessing with the mysterious flavors!

Passions and soapboxes--Of course, chili powder!

Chef Fresco--Thank you!

Esmer--Thank you! BBQ sauce goes very well with potato salad, doesn't it?

Jesse said...

As a central Texan I'd say the German vinegar variety is the most "Texan" to me, but as a girl who used to sneak off to the store to buy HEB brand mustard potato salad (yeah, that was my favorite junk food. sad.) I'd say the mustard kind certainly reminds me of being a kid. I just bought some bread and butter jalapenos and was mulling over what to do with them besides eat them by the handful. Genius. Potato salad - of course!

Kimberly said...

Potato salad as I know it (similar to Nikki's. Also from West Texas):

Russet potatoes very slightly mashed
Celery
Onion, Yellow and Scallions
Pickle Relish
Chopped Dills with a little juice
Hard Boiled Eggs
Sometimes some chopped black olives
Miracle Whip
Yellow Mustard
Paprika
Salt
Pepper
Bacon

A lovely combination of opposite textures and flavors

Texana said...

Thanks for the recipe for Bread and Butter Jalapenos--my jalapeno "bushes" are bursting with little peppers ready for picking this week, and everything that is left over after our weekend of salsa and pico is going into jars! PS looking forward to reading all about salsa on Thursdays this summer!

Texnessa said...

Very close to my mother's recipe courtesy of several generations of church cook books from the Valley - Harlingen to be exact- sweet pickle with extra juice, Miracle Whip and lots of yellow mustard. None of that fancy stuff with the grains in it. Made it for visiting northerners and they still deny that they ate French's mustard.

Cathi said...

I always thought I was the Potato Salad Queen...but I tried this and am sorry to have to admit but I was wrong...this was soooo good!!!

Anonymous said...

As a Texan now living in Germany (Bavaria, to be precise), I can say that German potato salad is totally different than what we Texans think it is. It's hardly ever warm (but never cold), almost always has zero mustard (can get with mustard in grocery stores - still not the same), and is usually just sliced cooked potatoes in a very thin sauce that is hard to describe. Definitely has vinegar in it.

- E

Cyndi said...

This is making me chuckle. I"m a native Texan, born to a Texan who always insisted HER potato salad was Texan. NO mustard. NO to the mayonnaise - it had MIRACLE WHIP! It was simply potatoes, hard boiled eggs, diced onion, diced pimento, and diced SWEET pickles. I still refuse to eat potato salad that has mustard or dill pickles or celery. But I will eat with mayonnaise.

Latter-Day Flapper said...

My mother--not from Texas--makes German potato salad with bacon, vinegar, celery seed, and a little bit of brown sugar (just a little, to mellow the vinegar). No mustard, and it's always served warm-ish. I'm not sure where she got the recipe, though.

Our very-Southern-lady neighbor insists it's the hard-boiled eggs and sweet relish. My mother never heard of eggs in potato salad until we moved here [Houston vicinity]. We use dill relish because none of us likes sweet (I think I'd make an exception for bread-and-butter jalapeƱos, though!). We put loads of chopped celery in it for texture contrast.

I hate mayonnaise. I don't think I could eat potato salad that didn't have mustard in it.

Joycee said...

I made the Texas Potato Salad, Uncle Richards Salsa and Ninfa's Sauce to take on our getaway to a cabin on Lake Texoma last weekend. They were all big hits! My husband never likes potato salad and he loved this recipe! Our daughter went nuts over Ninfa's Sauce, we used to love the stuff when we lived in San Antonio and could go to the restaurant. Thanks for all of these great recipes!

ARK50 said...

I buy jalapeno bread and butter pickles when we are in Brownwood. They are Best Maid from Kroger or Walmart. Living in Illinois I soon run out. The solution this winter was to buy 1/2 gallon of good bread and butter pickles mix them with my own canned jalapenos and let them set a while. Yum better than the store bought.

Walter Davis said...

I had a TON of fresh jalapenos from the garden with no idea what to do with them all, so when my wife pointed me to your B&B recipe, I thought 'well, here's the ticket'. So I harvested a couple of handfuls and in only minutes had these bad boys cooling on the counter. Can NOT wait to give them a try! Thanks mucho from a Houstonian!!

Sandy said...

I love this! I grew up in California eating my mother's potato salad that she learned from her mom in Iowa. It is exactly like your family's Texas potato salad. I think it's the German heritage that brings it all together. My German family never made "german" potato salad at all!

Louise said...

How long will the Bread and butter jalapeno pickles last in the fridge? I am growing jalapeno peppers in my garden. It's our favorite pepper.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Louise--They'll last a few months.

Shae Griffin said...

We made this over the July 4th weekend and it was gobbled up! We pickled extra jalapenos and they are gone too!! Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe...makes me miss Texas even more!

Chicagoland Dan said...

How long will the pickled jalapenos keep in the refrigerator?

Chicagoland Dan said...

Ack! Nevermind--I see you've already fielded that question above. Love this potato salad recipe to go with brisket and smoked sausages.

Stef said...

I'm thinking that the "German" is actually Pennsylvania Dutch - they love their bacon drippings! And of course that is why their food is so good!

Sherri Dodsworth said...

The bread and butter jalapenoes are my favorite new addiction. They are incredible! I love them on steak sandwiches and burgers. Haven't gotten around to the potato salad yet.

Natalie said...

Not to be disrespectful, (cause I love Texas!) But some of the restaurants around here in Arlington have awful potato salad. I've seen orange tater salad, mashed tater salad, and one place's forgot to wash their potatoes before only half cooking them. Now I know why they're awful, cause Lisa moved before showing them how to cook, and cause my Granny is too old to come "learn them folks" about "proper tater salad" (Granny is a lil bit country, y'all...)

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of bread and butter jalepenos and the recipe looks great! You mention that you like to leave them over night, but I am wondering if you ever preserve them or longer. I live in Europe and at Christmas I like to give gift baskets with various American items. This would be a great addition. Any thoughts on whether these would can well?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Anon--I've never canned them, but there's certainly enough vinegar for you to preserve them. I'd process them in a water bath for 10 minutes.

Anonymous said...

Another Idahoan here. I add a little horseradish with my mayo and mustard. It gives it a little kick - probably like the jalepenos. Thanks for a great blog.

Anonymous said...

I am a Texan, I have lived in a other places though. I have been in Austin (grew up in Amarillo with a stint in Dallas along the way) for about 9 years now. I LOVE potato salad! I make several varieties depending on the meet that is on the grill or in the smoker. My absolute favorite is roasted poblano potato salad. I cook bacon down and cook the onions (red) in the leftover fat. I roast poblanos and garlic and add red potatoes whole grain mustard and ranch dressing. It is delicious.

Sally said...

For LoriJo....Salt Lick's potato salad recipe is online.

My sister-in-law puts olives in potato salad. Pretty good stuff.

I adore potato salad and have seldom for one I didn't like in whatever guise.

Sally the Arkstitcher.

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