Light, yet filling – refreshing, yet comforting – easy to make, yet irresistibly delicious: this is the best Northern German potato salad recipe for good reasons. Try it for yourself!
What makes this particular German potato salad recipe so crunchy, light and refreshing? The secret are apples, cucumbers, pickles and lots of parsley – and definitely NO eggs… or sugar!
This is Luci’s mother’s mother’s potato salad recipe (German: Kartoffelsalat Rezept). So we’re talking traditional, authentic hand-me-down German Oma’s potato salad. It’s tried and true for several generations of women born and raised in Hamburg, Germany. Luci made only the slightest of tweaks: using both cucumber and pickles (instead of choosing one or the other) and doubling up on the sauce.
There are probably as many potato salad recipes as their are different beers. The biggest differences are between those made with a mayonnaise (Northern) or with an oil and bouillon dressing (Swabian). Also rumor has it that some potato salads are served warm. What?! How is that a salad? And the other day, we had a Bavarian-style potato salad at an Oktoberfest in Florida – and we’d call that “salad” chunky mashed potatoes. But then they also spelled Bratwurst with an Umlaut: Brätwurst. Tststs.
Many people consider potato salad comfort food. In Northern Germany, potato salad becomes the ultimate “Northern Soul Food” when paired with fish sticks and a cold Pils (Pilsner-style beer). In places like Berlin you might find it more often served with a Currywurst (curry sausage) and beer. And of course, it’s a staple at Oktoberfest celebrations around the world… also with a side of beer. Prost!
We recommend you make this Kartoffelsalat for any grill party, potluck or picnic. It’s easy and fast to make, accompanies pretty much any other savory food, can be stored in the fridge for at least 3 – 5 days, and it’s always popular.
This is the recipe we’ve had the most requests for – and it’s the first time we’re sharing it publicly:
Northern German Potato Salad Recipe Ingredients
Picnic / Potluck Size: 6 – 8 servings
2 pounds (8-9 medium sized) waxy or all-purpose potatoes
1 apple (crisp)
1 small onion
1 dill pickle
1/2 English cucumber (or 1 “regular” cucumber)
1/4 cup (4 tbsp) vinegar (preferred: apple cider vinegar)
1/2 cup (8 tbsp) mayonnaise
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley + some for garnish
1/2 – 1 tsp salt (to taste – so start with less and figure out how you like it best)
1/4 – 1/2 tsp pepper (to taste – so start with less and figure out how you like it best)
Northern German Potato Salad Recipe Steps
- Wash potatoes well! Put potatoes (with skins still on) into a large pot with well-fitting lid. Add water so that potatoes are only half-way covered. Add salt. Cover pot. Bring to rapid boil on high temperature. Turn down temperature to medium-low and let simmer for about 20 minutes.
- Peel potatoes. Let cool completely.
- Make sauce by whisking together mayonnaise, vinegar and parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Put half the sauce in a large bowl.
- Peel apple, cut into eighths and slice. Add immediately into the sauce.
- Peel cucumber, quarter and slice.
- Quarter pickle and slice.
- Slice cooled-off potatoes.
- Chop onion.
- Add all ingredients into the large bowl with sauce and apple and gently mix.
- Pour remaining sauce over salad.
- Garnish with fresh parsley leaves.
Choosing the right potato: For potato salad, you want potatoes with firm and moist flesh; either “waxy potatoes” with low starch content like Red Bliss and New Potatoes or “all-purpose potatoes” with medium starch content Yukon Gold.
Cooking potatoes perfectly for a salad: We recommend boiling potatoes in their skins (vs. peeling them before boiling). The skins preserve more nutrients and flavor; and the texture is usually more firm as well; and you get to eat the nutritious part right under the skin. After boiling, just stick each potato on a fork, use a sharp knife to make a cut piercing the skin and then lift + peel off the thin skin.
Ideally, all the potatoes should be more or less the same size so they get done at the same time.
With potato salad it’s especially important that the potatoes are neither under nor overcooked. Test if the potatoes are done by sticking a pointed vegetable knife into the potato. If the potato slides smoothly off the knife when you pull it out, the potato is done.
You can boil and peel the potatoes a day or hours before assembling the potato salad.
Cucumber choice: We prefer using the English or hot house cucumber (vs. regular or Persian cucumber) because the seeds are smaller and don’t need to be cut out.
Apple choice: Go for an apple that’s crispy and flavorful, not too sweet and not too sour. As the best apple for a salad, we recommend Fuji or Honeycrisp, and maybe Gala. We don’t recommend any of the Delicious varieties.
Slicing the ingredients: Cut the apple, cucumber and potatoes into more or less equally thick slices. Eating this salad is more fun if you can’t tell if you’re about to bite into a piece of potato, apple or cucumber because they all look the same under the sauce. If you want to get all technical about it: about a 1/4 of an inch or 1/2 of a centimeter thick.
Add a subtle flavor twist: For a slightly different flavor, use pickle juice instead of the vinegar.
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Let us know in the comments below if you’ve tried this recipe… if you’ve added your own twist… if you have other recommendations. Let’s inspire each other!
6 thoughts on “Best Northern German Potato Salad (Norddeutscher Kartoffelsalat)”
My favorite German restaurant went ot of business when the building was sold. Their potato salad seemed to be a combination of Northern and Southern. Definitely had cucumber in it. No mayo, I think it had a chives in it. I don’t think it had apple unless it was a very small amount (Oh of those things that you’d miss if wasn’t there) In fact the father of the chef told me it was the difference between southern and northern. Any recipes for it, that you could supply I’d appreciate.
Ah, the sweet memories of food one can’t find anymore. Sorry to hear that restaurant closed. This recipe here is my own family’s Kartoffelsalat recipe with a few little tweaks from me. I don’t have or support any other potato salad recipes… because why bother, this is the best 😀
I thought you said no eggs??
There are no eggs in this potato salad.
If you want it to be fully vegan, I recommend substituting vegan mayonnaise for regular mayonnaise.
Thanks, Luci. Looking forward to making this…. and will use all your family tips. Those are often as important to a recipe as the ingredients are!
That would be great! I hope you like it. That would be a great return-recipe for the autumn veggie casserole recipe I got from you waaaaay back when we filmed All God’s Children.
And I think you’re right about all the tips. I’ve realized the importance of those as I’ve been writing out these recipes to share online… and using up more space with the Happier Tips than the ingredients and basic steps. I think those tips are often what separates an great dish or drink from one that’s just good.