Hot German Potato Salad is the ultimate mayo-free side dish for any time of year. This recipe features a warm bacon vinaigrette, which coats the potatoes and soaks in as it sits for extra flavor. With bacon, onions, broth, and vinegar in the mix, there’s no shortage of flavor in this potato salad. Did I mention there’s bacon? There’s lots of bacon.
About 7 years ago now –after 10 years of begging — I finally got my Omi to teach me all of her authentic and much-loved German family recipes. I may have promised her internet fame in exchange. I may have exaggerated slightly.
My Omi’s recipe has been up here for all of those 5 years, and it’s been super popular. Not just with everyone who has come here to make it again and again, but with everyone at every cookout I’ve had for the past half-decade, because I always have to make it. And while over the years, there have been some slight tweaks to the recipe (which I have updated here, and which I beg you not to tell my Omi about), the traditional basis stays the same– waxy potatoes, bacon and the drippings, plenty of onions, red wine vinegar and broth for flavor, and a generous sprinkle of herbs. Simple. Delicious. An instant hit.
WHY I LOVE THIS RECIPE
- It requires only a few ingredients
- It is an authentic German recipe courtesy of my Omi
- It works any time of year
- It tastes delicious served warm, cold, or at room temperature
- It is a versatile side dish that works for large events, cookouts, or simple weekday dinners
- It is always the first thing to go at a potluck
WHAT IS GERMAN POTATO SALAD?
Typically when Americans hear “Potato Salad” the first thing that comes to mind is the mayo-blanketed variety, often with eggs, celery, and onions in the mix.
However, the German variation, which is generally served warm, doesn’t feature mayonnaise at all. Instead, the dressing is a bacon vinaigrette, which is mixed in while still hot so its flavor can soak into the potatoes.
While German Potato Salad does hail from Germany, as the name implies, there are actually several varieties of potato salad that come from different regions in Germany. Some don’t use bacon at all, some require mustard, some will recommend starchier potato varieties.
As my Omi lived in several different regions in Germany, I can’t be entirely sure where she first learned to make German Potato Salad, but it’s likely influenced by Bavarian and Swabian versions of the dish.
One of the reasons I love making this recipe so often is that it requires such straightforward ingredients but combines into a deeply flavorful dish!
- Potatoes. Waxy potatoes (such as red or yellow potatoes) are the traditional choice for German Potato Salad. These potato varieties hold their shape much better than russets do, so you’re able to get nicely discernable slices in this potato salad that will absorb the hot dressing. However, starchier russets also have their own advantages (such as the extra starch combining with the dressing to allow it to coat the potatoes more easily), so don’t be afraid to switch things up. Russets will fall apart when stirred, but they still taste just as delicious.
- Bacon. Bacon is the heart of this recipe’s flavor. This recipe features crisp bacon bits throughout, and also uses the rendered fat as the base of the dressing. American bacon is especially thin, so to make sure that the bacon doesn’t get lost in the mix (or cook too unevenly in the pan), I recommend using thick-cut bacon for this potato salad.
- Vegetable Oil. While a lot of bacon grease is certainly released into the pan, it’s necessary to add a bit more oil to prevent burning the onions and to ensure that the dressing has enough fat to balance the vinegar.
- Onions. White or yellow onions both work, and you can slice or chop them– whichever is your preference.
- Red Wine Vinegar. It’s unclear how traditional the choice of red wine vinegar is in this recipe, as most versions I’ve seen require white vinegar instead. However, my Omi would insist that using white vinegar would be potato salad blasphemy– red wine vinegar offers a deeper flavor and can stand up to the salty, fatty, meaty flavors of the bacon grease and beef broth.
- Beef Broth or Beef Stock. Ideally, you want to use a really quality beef stock for this recipe so you get a lot of flavor without watering down the final product. I personally use Better than Bouillon brand, which allows me to use significantly more beef base for a deeper, richer flavor, and doesn’t give the metallic taste you often get from canned beef broths.
- Sugar. Omi’s version does not use sugar, however I found that most authentic versions include a bit of sugar to balance the flavor. You don’t want enough that the salad becomes sweet, but there is quite a lot of acidity and fat in the potato salad that benefits from a spoonful of sugar.
- Herbs. Traditionally, parsley is the only required herb. Sometimes chives are used as well. I personally like to add dill, which brings more warm and bright flavor than mild parsley does alone.
As with any grandmother’s recipes, the tips may be just as important as the chosen ingredients.
First and foremost, you should know that Omi very highly stresses the importance of using Heinz red wine vinegar as it’s got the “perfect acidity.” Personally, I’ve never noticed the difference, but it’s worth stating.
Secondly, she advises that you can break up a small piece of potato in the pan while making the dressing if you’d like the dressing to be thicker, as the starch will help.
Lastly, she insists that the best way to make German Potato Salad is to actually make it the night before, refrigerate it, and take it out of the fridge to bring to room temperature before serving. If you want it hot, heat it up the next day, she says. But the time spent in the fridge “really lets the flavor grow.”
HOW TO PREPARE GERMAN POTATO SALAD
- Boil the potatoes. You don’t want the potatoes to be falling apart or mushy– boil them until they’re tender but will still hold their shape after cutting.
- Make the dressing. Cook the bacon, remove the bacon from the grease, and cook the onions in the rendered grease with a bit of extra oil. Then you can mix in the remaining dressing ingredients– the vinegar, broth, sugar, and seasonings.
- Slice the potatoes. By now the potatoes should be cool enough to handle without hurting your hands. Slice them up into 1/2 to 1/4 inch pieces.
- Mix it all together. Add the potatoes and reserved bacon back to the pan, along with the herbs.
And that’s all it takes!
Those pesky, picky mayonnaise haters (like myself, sorry!) will never annoy you again with their refusal to try your prized potato salad at big summer BBQs if you serve this version up. Even those who love the mayonnaise-slathered American version usually enjoy the vinegary German Potato Salad and ask for the recipe. Everybody wins with German Potato Salad, and I guarantee it will disappear faster than you can imagine.
WATCH THE VIDEO
- 5 pounds waxy potatoes (yellow or red potatoes)
- 1 pound thick-cut bacon
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 small white onion, sliced
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup beef broth
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley and/or fresh dill
- Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
- Boil the potatoes. Test them by piercing with a fork and drain when they reach the desired consistency (about 20 minutes). Let cool until you can handle them without burning yourself, but don’t let them get cold. Peel and slice into 1/4- 1/2 inch thick slices. Place in a large bowl.
- Cook bacon in a large pan over medium heat until crispy. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and crumble, leaving the grease in the pan.
- Add oil and onions to the pan and cool until softened, about 5 minutes. Mix in the vinegar, beef broth, and sugar and bring to a light boil. Then gently toss in the sliced potatoes, half of the bacon, and half of the herbs. Cook until warmed through, stirring occasionally. Season with kosher salt and black pepper, to taste.
- Top with remaining bacon and herbs. Let sit for 15-20 minutes to allow the the flavors to absorb. Serve warm.
- While I personally prefer the German Potato Salad when it’s served warm, it’s also delicious served cold or at room temperature. Don’t be afraid to make it ahead of time just like you would any other potato salad.
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Cook Time: 30 mins
- Category: Side
- Cuisine: German
Keywords: german potato salad, potato salad, hot german potato salad, no mayo potato salad, bacon potato salad