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Mama’s Easy Potato Salad Recipe

Mama’s potato salad! For most of my life, I never even imagined any side dish that was as delicious as this one, and we had it often!

My mama’s potato salad is one of those delicious side dishes that goes with almost any meal. I also like the fact that you can serve it year-round, not just at a holiday dinner.

spoon in a bowl of potato salad with a plate of potato salad next to it

This is an old fashioned potato salad that my mother learned from her mother, who probably also learned from her mother. Some people like German potato salad with an apple cider vinegar base, and I do too. However, my favorite is this southern classic potato salad.

You can use whatever potatoes you have on hand. It’s good with Yukon gold potatoes, red potatoes, or even russet potatoes. It doesn’t matter.

I highly recommend reading this entire post before you begin preparing the recipe. However, if all you want is the list of ingredients with full directions, please either click on the jump-to-recipe button above or scroll to the bottom of this post.

Old Fashioned Potato Salad Recipe

We eat this during summer picnics, at Thanksgiving, and any other time we feel like it. That’s what makes it the perfect side dish with everything from coconut shrimp to Mexican ground beef patties.

Every southerner claims to have the best potato salad, but a lot of the recipes are similar. So my mother figured out a way to make hers a tad different. She garnished it with sliced, pimento-stuffed green olives. And I’m not talking about just a few. In fact, she pretty much covered the top of it with olives.

My dad and I teased her and said that the salad was looking back up at us. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t amused, but she kept doing it. I’ve used other types of garnish, such as sliced black olives, pimentos, and even pickles. Since I don’t want to mess with the foundation of the potato salad, I only add these things to the top to add visual interest.

If someone doesn’t like olives, they can pick them off. However, I think they add so much deliciousness to the flavor.

Homemade potato salad with green olives on top

My mother’s family used to have a lot of family reunions. So when we were in Mississippi during those times, my mother always brought a big bowl of potato salad. After a while, people began to look for her potato salad because it was so yummy. I think they also enjoyed the way she garnished it.

I still make her version, but I don’t put quite as many olives on the top. And I sprinkle paprika to add even more color.


Of course you’ll need potatoes. Any kind will do, but since I had small red potatoes in the bin, I used them.

Small red potatoes

The rest of the ingredients are what add flavor, texture, and presentation. I use hard boiled eggs, celery, sweet pickle relish, mayonnaise, and a tiny bit of mustard. You’ll need paprika and green olives with pimentos for garnish.

Mayonnaise, eggs, celery, sweet pickle relish, and mustard

You can add other ingredients as well. For example, my great-aunt liked to put bacon in hers, while another relative added cheese. Another thing you might enjoy is potato salad with sour cream. All you have to do is cut the amount of mayonnaise by the amount of sour cream you add.

If you think something might be good in your potato salad, try adding it to a small amount. Taste it before adding it to the rest of the batch. Feel free to use dill pickles or dill pickle relish if you prefer. You can also use dijon mustard instead of the standard yellow mustard.

When I want a different flavor, I might add some chopped fresh herbs and red onion. If you want, you can use miracle whip, but I really prefer mayonnaise. For a more tart potato salad recipe, swap out some of the mayo for sour cream. Or you can add a little vinegar or even pickle juice.

It’s also good with some chopped celery or shredded carrots. Don’t be afraid to add other ingredients. If you’re worried that it might not be good, scoop out a little bit of the basic recipe and add whatever you’re thinking about. Taste it to determine whether or not it’s good enough to put in the bulk of the potato salad.

For exact measurements of each ingredient and full directions, go to the recipe card at the bottom of the page. You can even print out the card by using the “print” button.

How to Make Mama’s Potato Salad

Potato salad is one of the easiest side dishes you can make for big payoff when it’s done. After boiling the potatoes and eggs, it’s all about assembling the ingredients and adding a touch of garnish. First, cut the potatoes into bite-size pieces and boil them in a pot of water. In a separate pot, boil the eggs.

Red potatoes cut into bite-size pieces

While the potatoes and eggs are boiling, chop the celery. After the potatoes are done rinse them in cold water and set them aside. Peel the eggs when they’re cool enough to handle and chop them.

Mix the potatoes and chopped eggs with the celery, pickle relish, mayonnaise, and mustard. Now you have potato salad, but we’re not done.

2 bowls of Mama's potato salad

Carefully scoop the potato salad into a serving bowl. Dust the top with paprika. Be careful to let some of the potato salad poke through. You don’t want it to look like a giant bowl of paprika.

Finally, slice some olives and place them on top. If you’re like my mother and enjoy a lot of garnish, add more. Now you have a beautiful potato salad that’s ready for your next potluck or family dinner.

Potato salad in a bowl, ingredients for the potato salad, and potatoes

Is Potato Salad Gluten Free?

This is a gluten free potato salad recipe. In fact, most potato salad is gluten free because there is no need to add wheat, barley, or rye to the mixture. That said, it’s always a good idea to read the labels of the ingredients before adding them.

How Long Can Potato Salad Sit Out?

Potato salad can safely sit out for up to 2 hours. However, it shouldn’t be exposed to extreme heat for more than an hour. If it tastes or smells bad, don’t eat it. So if you’re serving it at a summertime backyard party, bring it out right before people begin to eat. Then put it back in the refrigerator as soon as possible.

How Much Potato Salad Per Person?

When you’re planning to serve potato salad, calculate 1/4 to 1/3 of a pound per person. If there are small children, they’ll be on the side of the smaller amount. The opposite is true of teenagers and large adults.

How Long Does Leftover Potato Salad Last?

Since most of us don’t want to run out of potato salad, we’re likely to have some left after the meal. You can store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 3 to 5 days.

Surprising Way to Serve Mama’s Potato Salad

When we lived in Florida, we used to go to the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks. Not only is this a fun place for tourists to visit, but also many locals enjoy hanging out there.

In addition to the great shops and delightful music in this Greek community, the food is wonderful. We love all of the restaurants there–especially the ones with delicious pastries. We also enjoy the music. If you go to Tarpon Springs, check to see if they’re having one of their street festival events and plan around one of them. One of our favorite restaurants puts a scoop of potato salad under the Greek salad. It’s like finding a buried treasure beneath the vegetables.

So when I make Mediterranean salads, I often bury a little potato salad under the lettuce if I have some left over.

Mamas potato salad in a serving bowl

More Delicious Side Dish Recipes

If you’re looking for some easy but delicious side dish recipes, try this squash casserole or this green bean casserole with a little something extra.

Some salads you’ll enjoy are this creamy macaroni salad and this tomato cucumber corn salad. This bacon pea salad from Everyday Eileen is also delicious and easy to make for a lot of people. All of these dishes are ideal for either a family dinner or a potluck.

Favorite Main Dishes

Potato salad is a natural side for almost any chicken dish, including this Crock Pot garlic chicken. It adds balance with a creamy texture and a slightly sweet flavor.

Another chicken dish we enjoy having potato salad with is this lemon pepper chicken.

My mother used to make these salmon cakes at least a couple of times per month. She also called them salmon patties and salmon croquettes. But no matter what she called them, they were delicious, and I always looked forward to having them.

This yummy pork tenderloin is another food that’s good with potato salad. You can slice it or shred it, so it’s extremely versatile. It also makes wonderful leftovers!

These yummy grilled pork chops practically scream for a side of potato salad. I used my George Foreman grill, but you can use an outdoor grill if you prefer.

Yield: 8 servings

Mama's Potato Salad

Homemade potato salad with green olives on top

Serve this delicious potato salad at any family dinner, picnic, or special event.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Additional Time 5 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes


  • 24 small red potatoes cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of mayonnaise (more if you want it extra creamy)
  • 1 cup of chopped celery
  • 3 tablespoons of sweet pickle relish
  • 1 teaspoon of mustard
  • Paprika
  • 6 pimento-stuffed green olives, each cut into 3 or 4 slices


    1. Boil the eggs. After they cool, peel them and chop them.
    2. Boil the potatoes until they are fork tender. Rinse and set aside to cool.
    3. Put cooked potatoes and chopped eggs in a medium-size mixing bowl.
    4. Add the mayonnaise, celery, pickle relish, and mustard.
    5. Mix all of the ingredients until everything is coated.
    6. Scoop the mixture into a serving bowl. Sprinkle the paprika over the top.
    7. Evenly place the olive slices over the top of the potato salad.
    8. Cover with plastic wrap or a lid and refrigerate until time to serve it.


If you want a creamier potato salad, add more mayonnaise, one tablespoon at a time.

Nutrition Information



Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 494Total Fat 12gSaturated Fat 2gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 9gCholesterol 52mgSodium 232mgCarbohydrates 85gFiber 8gSugar 8gProtein 12g

The nutrition information is a product of online calculators. I try to provide true and accurate information, but these numbers are estimates.

Did you make this recipe?

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Friday 21st of July 2023

Thank you for your recipes, Debby! Also, the picture of Sadie guarding your printer on your about page made my day. I hope you have a lovely weekend!


Saturday 22nd of July 2023

Thank you for such kind words!


Saturday 31st of December 2022

Made this today! Only change was I added 2 Tbsp finely chopped onion! Did slice eggs for top not pimento (cause it’s not my favorite) the potato salad is yummy!!!


Sunday 1st of January 2023

Hi Mary! I'm so glad you tweaked the potato salad to suit your taste. And I'm happy that you enjoyed it so much!

Miz Helen

Wednesday 13th of July 2022

Thanks so much for sharing with us at Full Plate Thursday,596. We have enjoyed featuring your awesome post this week and hope you will come back and join us again. Miz Helen


Sunday 17th of January 2021

Was checking out your mom’s recipe for potato salad when I saw your reference to Tarpon Springs, Fla. We have enjoyed it for many years- always stop by when on the west coast of Florida. The sad thing is I no longer know anyone familiar with that area! So, thank you for reminding me of oh, so many wonderful memories! So ready for a Florida vacation! PS Have made potato salad for many years and now make a couple of different recipes. My newest addition is a sprinkle of sugar. I love olives but don’t include them- for some reason Kalamatas sound better than the green olives to me. I may try that.


Sunday 17th of January 2021

Hi Shelby. Tarpon Springs is truly a wonderful place full of culture and great food! We haven't been back there in a while, but like you, I'm feeling the urge to go there again. As for the olives, my philosophy is to use whatever you like. Kalamatas would be wonderful!

Life Diet Health

Monday 15th of June 2020

What a great potato salad recipe. I've never seen an olive topped one before - that might convince my boys to actually eat it! Thanks for sharing at Fiesta Friday.


Monday 15th of June 2020

I hope readers enjoy the recipe!

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