Michigan Mom’s Potato Salad

Garnished potato salad

David WilhelmRecipes

With 4th of July right around the corner we are now officially in the sweet spot of summer. Growing up, my early summer memories of this holiday included lots of potluck family picnics in the heavily wooded parks of rural Michigan. We were part of a very large family so each picnic was heavily attended by a seemingly endless collection of aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces & nephews.

The Moms were the ones who did the cooking each one normally bringing 2 savory dishes and one sweet one which created quite a feast. While the Dad’s fired up the charcoal grills the kids were off playing Frisbee, softball, croquet or badminton which, to be sure, developed some serious appetites.

In the meantime, half a dozen picnic tables were pushed together and lined with colorful linens… kind of an early version of the now popular “Outstanding in the Fields” dinners held around the country. All the food would then be placed on one very large table and then, plates in hand, the kids always were first in line.

There were always platters mounded with burgers & dogs and side dishes galore. The side dishes included every shape and color Jello mold known to mankind, rich pasta salads, and sweet and tangy slaws.

The favorite dishes of mine and my siblings were always the ones my Mom made… deviled eggs, bacon-maple baked beans and her classic potato salad.

My version of “bedeviled” eggs has been on our JFAT menus since we opened in San Diego in the summer of 2010 and a couple years ago I added the baked beans to our popular baby back rib plate but for some reason never got around to introducing Mom’s potato salad.

Eggs being prepared for salad with a pastry cutter

Pastry cutter makes quick work with eggs

I remember watching her make what seemed to be a mountain of it the day before a family outing. (Think the scene in ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ where Richard Dreyfus is building the Devil’s Tower in his kitchen and you wouldn’t be far off.)

She would start by piling a huge amount of cooked chopped potatoes into a baking pan, then pile all of the other ingredients, one by one, on top of the potatoes until she had a huge, colorful mountain ready to be mixed. I never saw her measure anything… she just seemed to know how much of each ingredients was needed.

I’m not sure why you don’t see potato salad on many SoCal restaurant menus, other than maybe some of the delis, but to me no summer cookout is complete without it. It’s easy to make and should be made the day before to allow all the flavors to develop. It is an especially great accompaniment to ribs, BBQ chicken and sausages. Give it a try at your next backyard cookout and make enough so you can have leftovers… you’ll want some!

Recipe – Michigan Mom’s Potato Salad


» 2 pounds Red skin potatoes, diced into roughly ½-3/4” pieces
» 2 TBS Kosher salt
» ½ cup Chopped celery
» 6 each Hard-boiled eggs, coarsely chopped
» ½ cup Red onions, chopped
» ½ cup Scallions, chopped
» ½ cup Pimentos, chopped
» 2 TBS Fresh chopped dill
» 1 cup Mayonnaise
» 3 TBS French’s mustard
» ¼ cup Sweet pickle relish
» 1 cup Roasted green chiles (optional)
» 2 TBS Dill pickle juice
» 2 tsp. Paprika
» 2 tsp. Kosher salt
» ¼ tsp. Cayenne


Fresh dill from Big Daddy's Gourmet D'lites

Fresh dill

Place potatoes in sauce pan and add enough water to be able to cover the potatoes by 1 inch. Add 2 TBS kosher salt, bring to a boil, reduce slightly and simmer until potatoes are just cooked. You don’t want to overcook them. They are done when a sharp paring knife goes into the center of each piece without much resistance. Immediately pour water and potatoes into a colander. Allow potatoes to come to room temp or chill in fridge before use.

All the ingredients ready on a basin

This means something!

Place potatoes in large bowl and add all remaining ingredients. Stir lightly until just combined. Adjust seasoning to personal taste. Cover and chill overnight.

Garnished potato salad

Garnish and enjoy