German Potato Salad

This salad can be made up to a day ahead. It can also be easily doubled or even tripled.

Vegetarian variation: Instead of bacon, sauté the onions in butter or oil. Stir in 2 tablespoons of capers along with the fresh herbs, or increase the salt in the vinaigrette to taste.

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 25 minutes
  • Cooling time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings


  • 1 1/2 pounds (about 8) small red potatoes
  • 3 slices (about 4 ounces) thick cut bacon, diced
  • 2 medium (3/4 pound) red onions, diced
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup low sodium vegetable or chicken broth (store-bought or homemade)
  • 1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh herbs (I like a mixture of chives and parsley)

Special equipment:


1 Steam the potatoes: Fill a pot with an inch or two of water and set a steamer basket inside. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Rinse the potatoes and place them in the steamer basket.

Steam the potatoes, covered, for 20 minutes. To test for doneness, use a paring knife to pierce one of the potatoes; steam for a few more minutes if not quite done.

Remove the steamer basket from the pot and let the potatoes cool for 20 minutes.

German Potato Salad German Potato Salad

2 While the potatoes are cooling, make the bacon dressing: In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté the bacon until it begins to render some of its fat, about 5 minutes. (For crispier bacon, cook for 8 minutes.)

Add the onions and sauté for 5 more minutes, until the onions are softened and translucent, and the bacon is cooked through.

Add the vinegar to the skillet. Stir it in with the onions and bacon and let it reduce, about 2 minutes. Stir in the vegetable broth, mustard, salt, and pepper, and turn off the heat.

(If your potatoes aren't quite ready yet, turn off the heat, but then warm briefly again before mixing in the sliced potatoes in Step 4.)

German Potato Salad German Potato Salad German Potato Salad German Potato Salad

3 Peel and slice the potatoes: Use your fingers or a paring knife to gently peel the potatoes. (You can also leave the skins on if you like a more rustic potato salad.) Slice the potatoes 1/4-inch thick.

German Potato Salad German Potato Salad

4 Stir the potatoes and herbs into the warm dressing: Add the potatoes and chopped herbs to the skillet with the vinaigrette. Gently stir until the potatoes are coated evenly with the herbs, onions, and bacon.

German Potato Salad German Potato Salad

5 Serve the salad warm or chilled. This salad can be made up to a day ahead.

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  • Kelly

    This was so good. I served it warm with the beer can chicken and carrot salad on this website.

  • Rochelle

    I have made German potato salad many times and I serve it warm or chilled. I lived in Germany for several years and had it served both ways there as well. I think this recipe sounds wonderful and I will be making it soon.

  • jenni

    hmmm…my (very) german grandmother made a version of this, and it was ALWAYS served warm. I’m guessing it is not a german-american thing, but most likely originates from a certain area of Germany (don’t know offhand what region my grandparents were from). Grew up loving it, HATE cold american mayo potato salad!

  • Summer Miller

    I loved this potato salad! It was so nice to have a potato salad without mayo! I didn’t have have yellow mustard or red potatoes so I substituted Dijon and Yukon golds! It worked beautifully! I took it to an backyard BBQ. Three other people brought potato salad and this one was the first to go! The best part is I didn’t even have to feel guilty eating it. Also, if you are a Whole30 person this recipe is a great one!


  • Joscelyn Pierce

    According to Wikipedia, in Germany it is called “Kartoffelsalat” and is typically made with red potatoes, vinegar, olive oil, herbs and bacon and is usually served warm. My father and his family came from Germany and were wonderful cooks. They brought many of their recipes from Germany and my father made the best German Potato Salad and always served it warm.

    • Sammy

      Is it the American wiki?

      Because Germans usually don’t use red potatoes and while we do use olive oil in cooking, it’s certainly not used for oil/vinegar style potato salad… more neutral flavored oil should be used…

      • Jason

        Agreed! Only folks I see using red potatoes and olive oil are Americans. I always used safflower oil myself.

  • Hana

    Thank you contributor from Germany.

    I have heard of warm potato salad but it does not come from Europe and none of the recipes I have involve mustard or chicken broth. Why would you actually need chicken broth ?? And yes if you put that in it would get soggy by the next day……ugh…
    As far as taste, potato salad recipes I use are actually better after some standing time in the fridge for the flavour to develop, but there usually are many more ingredients needed for that to happen.
    On the positive side, at least the potatoes were pealed after cooking, not used with their skins on.
    Vinegar and mustard dressing is great for mixed bean(includes fresh beans) salad and that is cooked and served hot and is possibly ok cold. Never lasted long enough to find out.

    • Coco Morante

      Hi Hana,

      I use vegetable or chicken broth in the recipe to give the dressing a little more depth of savory flavor. It’s very good! You can, of course, use water or just leave it out if you prefer.

      As far as the “soggy” factor goes, the small amount of broth is absorbed by the warm potatoes, so they don’t be come soggy.

  • Sylvia Spaeth-Brayton

    I am first generation German-American. My parents grew up in Southern Germany and immigrated to the US in the mid-1950’s. My mother was a fantastic cook. She always made German Potato Salad with red wine vinegar and oil, salt, pepper, fresh chopped parsley, yellow onion chopped fine and red potatoes. The bacon was added last with the bacon grease poured over the tossed potatoes. She ALWAYS served it warm. I have made my German Potato Salad the same way and have had many, many Germans say it is one of the best potato salads they have ever eaten. I am not sure how well the bacon will hold up to the warmed vinegar and placing the potatoes back in a frying pan just seems like an unnecessary extra step.

    • Coco Morante

      Hi Sylvia,

      I don’t mind that the bacon doesn’t stay super crispy — it’s chewy and ham-like if you serve the salad the second day. I actually really enjoy the texture! You could sprinkle crispy bacon over the top of the salad before serving if you prefer it that way, and of course, you can certainly continue making your version the way you like it! It sounds like you’ve got lots of happy fans! :-)

  • Elise Bauer

    I grew up with German potato salad, and it’s always warm! That and the vinegary dressing is what distinguishes it from any other potato salad. It’s definitely old school. One of my favorite potato salads though, thanks for the recipe Coco! I’ve never been able to make one properly, so am looking forward to trying this one.

  • Susan

    Warm potato salad??? I have lived and traveled in many different locations in Germany and I have always had cold potato salads made with either vinegar/oil dressing or occasionally made with mayonnaise. Checking Joy of Cooking, an American cookbook??

    • Emma Christensen

      I don’t know the whole history of this potato salad, but it’s really common here in the States! My guess is that it was adapted by German-American immigrants at some point. Anyone know the history?! It would be fun to find out!

  • Geri

    Cold potato salad has next to no flavour. I’ve lived in Germany. I’ve lived in Canada. Canadians know how to ruin a good German salad by chilling it. I’m Canadian-born and bred: Don’t hate!

  • rank

    Hot/warm? Obviously Sammy has never had German potato salad before.

    • Sammy

      As a German I sure did.

      It seems to be served warm in Bavaria but I travelled there before and it wasn’t warm. Not that feasible in restaurants I guess, maybe ones need to be invited to a German bbq

  • Sammy

    Potato salad served hot/warm? Nooo

    But don’t let the potatoes cool down, they absorb the dressing better when hot and they will look mushy anyways

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Sammy! I know it seems a little weird in comparison to our usual American potato salads, but actually, this kind of German-style potato salad is traditionally served warm — or at least the versions that I’ve experienced and researched. Check your Joy of Cooking! This said, you can certainly serve it room temp or chilled if you prefer. It’s delicious any way you serve it!

      • Sammy

        I’m German though… maybe serving it warm was invented by Americans with German ancestry but I never ever had potato salad served warm!

        • Emma Christensen

          I don’t know the whole history! But it’s pretty classic if here in the States, and it’s always called “German Potato Salad”!

        • rarefied

          Sammy, it might be just a southern German thing. My mother-in-law from the Black Forest makes a hot potato salad – hot broth plus oil and vinegar, pour it over the potates and add onion. She serves it hot right after she makes it, but then cold at later meals.

          I’ve long puzzled over the origin of Amerian “German” potato salad. I think it might be a local variant that isn’t as well known in German or it was a southern version that was adapted over the years to American tastebuds (some versions add sugar, for example).

          • Jason

            Yup! That’s exactly the salad I am familiar with from that area. Bacon, herbs, and potatoes tossed warm with red wine vinegar (sometimes a little essig essenz) and beef broth. It will be served warm or room temp the first time due to the prepartion, but then might be room temp or cold thereafter. Most recipes for this salad will be found as “swabian potato salad” on English sites.

            My grandfather was from Oberhausen and my Grandmother was from Prussia. They usually made mayo based potato salad, but my grandfather made a slightly warm Bavarian one from time to time.

            The German potato salad found in the states is a result of altering the dish for the usual reasons: lack of access to certain ingredients a during the dish’s journey here, and some changes due to American tastes. A good example of this process is American Goulash. It seems nothing like authentic Hungarian Goulash, but it is easy to see how we got there: we subbed out beef chunks for ground beef, and used elbow pasta (likely readily available from Italians) instead of nokedli. In the case of Kartoffelsalat, Americans likely found the vinegar taste too strong, and added sugar and more oil to lighten it. Thinking on it, it actually wouldn’t surprise me if all varieties of American potato salad were takes on German recipes from long ago.

  • Sandor Klaus Odor

    Sounds delicious, but to be sure: There is no such thing in classic German dishes as a potato salad with vine-mustard dressing. We make potato salads exclusively with vinegar-oil or mayonnaise dressings. Greetings from Germany.