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Ah, dinner party, uh? You’re having people over. Hot, no HOT, summer nights. What’s better than a crisp, cool potato salad? And so easy to make for 10 or 12 or 20 people. Just scale it up.

Well, actually, there are a couple of stops here. There is someone who does not like hardboiled eggs. Someone hates onions. No pork [that is bacon] for still someone more.

All of a sudden, that “easy” potato salad becomes a logistic nightmare. What do you put in, what do you pull back on, how can you please everyone? And, of course, you don’t want someone breaking out in a rash or needing a paper bag to control asthma.

What to do? Make a base salad. One that is safe. Then scoop out portions that need special handling and add in the extras you want to make your salad distinctive. This is just what we did last weekend for 12 friends. No bacon for Erin. No onions for Cynthia. For the rest of us? Everything!

Base Potato Salad for 12

Yield: plenty for 12 people


  • 5 pounds of small white or new [red] potatoes
  • 4 stalks of celery
  • ½ cup of diced pickles [sweet and sour, gherkins, …]
  • 2 cups of mayonnaise
  • ⅓ cup juice from the jar of pickles
  • ⅓ cup of red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper


Place the potatoes in a wide pan and cover with water. Place on the stove and put the heat on high. Bring the water to a boil and reduced the heat to medium-high. Cook 10+ minutes, or just until a sharp knife literally slips easily into the potatoes.

Remove from the heat, and cool to room temperature.

In a large metal bowl, large enough to eventually hold all the potatoes add the mayonnaise, pickle juice and red wine vinegar. Whisk to mix. Add additional ingredients to adjust the flavor of the dressing. The red wine vinegar will give you that “bite” you expect. The pickle juice will add flavor that you don’t expect but will love.

Taste and add salt or pepper to your personal taste.

Dice the celery and add to the dressing.

Slice each potato and add to the bowl. Carefully stir to mix potatoes and dressing. If you have 1 to 3 people requiring special handling, take out a suitable portion of the salad and place in a smaller bowl. Refrigerate that smaller bowl now.

Adjustments to the Potato Salad:

Now you can have fun with that based salad, adding new ingredients for flavor or decoration including:

  • 2 medium red onions, diced
  • 2-4 raw jalapenos, sliced, membranes and seeds removed, then diced
  • ½ cup of pickled jalapenos, diced
  • 3-4 hardboiled eggs, sliced [VERY optional]
  • 4 sticks of bacon, cooked crisply and crumbled
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced

Adjustments Technique:

If you are using onions, add now, mix, and then refrigerate that big bowl. The same holds for the raw or pickled jalapenos. If you are a boiled egg person, then add them now, too.

The bacon can be added now, too, and mixed in. Or wait until just before serving and sprinkle over the top for decoration and not so much for flavor. The diced red pepper is for final decoration as well.

After putting in adjustments for flavor, put that big bowl in the fridge for at least two hours. I used the word “crisp” earlier and it is just that wonderful feel that you want to enjoy.

More Options:

For the dressing, consider some combination of mayonnaise and sour cream. For 5 pounds of potatoes, a total of 2 cups here will make for a very lightly dressed salad. For the more commonly dressed salad, 2 ½ cups is a better choice. If you want the salad drenched, then 3 cups will have you reaching for an umbrella.

Source: Brian O’Rourke

Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 18-55MM macro lens, F/5.0 for 1/50th second at ISO 1000