This old-fashioned German Potato Salad recipe has quickly stolen our family’s hearts! Cubed potatoes soak up a sweet and tangy bacon drippings and vinegar dressing, topped with crispy bacon bits for incredible texture. It’s especially delicious served warm for an Easter or holiday lunch, but can also easily be chilled for a summer BBQ or July 4th celebration.

An old-fashioned German potato salad is served in a white bowl for a side dish.

What differentiates an authentic German potato salad from a traditional Southern potato salad recipe is that it’s often served warm instead of chilled, has more of a tangy bite due to a light vinegar dressing (and no mayonnaise!), and often has bits of salty crumbled bacon all throughout.

The first time I ever tasted one at a local Austin restaurant, I was HOOKED. So much so that we frequented Central Machine Works almost weekly for the SIDE of potato salad, instead of the double cheeseburger it came with. LOL

One day I finally mustered up the courage to try my hand at this German classic at home. While it did take NUMEROUS rounds of testing to get it just right: the dressing tangy but still subtly sweet, the potatoes tender but not falling apart, and to make sure that the bacon stays nice and crisp.

I finally nailed a version that, to be honest, I think rivals any restaurant’s!

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Pototoes, onion, bacon, vinegar, salt, pepper, chicken broth, sugar, and parsley are the ingredients for this recipe.
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Ingredients

To make this German Potato Salad recipe you need:

  • Potatoes. Opt for a waxy variety like red or Yukon gold. Peeling is recommended so you don’t get chunks of separated potato skin.
  • Bacon. A ton of the flavor comes from cooking onions in the bacon fat. Then the crispy bits are added on at the end so they stay nice and crunchy!
  • Onion. Sweet is used to balance the vinegar, but a white, red, or yellow onion can be subbed.
  • Garlic. Freshly minced garlic cloves are best, but garlic powder can be used.
  • Broth. Regular sodium chicken broth is recommended. Vegetable broth can be used, but avoid using beef broth as it may overwhelm the dish.
  • Vinegar. Distilled white vinegar is best, like the kind you use to make pickles. If you don’t have that, you can use white wine vinegar or even apple cider vinegar, but it will have a pretty big impact on the finished taste.
  • Sugar. Regular white sugar is recommended, but brown sugar can be subbed. It can also be left out if you’re watching your sugar.
  • Mustard. Pay attention here–use Dijon or German mustard. Do NOT use yellow mustard as it will be way too strong and pungent.

Recipe Tips to Ensure Success

  • The ingredients matter. Distilled white vinegar gives the potatoes the most authentic flavor. A waxy potato is key for the right texture. And a good quality bacon will really up-level the finished product.
  • Don’t overcook the potatoes. The cook time can vary depending on how small the potatoes are. So cook them until they’re JUST fork tender.
  • Give yourself a little time. The potatoes need to boil and then cool enough so you can safely touch them. You might even want to prep this step ahead of time!
  • Cut the pieces of potatoes ½-inch for the best result. Bigger than this and they won’t soak up the flavor of the sauce.
  • Serve it hot! It’s best served immediately after making so the potatoes have absorbed some, but not all of the sauce.

How to Make an Authentic German Potato Salad

Please see the recipe card below for ingredient amounts and more detailed instructions.

1. Boil the Potatoes

Add potatoes to a large pot and cover with one inch of water. If you have a steamer basket, you can use it to keep the potatoes from soaking up too much liquid and getting soggy.

Cook in boiling water over medium-high heat for 15-20 minutes. Start checking the potatoes with 5 minutes left. You want them to be fork-tender but not overly mushy.

Drain the potatoes into a colander in your sink. Let them sit until they are cool enough to handle. You can also rinse them with cold running water to speed up this part.

Here are more tips on how to boil potatoes.

2. Peel and Cut Potatoes into Cubes

Once the potatoes are cooled, remove them from the colander. If you don’t want skins in the dish, carefully use a spoon to remove the peel. You can also use your hands once they have cooled, the skins should slide right off.

Place the potatoes on a cutting board. Then, cut them into ½-inch chunks. The smaller pieces will soak up the sauce better, but too small and they will get mushy.

Add cubed potatoes to a large bowl and set them aside.

3. Cook Bacon and Onion

While the potatoes are boiling, cook the bacon.

Chop the bacon into small pieces. Place a large skillet on the stovetop on medium heat. Evenly spread out the pieces and cook bacon for 7-8 minutes until crisp, stirring occasionally.

Remove the meat from the pan using a slotted spoon. You want to leave the bacon drippings in the skillet for added flavor in the next step. Place the bits on a plate lined with a paper towel so they can drain.

Add the diced onion to the bacon grease and sauté for 2-3 minutes, or until tender. Add the garlic and continue cooking for an additional 30 seconds, or until it becomes fragrant.

4. Whisk and Simmer the Vinegar Sauce

With the heat on medium, pour in the broth and vinegar. Then, carefully add the mustard, sugar, salt, and pepper. Be sure not to splash anything out as things are hot.

Whisk until well combined. Stir along the bottom of the pan to remove any stuck-on bits.

Bring the sauce to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally during this period. And don’t skimp here! It’s very important that the liquid is reduced by about half.

5. Add Potatoes, Bacon, Toss and Serve

Once the sauce has reduced, it’s time to combine everything.

Add the potatoes to the vinegar mixture and pour in the oil. Fold the ingredients until they are completely coated. Warm it all up for a few more minutes until the potatoes are heated through.

Finely chop the bacon you set aside. Smaller pieces will evenly disperse throughout the dish making sure you get that delicious flavor in every bite.

Sprinkle the chopped bacon over the potatoes along with fresh parsley or chives, if desired. Enjoy!

Serve it Hot or Cold?

It’s really up to you, but my recommendation is to serve it hot, immediately after it’s made. During this time the potatoes have absorbed some, but not all of the vinegar sauce, so you still get a silky mouthfeel. The longer the potatoes sit in the sauce, the more they absorb it and you’ll end up with softer potatoes but an overall drier potato salad.

If you’d like to serve it cold, I recommend drizzling on an additional tablespoon or two of oil just before serving to give it that silky smooth texture again.

Prep-Ahead Tips

This dish is best served immediately after making. You can, however, cook, peel and cube the potatoes up to a day in advance to save you some time.

If you’d like to prep this entirely in advance, just note that the texture will change slightly. If reheating, simply add an additional tablespoon or two or oil and a tad bit of water.

Storage Instructions

  • To Store: Place leftovers in an airtight container. Keep in the fridge for up to 4 to 5 days. Freeze by tightly wrapping potato salad in a Ziploc bag or plastic and save in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • To Reheat: Allow potato salad to thaw in the fridge. Heat in the microwave or on the stovetop over medium until warmed through.

FAQs

What is the difference between German potato salad and American potato salad?

The main differences between these potato salads are mayonnaise and temperature. The German version has a vinegar base and is served warm while American potato salad has mayo and is usually chilled.

Do you put eggs in a German potato salad?

Typically, there are no eggs in German potato salad. This version has potato, bacon, and onions in a sweet vinegar sauce.

How do you perk up potato salad?

You can add extra flavors like celery seed, cayenne, or rosemary to change up the taste of your potato salad.

What to Serve with German Potato Salad

This delicious side dish tastes incredible alongside some of these recipes:

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4.76 from 25 votes

Old-Fashioned German Potato Salad Recipe

This old-fashioned German Potato Salad recipe has quickly stolen our family's hearts! Cubed potatoes soak up a sweet and tangy bacon drippings and vinegar dressing, topped with crispy bacon bits for incredible texture.
Yield 8 servings
Prep 10 minutes
Cook 30 minutes
Total 40 minutes
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Ingredients 

  • 2 lbs. red potatoes
  • 6 oz. bacon coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup sweet onion finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves finely minced
  • ¾ cup chicken broth
  • ¼ cup distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard NOT yellow!
  • 2 tsp. sugar to taste
  • 1 tsp. salt to taste
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil

Optional toppings:

  • Flat-leaf parsley and chives finely chopped

Instructions 

  • Add potatoes to a large pot and cover with one inch of water. Boil for , until fork tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool, 10-15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat for 7-8 minutes. Remove the bacon from the skillet using a slotted spoon, leaving the drippings in the skillet. Keep the skillet on medium heat and add the chopped onion. Cook until tender, about 2-3 minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic and continue cooking for an additional 30 seconds, or until the garlic becomes fragrant.
  • Peel the potatoes and cut them into ½-inch chunks.
  • Pour in the broth and vinegar and add the mustard, sugar, salt, and pepper. Whisk until well combined. Bring the sauce to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced by half. Remove from heat.
  • Add the potatoes to the vinegar mixture along with the oil and toss until they are completely coated. Transfer the potatoes to a serving platter. Finely chop the cooked bacon and then sprinkle it over the potatoes along with fresh parsley or chives, if desired. Enjoy!
Last step! If you make this, please leave a review letting us know how it was!

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4.76 from 25 votes

Video

Notes

Meal Prep and Storage
To Prep-Ahead: This dish can be entirely prepped ahead and kept in the fridge for up to 2 days. Or, cook the potatoes and chop the onion the day before.
To Store: Place leftovers in an airtight container. Keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.
To Freeze: Tightly wrap in a Ziploc bag or plastic and save in the freezer for up to 3 months.
To Reheat: Allow potato salad to thaw in the fridge. Heat in the microwave or on the stovetop over medium until warmed through.

Nutrition

Calories: 219kcal, Carbohydrates: 22g, Protein: 5g, Fat: 12g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 6g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 14mg, Sodium: 496mg, Potassium: 600mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 4g, Vitamin A: 18IU, Vitamin C: 12mg, Calcium: 22mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Comments

  1. I was stationed in Germany for 10 years, had many German potato salads. Never could make it on my own, to taste anywhere near as good as the German cooks did. This one achieves that! Lots of tips about how to avoid the pitfalls. I recognize my mistakes! Thank you, London.

    1. Oh that’s wonderful to hear, Kay!! Ya once I had a German potato salad it completely stole my heart- they’re so light and tasty! Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment!

    1. Hi Mary Jo- thanks for letting me know! Anything that could have made it 5/5 stars? Would love to know as I’m always retesting/tweaking recipes to get them just right 🙂

    1. Yay! So happy to hear you enjoyed the recipe, Julie! That’s high praise. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment and rating!

    1. Yay! So happy to hear you enjoyed the recipe, John! Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment and rating!