13 Ingredients That Are Even Better In Potato Salad Than Mayo

Favored at barbecues, birthdays, potlucks, and other gatherings, potato salad has long been a go-to side dish. Creamy mayo and potatoes with a variety of spices and seasonings come together to create a filling and satisfying addition to nearly any meal, particularly a burger or hot dog. Potatoes are affordable, easy to find at nearly every grocery store, and a filling carbohydrate that can stretch any meal into a feast. The added health benefits are not to be overlooked as well. 

This staple dish is usually pretty simple to whip up, requiring some basic ingredients that you tend to have around your kitchen at most times. However, cooking enthusiasts know that great fun can be found in upgrading classic dishes with new and exciting ingredients that will surprise your tastebuds and impress your friends. The secret to top-quality potato salad is not always all about the potatoes. In fact, it's more about the seasonings and other added ingredients. The traditional recipes usually involve basics such as mayo, salt and pepper, and a spoonful of mustard if you have it. However, the possibilities are endless. From sour cream and ranch dressing for a creamier salad to relish and bacon for a bit of crunch, these 13 ingredients shouldn't be overlooked the next time you need a side dish that is anything but boring.

1. Pickle juice, relish, or pickles

If you've tried potato salad in the past and felt the flavor was too mild or overall just not very exciting, your palate will thank you for this easy trick. This tangy secret ingredient will create a nice contrast against the starchy potatoes and bring a pop of color into the mix as well. Adding a splash of pickle juice, a spoonful of relish, or just some sliced pickles can take your potato salad to another level.

The crunch of the pickles can be a satisfying addition. At the same time, just a few spoonfuls of pickle juice can incorporate expert flavor without overpowering your salad. When stirring up your mayo, mustard, and other seasonings, add the pickle juice. Be careful not to add too much, or the dish could have too much moisture and a poor texture. If the salad has too much liquid, consider popping it in the fridge for a few more hours. The potatoes tend to absorb liquid over time. For an easier trick, use relish, which requires no chopping, but has all of the flavor. For those who love a crunch with some zest, some larger sliced pickles work well in the salad and make for an excellent garnish.

2. Celery

Celery tends to be one of those ingredients that people either love or hate, similar to asparagus and cilantro. However, if you and your guests are a fan of this veggie, it can be a tasty addition to your salad. Not to mention, it's a perfect way to incorporate more vegetables into your meal and use up the last one or two stalks of leftover celery that are taking up space in your fridge. Rinse the stalks carefully and chop them finely for those who want a mild taste, or larger if you're looking for that satisfying crunch.

Celery adds a pop of green to your salad and a refreshing earthy flavor that pairs well with the starchy root vegetables. If you're running low on actual celery, your spice cabinet might be hiding some celery seeds, which can also be sprinkled in your salad. For even more green, consider dicing the celery leaves very finely for the dish. This can work as a festive garnish that looks fantastic but is not too powerful in taste.

3. Bacon or ham

Is there anything that bacon can't improve? If you love the salty crunch of fried bacon then you'll love this addition to your potato salad. Once your strips are sizzling in a frying pan, you can allow them to cool on a paper towel, and then chop them into bite-sized pieces. The dash of color will look so appetizing sprinkled on top of your salad as a garnish, or you can stir the bacon throughout. A helpful tip is to add the bacon right before serving. As the meat cools in the potato salad, it will gradually lose its crunch. You and your guests will love this version, especially meat lovers.

Another great way to stretch your potato salad: Make it a little hardier, and make use of leftovers is to incorporate ham into the mix. Chop up leftover ham steaks into bite-sized pieces, and your salad will be that much more filling. The ham will offer a salty flavor that goes well with potatoes but it will not overwhelm the traditional taste and you don't have to feel guilty about the fat that comes with bacon. Take this classic side dish to a professional level with the added crunch and a bit of salt with ham or bacon.

4. Hard-boiled eggs

Potato salad is served up a little differently depending on where you are in the United States, as each region has its own individual traditions. However, one classic ingredient you can find in this dish all over is hard-boiled eggs. This addition may take a little more prep time, but they add a skillful taste and a bit of protein to your dish that won't go unnoticed.

Hard-boiled eggs can be cooked to different degrees of hardness based on preference and the length of cook time. If you prefer a brighter yellow color and a little more moisture in your salad, consider keeping the eggs on the softer side. However, if you are aiming for a paler yellow color and a slightly dryer texture, boil the eggs for a bit longer to achieve this level. Most recipes recommend bringing the eggs to a rolling boil and then allowing them to cook in the hot water, covered and removed from the heat for at least 10 minutes to ensure the yolk is cooked through. Set the timer for 12-14 minutes if you are aiming for that pale yellow, extra firm center. Peel the eggs, roughly chop them and stir them into your salad for another layer of texture and flavor that will round out the dish.

5. Vinegar

The tart zing that you'll often find in potato salad can be achieved in a few ways. One simple trick is to use pickle juice or pickles themselves. However, if you're not a fan of pickles or you simply don't have any on hand, consider using vinegar in your recipe. This tart addition is a way to combat the mellow taste of white potatoes in particular.

Just a splash or two of vinegar in your salad can also add moisture if the salad feels a bit dry. Traditional white vinegar can work just fine, or a few spoonfuls of apple cider vinegar will do the trick. A helpful tip when working with vinegar is that less is more. Begin by adding a little, and after doing a taste test, determine if you need to add more. Vinegar can be overpowering and you don't want to overdo it. Another helpful hint is to remember that mustard often has a strong vinegar taste as well, so plan accordingly if the recipe calls for both. Tasting along the way is always the policy, especially when trying out new versions of a favorite recipe.

6. Sour cream

Mayo is the traditional base for potato salad, but there are several reasons to try switching things up. Sour cream can be an excellent addition or replacement for mayonnaise in your potato salad. This ingredient will give your salad a richer flavor than mayo and a creamier texture that the potatoes won't absorb as much. Depending on your palate, you might prefer to use half mayo and half sour cream, as it has a more sour taste that's less sweet. Or you can replace mayo with sour cream entirely, but with something sweet to balance it out. Consider using a sweet relish, or even adding a spoonful of sugar if you're not crazy about the tart flavor of sour cream.

Sour cream can replace mayo almost one-to-one in potato salad. This is an excellent option if you're running low on mayo, or if you want to avoid using eggs. Sour cream is an effective alternative for those with egg allergies or if you prefer a creamier texture rather than an oily one. Sour cream is also a great source of vitamin A and B2, which is another reason to swap out mayo for this healthier alternative, or at least use it to cut the recipe.

7. Ranch dressing

We all have that one ranch-obsessed friend, right? They religiously order a side of ranch with their meal, whether it's pizza, french fries, or even a baked potato. Ranch dressing lovers will rejoice if you choose to add this ingredient to your recipe — and so will your taste buds. Ranch dressing is a favorite condiment because of its silky texture, versatility, and the burst of flavor that it offers. Add a few tablespoons of the ranch to your salad for that zesty taste that is loved by most.

Adding ranch can be another way to spruce up the mild flavors found in traditional potato salad. It can also be a great way to add moisture to your salad if you're running low on mayo or simply want a bit more flavor. If you're out of ranch dressing, you can also reach for a packet of ranch dip mix. Sprinkling a few spoonfuls into your salad can have the same effect and will make your dish taste like it's restaurant quality without having to carefully measure out spices and seasonings.

8. Fresh dill

Fresh herbs are a sure way to convince your friends and family that your cooking skills have reached another level. They give an impression of high-quality ingredients and prove that you have excellent forethought. Overall, chopping up a few sprigs of fresh dill will not only give your salad a hint of freshness but also impress your guests.

Dill is another way to improve the mild flavor of potatoes and the tangy flavor will wake up your tastebuds. In addition, the fresh dill will add a pop of color, whether it's mixed in or added as a garnish. Dried dill can also work in terms of flavor. However, dried spices rarely have the vibrant green color that comes with fresh herbs. Fresh dill can be found in most grocery stores, but it's also relatively easy to grow in your house as well. If you have a sunny window, a small dill plant will thrive in temperatures of approximately 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit and you can add fresh dill every time you make potato salad.

9. Pickled red onions or green onions

Onions are another ingredient that will majorly upgrade your potato salad. The trick here is to use red onions rather than white. They already have a slightly sweeter flavor in their raw form and will go perfectly with the mustard and mayo in your salad. A mild, sweet flavor and a bit of crunch can go a long way in a side dish. Just because it's not the centerpiece of your meal doesn't mean it can't be a masterpiece. Even a small amount of onion can boost the taste. Dice up half a cup of red onions and add them for a pop of color and save a spoonful to use as a garnish as well. If you are looking for a slightly more tangy, tart flavor, you can also use pickled red onions in the salad or as an unexpected topping. If you plan on using pickled red onions, feel free to forgo the pickle juice or relish to avoid too much vinegar.

Adding green onions might feel like an unnecessary added step. But the finishing touches on a dish should never be overlooked. Green onions provide a bright burst of color that looks impressive when presenting your dish but also to the overall appeal of the dish, which can be somewhat bland without the final touches. Green onions also provide a mild onion flavor without being too powerful. Chop up a few stalks for extra detail that will go a long way.

10. Paprika

Paprika is quite a common spice in most pantries. It has a spicy, smoky flavor that can shine through in mild dishes that are in need of some zest. This spice originated from Mexico and isn't often thought of for cold dishes; however, it's an ingredient that was practically made for potato salad. If you've ever used paprika to garnish deviled eggs or quiche, then you know the appeal.

Don't be intimidated by the reddish-orange color. Although paprika can have a bite, it's made from chile peppers after all. If it's used sparingly, paprika has a delightful, complex smoky flavor that will balance out the sweetness of the mayo and the muted potato flavor. Add a teaspoon of paprika to your mayo for a brighter colored salad or simply sprinkle it on top as a garnish. This is another small detail that doesn't seem crucial but it can set your dish apart from others like it.

11. Miracle whip

The mayonnaise versus Miracle Whip debate continues to endure. However, both of these ingredients can work in potato salad depending on the direction of flavor that you're aiming for. Miracle Whip was created way back in the 1930s as a less expensive version of mayonnaise, as it contained significantly less oil. The sweeter version also began to gain popularity as a healthier alternative. The lower amount of fat appealed to those trying to cut back, especially if they could swap mayo, which was high in fat and calories for such a similar product.

Miracle Whip has the same texture as mayo, which means you can use it the same way in potato salad. You should make note that this ingredient is far sweeter and may need some more mustard, vinegar, or pickle juice to balance the added sweetness. Adding a spoonful of sour cream to your Miracle Whip is a smart and effective way to create a milder flavor that is very similar to mayo.

12. Dijon or mustard seeds

Mustard is found in several potato salad recipes already, and might not sound that innovative. However, there are ways to take this ingredient a step further. Dijon mustard or whole mustard seeds could be the added touch that pushes your dish to new lengths. These spicy additions go seamlessly with the moderate flavor of the potatoes and mayo, which creates an excellent balance in the dish.

Dijon mustard can easily replace the yellow mustard in your standard potato salad recipe. However, you'll notice that the color is a paler yellow and there's less vinegar taste. The smokier, spicier flavor comes from the black mustard seeds that are used to make Dijon mustard and the taste can really stand out in potato salad. Adding just a spoonful of Dijon mustard to the recipe goes a long way. In addition, whole mustard seeds can provide a similar but slightly fresher taste and contrast. The whole seeds can offer an exciting crunch, or you can use a mortar and pestle to grind up larger seeds. Bright orange and yellow colors from the seeds will give your salad a fresh and finished look.

13. Corn

Last but not least, another ingredient to try in your potato salad this summer season is sweet, white, or yellow corn. Not only is this a way to introduce some more vegetables into your diet, but it can provide a sweet crunch to your red potato salad or brighten up yellow or white potatoes. Just a few spoonfuls of corn can be a bright surprise that your guests will love. It's also a smart way to put those leftovers to use.

Various types of corn will work in your potato salad. If you have frozen corn, allow it to thaw out for a few minutes and mix it right in. Canned corn will also work, but the best way to pack your potato salad with flavor is to use roasted corn on the cob. If you recently had a barbecue and are not sure how to use up the leftover corn, cut it off the cob, and add it to your salad. You can even pile it on top for a cheerful garnish. The slightly charred corn will provide a great smoky flavor that will bring out the notes of paprika and vinegar.