13 Underrated Ingredients You Should Be Adding To Potato Salad

Potato salad is ubiquitous with picnics, potlucks, and parties. It's a favorite at restaurants and barbecue joints, and served at baby showers and family get-togethers. Made with everyone's favorite carb (potatoes, of course) and usually prepared with a creamy mayonnaise-based dressing, it's hard to say no when someone serves up potato salad.


This dish is easy to make from scratch, and the ingredients can be prepped beforehand (try storing your peeled potatoes in water to keep them fresh until you're ready to use them). While there are some mistakes you want to avoid when making your potato salad, like undersalting or not cooking your potatoes properly, it's pretty hard to mess up.

Traditional potato salad recipes call for ingredients like mayo, mustard, relish, and onions, but there's no need to stick to tradition when it comes to making this popular dish. Many off-the-wall ingredients make for super tasty potato salad recipes that will have your guests asking for seconds.

I've been developing recipes for nearly a decade as a recipe creator and food blogger. Let's explore some unique ingredients that can make your potato salad more fun.


Add jalapeños for some extra spice

Bring a little kick to your dish by adding jalapeños to your potato salad recipe. Jalapeños are a popular pepper because they provide a little spice without being overwhelming. Jalapeños fall towards the lower end of the Scoville scale, which is a tool that measures the heat of a pepper (for some perspective, a jalapeno usually scores between 2,500 and 8,000 on the Scoville scale, while the Carolina Reaper pepper comes in at over 1,500,000).


Adding jalapeños to your potato salad is easy. You can use your favorite potato salad recipe and simply add some diced jalapeños to it, choosing to keep it light on spice or adding more based on your preference. You don't have to deseed your jalapeños, but it can help mellow the spice out a bit if you're looking to keep it on the mild side. Want a little more punch to your potato salad? Mix some jalapeños juice into the mustard and mayo dressing before you stir it all together. For a final touch, garnish your potato salad with some sliced jalapeños.

Up the flavor with barbecue sauce

Potato salad is a perfect pairing for a pulled pork sandwich or some smoked brisket, and it's no secret that potato salad is a popular side dish option at barbecue restaurants nationwide. Reverse the roles, though, and let potato salad take center stage when you make it with your favorite barbecue sauce. Everyone will love the surprisingly smoky flair a little barbecue sauce brings to your standard potato salad recipe.


Most potato salad recipes are created with a mayonnaise and mustard dressing. To make a barbecue sauce potato salad, swap out the mustard for your favorite barbecue sauce when mixing the dressing. Try using a regional barbecue sauce to make it extra special and stand out from the crowd. Before you mix your ingredients, be sure to taste the dressing. Start with a little barbecue sauce because you can always add more (but you can't remove it once it's in). You can also add a little Dijon mustard to introduce some sharpness to the final flavor. Looking to add some new mix-ins to your barbecue potato salad? Cheddar cheese, bacon, jalapeños, and corn are all ingredients that pair well with barbecue sauce and potatoes.


Go for extra savory flavor by adding bacon

If you've ever had a loaded baked potato or baked potato soup, you know a little bacon can go a long way to elevate the flavor of a basic potato. Uplevel your next potato salad recipe by adding bacon which brings a salty and savory complexity to your favorite starchy tuber.


While you can use store-bought bacon bits for your potato salad, you'll get the best flavor (and the most delight from everyone you're feeding) if you cook the bacon yourself. Use a thick-cut bacon and bake it in the oven to get the perfect crispy texture. Once cooked and cooled, crumble or cut it into small pieces. After you mix the bacon into your potato salad, it will absorb moisture from the potatoes and dressing and get soggy. To avoid this, add the bacon at the last minute. You can also serve it on the side and let people use it as a garnish when they serve themselves.

Ditch the traditional mayo for Kewpie mayo

Potato salad just isn't the same without mayo, but that doesn't mean you have to keep it basic. Replace boring old mayonnaise with Kewpie mayo for a potato salad recipe with a savory tang you can't get from regular mayonnaise.


Most American mayonnaise is made using the entire egg. Kewpie mayo, however, is a Japanese brand of mayo made with just the egg yolk, resulting in a yellow color and a rich flavor. It's a popular ingredient for egg salad recipes as it adds a satisfying, full-bodied flavor you don't quite get with regular mayo. Kewpie mayo does the same for potato salad. Swapping out the American mayo for Kewpie mayo is easy peasy. Use a 1:1 ratio of Kewpie mayo to regular mayo. You can buy Kewpie mayo at most big grocery chains like Kroger and Target. But you can also make your own Kewpie mayo at home using just six ingredients.

Try pickles instead of relish

Sweet relish is a common potato salad ingredient because it adds sweetness to the flavor profile and a little crunch to the dish. If you don't have relish on hand, or if you want to up your crunch levels, replace the relish with pickles. This will keep the relishy roots of the recipe while adding a little extra punch (and crunch) to the flavor.


You can replace the relish with any pickle your heart desires, although you'll want to dice them up extra tiny before mixing them in. If you want a salty, tangy flavor, try using dill pickles. If you prefer something sweet to mirror the flavor of sweet relish, opt for bread and butter pickles. Although they're small, cornichon pickles add brightness and a snappy vinegary crunch. For a unique potato salad experience, use grilled pickles for a smoky flavor layer, or try making your own spicy pickles.

Add some olives

We get it — olives can be controversial! But if you're feeding olive lovers, you can't go wrong with adding olives to your potato salad. The earthy, salty flavor and smooth texture of olives melds perfectly with the neutral flavor and velvety feel of mashed potatoes. Not only that, but olives come with some health benefits, too. Olives contain oleic acid, which is a healthy fat linked to heart health, and contain antioxidants that are linked to fighting inflammation.


Olives (which are actually stone fruits, not vegetables) come in many varieties, most of which are suitable for potato salad. While there are differences between black and green olives, either will work for your potato salad recipe. It just depends on the flavor profile you are looking to achieve. Green olives tend to be on the tangy side, sometimes bordering on bitter. Black olives, on the other hand, have a mild flavor. For further tasty additions to your potato salad, pair capers, feta cheese, red onion, and hard-boiled eggs with olives .

Add crunch with potato chips

If you love potatoes and want to add some pizazz to your potato salad, add potato chips to your next batch. Potato chips have a neutral flavor that will work with most potato salad recipes, making this a fail-proof addition (besides, who doesn't love potato chips?).


You can't go wrong with adding potato chips. Any flavor will do, although you can use this as an opportunity to showcase your favorite brand and flavor. Sour cream and onion potato chips? A sure win. Barbecue chips? Yes, please. Kettle chips? You'll have everyone's favorite side dish. You can even make your own potato chips for a custom, homemade touch. Crumble them up before serving.

While perfectly salty and crispy on their own, potato chips will quickly become sad and soggy once they've been chilling in the potato salad for a while. To avoid this, mix them in at the last minute.

Add a tangy twist with ranch dressing

Ranch dressing is a natural fit with potato salad because it manages to have a distinctly herby, tangy flavor while still appealing to the masses. Plus, ranch dressing is really easy to make at home. There are a couple of ways to add this sure-fire winner to your spud salad. You can swap out some of the mayo in the recipe for ranch, or you can use it to replace the mustard completely for an extra ranchy flavor. 


If you don't want to make ranch dressing, you can buy your favorite brand of ranch at your local grocery store to save time and simplify the process. While ranch dressing has a widely recognized (and much loved) taste, it also blends well with many other foods that are perfect accessories to your potato salad. Some ranch-friendly potato salad mix-ins are bacon, cheddar cheese, green onions, and pickles (go for dill pickles or sweet pickles for the best flavor combo). 

Boost sweetness by adding corn

A perennial favorite, corn is a sweet addition to your potato salad recipe. It's also high in insoluble fiber and has both vitamin A and vitamin C, making it a tasty and  healthy addition. You can grill it and remove it from the cob, or simplify the process and use canned corn. If you prefer, you can use frozen corn. Try boiling corn in butter for a flavor burst that will have your guests coming back for more.


Corn is versatile, with a flavor profile that works with many other ingredients. It teams up well with onions, jalapeños, chicken, and cheddar cheese. It's also very, meaning it will retain its texture and flavor and not absorb excess moisture from the potato salad. For a pretty final touch to your dish, sprinkle corn over the top of the potato salad before serving. 

Use seasonal vegetables for added nutrients

Using seasonal veggies for your potato salad can help you clear out leftovers from your garden (or fridge), brighten your potato salad with color, and add nutrients to your diet. The sky is the limit when it comes to making potato salad with garden-fresh vegetables. If you're looking for a lower-calorie, healthier potato salad, try loading it with fresh veggies and bypassing some of the fattier ingredients, like mayonnaise and cheese.


Reduce the mayo or replace it with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, for a light, seasonal salad. For this version of potato salad, try roasting your veggies so they're nice and crispy. Use vegetables like carrots, Brussels sprouts, onions, and zucchini. Once roasted, mix with your potatoes and olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add any fresh herbs you might have, like dill or parsley. 

Use purple potatoes to brighten your salad

Liven up the table with purple potato salad. There are many variations of purple potatoes, like the Adirondack blue and the purple majesty. Purple potatoes taste slightly different from white potatoes, so you'll want to keep that in mind when crafting your potato salad recipe. They tend to have a sweeter, earthier taste and work well with a potato salad recipes that lean toward the sweet side. They would also make the perfect foundation for a recipe with a spicier dressing, as sweet and spicy are a great combo.


When choosing your purple potatoes, choose ones that are medium in size. These are easier to cook and will retain more of their sweetness than larger ones. Your guests will be wowed by your beautiful jewel-toned potato salad and enjoy the novel flavor it has to offer. Plus, purple potatoes are loaded with antioxidants and won't spike your blood sugar as much as white or yellow potatoes, making this salad not only stunning to look at but also good for you.

Add a touch of luxury with crab or lobster

If you want to add some luxury to your potato salad (and who isn't looking for a little luxury these days?), go big by adding lobster or crab to your recipe. Lobster and crab can be prepared many ways (try grilling your lobster for added depth of flavor), or you can buy it pre-prepped for a super simple salad creation.


Once you've chosen the best crab or lobster for the job, be sure to stack the recipe with complementary ingredients that will let the seafood shine. Lobster and crab are naturally very rich foods, so use ingredients that won't get lost. A little Dijon mustard can add depth of flavor. Celery can add crunch and freshness to the dish. Adding lemon can enhance the flavor, just like when you eat lobster or crab on its own. And don't forget the importance of fresh herbs, like parsley or dill.

Add pesto for some extra herby goodness

Pesto can be store-bought or homemade, and with a strong basil profile, it can be a unique change to the potato salad flavors you may be accustomed to. Pesto is usually made with basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and parmesan cheese. While all of these ingredients are delicious on their own, pesto and potatoes are a match made in heaven (in fact, gnocchi, a pasta made from potatoes, is often served with pesto).


For a completely unexpected potato salad experience, start by making your own pesto (don't worry, it's very easy and won't take long). Once your potatoes are prepped and your pesto is primed, try mixing roasted pine nuts into your recipe. Add halved cherry tomatoes for a juicy change in texture. Sprinkle parmesan or Romano cheese over your final potato salad dish and serve. Enjoy this twist on a classic recipe.