German Potato Salad

German Potato Salad
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German potato salad
Kind of like sweet and sour potatoes.

On returning from vacation, we basically had three potatoes in the house. Just three medium purple potatoes, which doesn’t seem like enough to turn into any sort of interesting meal. Oh, sure, we could just microwave and eat them. Tasty, to be sure, but we thought that we could do better. Maybe try something new (to one of us) with these purple potatoes. What do you think? Up for scratchin’ out a new potato dish? We thought so. Us, too.

Now, we don’t really know if this is really a German dish, but one of us had this quite a bit growing up in the midwest, where the food has a heavy German influence (think bratwurst, liverwurst, and all other kinds of wursts), so we’ll just say it’s German and let it go at that.

For the recipe, we headed off to The Joy of Cooking, by Irma S. Roumbauer and Marion Roumbauer Becker, the one indispensable recipe book for our home. We did change it, of course, making it less sour and more like the German potato salad of our youth.

German Potato Salad

Yield: 2 servings

German Potato Salad


  • 3 medium potatoes
  • 1 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 2 Tbs water
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • Pinch smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 Tbs sugar, or to taste

Abbreviated Instructions

Place potatoes in a saucepan, cover with cold lightly-salted water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until fork-tender, about 30 minutes.

In a medium skillet over low heat, melt butter, add onions, and cook until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Add vinegar, salt, water, paprika, and sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Taste and adjust the amount of sugar.

Slice potatoes and add to vinegar mixture, tossing to coat. Bring to a boil, and serve hot.

Ingredient discussion:

Plain white vinegar works just fine here. Use it. The potatoes can be any sort that will boil up nicely: red-skinned potatoes, Yukon Golds, or even purple potatoes. The amount of sugar will vary by taste, but we think the amount listed gives the salad a nice sweet sour taste. Finally, traditionally this salad is made with bacon (frying the onion in the drippings, and re-adding crumbled cooked bacon at the end), but we don’t have any in the house, so we went with butter.

Procedure in detail:

boiling potatoes
Start the potatoes in cold salted water. No particular reason; it just seems to be the right thing to do.

Boil potatoes. Place the potatoes in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Toss in about 3/4 of a teaspoon of salt and place over high heat until the water boils. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the potatoes are easily pierced with fork, but not falling apart, about 30 minutes.

Fry onion. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium skillet over low heat. When melted, add the onions and gently fry until golden brown, but not crispy, about 20 minutes. Ahh, smells good already, right?

adding vinegar
Once the onions are golden, add the ingredients needed for the sauce. Here, we’d stirred them together in a small measuring cup beforehand.

Make sauce. Add the vinegar, water, salt, paprika, and sugar to the onions and stir until the sugar dissolves. Taste and adjust the amount of sugar, if desired. We think it tastes best just slightly sweet, which is reflected in the amount of sugar listed, but you know what you like, so go with it.

german potato salad
Toss everything to coat. Look, the potatoes kept a nice purple color, too!

Add sliced potatoes. Drain the potatoes, and, while still hot, slice them about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. You can peel the potatoes before slicing if you want (we probably would with non-organic), but we didn’t. Once sliced, add the potatoes to the sauce, toss lightly to coat, and bring to a boil.

Serve. Serve this potato salad hot, although cold leftovers are good, too.

This did taste like the German potato salad that one of us remembers having as a child, and we were both surprised that something resembling pickled potatoes could be so tasty. But, after all, it’s potatoes, one of our favorite vegetables, so we rarely find potato dishes we don’t like. It’s really easy to put together a batch of German potato salad, and the recipe scales up to larger quantities nicely, so you can use it to get out of that mashed potato rut you might be in. Four stars.

Worth the trouble?

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