Barbecues aren’t just about grilling. They’re also about the delicious sides that go along with the main course. When we asked our Facebook fans about their favorite foods to eat at a barbecue, potato salad was got 5,367 votes — second only to Grilled Steak!

It even beat out my favorite, s’mores, but that’s a whole different story!

Of course you could go out to your local market and buy potato salad for your next backyard barbecue, but it’s so easy to make and then customize that you might as well try home-made, right?

Potato Salad’s Beginnings

You might assume that potato salad’s an All-American invention, but like so many of our “classics”, it came to us following a circuitous path.

Originally grown in South America, potatoes were first introduced in Europe by Spanish explorers somewhere around the 16th century. After that, many European countries started using them in their cuisine, with ingredients dependent on local custom. Then, as European settlers came to America, they brought their own versions of the simple, humble dish.

One of the first recipes ever mentioned comes from 1597 and includes prunes, wine, oil and vinegar. Cold potato salads evolved from British and French recipes while warm ones followed the German preference for hot vinegar and bacon dressings served over vegetables.

German Potato Salad

German Potato Salad

What we think of as potato salad may have originated in Germany, where they used a dressing with a “vinegar” bite, like sauerkraut. Some versions featured a little coarse mustard and others cut the sour with a little sugar. Most added some kind of meat like bacon. One of the biggest differences between German potato salad and others is that it is still usually served warm, not cold.

By the time potato salad traveled to France, the French palate demanded a full-scale vinaigrette. Unlike German potato salad, its French cousin contains potatoes and other vegetables in a light vinaigrette, with Dijon mustard and sweet tarragon.

Once established on our shores, makers of potato salad typically used mayoinase as the dressing base, not vinegar. Nowadays, potato salad is served as a side dish from Syria to Brazil and, of course, at nearly every backyard summer party here in the United States. Learn more about potato salad’s history.

German Recipes

I’ve grouped these into four — German, French, American, and ones you may not have seen yet. Of course, one of the best things about potato salad, in my opinion, is that you can modify recipes to suit your taste. After all, no one says you can’t use ingredients from different recipes to make something unique.

Here are three German classics, all served warm.

German Potato Salad Recipe

Authentic German Recipe

Easy German Recipe

French Recipes

French Potato Salad: History - Recipes

French Potato Salad

Leave it to the French to include Champagne vinegar as an ingredient!

French Potato Salad

Jacques’s Recipe

Julia Child’s French Recipe

American Recipes

These are the ones we all remember — oldies but goodies!

Traditional Potato Salad

American Potato Salad

Julia’s American-Style Potato Salad

Others to Try

Feeling adventurous? Try some of these recipes from countries around the world.

Greek Potato Salad

Syrian Potato Salad

Bulgarian Potato Salad

So what’s your favorite type? Do you have any “secret” ingredients you can share with us? If so, be sure to let us know!