My grandmother’s potato salad is always requested, and it’s her secret ingredient

Don’t be afraid to add a little extra spice.

There’s a reason so many people swear their grandmothers have the best recipes, and it’s not just because just one bite of their pimiento cheese or pumpkin casserole brings back pivotal childhood memories. It’s also because grandmothers kind of know all the tricks. They know how to make the crispiest fried chicken and fluffy cookies without a recipe. It’s quite impressive, albeit frustrating, when you grow up and realize you desperately need information.

That’s how I finally learned the secret of my grandmother’s potato salad. Potato salad is a classic for a reason, and while it may seem like an easy recipe to master, there’s one big difference between a great one and a ho-hum. For as long as I can remember, my grandmother’s potato salad has been ordered by more than one family member—the most excited of whom is my father—every Easter, Memorial Day, and the Fourth of July. (Neighbors even ask for the recipe as they pass by on the street.) At first glance, it seems simple and dated, but the flavor transcends mayonnaise and mustard. So I had to ask her.

Antonis Achilles


Their potato salad has a certain flavor that everyone can’t get enough of, and until recently I thought it was attributed solely to the old-school yellow mustard. I was wrong. Their mystery ingredient is actually cucumber juice. The salty bite of the cucumbers gives the dish the perfect amount of acidity and saltiness, and the soft potatoes just soak up all the goodness, which also answered my question as to why it still tastes better the next day. That is, if there happen to be leftovers, which is rare.

It’s to be expected that each person will have their own family recipe for potato salad, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying this version. You can just start your own recipe and add cucumber juice when you add the other ingredients. Start with about 5 to 7 tablespoons of dill pickle juice, my grandmother recommends, for a small serving, and you can even double that amount for a larger serving.

The flavor mixes well with the signature mayonnaise and mustard ingredients, but if your recipe already calls for vinegar, consider swapping it out for pickle juice instead. You can even add chopped dill pickles to the juice for extra spiciness. Surprisingly, I even added a quarter cup of chopped cucumbers in addition to the cucumber juice for a large amount and the flavor remains pleasant, not overwhelming. Now I’m tempted to add a little jalapeño juice for heat next time.

And if you don’t have a potato salad recipe yet, try one of our 23 delicious potato salad recipes. Then pull out the pickle jar!

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