You will love this authentic Kartoffelsalat recipe with versatile customization options – a classic on biergarten menus across Bavaria.
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The Ubiquitous Kartoffelsalat
Bavarian potato salad (Bayerischer Kartoffelsalat or Schwäbischer Kartoffelsalat) is a staple on biergarten menus and at Oktoberfest feasts and an iconic side to numerous traditional German dishes. At its core it is wonderfully simple – a hearty preparation of thick boiled potato slices which have absorbed the rich taste of a delightfully balanced hot marinade.
The marinating process gives the potatoes a creamy outside, while their insides are moist and flavorful. The creamy coating is the landmark feature of Bavarian potato salad and distinguishes it from others.
Served in its most basic version Kartoffelsalat is a satisfying comfort food dish and a desirable companion to poultry, fish and meat dishes. Not to mention its strong affinity for beer – it partners superbly with German lagers, both light and dark, but also with styles beyond the realm of German beer.
What is particularly great about it however is that the basic recipe is just the beginning for many ‘dressed up’ versions. We have prepared three of our favorites here and listed ideas for more possibilities to build on the classic recipe.
- Potatoes. Use a waxy variety such as red potatoes or an all-purpose variety such as Yukon gold. These lend themselves really well to boiling and best retain their shape.
- Vegetable oil. To saute diced onion in. You can also use sunflower oil (very traditional in Germany).
- Onion. Yellow or red onions as well as shallots are most commonly enlisted in the making of Kartoffelsalat. Use your favorite.
- Vinegar. White wine, apple cider or sherry vinegar are typical.
- Vegetable broth. The bulk of the liquid for the flavorful hot marinade.
- Mustard. Dijon mustard or finely ground sweet Bavarian mustard – it is added to the warm marinade for the potatoes.
- Salt and pepper. Both are used to taste – to season the boiled potatoes just before they begin to marinate and then again to season the salad before serving. You will also add salt to the boiling water for the potatoes.
How to Make Kartoffelsalat
- Prepare the potatoes. Boil the potatoes in salted water until soft. Be careful to not over-boil them, 15-20 mins is ideal. Let cool down a bit, peel and slice in thick semi-circles. Place in a large, deep bowl.
- Make the hot marinade. Dice the onion and saute in the oil over medium heat until soft. Add the mustard, vinegar and broth, stir well and bring to boil.
- Marinate. Pour the hot marinade over the potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Stir to make sure all slices are nicely coated, then let the salad sit (minimum 15 minutes).
TIP: Allowing the potatoes to soak in the hot marinade lets them absorb the liquid and become infused with its flavors all the way through. This is the primary reason why Bavarian potato salad tastes so much richer and satisfying – instead of only the surface of the potatoes being coated in dressing, the flavors reach deep inside each potato bite. Any marinade not absorbed clings to the surface of the thick slices and adds more flavor to each bite.
The 5 Cardinal Rules of Bavarian Potato Salad
- Always use waxy potatoes.
- Boil the potatoes just enough to make them soft, but never too soft. To avoid skins bursting during boiling salt the water.
- Always saute the onions before preparing the hot marinade – this tunes down the harshness of their flavor and ensures that the taste of the salad does not change adversely even if it sits for awhile.
- Always use oil with subtle (neutral taste) and a mild vinegar.
- Allow plenty of time for the potatoes to marinate – “the longer the time, the tastier the salad”.
Serve Bavarian Potato Salad Warm or Cold
Bayerischer Kartoffelsalat can be served warm or cold. Both are traditional and each drives the choice of ingredients added to the salad to customize it (ideas are listed below).
Serve as a salad course or a side for these popular entrees:
- Brathendl (Roast Chicken)
- Fried fish (pan-fried or beer-battered)
- Brats in Beer Gravy
Option 1: Bacon and Garlic Chives
This is a great combination if you are planning to serve the Kartoffelsalat warm. While the potatoes are soaking in the marinade, simply cut bacon into strips and saute it over medium heat until it renders its fat. Add it to the salad along with garlic chives (regular chives work really well too or a mix of both). Toss and serve or present as shown below.
Option 2: Lettuce, Radishes and Green Onions
This fresh trio adds both crunch and extra flavor to a cold Bavarian potato salad. Simply chop up green leaf lettuce, radishes and scallions and fold into a pre-chilled Kartoffelsalat or present as shown below.
Option 3: Cucumber and Dill
Dill’s flavor is a natural partner to both potatoes and cucumber and ties the ingredients of this cold potato salad version together really well. Add a bit of extra vinegar to accentuate the freshness of the sliced cucumber.
More Ideas to Customize a Warm Bavarian Potato Salad
- Sauteed mushrooms & thyme
- Precooked bratwurst, sliced in half or quarter circles and lightly browned in a bit of oil
- Ham, diced and lightly browned in a bit of oil
- Boiled egg, peeled and sliced
- Sauteed asparagus spears, sliced on the diagonal in 2 inch long pieces
More Ideas to Customize a Cold Bavarian Potato Salad
- Parmesan shavings and red pepper flakes
- Arugula, thinly sliced red onion and feta cheese crumbles
- Basil leaves, mozzarella pearls and a drizzle of balsamic reduction
- Chopped fresh spinach and thinly sliced cured salmon (gravlax)
Other Recipes You Might Like
- 2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes*
- 1 large onion, diced
- 5 tbsp vegetable oil (or sunflower)
- 3 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 1/2 tbsp mustard (Dijon works great)
- salt & pepper to taste**
- 1 1/4 cup vegetable broth
- Boil the potatoes in salted water for 15-20 minutes (depending on their size) until soft. Do not over boil. Let them cool down a bit and peel the skins. Slice in thick semi-circles or quarter-circles (again depending on the size of the potatoes). Place the slices in a deep bowl.
- In a large sauce pan saute the onion in the vegetable oil until soft. Add the vinegar, the vegetable broth and the mustard and stir to combine. Bring to boil and immediately after that pour the hot marinade over the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Stir gently, making sure that all slices are coated in marinate and let sit for at least 15-20 minutes. (The potatoes will acquire the landmark creamy coating of Kartoffelsalat and absorb the flavors of the hot marinade).
- Serve the potato salad as is (taste first to determine if additional seasoning is needed) or fold in other ingredients to customize.
For a warm Kartoffelsalat consider adding cooked bacon bits and chives. For a cold version consider sliced radishes, lettuce and green onions. More customization ideas are listed in the body of the article.
*Alternatively you can use red potatoes. You need waxy potatoes.
**Additionally, use about 1 tsp salt per quart of water for the boiling water for the potatoes.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 5 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 308Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 295mgCarbohydrates: 42gFiber: 5gSugar: 4gProtein: 5g