Potato salad is a great side whether you create it from scratch or pick it up on your way home from work. But there is definitely a difference between the homemade potato salad that we all know and love and the kind you get for a few bucks at the store.
The thing is, it is actually quite easy to dress up that store-bought potato salad to match the homemade kind. You can doctor your potato salad to seem like it was worked on earlier in the day right there in your kitchen.
Know What You’re Working with
The very first thing that you need to do with your store-bought potato salad is determine what you’re working with. Just adding components to a potato salad can throw it out of balance, leaving it tasting too salty, having too much pepper, and so on.
The easiest way to doctor your potato salad is to go with the kind that you like the most. Don’t make any more work for yourself than is necessary; start with a good base and you will be well on your way to that homemade taste that we all love.
Tasting also gives you an idea of what could help improve the taste. Does it simply need a little more salt and pepper? Can it use celery or may some fresh dill? By taking a quick taste, your palette will tell you what is needed to improve the taste of your store-bought potato salad.
Depending on what is needed – more seasoning, a little crunch, a little freshness – you can then start gathering your ingredients together. Generally speaking, you’ll want to have salt and pepper, some red onion, some celery, and a few fresh ingredients such as chives or dill on hand.
When you’ve tasted your store-bought potato salad and have a better idea of where the improvements need to be made, start by adding in your onion, celery, and chives. Make sure that they are finely diced; no one wants a big chunk of celery or onion in their bite of potato salad.
After dicing up each of the veggies finely, you can then add them into your potato salad. Make sure to stir thoroughly; good potato salad should have balance in each bite. You don’t want one bite to be onion-heavy, the next to be celery-heavy, and so on.
Now that the veggies have been mixed in, give the potato salad another taste. This will not only let you know what the new mixture tastes like but it will also better inform you of what may be missing as well.
By this point, you should only need to add salt and pepper for taste, but it’s all dependent on what you’re looking for.
Depending on the flavor of the store-bought potato salad, you may need to add more mayo or mustard depending on how you generally like your potato salad. Make sure that with spices, you simply add a little at a time and then taste again.
Remember: you can always add more spice to the mix, but you can’t remove it. Work cautiously and you’ll be able to have a better gauge on the taste of the potato salad and what it needs in terms of spices.
If you have purchased some potato salad from the store and don’t like it at all, you can fix it, but it will take a little bit of work. Maybe the potatoes are undercooked. Maybe the dressing is seriously lacking in flavor.
Start by scraping off as much of the dressing as you can, washing away what is leftover. Take the potatoes and put them back into some boiling water to ensure that they are cooked properly.
Make sure to season the water with a little bit of salt as well. Far too many potato salads see potatoes that are boiled without any added salt.
While the potatoes are re-boiling, you can start to reconstruct the entire dressing. Give it a taste (this is an important theme) to know what you’re working with. You can then add some mustard or mayonnaise to give it more body and flavor, sprinkling in spices as you go.
When the potatoes are done, you can return them to your mixing bowl and then combine with your dressing, creating a seemingly brand-new potato salad. It is a little bit of work, but the flavor will be more than worth it, especially compared to the blandness that store-bought potato salad can have.
Too Much Vinegar
Perhaps the store-bought potato salad has too much vinegar in it. We all know that vinegar is extremely potent in both smell and taste. Potato salad that has too much vinegar in it can get dominated by the vinegar, making it nearly inedible.
But don’t fret. All you need to do is mix in around a half teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest for every two cups of potato salad that you have. You can also use orange or lime zest depending on your personal preference.
The acid of the zest will help to cut down the power of the vinegar and make it have a much more neutral taste than it did previously.
Be Careful with Onion
While onion can be a tasty addition to just about any meal, it is also one of those ingredients that can become overpowering when used too strongly. Although great potato salads make use of onions, one of the more common issues is that there is too much onion.
Unlike vinegar, there is no direct way to combat too much onion. You can try to put more emphasis on contrasting flavors, essentially “distracting” your taste buds from the onion flavor. This is also why tasting is so important.
Start by adding a small amount of onion, then tasting. You will get a good idea of how prevalent the taste of onion is in your dish and you can always add more if needed.