Your Potato Salad Is Likely Missing a Spoonful of This Secret Ingredient

updated May 4, 2023
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Now that it’s picnic (and cookout!) season again, I’m revisiting some of my favorite recipes for backyard dining. For me, this means a lot of little salady things like antipasto pasta salad; chickpea salad with sumac, red onion, and lemon; and, of course, potato salad. I’ve made just about every variation of potato salad that you can think of, from mustard-tinged German potato salad to this brilliant Buffalo potato salad, but most of the time I like to keep it classic, with one important secret ingredient: pickle juice.

I’m a devout lover of pickles. If you were to go out to lunch with me, I’d probably be eyeing your pickle the whole time until you finally got the hint and just gave it to me. I love classic dill pickles, sour pickles, pickled okra, pickled mushrooms, you name it, so it should come as no surprise that I’m always trying to sneak pickles (and pickle juice) into things.

When it comes to the classic potato salad, I usually follow more of a formula than a specific recipe. The salad must have soft but not mushy potatoes, something oniony, some chopped celery, hard-boiled eggs, Duke’s mayonnaise, and a little bit of mustard. To that tried-and-true combo, I add just a splash or two of pickle juice. Whatever kind of pickle I happen to have on hand is fine, but I tend to gravitate toward the brine from a bottle of Mt. Olive Kosher Dill Pickles. (Even after the pickles are gone, I transfer the pickle juice to a deli container so that I can use it later, whether it be for fried chicken sandwiches or potato salad).

Why You Should Add Pickle Brine to Your Potato Salad

Pickle brine is loaded with the perfect combination of salt, sugar, and dilly goodness to perk up an otherwise potentially bland side dish. Because pickles are traditionally prepared with flavorful herbs and seasonings, all of that is soaked up by the potatoes.

If I’m feeling particularly pickle-y (and when am I not?) I might take an extra step and crumble Trader Joe’s Dill Pickle Potato Chips right on top of the potato salad as a nice crunchy garnish, but either way, I know my potato salad, with its secret pickle juice, is sure to be the belle of the backyard ball.