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By Andrea Pisac - 4 Comments - October 18, 2021 min read

Potato salad in Croatia is one of the most popular side dishes. We serve it with fried or grilled fish. We bring it to barbecue parties. And, with a few add-ons, which I reveal in the recipe, we even enjoy it as a standalone meal.

classic potato salad

Before we dive into the 5 recipe tricks, let’s set some expectations. When we think potato salad in Croatia, this is what we mean.

It is always home made. Is it with mayo? No, no way. It is a vinegar potato salad. Is it simple and easy? Yes. It is a classic, no fuss, old fashioned potato salad.

But as with all traditional food, it hides a few tricks. Home chefs make it in their sleep, but they might forget to spell out their exact method.

This is why I want to teach you how to make potato salad that your family will swoon over. So, let’s go over the 5 tricks I promised.

1 | Best potato for potato salad

There are more than 400 potato varieties in the world. It would be impossible to single out only one. And also, depending on where in the world you are, you might not be able to find that exact potato kind.

Still, there are a few guidelines that will help you make the best choice.

You will get the best potato salad with waxy potatoes. They are most often white or yellow and very firm. In Croatia, we call this type of potato bijeli krumpir (white potato). Yukon Gold and Russet are waxy potatoes.

waxy potato for potato salad

Every Croatian home cook knows that white potato is great for boiling. Either with the skin on or peeled and mashed.

The other type is the starchy potato. In Croatia, it usually has a red skin, which is why we call it crveni krumpir (red potato). This type gets crumbly and doesn’t hold its shape when boiled.

A potato salad made with starchy spuds will look messy. And you won’t get that al dente bite as you do from waxy potatoes.

2 | How long to boil potatoes

OK, now you have your perfect potato. The next question is: how long to boil potatoes for potato salad?

Well, this is a more complex question than you think. First, you need to choose potatoes of the same size. If you have big and small ones in the same pot, they won’t cook equally.

Next, we always start potatoes in the cold water. There is some kind of magic in letting the pot come to a boil from cold.

So, wash your spuds, arrange them in the pot, cover completely with cold water.

And... add a sprinkle of salt. There is nothing worse than biting into a slice of potato that is completely bland inside.

When the water comes to a boil, set your timer to 30 minutes. The potato needs between 30-40 minutes. This will depend ono the variety. So after 30 minutes, you need to check with a fork frequently.

The potato must be fork-tender but it should not have cracks in the skin. If it splits open, the water will make it soggy - we don’t want that.

3 | Peeling and slicing potato

You might think of this step as self-explanatory. But, here comes another trick related to temperature.

When the potato is cooked, take it out of the water and place it on a plate or board to cool. Wait only a little while and start peeling while the potato is still quite hot.

Use this waiting time to peel and slice the onion.

potato for potato salad

I always stick the potato on a fork not to burn my fingers. By the time you start slicing it, you will be able to handle it.

Do not let the slices cool down. The potato needs to be warm when you add the dressing.

4 | Potato salad dressing

We never put mayo in the Croatian potato salad. So, this recipe is as authentic as it gets. The stuff we make and eat at home.

The basic dressing for the potato salad is made of olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.

Dress your potato while it’s warm. This will allow all the flavours to seep into the potato. There won’t be any bland middles. As you mix the dressing in, the starch from the warm potato and oil will create a wonderful emulsion. The dressing will stick and nothing will fall on the bottom.

When it comes to the choice of vinegar... well, kvasina rules them all. This is home made wine vinegar that we are lucky to have in Croatia. You might get it from your winemaker friends or buy it at a farmers’ market. Of course, if you can’t get the homemade stuff, the store bought wine vinegar will do. 

5 | Not you classic potato salad

I emphasised our simple approach to potato salad. But, we also know how to add a few twists to it.

Many people add boiled potatoes to various fresh leafy greens. There is a dandelion potato salad, arugula potato salad. And there is potato added to the endive salad.

My favourite twist is adding broad beans and arugula. You will find the recipe below.

If you are adding fresh greens to your potato salad, you must add them last. Dress the potatoes and onion while warm. Then let the salad cool completely. Add your greens at the end to keep them fresh.

If you are adding beans of any kind, boil them separately. Add to warm potato slices and dress while warm.

Now you have the best potato salad recipe in your cookbook. I must warn you. This comes out so delicious, you will have to count your calories. Don’t be fooled by the word salad.

Potato salad is so sumptuous it easily becomes perfect comfort food.

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Croatian potato salad
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5 from 1 vote

Croatian Potato Salad

This classic potato salad uses simple dressing of olive oil, wine vinegar, salt and pepper. It is one of the iconic dishes from your grandma's kitchen
Course Salad
Cuisine Croatian
Keyword sides
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 4 people
Calories 130 kcal

Ingredients

Classic Potato Salad

  • 800 g potatoes, skin on ((1.7 lbs ))
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp wine vinegar
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste

Broad Bean and Arugula Potato Salad

  • 500 g potatoes, skin on ((1 lb ))
  • 250 g 0.5 lb broad beans (fava beans)
  • 2 handfuls of arugula
  • 1 small onion
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp wine vinegar
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Pick potatoes of the same size. Place them in a saucepan, cover with cold water, add salt and put the lid on. After the water has come to a boil, cook for about 35-40 minutes or until the potatoes are fork-tender. Check frequently and do not allow potatoes to break. Always start potatoes in cold water to ensure they are cooked evenly.
  • Drain and set aside to cool to the point when you can handle them. Peel the potatoes and cut them crosswise into slices the thickness of your pinky finger. Do this while the potatoes are still quite hot.
    potato for potato salad
  • Peel and slice the onions and mix with potato slices.
  • Season with salt, pepper, olive oil and kvasina (Croatian homemade wine vinegar). Or, substitute kvasina with store-bought wine vinegar. It is important to season the potatoes while they are still warm so they can soak up the flavours.
  • If you are doing the version with broad beans, cook the beans separately. They take about 15 minutes, and you can even cook them frozen, directly from the freezer. Drain and add to the potato and onion slices. Season and set aside to cool to room temperature.
    broad bean potato salad
  • Wash the arugula and run it through the salad spinner. Add to the salad when it has cooled down. Mix to combine.

Fancy something similar?

  • Hello!
    This reminds me of the potato salads I used to eat in Istria as a child!
    Just a question: white vinegar or red vinegar? I imagine white, but I wonder if red would make this extra special (but not as good looking)

  • 5 stars
    I have my mother’s cook book dated 1926 also Mira Vucetic Kuharstvo dated 1952
    Krumpir salata- regular oil on warm sliced potatoes, salt, pepper, vinegar and thinly sliced onion.

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