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Kids in the Kitchen: Potato Salad “With Help”

Easy Homemade Potato Salad Without a Recipe

Nothing says summer to me like grilled hamburgers and homemade potato salad. It remains one of my favorite dishes that I could eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yes, I actually ate it for breakfast and a snack today.

There are a million different ways to make potato salad, and it’s one of those things that people have a particular preference for, so I won’t try to convince you to use my mother’s recipe. I’m just here to encourage you to use methods that will increase the nutrition of your potato salad and incorporate your kiddos into the cooking process since this is another way to get more healthy eggs into your diet.

Kids Are Often in the Kitchen at our House

I’m a big believer in kids being responsible for chores around the house, especially in the kitchen – both boys and girls.

Before he turned two years old, my oldest son was helping in the kitchen by carrying things to the table, washing fruit in the strainer, and even cleaning the floor. (Important note: He could only do that last one because we use vinegar and water instead of caustic cleaners!)

potato salad with paul

Awww, isn’t he cute cutting those potatoes? This little guy is nearly a teenager now, and is going to make a great husband someday! He recently learned how to make tacos and guacamole all by himself. And we ended up making a whole course to teach kids to cook! It’s amazing!

Yes, I know that knife in the picture looks like a cleaver. Don’t worry, I do experiment a lot in the kitchen, but I don’t give little kids sharp objects. It’s actually a cheese slicer that I found on super clearance and bought without a vision of what it would become. Here’s my whole list of kid-friendly kitchen tools.

What Kids Do With Knives

Some of cutting jobs that kids can do include:

  • slicing bananas for fruit salads, as well as pears and apples into bite-sized chunks after I core them
  • chunking melons after I remove the rind
  • slicing zucchini for casseroles
  • anything else he can figure out how to help me with. We worked together once to make applesauce with reduced produce apples. I cut them in half, and he was able to quarter them with his knife, then I cored them and threw them in the pot.

Katie’s Potato Salad

Potato salad happens to be one of my favorite dishes to bring to pot lucks and parties, because everyone recognizes and enjoys it, my family will eat tons of it, and it’s not a terribly expensive dish to put together. (If you’re looking for more, I have a list of cheap and easy party foods and another with 10 brunch dishes to share.)

This potato salad “recipe” is more of what I call a “framework recipe.” I’ll show you basically how to mix things up, and then you can work within that framework and proportions to tweak the recipe to your liking and add all sorts of goodies to it.

  • Use about an equal number of hard-boiled eggs, whole potatoes, and dill pickles (fewer if they’re big ol’ whole pickles). For my family, I use 4 of each.
  • Cut into bite-sized chunks. It tastes best without potato skins, but nutrition is best with them. Sometimes I’m too lazy to peel them!
  • Mix with homemade mayo and mustard. For the 4 potato-4 egg salad, I use about a Tbs or two of mayo and just a bit less than that of mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste

Framework Recipe for the Best Potato Salad Ever

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Homemade Potato Salad Recipe, Simple Real Food Style

  • Author: Katie Kimball
  • Yield: 4 (adjust for more)

Description

If you don’t have a favorite potato salad recipe, here’s mine – roughly. I don’t use a recipe, and you won’t need one either once you master the system.


Ingredients

  • hard-boiled eggs (how to source quality eggs)
  • whole potatoes
  • dill pickle spears (Fewer if they’re big ol’ whole pickles…For my family, I use 4 of each if I don’t want any leftovers.)


ship kroger


Instructions

  1. Cut raw potatoes into bite-sized chunks, then boil for 15-20 minutes until just soft (not too mushy) OR bake whole potatoes at 400F for about 45 minutes or until soft when squeezed. Potato salad tastes best without potato skins, but nutrition is best with them – your call. Sometimes I’m too lazy to peel them!
  2. Peel eggs and chop into bite-sized chunks.
  3. Dice pickles.
  4. Mix with homemade mayo and mustard. Remember that you can always add more after tasting, but you can’t take away, so go lightly and pinpoint your personal proportions.
  5. Add salt (Use the code kitchenstewardship for 15% off of your first purchase) and pepper to taste.

Our Favorite Dish to Pass: Potato Salad Made by the Kids


If you can’t view the video above, click Our Favorite Dish to Pass: Potato Salad Made by the Kids to see it directly on YouTube.

  • Need a little help getting healthy food on the table every day? Real Plans takes the stress out of meal planning and puts the nourishing food BACK on your table. There’s a plan for every diet type, including GAPS, Paleo, AIP, Whole30, vegetarian and more! You remain totally in control: use your own recipes, accept theirs, and teach the system what your family likes…Check out how powerful it is here!

Easy Potato Salad Tricks and Tweaks

Easy Homemade Potato Salad Without a Recipe

Even if you’re someone who always follows a recipe perfectly and is afraid to make something without measuring, you’ll be able to break out of your comfort zone and accomplish success with homemade potato salad, no problem. I promise – it’s that easy! (You’ll never need to come back here for the recipe once you make it once. You should come back for our other simple, real food recipes though, and maybe to give the recipe a 5-star rating so others know it’s totally easy, too..)

Essential Tips for Homemade Potato Salad:

  1. You can sub about half the mayo with plain yogurt, and some folks love sour cream in place of all or half the mayo too.
  2. If you don’t or won’t make your own mayo, look for a brand that doesn’t use soybean oil (yuck), and especially don’t get “Light” Miracle Whip – it has artificial sweeteners!
  3. Toss in a splash of pickle juice to add zing!
  4. Many people add chopped raw onion, radishes, or celery as well.
  5. Make it pretty with a sprinkle of any fresh herb, or just dried parsley like I used in the photos.
  6. I use pretty much the same system for egg salad, except I mash the eggs with a potato masher or fork. (No potatoes or pickles)
  7. What to do with the peels? Make potato crispies, of course – recipe in Healthy Snacks to Go.

Potato Salad, Little Helper Style

There are a few modifications you may have to make to your personal recipe in order for little ones to help:

  • The hard-boiled eggs need to be easy peelers.
    • This will happen, I understand, when the eggs are not as fresh. You can also crack the shells after they’re cold but still in cold water. This allows water to get under the shell and helps them – usually – to slide right off. My son had the patience of a saint and would pick off every little shell fragment when he was two. By the time he was three, he was done peeling eggs after he encountered one that wasn’t an “easy peeler”. Shucks.
    • Eggs hard-cooked in the Instant Pot are the easiest eggs to peel I’ve ever come across.

You need to really hold toddlers’ hands through detailed directions if you want them to do something correctly. To teach how to peel eggs:

  • Teach the process in great detail.
    1. Set up the child with a shallow bowl of water, a bowl or plate for the shells, and a bowl or plate for the peeled egg. Only give them one egg at a time.
    2. Demonstrate the entire process:
    3. Crack the egg all the way around.
    4. Dip in the water to loosen the shell.
    5. Show how to peel, using as much description as you can.
    6. Show the child exactly where to put the shells, telling them that the shells need to go into the garbage bowl right away. This will help the child learn order and precision.
    7. After peeling, show the child how to check for shell fragments and dip into the water to rinse off.
    8. Put the peeled egg into the bowl.
    9. The child is now ready to try the skill on his/her own.
  • NOW you can show them how to cut the eggs.
    • Again, make sure you have clear-cut areas for peeled eggs, cutting the eggs, and putting the pieces. Decide if you want them to cut the entire egg and then move the pieces to the bowl, or move each slice as they cut it into chunks. Do it the same every time.
  • Cook your potatoes first. It’s easy for kids to cut cooked potatoes into chunks; raw ones, not so much. It’s nice to have “quick” potato salad, too, when both potatoes and eggs are cooked and cooled and ready to go before dinner.
This homemade potato salad will quickly teach you the simplest way to make it. It's a great recipe to take to picnics and potlucks.

Added bonus: baking potatoes in their skins retains the most nutrients; boiling them whole is second best.

  • Most people tend to peel and slice their potatoes first, then boil them. This loses the most nutrients, leaves the kiddos out…but it does taste more “standard” in potato salad and it’s the way to go if you need the job done in 20 minutes.
  • If you bake potatoes without wrapping in foil, the skins will almost peel off without a peeler. The child can usually complete 80% of the job and you can finish with a knife.
    1. Like with the eggs, have a process for peeling and where to put everything. Demonstrate it precisely the first time. Talk the child through it. The time you spend now will be recouped when you can say to your 3-year-old, “Peel and cut those potatoes for the potato salad, please!” and it actually happens!
    2. Watch the child do the work, especially the first time. Wait a moment before responding if you see a mistake. They may catch it themselves! Don’t forget to allow for little errors that won’t change the outcome of the meal.
    3. Save those peels for potato crispies!
 

Your kids can learn to cook, even if you don’t know where to start

My 4 kids and I created the online Kids Cook Real Food lessons to help bring real food and independence to families all over. Over 10,000 kids have joined us and we’d love to invite you along for the adventure!

Kids watching a cooking lesson at a kitchen island

I’m so pleased to offer a little gift from our family to yours, a knife skills lesson as a free preview of the full cooking eCourse!

I hope all of you who have young children (or medium-sized children, for that matter!) can make a habit of inviting them into the kitchen and capitalizing on the teaching moments.

Cooking with my kids gives me a chance to praise them genuinely and teach the values of hard work and teamwork.

Better Than A Box eBook

Did you like this framework recipe for potato salad?

If you’re still a little unsure, my newest book, Better Than a Box, teaches how to adapt just about any processed recipe for real food and tweak things to fit your tastes.

I’ve learned to experiment successfully in the kitchen, and I’ll teach you how (and you can use the code POTATOSALAD to take $5 off the price, too).

Enjoy!

Homemade Potato Salad

More real food party ideas:

What’s your signature dish for potlucks and parties? Why?

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6 thoughts on “Kids in the Kitchen: Potato Salad “With Help””

  1. I made this yesterday for 4th of July. I don’t see how it turned out like the picture with just a tbsp or two of mayo and mustard! It was so dry. I doubled the mayo, thinking maybe my 4 potatoes were big compared to yours, but still, way too dry, but we were out of mayo at that point, so I just served it anyway. :-/

    1. Taylor,
      Sorry to hear that! If you ever run out of mayo again, try plain yogurt, sour cream, even pickle juice or a bit of olive oil just to moisten it up. Or more mustard if you like the flavor…

      Home cooking is a process of trial and error to be sure – 🙂 Katie

  2. I would love to hear some more about how you incorporate the children in what you are doing. I have a very busy almost 2.5 year old and almost 18 month old that I would love to have ‘helping’. I am definitely going to try this out with the cutting. I am also very curious to hear what kind of mixture/ratio you use to clean the floor with vinegar and water. I have been researching ideas and recipes for homemade cleaners. Thanks!

    KissyKat’s last blog post..Blurbs on Bibs

    1. I am definitely planning some posts about how to let the children help in the kitchen. A lot of it depends on your style and what you do in the kitchen, as well as your tolerance level. Teaching them to cut is a great place to start though, and I would start with a banana. My little guy helps A LOT with baking – pouring ingredients into the bowl, mostly, but he likes that he gets to help on every step. He also loves to push the buttons on our blender!

      For vinegar and water, I just pour a “dollop” into my 32oz. spray bottle and fill the rest with water. I use full strength vinegar to clean the shower and toilet. Definitely not rocket science! For sanitizing, I use 50/50 hydrogen peroxide (the drugstore kind) and water in one bottle and vinegar in another. In August or September I’ll be posting on homemade/green cleaners, if you can wait that long for more info!

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