Why You Should Add Fish To Your Potato Salad

What summer barbecue would be complete without potato salad? This classic side dish is a perfect complement to grilled meat, offering creaminess from the mayonnaise, a bit of acidity from the vinegar, and even some spice depending on what type of seasoning and mustard you use. But even with all these great qualities, there's one thing that you could be adding to this classic side dish to give it some extra lift and dimension — fish. There are many mistakes people can make with potato salad, but there's one thing that even well-made classic potato salads sorely lack, and that's umami. That's where fish comes in.

Incorporating a seafood element can be a no-stress way to transform potato salad into a dish so good it can be eaten on its own. When thinking about how to add fish, it's tempting to gravitate towards something comfortable and familiar, such as grilled or sautéed fish that you might then cool and dice before adding to the mix. While viable, grilled fish should shine on its own and not get masked behind all the mayo and mustard. More complimentary fish ingredients to add might include canned fish, fish roe, or fish sauce, instead. Fish sauce is by far the easiest and most economical way to instantly add umami and fish essence without actual fish, but needs to be used carefully. Be sure to start with just a teaspoon first, and adjust the rest of the seasoning from there.

Best ways to add fish to your potato salad

There's a wide world of canned fish, but many people's first inclination might be to reach for canned tuna. Plain tuna meat that's packaged in water desperately lacks flavor and won't add much besides a slightly meaty texture. Instead, home cooks should try adding canned sardines or shellfish like clams or mussels for greater umami and complexity (although it's important to be aware of food allergies in the case of shellfish). The ratio of how much to add should be dictated by your palette, so start with half a tin in your bowl of potato salad and work up from there. And don't throw away the liquid from the can, be it oil or water, since it can be saved for use in other dishes like pasta in the case of sardine oil or clam chowder in the case of clam juice.

Another overlooked seafood ingredient for potato salad is fish roe. Whether from salmon, trout, or cod, fish roe like these can visually transform a plain potato salad into something colorful and vibrant with hues of bright orange and red, as well as mild saltiness and fishiness that won't overwhelm the dish. If you're really feeling decadent, you can even finish your potato salad by topping it with a couple of spoonfuls of caviar. While not the most traditional way to showcase expensive caviar, there's no denying it would make a delicious companion to the humble potato salad.