Store-Bought Potato Salad, Ranked Worst To Best

All you really need to have a killer cookout are the three basic necessities: beefy burgers, sizzling hotdogs, and a vat of potato salad that pulls it all together. Getting the burgers and the dogs taken care of during your grocery run is a slam dunk. But finding a well-made store-bought potato salad can be a tricky affair. If you don't have a homemade version of this popular barbecue side baked into your plans, you'll need to know which premade potato salads are showstoppers and which ones you're better off skipping.

The bigger grocery chains in the U.S. offer a surprisingly enticing array of packaged potato salad that's ready to go with the snap of a lid. Since every recipe presents a different take on the familiar combination of potatoes, mayonnaise, and mix-ins, you should familiarize yourself with which tubs make for some of the best things to bring on a picnic. Our round-up of the best and worst store-bought potato salads for your dining pleasure is a study in subtle distinction. Yes, these are all potato salads. But no, these are not all the potato salads you'll want at your table.

13. Kroger Southern Style Potato Salad

Southern Style, as used here, is code for "with Miracle Whip instead of mayonnaise," a quality that ramps up the sweetness to an unnecessary level. Indeed, inspecting the ingredient list shows sugar as the second element and pickle relish with more sugar as the third. That's two occurrences of sugar among the main mix-ins here. So if it wasn't too sweet from the dressing, it's sure to be too sweet and also strangely tangy from the ill-advised relish. Pickles in a potato salad should be tangy, in our very opinionated view.

Overall, this potato salad has the unpleasantly vintage taste of a family reunion you've been forced to attend and guilted into eating everything on your plate. The potatoes are nice, and tender, and the general texture of the salad is fine, but there's something about adding sugar to a savory recipe that feels wrong. And desperate. Who is Kroger trying to impress with a sweet take on potato salad? Maybe it takes a more regional set of taste buds to appreciate Southern Style. 

12. Read German Potato Salad

There's an instant "ick" factor that comes from learning there's a version of potato salad that comes in a can. What texture must this salad be in to fit into the can? Are the potatoes mashed to oblivion or chopped into tiny cubes? Does creamy mayonnaise do well in canned scenarios? So many questions arise! With a crank of the can opener, we were able to determine what canned potato salad really has to offer, thanks to Read German Potato Salad. The news is not good.

Being a German potato salad, sauerkraut is part of the recipe, a fact that hits you in the nostrils as soon as you remove the lid. Then, you find tiny, pale potato disks floating in fluid that feels uncomfortably scientific. You pour some out and take a bite, only to discover that the potatoes are soft, the flavor is smoky thanks to bacon particles, and the sauerkraut adds tang to the whole situation. And yet, it's one of the least appealing potato salad experiences you may ever have.

11. Freshness Guaranteed Amish Potato Salad

Discovering that there's an Amish recipe for potato salad was a revelation. It was super suspenseful waiting to taste what sort of twist this devout culture has given potato salad, even one concocted by Walmart in the company's Freshness Guaranteed Amish Potato Salad. In addition to the usual vegetables and mayo, the recipe also calls for sugar and sweet pickles, a combination that has already proved undesirable. Could the inclusion of deviled eggs somehow balance the sweet and savory and salvage this salad?

The answer is no; the eggs make no difference. Sure, they add texture and a sulfurous, eggy essence. But it's not enough to round off the sugary edges that overwhelm the mustard and vinegar dressing blend. The eagerness to add sugar to potato salad is clearly a known phenomenon, but for the modern eater, a little goes a long way ... and a little more just goes too far. Still, for the inclusion of the eggs, this one avoids being at the very bottom of the list.

10. Freshness Guaranteed Sliced Red Skin Potato Salad

Most people probably haven't given much thought to the difference the shape of the potatoes can make in a proper potato salad. It's an aspect of the recipe you don't think too much about until you're digging your fork into flat discs of potato instead of the more familiar and preferable cubic chunks. Which is why it's so odd that Freshness Guaranteed Sliced Red Potato Salad eschews the usual potato form in favor of slices better served in au gratin or casserole-style potatoes than a cookout-ready salad. The things you learn when taste-testing store-bought salads!

Perhaps because of the shape — or maybe simply due to poor execution during preparation — the sliced potatoes are notably undercooked, resulting in a crunchy tooth feel that doesn't chew up easily. Isn't the greater part of potato salad's charm the mishy-mashy texture filled with tender lumps and bumps you can sink your teeth into? None of that happens here, even with Walmart going to the trouble of using red skin potatoes. And then, there's that pesky sweet pickle relish that mucks things up further. For trying something gourmet with premium potatoes, this one takes the number 10 spot.

9. Signature Select Mustard Potato Salad

Mustard is a mix-in that can either make or break a potato salad, depending entirely on the quality and quantity of said mustard. You can add a generous squeeze of yellow mustard and make magic happen, or you can drop in a dab of Dijon and send the whole recipe in a different direction. In the case of Signature Select Mustard Potato Salad, the right amount of the right mustard makes a palatable blend, and with dill pickle chunks to boot. It's so close to being something successful.

Alas, there's too much of another culprit in the gambit that has ruined many a potato salad through the generations: celery. It's a background player that should understand what it brings to the show, yet somehow, here it steps into the spotlight and steals the show. When the name includes mustard but the taste offers more celery than necessary, the potato salad suffers. If only we could taste our way around it, Albertsons would have a hit on its hands. As things stand, this is a mid-ranker with wasted potential. So close. 

8. Freshness Guaranteed Original Potato Salad

Okay ... so there's nothing really original about Freshness Guaranteed Original Potato Salad, other than the word in the name. But we get it; this is potato salad without the bells and whistles, and hopefully, no Miracle Whip ambitions to complicate what should otherwise be a simple and workable recipe. After the radical attempts at Amish and Sliced Red Potato versions, maybe Walmart understands its core audience and aims for the middle with at least one of its packaged salads.

And the middle is exactly where this one lands. It's potato salad, all right, with sugar and sweet relish like the company includes in its shoot-for-the-stars iterations. But it's a more mellow forkful than those high-reachers that's perfectly passable for your cul-de-sac crew or poolside peeps to enjoy at the neighborhood gatherings. But it's not a choice that will have guests whispering about who brought the potato salad and where they got it. Between the lack of originality and the inclusion of basic appeal, this salad earns a solid "meh."

7. Signature Select Classic Potato Salad

When you hear "classic," you usually think of things that never go out of style. A good potato salad is high on that list. So when Signature Select Classic Potato Salad crosses your section of the picnic table, you'd best believe there's a standard it needs to meet in order to live up to the name. One false move with the dressing and the salad slips into pretentious territory; a heavy hand with the pickle relish, and you're back at the test kitchen trying to figure out who did this. It's a sticky wicket, this classic potato salad business.

Fortunately, Signature Select is able to pull it off with aplomb, striking a balance among sweet, savory, creamy, and tangy that works as predicted. Still, once you realize just how predictable this potato salad is, you almost wish someone had slipped a little more paprika or some garlic powder into the bowl to spice things up a little more. That's something you're more than welcome to do before serving. But if you have to spruce up a so-called classic store-bought potato salad, there's probably a better option out there for you.

6. Signature Select Loaded Potato Salad

A potato salad that takes its cues from baked potatoes by including the works in the recipe? Yes, please and thank you! Signature Select Loaded Potato Salad takes a big swing at reproducing a faithful baked potato experience in a potato salad by including sour cream along with the mayonnaise. There's also green onion, bacon bits, and cheddar cheese, a trifecta of potato toppings that any all-you-can-eat buffet or steakhouse fan will appreciate. It's a fool-proof recipe for fun times that take potato salad to new heights!

This one is so close to pulling off a magic trick that updates potato salad deliciously. Sadly, the potatoes are a little too firm, and the bacon is a touch soft, likely the result of being suspended in two types of dressing. But the flavor is good, a fun and robust upgrade that's sure to take people by surprise when they take a taste. If you're looking for a classic potato salad recipe with a twist that works, Signature Select Loaded is loads of fun.

5. Signature Select Deviled Egg Potato Salad

Deviled eggs mashed together with potato salad to create a Frankenfood where both elements get equal billing? Now we're talking taters! Signature Select Deviled Egg Potato Salad takes the added step of combining two beloved barbecue beauties in a single recipe to come up with a single selection that shines. Why take up added space on your plate with both deviled eggs and potato salad when one scoop can get the job done?

Hearing there's this much textural similarity in this concoction could easily amount to a potato salad mistake. The finesse of making the egg yolks part of the creamy dressing eliminates the possibility of this salad turning into mush. And the egg whites announce themselves to the tooth, a shake-up that confuses the tongue into thinking it's eating egg salad rather than potato salad. But the combination is such a natural pair-up that the result ends up being an inspired celebration of picnic culinary cooperation. We could put this one on bread and eat it as a sandwich long after the party ends.

4. Freshness Guaranteed Deviled Egg Potato Salad

Walmart improves on the idea of deviled eggs and potato salad sharing the same bowl with its Freshness Guaranteed Deviled Egg recipe. The natural synergy of two boiled foods results in additional texture that imparts complex flavor as well — a fancy way of saying these two ingredients really know how to dance. This is one partnership that outdoor dining should invite to every party.

The presence of sweet pickle relish here finds its niche, smoothing over the sulfurous egg essence without eliminating it entirely. And the elegant blend of potato and boiled egg textures resting in creamy dressing is a balance that seems like a challenge to achieve. Somehow, Walmart makes it work beautifully. Not to seem shady, but this is a potato salad we would dump out of the original container into a much more elegant dish, top with red bell pepper slices and a shake-shake of paprika, and try to pass off as a homemade recipe. We'd break down and tell partygoers where it really came from after they've tasted it, though. Scruples are always more important than potato salad.

3. Reser's Red Skin Potato Salad

Reser's is a national brand sold in deli sections of larger grocery chains. Its high-quality take on Red Skin Potato Salad helps it break into the top three, thanks in large part to perfectly cooked potatoes with skin that adds interest to the overall texture of the salad. There's also a refreshing lack of sugar, allowing the zesty vinegar and aromatic onions in the mix their fair share of the flavor. The result is a properly-presented savory potato salad that keeps the creaminess in check while letting the other flavors shine through.

Having two different versions of red skin potato salads to work with made us realize the importance of picking the perfect potatoes for your potato salad recipe. If food producers can include the same ingredients prepared in two different ways and yield results that rest on opposite ends of the spectrum, settling into what "red skin potato salad" really means requires trying them out to see what works. In this instance, Reser's gets it totally right; potatoes and all.

2. Kroger Mustard Potato Salad

Oh, the flavorful wonder of a mustard potato salad that works! Kroger Mustard Potato Salad seems to pull back a little on the mayonnaise while packing in warm mustard flavor for a punch of zest that works like gangbusters. Yes, there's sugar in here, but playing against the modest heat of yellow mustard makes it feel like an upscale deli decision rather than an excuse to throw more ingredients in the bowl. It turns out you can have sugar in a successful store-bought potato salad as long as it isn't the most present flavor on the fork.

The potatoes here have the perfect al dente texture to allow the creamy dressing just enough coverage for comfort. There are carrot shreds and celery here, too, but they know their place and they don't shove their way to the front of the crowd. Instead, all the ingredients play it cool, turning out a top-two potato salad that we'd enjoy on its own if it was the only thing left at the table.

1. Reser's Deviled Egg Potato Salad

This Reser's company sure seems to know what it's doing when it comes to making great potato salad. How else could we explain two entries in the top three, with Reser's Deviled Egg Potato Salad pulling off the top spot? It's another case of a flavorful recipe being crafted with just a touch more precision than other brands.

Reser's assembles a masterful mix of potatoes and eggs coated in the perfect amount of sweetened mayonnaise dressing. Even the sugar stays where it belongs: at the back of the tongue, letting the tangy tastes have their time in the limelight, too. It's a gracious exchange, for lack of a less awkward image, that makes for a deliciously complex flavor profile. There's even a bit of peppery burn in the back of the throat that lingers long after the last bite to remind you that you've had something special.

It may seem naïve of us not to have realized how incredible the blend of deviled eggs and potato salad can be when done right. Thankfully, Reser's has set us straight. Our cookouts will never be the same again.

How we ranked our potato salads

We had no idea the range of flavors store bought potato salads would assume when we decided to rank them. We thought potato salad is potato salad is potato salad, in the best Shakespearean tradition. Boy, were we fooling ourselves. The variety of textures in potatoes and dressing; the array of flavors from sweet to savory to spicy; the inclusion of add-ins like pickle relish, onions, celery, and carrots; and the introduction of co-stars like deviled eggs shifted the calculus on a simple, homespun recipe that we've clearly taken for granted. Our ranking called all of these aspects into question as we tasted a baker's dozen of options.

It might seem impossible to mess up a mix of potatoes, mayonnaise, and a few add-ins, but it happens pretty regularly, if our results are representative. Quality of potatoes and how they're cooked is a big consideration; anything too crisp or too mushy makes a spoonful of disappointment. Mayonnaise flavor is easy to get wrong, too; sugar added to the recipe from any of the other ingredients imparts the essence of Miracle Whip, which is a line in the sand many won't cross. Adding sour cream can make or break a salad, especially if included in too great a concentration. To summarize: Potato salad is a seriously complex deal, and we're glad we know what's what now.