Aside from her 6-layer chocolate cake with homemade frosting (which I’ll promptly share with you when I learn how to make it myself), quite possibly The Gram’s most requested recipe was her potato salad.

It was a staple food for nearly every family gathering and garnered its own reputation around town.  Gram’s friends often asked her for the recipe, which she was all too happy to share.  I recently made it for Toodlebug’s birthday party, and it was a hit.

But, you should be forewarned that not all ingredients are created equal.

A few decades ago, Mom, Gram, and I went to a gathering where the hostess, an acquaintance of The Gram’s, had made this all-too-famous potato salad.  I suspect we were in attendance as much to try the recipe as we were for whatever reason we were invited.

Mom, The Gram, and I eagerly filled our plates and took our seats.

We started first with deliberate chewing, like we were food judges, assessing whatever it is food judges assess.

But then The Gram started in with an “Ugh, ummm…” followed by an “Oh, oh dear, what is this?” and then an “It tastes so…it tastes so…oh something isn’t quite right.”

Mom usually did a mental eye roll whenever The Gram went into culinary mode so I looked to her to detect even the slightest eye movement.

To my surprise, shock, and horror, she, too, was caught up, grinding her bite, not unlike Clark Griswold eating the turkey in Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  They sat there, twisting their forks in the potato salad, trying to put their collective finger on what could possibly be wrong.

The Gram was still so befuddled by the whole situation she started rattling off the ingredients because, “Well, I mean, really, it isn’t that hard to make.  I just know I gave her the right recipe.  What could possibly make it taste like this?  It wouldn’t be rotten potatoes would it?”

Mom:  “I doubt that.”
The Gram:  “What about the green olives?  No, that wouldn’t be it.  And the eggs aren’t rotten.”
Mom:  “And the onion seems fine.”
The Gram:  “I agree.  The onion is perfect.”

So there we were at this quasi-formal event, Mom and The Gram forking through their potato salad.

You couldn’t take us anywhere.

Both are now deep in thought with furrowed brow when The Gram not-so-quietly blurts out, “Oh dear God, she used mayonnaise.”


The Gram:  “Can you believe it?”

No, honestly, I can’t.

How anyone could use a product other than Miracle Whip was beyond The Gram.  She went on to say, “I don’t use anything else.  Not on my sandwiches.”  Mom inserted an mm hmm to that.  “And certainly not in my salads.”

You’re welcome, Kraft.

Gram never told her acquaintance about the culinary mishap.  But, from that point on it was impressed upon me that should I ever endeavor to make this recipe I was to use nothing but Miracle Whip.  I have never dared to try anything else.

So, you have been warned.  Whether their declaration is true or not, I guess I can technically say that generations of women have agreed only Miracle Whip will suffice.  To do anything else is quite simply ridiculous.  I mean, even Mom knew that.

Notice the yellow bowl.

Yellow Bowl

When I finally asked The Gram for the recipe, she started out with, “Well, I get out my yellow bowl and fill it to the line, see, right there, with potatoes.”  To which I pointed out that without the bowl, the recipe was no good.  We figured out about how many potatoes that would be, so don’t worry.  If you don’t own a yellow bowl like this, you’re still in good hands.

The Gram was such a good cook, she didn’t bother with measurements. Over the years, I have figured out approximate amounts of her ingredients.  I’ve added notes, too, for you to adapt to your needs.

The Gram’s recipe calls for the potatoes to boil with skins on.  This time we got a little ahead of ourselves and peeled them before boiling.  From a taste perspective, I didn’t notice a difference.

Red Potatoes Washed

We boiled the potatoes for about an hour.  You should be able to easily insert a knife or fork when they’re done.  They may even flake a little when handled. That’s okay too.

Boiled Potatoes

With the potatoes already peeled before boiling, I found they were easier to dice.

Chopped Potatoes

People are often turned off by green olives, but that’s the one ingredient (aside from Miracle Whip, of course), people compliment.  It makes the salad.  I’ve even had people tell me they don’t like green olives but enjoy them in this recipe.  I use large olives purchased in bulk.

Large Green Olives

Onion amount is “to taste.”  We used 1/2 a standard size onion.  It was perfect.

Chopped Onion

When I inherited the bowl, I was told to take extremely good care of it. Therefore, I usually mix all the ingredients in a larger bowl and then transfer them to my yellow bowl for serving.  I didn’t always do this, and not only did I risk breaking my beloved yellow bowl, but I also found it difficult to evenly mix the ingredients and evenly add the Miracle Whip.

Add Potatoes

I flatten the salad into my bowl which makes decorating it easier.  Yes, The Gram decorated her potato salad.  And now I do, too.

Yellow Bowl

I also don’t add the egg decoration until right before serving.  Doing so makes it easier to add more Miracle Whip if I’ve made the salad a day in advance and the potatoes absorbed the dressing overnight.  The egg decoration won’t dry out before serving, either.  I usually leave about 5-6 eggs out of the mix to use exclusively for decorating.

Add Egg Decoration

And after our family shindig, this is what was left over.  Honestly, there wasn’t anything The Gram couldn’t master in the kitchen.



5 lb bag of red potatoes*
12 eggs
1/2 onion, chopped
21 oz jar large green olives, sliced
48 oz jar Miracle Whip
salt, to taste, if desired


  • Peel potatoes and boil for approximately 1 hour.
  • Boil 12 eggs.
  • In separate large bowl, combine chopped onion and sliced olives.
  • Chop 6 of the 12 hard-boiled eggs.
  • Refrigerate remaining eggs for decorating.
  • Add chopped egg to onions and olives.
  • Chop boiled potatoes and add to mixture.
  • Gradually add Miracle Whip to mixture. **
  • Cover tightly.***

*I’m no scientist, but I have made this salad often, and I have found a 5-lb of potatoes typically works best.  Depending on the size of the potatoes, I have sometimes had a few leftover I didn’t need.  This last time, however, I used them all with no problem.

**If making ahead of time, leave approximately 1/4 to 1/2 cup Miracle Whip in jar to add right before serving.  Similar to my point above, I’ve needed extra before and other times I haven’t.  Trust your instinct on this.  If you’re adding the dressing and the salad is getting soggy, stop.  If it still seems dry, add a little more.  If you’re unsure, wait a while before adding more and see if the potatoes absorb what you’ve added so far.

***You can cover with plastic wrap, but I have found foil or a bowl with a matching lid works better for maintaining the salad’s consistency until you’re ready to serve it.