Dolly Parton’s Secret Ingredient for the Best-Ever Potato Salad

Potato salad

Chances are, if you’re a fan of potato salad, you probably have some pretty strong opinions regarding who makes it best. And without some sort of nationwide competition to put all of our mothers and grandmothers against each other, it's a little difficult to determine whose potato salad really reigns supreme. Until then, we’ll be stuck debating our personal favorites, which includes an entry from Aunt Granny herself, Dolly Parton.

Potato salad seems like a simple enough dish with plenty of familiar ingredients: potatoes, diced onion, chopped celery, some sort of relish, mayonnaise, mustard, hard-boiled eggs (depending on who you talk to) and some salt and pepper. However, things can easily go wrong by not salting the water while cooking the potatoes, overcooking or undercooking the potatoes, or simply not dressing the salad properly.

As proven by her coleslaw and baked beans, Dolly is skilled at taking a classic recipe and making it her own with a smart upgrade or two. The ingredients list for Dolly's potato salad, which we found in the Dollywood cookbook, includes many of the usual suspects: potatoes, onion, green pepper (a somewhat divisive addition, but still classic), celery, sweet pickles, hard-boiled eggs, mayonnaise, mustard and salt and pepper. But there was an unexpected addition at the bottom of the list that piqued our curiosity: stuffed Spanish olives.

Related: Dolly Parton’s Secret Ingredient for the Fluffiest Scrambled Eggs



Why You Should Add Stuffed Spanish Olives to Your Potato Salad

At this point, we have some experience with Dolly's recipe and we've noticed that she's going to add a tangy hit of flavor wherever she can. She uses pickles and pickle juice in her slaw and so the tangy stuffed olive addition to her potato salad made perfect sense to us.

Stuffed Spanish olives are the large green pimento-stuffed olives that you see in jars at the grocery store—and they're a classic cocktail garnish, especially in martinis (or some dirty martini-inspired viral recipes). They're tangy with a meaty texture. We find that the flavor of the pimento kind of blends in with the olive, but it adds a nice pop of color.

The olives bring a nice acidic brightness to potato salad, helping to offset the richness of the mayo. They also add some color and texture to the dish and are sure to get your guests talking because you don't often see them outside the bar these days.

By adding a hint of flavor from left field, Parton’s recipe offers a unique twist on one of the most classic side dishes. It's simple, elegant and smart—just like Dolly herself. Next time you set out to make potato salad from scratch, if you’re feeling a bit bored with the same old recipe, just remember Parton’s lyrics: “If you don't like the road you're walking, start paving another one.”

Related: We Asked Dolly Parton For the Best Way to Upgrade a Boxed Cake Mix, and Her Answer Was Iconic

How to Make Dolly Parton’s Potato Salad

Start with 4 medium potatoes, place them in a pot of cool water seasoned with salt. Bring the pot to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender. Drain and let the potatoes cool down before chopping. Cut the potatoes into small cubes and season to taste. Now add diced onions, chopped green peppers, chopped celery, chopped sweet pickles and 4 hard-boiled eggs. Add 3 tablespoons mayo and 1 teaspoon mustard and mix well.

Dolly instructs cooks to serve the potato salad cold, but she doesn't tell you exactly what to do with the stuffed Spanish olives. If you have olive-loving guests, you can chop them up and fold them into the salad. If you're not sure if everyone at the party is pro-olive, you can arrange them on top and let people choose their own potato salad adventure.

Up next: I Made Dolly Parton's Famous Biscuits and They Taste Just Like My Grandma's