Japanese Potato Salad

japanese_potato_salad.jpg

Cool potato salad is one of the great summer dishes, though I can eat it on any day of the year. Every culture that eats potatoes probably has its own unique recipe for potato salad. While potatoes are not really part of traditional Japanese cuisine, it's now a fixture in everyday cooking. When I was in junior high in the suburbs of Tokyo, our school's sandwich concession even had something called a 'vegetable sandwich', which was actually a mound of potato salad between two slices of white bread. Potato salad is often tucked into a corner of an obento box (lunch box), and it's also a popular beer or sake snack. My ideal Japanese-theme picnic would include onigiri (rice balls), some chicken karaage, and potato salad for sure.

Japanese potato salad has a mild, creamy flavor, with no acidic undertone; unlike American or German style potato salads, no vinegar is used. It's seasoned only with salt and a little pepper, and lots and lots of mayonnaise, and is just a bit sweet from the other vegetables mixed in - boiled carrots, thinly sliced cucumber, and onion. Some people even add a little sugar. Chopped boiled egg adds to the richness. It's really designed to go well with rice (as are most Japanese savory dishes).

The ideal mayo to use is a Japanese one of course; Kewpie Mayonnaise is classic, but there are other (and some say, better) brands too. Look for them at your local Japanese or Asian grocery store. If you make your own, use a flavor-neutral vegetable oil such as canola or safflower, not extra virgin olive oil. ("Extra Light" olive oil is fine.) Lacking access to Japanese mayonnaise or the time to make your own though, any commercial mayo will do as long as it's not too heavy on the vinegar flavor. Salad cream should not be used however.

Japanese Potato Salad

  • 3 medium boiling (firm) potatoes, well scrubbed
  • 1 small carrot
  • About 10 cm / 4 inches of a seedless cucumber
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3/4 to 1 cup of mayonnaise, Japanese or homemade preferred (see notes above)

Boil the potatoes in their skins until tender (you can poke a skewer through one without any resistance). Boil the carrot, unpeeled, in the same pot. Boil the egg until hard boiled at the same time.

In the meantime, slice the cucumber and the onion very thinly. Sprinkle both with a little salt, and let sit for a while (10 minutes or more) until the vegetables exude their juices. Squeeze firmly to get rid of the juices.

When the potatoes and carrot are done, drain peel them while still hot (holding each in a kitchen towel to peel them helps). Cut the potatoes into small pieces, and slice the carrot. Toss with a little salt and pepper and leave to cool.

Peel the hard boiled egg and chop up finely.

When the potatoes and carrot mixture has cooled to room temperature, mix in the cucumber, onion and egg. Mix in the mayonnaise. Cover with plastic wrap and cool in the refrigerator until serving time (ideally at least one hour).

If you are bringing this to a picnic be sure to pack it in a cooler - it will keep better, and taste better chilled than at room temperature. If you are packing it in an obento box, make sure the rice and other ingredients have cooled before tucking in the salad, or carry the salad in a separate container.

[Update:] A not-traditional but still tasty vegan version of this potato salad

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Japanese Potato Salad

That looks fantastic!

Ivonne | 28 May, 2006 - 17:30

Japanese Potato Salad

The pervasiveness of both potato salad and egg salad in Japan always surprised me a bit. I spent most of my childhood craftily avoiding potato salad, egg salad, and that most disastrous mayonnaise-drenched picnic monstrosity, the macaroni salad.

These days, in a pinch, I'll eat a bit of potato salad or egg salad, but generally in Japanese okazu proportions. And, oddly enough, usually only in Japan or Korea. I don't know what's wrong with me. That being said, I love mayonnaise on okonomiyaki, and homemade mayonnaise on artichokes.

Lately we've been using yuzu juice to make our homemade mayonnaise, which is really nice.

Jason Truesdell | 29 May, 2006 - 23:33

Japanese Potato Salad

My mom puts pickled cucumber relish in her potato salad instead of fresh cucumber. Otherwise, it's just like your recipe. One of the things I loved to get for lunch as a kid is a potato salad sandwich-- leftover potato salad between two slices of whole wheat bread. The other kids thought I was nuts, but it was my favorite sandwich.

We went on a picnic today-- no potato salad, but onigiri, fried chicken, and hard-boiled eggs. yum.

yoko | 30 May, 2006 - 03:57

Japanese Potato Salad

I can't wait to make this. what type of potato would recommend? Red? Brown? Thanks!

Yvonne | 15 June, 2006 - 06:34

Japanese Potato Salad

Yvonne, if you're in the U.S. Yukon Gold potatoes would be perfect. Otherwise, the kind that are sold as "boiling potatoes" would work better than "baking potatoes". In Europe I'd go for Charlotte or Bintje potatoes.

maki | 18 June, 2006 - 12:43

Japanese Potato Salad

I've always wondered about when/how potato salad became a staple of Japanese food. Unfortunately, none of my Japanese friends have the answer, as most of them never even realized it's not Japanese in origin since they've always had them as kids.

(I'm Chinese-American, with a strong interest in Japanese culture, especially its food.)

Separate topic entirely: for organizing your massive collection of DVDs, have you checked out Delicious Library (http://www.delicious-monster.com/)? You do use a Mac, don't you? And how can resist a product name w/delicious in it? :-)

Suki Lee | 21 June, 2006 - 23:29

How did potatoes end up in Japanese cuisine?

My mother told me that immediately following WW2, food was dropped from US cargo planes via parachute as "relief" supplies. She remembers seeing potatoes for the first time and her mother not knowing what to do with them. She said they tried them raw, boiled, fried, etc. until they came up with something they could eat. Potatoes may have been a staple to Americans but the Japanese staple was RICE. The average Japanese person had not seen white potatoes before. The Japanese people being creative and versatile, were able to transform potatoes into something uniquely Japanese.

I remember my mother, when I was growing up, boiling the potatoes, eggs, and carrots all in the same pot to make potato salad. My Dad liked mustard in it so she would add some hot mustard powder to our family batch of potato salad. I personally use the microwave to cook the potatoes and carrots (except for the eggs).

SO that is how potatoes came to Japan. Thank my late mother, Kazuko, who grew up in Osaka, Japan by the Yodogawa for that information. She has told me lots of other stories from during the war.

chieko | 5 January, 2010 - 03:53

Re: How did potatoes end up in Japanese cuisine?

Thank you for answering this old question chieko - unfortunately and with all due respect to your mother, it's not quite accurate (though potatoes may have been fairly exotic where your mother grew up...where my mother grew up, in Saitama prefecture, the local butcher didn't sell beef well into the 1970s, though beef was widely eaten then of course). Potatoes were probably introduced to Japan via the Dutch and the Dutch East India company, more than 400 years ago. Potato production was actively encouraged in Hokkaido especially in the Meiji period (from the 3rd quarter of the 18th century on). My father was about 8 when WWII started, and his family was very poor, but he does remember eating potatoes growing up. (Though I don't know if that was limited to some regions of the country). Now, the exotic food that he remembers being introduced after the war include bananas, ice cream, chocolate bars and chewing gum.

maki | 5 January, 2010 - 05:50

Japanese Potato Salad

Suki Lee, that's a great question. I'll try to research that and get back to you.

Re: Delicious Library..I did look at it actually but it only works on one computer. The problem is that I want to ideally access my collection from multiple computers, or on the road, so I guess I will go for some server based solution. (that's another project that's been on the backburner...)

maki | 22 June, 2006 - 12:34

Great!

My okaasan cooked potato salad when I was in Kanazawa to study last summer (it was a home-staying programme). I loved her potato salad soooo much and now that I’ve read your recipe, I’ll try to cook it. Hope it’s as good as my okaasan’s :)
Thx!

Flavia | 26 April, 2007 - 15:11

I would go to a restaurant

I would go to a restaurant when I was younger and I remember not having enough of that salad.
Oh the memories.
I hope it come out the same :)

Evelyn | 4 July, 2007 - 00:17

Mayo

Any way to do without the Mayo since it contains a lot of fats? Any substitute that is a healthier choice?

Meiyun | 27 December, 2007 - 11:22

Love your recipe!

I just come back from a holiday in Japan and was looking for a “Japanese potato salad” recipe on Google. Thank you for making it so easy and appetizing. I am trying it right now!

joel | 8 January, 2008 - 21:42

Please,please, Jyagabutterrrrrrrrr!!!!!!

Hey, I used stumble upon and found your recipes….Awsome!!!! Thank you so much! I lived in Japan forone year, 6 months in Kanazawa,6 in Yokohama.And I miss the food so much!!! I used to eat at some restaurants and I loved the jyagabutter…Maybe you know the recipe? It had something like…baked potatoes, and a mixture of corn and butter that had a unique taste. Really, I miss that!
Keep it up,its great! You ever thought of opening ur restaurant? Oh …and I just looove mayo, all over:) Even on pasta:) I used to buy Kewpie mayonaise too:) LOTS! I even ate it on rice, you know, the rice you usually find in Familly Mart…I had it heated then I just ate it with kewpie mayonaise:) Wo,im hungry now:))))
Please come with the Jyagabutteeer!!!!!
All the best

Ioana | 6 February, 2008 - 01:16

Yuuuuuuumm!

I just made this last night, and I had to comment and let you know that it is the BEST potato salad I have ever had! It was so delicious! My whole family just loves it! I made it without the cucumber, and I forgot to add the onions (after taking forever to chop them!), so it was really simple, but SO GOOD! I packed in my mom’s and my bentos for lunch today, and I’m looking forward to it. Thanks so much for the recipe!

Lalaroo | 24 June, 2008 - 18:05

Variation on recipe

I love Japanese potato salad! Mostly the type my sister and I make. One of our variations is adding chopped ham, whether it’s deli ham or a chunk of ham. We also only use cucumbers, carrots, and potatoes for veggies with very little salt. It’s a much simpler version, but it’s just as good!

(BTW I love your site. I’m always looking for some Japanese recipes, but since most of the ones I have are in Japanese and my reading skills suck, I get tired of trying to translate by the 1st step ^^; So thank you for having an English version!)

mookiy | 30 July, 2008 - 13:16

Your version sounds

Your version sounds delicious too! Ham and mayo go together so well :)

maki | 30 July, 2008 - 14:42

Your japanese potato salad

Your japanese potato salad looks like the one my mum makes. ;-)
In Germany the differences between north an south are quiet big. One is the potato salad. In the north (where I live) a potato salad base is potatoes and mayonaise in the south it is potatoes an vinegar. ;-)

I would use:
potatoes, egg, pickled cucumber, onions (optional fried ham) and a bit parsley or with yoghurt for the less fatty variant.

Heike | 5 September, 2008 - 14:53

Thank you so much for this

Thank you so much for this recipe! I had fun cooking it and even my dad loved it, who usually dislikes anything with potatos! (he also doesn’t eat the dutch version of potato salad)

I absolutely love this site, and I’m looking forward to try more recipes from here ^^ (next up is the Stir-fried konnyaku, I was happy to discover a small Japanese store near sold them ^^ )

Mizuki | 14 September, 2008 - 11:04

Re: Almost the same

When I made this recipe, the LA Times had just recently written an article on the best potato salad recipes in LA. Mitsuwa and Nijiya markets both scored really high. When it comes to potato salad, I’m used to So Cal Japanese-American style “Lunch Plates”. The same style that came from Hawaii. This potato salad was pretty good, but it HAS to be made with Kewpie mayo. Also, I agree with someone who said to use Yukon Gold potatoes. The size of the potatoes is really important. I used medium sized potatoes that were slightly too big. In order to get the really creamy style of Japanese potato salad, the potatoes have to be really well cooked. Also, I had bought a little container of potato salad from Mitsuwa before I made this recipe to compare it to. Can you believe that their recipe actually had apple in it? I haven’t put ham into it yet, but I did enjoy ham in my potato salad while in Japan.

Karla | 15 September, 2008 - 22:12

amazing

my mother has made japanese potato salad for my entire life; always with kewpie mayonnaise.

i just made this for the first time, and it’s WONDERFUL!! just like mom’s!! i’m in the deep south (alabama, US), and even some southern-bred americans think it’s the best ever!!

julia | 21 September, 2008 - 01:20

what is the reason

what is the reason for boiling the potatoes and carrot unpeeled? is that so you can boil everything together? i would think it easier to peel and cut the potato first and then boil. does it make it too starchy?

anon. | 30 October, 2008 - 18:59

Boiling the vegetables with

Boiling the vegetables with the peel/skin on retains their flavor better. You can peel it in advance if you want to save time.

maki | 30 October, 2008 - 21:35

I’m an university student

I’m an university student and tried out this Japanese Potato salad last weekend. It was delicious! Next time I definitely have to make a bigger portion. Thank you for the recipe~

Asami | 31 October, 2008 - 23:04

Love it.

My grandmother said that one of the most important tips to making it taste right was to boil some pork in with the potatoes. She would then finely chop the pork and add it into the potato salad. I loved putting a little shoyu on her potato salad- soo good.

Kim | 22 November, 2008 - 05:56

Re: Japanese Potato Salad

My grandma uses red potatoes for her potato salad. She also adds small chunks of turkey and finely chopped mini sweet pickles, along with just a little bit of dijon mustard. I'm not sure how much of the extra stuff she added to her recipe after she moved to the States, but it's always been my favorite kind of potato salad. When I make it myself, it never tastes as good though.

Katie | 4 February, 2009 - 02:21

Romanian beef-salad( salade de boeuf)

Although it bears a French name, this salad is entirely Romanian. The French prepare something similar but with a different sauce and only with vegetables, while the Romanians add to it beef. The French call their mixture Macedoine. The Germans mix as well meat, pickles and boiled vegetables and they call it Berliner. The Slavs call it A la Russe and they don't add meat at all. So, here is the original pure Romanian Salade de Boeuf (even Romanians use the French name)

Ingredients:
• 700 gr meat
• 700 gr potatoes
• 300 gr pickled (in vinegar not salty water) cucumbers
• 500 gr carrots (or pease)
• 3 pickled bellpeppers
• 500 ml mayonnaise
• salt, mustard, oil

Preparation:
Boil the meat until soften. Also boil the carrots, potatoes, pease (if not canned) separately until they soften a bit. Peel and let them cool down.

Cut the meat, cucumbers, bellpeppers, potatoes, carrots in very small cubes of the size of a dice. In a big bowl, mix all the ingredients with 3/4 of mayonnaise, a spoon of oil, 2 of mustard, a bit of lemon juice, salt, pepper. Place the mixture on a large plate and level it to look like a birthday cake. Spread the remaining mayonnaise and use your imagination to decorate it. Use as decoration pieces of hard boiled egg whites, olives, pickled red bellpeppers, parsli etc. Hint: You can use other type of meat: chicken, turkey or white fish (no salmon). If you add couple of apples, the taste will become really fine and exquisite. Also mushrooms (crude or canned) or hot spices are an extra option.
To be served as an appetizer with Chardonnay, Sauvignon.
(The Romanian name of the dish: Salata de Boeuf)

Hope you like this:)
any news about the jyagabutter recipe? :)
I asked you above....

Ioana again:) | 5 February, 2009 - 19:05

Re: Romanian beef-salad( salade de boeuf)

Hi Ioana, thanks for the recipe! It looks delicious!

Re: jagabataa...there is no set recipe for it; the name literally means 'potatoes and butter', so I'm not sure what exact combination was used for the one you had. I'm guessing it was just really good potatoes with fresh butter, plus salt and/or soy sauce. Or it could have been cooked in dashi stock beforehand. Here's a recipe for new potatoes with butter and soy sauce which could be adapted to regular big potatoes too.

maki | 5 February, 2009 - 21:00

Jiyagabata

Yes, I remember the taste so well, and yes, it was soy sauce for sure, the potatoes were cooked in the oven , unpeeled, they were smashed, and there was corn too :)Everything was served hot.
yummy!...This is from what I remember, but I thought you had the exact recipe :)
Thank you:)

Ioana | 5 February, 2009 - 21:56

Re: Japanese Potato Salad

I was so happy to find your recipe! It tastes exactly like what I remember eating in my favorite Japanese restaurants. Absolutely delicious. Thanks so much!

Tieng | 2 June, 2009 - 07:37

Re: Japanese Potato Salad

Wonderful recipe! easy and very delicious! i've never had cucumber in potato salad before and i absolutely love the freshness it gives.

christanschell | 27 August, 2009 - 01:29

Re: Japanese Potato Salad

I cooked them today ! it was great thx! : )

Nihon Ryouri crazy | 16 September, 2009 - 14:33

Re: Japanese Potato Salad

Ooh this stuff is just so wonderful, and I can actually make it with vegetables I usually have on hand anyway. I made this with green onions and just devoured the whole batch over the course of a weekend (and I'm not really a big eater).
Thanks for this awesome recipe-- it's definitely going to be in my house as often as I have the time to make it :)

Aikochu | 21 September, 2009 - 01:39

Re: Japanese Potato Salad

I made this as well, but instead of cucumbers (because I didn't have any) I used zucchini and have received rave reviews. =)

Very easy to adapt this recipe to what you have on hand. Thanks.

kallistra | 22 February, 2010 - 20:31

Re: Japanese Potato Salad

Just letting you know that any commercial mayonnaise purchased here will not have any "vinegar" flavor at all(as you mentioned) because mayonnaise does not contain vinegar. its essentially oil and egg whipped together....

anon. | 17 July, 2010 - 14:48

Re: Japanese Potato Salad

You're wrong, try reading a label.

maki | 17 July, 2010 - 18:04

Re: Japanese Potato Salad

You're wrong, try reading a label.

maki | 17 July, 2010 - 18:04

Re: Japanese Potato Salad

I AM FROM THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
WE MAKE POTATOE SALAD THE SAME WAY AS THE JAPANESE. WE ARE CHEROKEE (NATIVE AMERICANS). WE FIND THAT MOST NATIVE AMERICANS LIKE JAPANESE FOOD. WE ALSO EAT A LOT OF RICE AND NOODLES. ONLY GERMANS OR PEOPLE OF GERMAN ANCESTARY USE VINEGAR IN POTATOE SALAD. MOST AMERICANS DO NOT LIKE VINEGAR EXCEPT IN PICKLES. I WAS GLAD TO FIND YOUR RECIPE PAGES. THANK YOU FOR THE INFORMATION ON BENTO BOXES. I BOUGHT A BENTO BOX AT A FLEA MARKET FOR $2. I FOUND SIMILAR BOXES ON THE INTERNET SELLING FOR $200. THE LADY WHO SOLD THE BOX CALLED IT AN UGLY BLACK JEWLRY BOX AND WAS VERY HAPPY TO GET $2 I NOW HAVE A THREE TIERED OCTANGONAL BENTO BOX WITH A LID HAND PAINTED WITH CHERRY BLOOSOMS

anon. | 10 August, 2010 - 04:18

Re: Japanese Potato Salad

I just made this! and It's so delicious and refreshing! I saw someone mentioned that her mom uses pickle relish instead.. since I didn't have fresh cucumber on hand I used some pickle(heinz bread and butter slices) and it was great because the pickle still has that cucumber essence to it. Yum Yum. Thanks for sharing!

Jah | 24 August, 2010 - 13:39

Re: Japanese Potato Salad

This is very close to my Mother's recipe. We also cook the cut potatoes & carrots together with the eggs, then after draining, put the potatoes & carrots back in the pot and put on low heat to let the water evaporate. It makes the potatoes fluffier. We use peeled russet potatoes.

Also, we add a bit of Dijon mustard, matchstick slices of mild Danish ham like Danola, the salt squeezed onion & Japanese or English cucumbers and sweet pickle relish with Kewpie and a bit of Miracle Whip. Chives or nira are also delicious additions... and for me, I love a couple splashes of Tabasco Garlic flavored sauce.

My Dad used to joke that he married her for her potato salad, and I had two marriage proposals because of it. My ex would make a meal out of a bowl of this.

Harusami | 4 December, 2010 - 11:53

Re: Japanese Potato Salad

I just made this salad and I have to say it's the best I've ever had. The recipe is superbly written and everything worked perfectly. Thank you so much.

Alex | 24 February, 2011 - 05:18

Re: Japanese Potato Salad

I used this for a recent post I did and it turned out great!!! Loved the recipe and big fan of your blog :)

Karen from Globetrotter Diaries | 19 April, 2011 - 19:53

Re: Japanese Potato Salad

Hi Maki! I just recently returned from Japan and have been looking for recipes for the dishes my host mother made while there. I requested that she write some of them out for me, but there are a lot I missed. This is one of them and yours looks just as tasty as her's was. I do have one question. If I make a batch of the potato salad, how long will it keep in the fridge? Thanks a bunch.

Caitlin | 4 May, 2011 - 19:26

Re: Japanese Potato Salad

Korean food and Japanese food tend to resemble each other sometimes, like this potato salad. Korean restaurants (and my mother) use diced apples in addition to the potatoes, cucumbers, and eggs, and a few times I've even gotten broccoli, raw sweet potato, and raisins (those were strange times).
The apples were always my favorite part of those salads in all their sweet crunchy salty glory, and whenever I see a dish of potato salad blob set before me I try to identify which lump is an apple before stabbing my chopsticks into it, hoping for that crisp sound indicating an apple, haha!

Evelyn | 28 January, 2012 - 05:28

Re: Japanese Potato Salad

There's a traditional Russian salad called 'olivye' that every household makes a bit differently. This Japanese Potato Salad sounds a lot like the type my family used to make. I think the only difference is that we used pickles instead of cucumbers and put some canned peas in. My husband's grandparents make it with mostly just egg and potato and pickles.
Either way, I thought the connection was pretty cool.

Rivka | 29 January, 2012 - 16:40

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