Carla Hall’s Potato Salad Has Everything Good in This World

Carla Hall's peppy potato salad recipe is an antidote to every bland version I've tried. It gets its big personality from an ingredient you might normally throw away.

Carla Hall’s Potato Salad Has Everything Good in This World
Carla Hall cut-out over a blue background next to a bowl of Carla Halls potato salad
Simply Recipes / Photo Illustration by Wanda Abraham / Getty Images / Sara Haas

When I heard that Carla Hall makes a potato salad using pickle brine, I knew I needed to try it. After all, I love both potato salad and pickles, so it had to be great.

I’ve made several types of potato salad recently and all have been the creamy kind with plenty of mayonnaise and hard-boiled eggs. I love that kind of potato salad, but after eating it three or four times, it gets a little boring.

That’s why I was excited to see Hall’s recipe, which uses pickle brine and olive oil as the main dressing ingredients. Sorry mayo, but we need a break from each other. I like vinegar-based potato salads, and since pickles get their punchy flavor from that tart liquid, I was excited about this new twist.

I grabbed a handful of potatoes and my favorite jar of pickles (Grillo's hot pickle spears, if you must know) from the grocery store and got to work.

How To Make Carla Hall's Pickled Potato Salad

The recipe starts with peeling and dicing Russet potatoes, which I added directly to a pot along with half a cup of the pickle brine and enough cold water to cover the potatoes. After boiling until fork-tender, I drained the potatoes and rinsed them under cold water.

While the potatoes were drained, I quickly made the simple dressing: pickle brine, olive oil, oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. I transferred the potatoes to a big bowl, added the dressing, and tossed everything together with diced red bell pepper and pickles. 

My first impression was that it was good, but not pickle-y enough. With the word “pickled” in the name, I was expecting a bigger kick.

Luckily, I had plenty of pickles and pickle brine left, so I added a bit more of each. That made it better, but I felt it was still missing something—onions and garlic! While there was plenty of each in my pickle brine, it just wasn’t enough, so I added a clove of minced garlic and about a quarter cup of thinly sliced green onions. After those modifications, it was perfect!

bowl of Carla Hall's pototo salad
Simply Recipes / Sara Haas

Tips for Making Carla Hall's Potato Salad

  1. Drain the potatoes well. Rinsed potatoes hold onto a lot of water, which can prevent them from absorbing the dressing. Next time, I'll drain the potatoes and let them cool on their own instead of rinsing them with cold water. I might also pat them dry before tossing them with dressing.
  2. Use your favorite pickle. And then use more of it. I love spicy, super-tangy pickles, so that’s what I chose. I like the idea of cooking the potatoes in pickle brine, but I’m not sure it had much effect on the end product. Next time I’ll save the pickling liquid for tossing with my potatoes right after cooking and draining them. And of course, as I mentioned above, I’ll add even more pickles.
  3. Add onion and garlic. I added fresh garlic and green onion, but granulated garlic and onion would also work. To prevent over-seasoning, add a pinch at a time, tasting after each addition.