Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Red Hot and Blue's Potato Salad

One of my favorite places in the country is Washington, D.C. I lived there for about two years, and in that time I grew to love it (and its surrounding areas). I moved back to the west coast because it ultimately proved too hard to be in a whole other timezone from my family and friends (and I didn't enjoy the job I had there), but I always think of D.C. fondly and wish it were located on the west coast, because then I'd move there like that. Of course, if it were on the west coast, it wouldn't be what it is.

When you live in a place, you find restaurants that you come to know and love, and that you miss once you don't live there anymore. (Even though I don't think the Pacific Northwest is for me in a forever way, there are restaurants here that I'll miss once I leave, whenever that might be.) This includes one-of-a-kind restaurants like Bistrot Lepic in Georgetown (D.C.), or Umi Sake House in Belltown (Seattle). But it also includes chain restaurants that are particular to the area. I miss In-N-Out Burgers like crazy, as well as Mimi's Cafe, both of which are very common in California (in fact, it looks like Mimi's just doesn't like the north of the country, for some reason).

The chain I miss from D.C. is Red Hot and Blue. It's a barbecue joint. The barbecue itself is good, nothing I'd turn my nose up at, but it doesn't especially stand out. What does stand out? Their potato salad. It is AMAZING. It's the best potato salad I've ever had, and with something as ubiquitous as potato salad, you better believe I've had my fair share of it. Red Hot and Blue serves it at room temperature, and it is definitely best that way. It's fairly simple, and a bit unusual, as far as potato salads go. I say this because of the presence of green onions, which I've generally found is not a common ingredient in this dish.

This copycat recipe is one that I created on my own -- not that it took rocket science or anything. It's not difficult to discern the red potatoes (since Red Hot and Blue leaves the skin on), eggs, and green onions when you're eating it. And of course, there's the mayo, a necessary component of potato salad. I do have to say that the final ingredient is somewhat of a 'secret' ingredient (though not really), because it's not immediately obvious. Something made this potato salad taste especially good, but what? I tried making it once, using just the four ingredients I named, and it just didn't taste right, it wasn't as good. So the next time I was at Red Hot and Blue (ironically, not until I had moved away and was visiting -- dragging my companion to the restaurant just so I could have their potato salad again), I took a chance and asked my waitress what made their potato salad taste the way it did -- was there some special seasoning? And bless her heart, she actually went and asked the kitchen, and the answer was: celery salt. I still wish that my financial situation at that time had more closely resembled what it does today, so that I could have left her a bigger tip. Because thanks to her, now I can have Red Hot and Blue's delicious potato salad any time I want, without having to fly across the country for it.

To make it more like Red Hot and Blue's version, you'll want to cook the potatoes to a point where they are just soft enough to sink your teeth into, but before they start to get really mushy. I went a little too far this time and so it ended up being half mashed. It's no less delicious that way, and in fact has its own charms, but I want to make sure I'm conveying the true, authentic Red Hot and Blue experience. I've used different kinds of mayo and they all seem to work (unlike for Hodge Podge Salad, which absolutely requires Miracle Whip) -- this time I used one from Trader Joe's. It may be easier to achieve a firmer consistency with the potatoes if you boil them whole; I tend to be lazy and pre-chop them into medium-sized pieces before boiling so I don't have to deal with hot potatoes. The eggs can be boiled right in with the potatoes or separately; up to you. The components for this potato salad are so few and simple that you just can't leave anything out, or the flavor simply won't be the same. You've been warned.

Even though this isn't an official version of their recipe, every time I've made it I've been happy with the results. It tastes like Red Hot and Blue's version, which is what I'm looking for. When searching for copycat recipes for this potato salad online, I found one that sounded similar (but had no measurements), though it included celery. I don't remember celery being in Red Hot and Blue's potato salad, but it's been awhile, maybe my memory's wrong. Or maybe it's something they've added recently. I don't think it'd detract from it, so perhaps one day I'll try it. For now, I'm sticking with my version!

Red Hot and Blue's Potato Salad (copycat recipe by yours truly)

  • 2-2 1/2 lbs red-skinned potatoes, skin on
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 bunch green onions, just the green parts, diced finely
  • generous 1/2 cup real mayonnaise
  • 3/4 tsp celery salt


  1. Place potatoes and eggs in a large pot of cold water and bring to a boil. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender but not mushy. You can pre-cut the potatoes if you wish, though this will probably make for mushier results unless you're super diligent about checking them. The eggs can be boiled separately if you wish; they just need to be hard boiled.
  2. When potatoes are done, drain them into a colander. Run cold water over the eggs to make them easier to handle. If you boiled the potatoes whole, chop them into bite-sized pieces when cool enough to do so. Shell the eggs and dice them. If you're watching your cholesterol intake like me, set aside half of the yolks to throw away or use for another purpose -- like giving them to the dog for a nice treat.
  3. In a large bowl, gently mix all the ingredients together (you don't want to end up with mashed potatoes if you're too rough with this step!). Serve at room temperature for best flavor.


Nicole said...

You are a lifesaver! Thank you, thank you!

Anonymous said...

This is my all time favorite too!! Thanks for the "secret ingredient" I couldn't figure it out either!

Rebekah Travis said...

Should it be celery salt or celery seed. The little black specks are celery seed.

Sarea said...

Nicole - So glad I could help!!

Anon - You're welcome, I knew there had to be other fans of this potato salad out there!

Rebekah - It should be celery salt. That's what I was told and that's how I make it. I've never tried with celery seed, but who knows, it might be good!

Anonymous said...

It is actually Celery Seed.

Here is the recipe from the Red Hot n Blue training manual.

My friend use to work at Red Hot & Blue. This is how they make it. When he moved, he left the training book!!!!!!!!!!!!!

16-17 lbs red bliss, size B potatoes
13 eggs, cut into eights
2 1/2 cups green onions, chop 1/8-inch size
5 cups mayonnaise, they buy from Ben E. Keith food distr.
2 1/2 level tbsp. celery seed
2 1/2 level tbsp. salt

steam spuds for 45-60 minutes

cut into small pcs and mix ingredients- do not refrigerate

Sarea said...

Anon - Wow cool, nice to have some confirmation from a RH&B manual, thanks for sharing with us. I guess the waitress gave me the wrong info that night, but even so, celery salt works really well, for those who don't have celery seed on hand. Now that the 'real' recipe has been unearthed I'll definitely have to give it a try!

Anonymous said...

When we first started going to RH&B, their potato salad had dill in it and it was great. But they have changed a few things in the last 10 years, and their food isn't so unique anymore. But still good.

Anonymous said...

The official recipe from Red, Hot, and Blue's Training Book:

16-17 lbs red bliss, size B potatoes
13 eggs, cut into eights
2 1/2 cups green onions, chop 1/8-inch size
5 cups mayonnaise, they buy from Ben E. Keith food distr.
2 1/2 level tbsp. celery seed
2 1/2 level tbsp. salt

steam spuds for 45-60 minutes

cut into small pcs and mix ingredients- do not refrigerate


abbey said...

I think there is some butter in there too some where!

Anonymous said...

Yumm! Thank you! I found your site looking for this potato salad recipe, and so glad I did. So, while I was at it, I also made your mac-n-cheese, because I was sick of making boxes of mac-n-cheese for my toddler. She didn't like your 'perfect' mac-n-cheese as much as her boxed stuff, but I really enjoyed it! I made your spaghetti sauce, too, which was also really good and everyone liked that.

Anonymous said...

Can someone tell me if Steaming is different than boiling the potatoes? A hour to boil potatoes? That sounds like they would be mush!

Thanks so much for the recipe. We can go to one of the many RH&B here in Maryland but we are off to a beach trip and I want to prepare this salad to go with some pulled pork sandwiches. Now if I could just get the recipe for their pulled pork!!

Alli said...

I worked at Red Hot and Blue for 8 years, all the way through high school and college - and anonymous is correct; it's celery seed :)

Thanks for posting - I'm sure it tastes great with celery salt as well. I came across your website because my hubby, who LOVES RH&B's potato salad, has been begging me to make it, and it's been a few years so I don't remember the exact recipe.

I can tell you that RH&B steams the potatoes, so if you're boiling them, it will take less time. Best serves piping hot!

Thanks for the site! Even after working at RH&B for 8 years, there are certain items I'll never get sick of, and the potato salad is definitely one.

Gina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gina said...

What I'm wondering is how RH&B keeps large quantities of the potato salad on hand at room temp. and not have it go bad. Any ideas? (I came across your site hunting for the recipe too... yum! I'm excited!)

Stork said...

This stuff is the best halftime treat at the Navy football games, with a pulled pork sandwhich. I have made a similar version but was missing something. I saw the black specks and new it was some kind of seed. Many thanks for posting. Go Navy!!

happygeek said...

I had some for the first time last month on vacation and it was the best potato salad I had ever had. So glad to have a recipe.

clumsy ox said...

We tried your recipe last night, and you've about nailed the RH&B flavor. We opened a bottle of "Mojo Mild" from my stash and had some pulled chicken to go with.

Thanks so much. I've missed RH&B ever since we came to the NorthWest.

Ruthie said...

Thank you generous people for sharing your time and recipe! Tasted some while traveling to Dallas and just can't get it out of my mind! Can't wait to make the recipe you shared! Thank you from the bottom of my heart (and tummy! :)

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Rebecca said...

I can't tell you how happy I am I found this site! I, too, love the potato salad at RH&B. We have one right down the street from us, but I'd love to have this when we eat at home, too. I can't get enough of the stuff! Also, the only part of it I didn't really like was the little black specks, and I wondered what they were...now I'll just use the celery salt and it will be perfect. Thanks again!

heydeb said...

OMG! so happy to have found this blog! I lost my recipe...but here it is!!!!!

Weasel said...

Just ate at RH&B this past weekend and was blown away by the potato salad… so here I am trying to find the recipe. Thanks for posting it.

Like Abby said, I think there is butter in there somewhere. We got a pint to go and the next day you could clearly see butter pooling up in gaps near the bottom. Needless to say I will be adding a little butter to my mix! Going to throw some together next weekend! Wish me luck.


Anonymous said...

I have never seen any butter in the potato salad at Red, Hot and Blue. I believe you were seeing the hard boiled egg yolk.

Anonymous said...

There is RH&B potato salad in front of me (lucky me!) and there is not any visible celery seed in it.

cathy said...

Yahoo! I'm so happy to have found this! Thank you!

Lori A. said...

Yum! I made this tonight to go with pulled pork bbq sandwiches. Hubby and I loved it!
I did use the celery seed. I don't know how much flavor it gave? I might try the celery salt next time.

Anonymous said...

Do you reheat to serve the next day or serve it cold? Suggestions?

Sarea said...

If serving the next day I'd probably take it out a little early and let it get back to room temp to serve, but if that's not possible I'd probably serve it cold over 'reheating.' Reheating a dish that has mayo in it is always a dicey proposition.

It is so awesome that so many others love RH&B's potato salad too -- I thought I was the only one who enjoyed it that much. Rock on!

Anonymous said...

OMG!! This is so yummy. I made for a BBQ the other day and everyone has beeen e-mailing me for the recipe. The celery salt makes this dish : ) Thank you so much for sharing. I love Red Hot and Blue and I am 5 months preggo and crave there potato salad.Thanks!!

Carlene said...

your right my husband and i ate there twice for dinner on our vacation a couple weeks ago, and the potato salad was amazing. when i asked the waiter if there was mustard in it.. of course before we ordered it and he said no it was a parmesan based??? i am going to try your recipe on here... i cant wait to go back!

Anonymous said...

I tried the recipe today as RH&B potato salad is a favorite of mine. While it was tasty, it wasn't quite right. I used Kroger brand Mayo....would that matter? Just seems like it's missing a little somethin' somethin'.

Anonymous said...

celery salt is celery seeds ground up with salt

Number 10 said...

I am SO excited to finally have this recipe! Our Red Hot & Blue went out of business about five years ago, so I've been desperate to have that potato salad again. You are a lifesaver!

sandy jones said...

Another "special" ingredient is Duke's mayonnaise... Apparently it's a "southern thing" and it also has 2 gms more fat than Hellmann's mayo. I was just visiting my Dad in Waldorf, MD and of course we had to go there for the potato salad and BBQ sandwich. When the manager came over and asked how our meal was, I asked him what kind of mayo they use and he said "Duke's of course!" Needless to say, I bought 3 jars of it to bring home with me!! If you look on their website (Duke's) they will actually ship it to you if your local stores don't carry it.. Either way, I'll never use a different one again!! Our potato salad had celery seeds in it, so I guess that's their variation as opposed to the celery salt. Hope this helps everyone!! Enjoy!!

Jen said...

Sandy -- Oooh great tip re: Duke's!

Have gotten various reports on the celery seed vs celery salt. It could be that it's made slightly differently from location to location.

Clearly, a taste-off must commence, with everyone making it both ways. ;) Then we all just continue making it the way we prefer. Everyone's a winner!

Loyce Kirk Mason said...

Honestly, I thought they had a little olive oil in it. I put a bit of olive oil on my hot potatoes before adding the mayo and they are creamy and yummy.

brendast said...

I thought it had sour cream in it. Do you have their baked bean recipe?

ldsimmons99 said...

Someone mentioned the butter and I agree, they must add a bit before mixing other ingredients. Now I remember when my son brought some home for a large family dinner, the butter pooled a bit on the top, not egg yoke. That will kick it up a notch, will do that next time for sure.