Impress your guests with the perfect potluck party side dish! Featuring the very best ranch potato salad with bacon and cheddar cheese. Pan-seared, thick-cut bacon and freshly grated Cheddar make all the difference in this creamy, full-flavored perfect potato salad!
If you love BBQ’s and cookouts, family get-togethers and potluck parties, this ranch potato salad belongs on your radar.
A PLEASANT POTLUCK SURPRISE
Our family is no stranger to a barbecue, and to say we have done it “often” over the years would be a massive understatement. My favorite way to entertain is potluck style, where everybody brings a dish, and everybody has a fun variety to choose from. Us women usually hang around in the A.C. snacking on all the goodies and gabbing away, while the men sweat it out in the Texas heat, slaving over the smoker or grill, and preparing our main course. Thanks, guys. We really owe ya one.
Not so long ago, one of the ladies brought in a side dish that had us all drooling. A potluck side dish none of us had ever laid eyes on before. It was so genius, and the combination was classic and totally flawless. It was a ranch potato salad, made up of red potatoes, shredded cheese, and bacon…and of course, a potato salad dressing made of ranch to top it all off. We all whole-heartedly loved that potato salad. So much. We were hooked, and there was no doubt I would be recreating a made-from-scratch version of my friend’s ranch potato salad.
RANCH POTATO SALAD MADE FROM SCRATCH…FOR GOOD REASON
If we all thoroughly enjoyed a ranch potato salad made with bacon bites and packaged shredded cheese, imagine how addictive a ranch potato salad made with crispy, thick-cut bacon, freshly shredded Cheddar, and a homemade ranch dressing could be.
Now, I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea, here: I grew up with a working mom and my childhood was no stranger to processed ingredients. This is a judgment-free zone and I certainly understand the limitations time can place on a mother’s time. Made-from-scratch just isn’t always possible, but when it is, I think we can all agree it’s most definitely best. However, these days there are certain ingredients I won’t budge on — one of them is cheese and another one of them just so happens to be bacon.
WHY USE REAL BACON
Actually, to tell you the truth, there’s a touch of an obsession with thick-cut bacon in our home, and when you cut it up into tiny little pieces and fry ’em up to crispy perfection? Bacon bits aren’t really even in the game anymore, are they? And really, if you want to know the sad truth, some bacon bits aren’t even a real pork product (spoiler alert), they’re instead made up of soy. I can only imagine the vegetarians, and the vegetarians alone would find solace in that. No offense vegetarians.
Don’t get me wrong, if you snag the right brand, you’ll end up with bacon bits that are made out of pork, they’ll just be coated in a pretty little package of extra preservative. Mmmmmm.
WHY USE FRESHLY SHREDDED CHEESE
If you were to do a side-by-side taste test of the same brand’s pre-packaged shredded cheese versus a block of that very same variety freshly grated, we would be looking at two ends of the spectrum in regard to both quality and taste. Prepackaged shredded cheese comes equipped with a nice, waxy coating of cellulose. Cellulose is a harmless preservative, but an added preservative none-the-less, and one you could surely do just fine without. Especially when you consider the end-product would be significantly better if you simply grated the cheese.
For more information on Cellulose, check out TheKitchn’s article entitled, Cellulose: The Wood Pulp in Your Cheese. Oh yeah, and there’s also that. Needless to say, for this ranch potato salad, I must highly recommend zero wood pulp with your Cheddar.
PACKET OF SEASONING VS. HOMEMADE
Here’s my beef with ranch seasoning packets: (A) I can never remember where they’re located in the grocery store, and (B) the spice mixture is pret-ty darn easy to whip together at home. But, if you’re in a pinch for time or you just don’t want to purchase spices you may not already have, by all means, use that ranch packet to your heart’s content.
RANCH POTATO SALAD WITH RED POTATOES
Did I happen to mention this ranch potato salad is the dreamiest, creamiest potato salad ever? Oh, yes.
One of the things I love most about old-fashioned potato salad is the way the Russets break down and some of the pieces actually kind of become one with the potato salad dressing. However, red potatoes don’t really take on that same role when it comes to potato salad. Red potatoes are sturdy little potatoes and tend to hold on to their shape during the cooking process. However, by nature, they have a smooth and velvety texture, and when those little potatoes are cooked and coated in a creamy ranch dressing, they are absolutely, positively, without a doubt, to-die-for.
A POTLUCK PARTY WIN
When it all comes together — the creamy red potatoes, the crispy, thick-cut bacon, the freshly grated Cheddar, all smothered in a potato salad dressing made of ranch — it is one heck of a crowd-pleasing, potluck side dish. Oh, and did I happen to mention that it’s a make-ahead side dish? Bonus. And, this, my friends, is a potluck party win. Please, enjoy.
The very best ranch potato salad with crispy, pan-seared bacon and freshly grated cheddar cheese.
- 4 pounds baby red potatoes rinsed and dried
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 2 1/4 teaspoons Kosher salt, separated
- 1 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, separated
- 1 3/4 teaspoon dried dill, separated
- 8 slices thick-cut bacon diced into 1/4" pieces
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons good, quality mayonnaise
- 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sour cream
- 2 teaspoons white wine or distilled vinegar
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons freshly minced parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried chives
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 1/2 cup freshly grated Cheddar cheese
Preheat the oven to 350° and have ready 2 rimmed sheet pans lined with aluminum foil.
Quarter the medium to large sized red potatoes, and half the smaller ones. Add them to a large mixing bowl, drizzle with canola oil, and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons Kosher salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and 3/4 teaspoon dill. Toss until evenly combined and divide amongst the two sheet pans.
Bake the potatoes for 40-50 minutes, until fork-tender. While the potatoes are baking, cook the bacon.
Add the bacon to a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Sauté, stirring often until browned and crispy, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the excess grease. Allow to cool. You should have about a 1/2 cup of bacon pieces.
To make the ranch dressing, combine mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, garlic powder, parsley, chives, 1 teaspoon dill, 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and onion powder in a bowl and whisk together. Set aside until ready to use.
Once the potatoes have cooled, add them to a large mixing bowl, along with the dressing, bacon, and Cheddar, and stir until well-combined. Refrigerate the potato salad at least 3 hours, or up to overnight. Serve and enjoy!