Midnight Diner Potato Salad is a Japanese twist on the classic American potato salad and contains ham, carrots, onions, and sweet pickles.
The combination of a slightly sweet and sour dressing with different textures and flavors makes this potato salad a winner as both a side dish and a hearty snack.
All of the ingredients are readily available at your local grocer except for Japanese mayonnaise, but I have a quick and easy substitution that you can make in just a couple of minutes.
About the Midnight Diner
If you have seen the first season of the Japanese series "Midnight Diner" on Netflix you will immediately recognize this Japanese version of American potato salad.
Midnight Diner is exactly what its name implies. It opens when most people are already home and in bed for the night. But for those people who are just getting off work from midnight to seven in the morning, this diner is a home away from home where the menu contains only three items, but the owner is willing to make any requested dish as long as he has the ingredients.
Episodes feature a patron of the diner, a glimpse of their life story, and their favorite dish. Some of the stories are for mature audiences, but they are all heartfelt and touching and through each story, we are reminded that food is tightly tied to memories, feelings, and comfort.
About This Recipe
One of the patrons came one night and asked for potato salad, which the owner generally makes every evening. For Mr. Oki, we learn that this was his favorite childhood dish that his mother made.
I was intrigued by the combination of ingredients and their textures and decided to make my version of this delicious Japanese potato salad.
The version in the episode contains russet potatoes, which have an earthy flavor. My husband is not a fan of these so I switched them out for new potatoes and have made this salad with red, gold, and white potatoes and each is delicious.
The other change I made was to make an easy substitute for the Japanese mayonnaise. I don't typically have this on hand and I think most Americans can't purchase it at a local grocer.
Otherwise, the recipe is very much like what is shown and narrated in the show.
The potatoes are cooked with the skins on, "which makes the potatoes sweeter" and the onions are added to the cooked and peeled potatoes while they are still hot which softens the onions.
The potatoes and onions are allowed to cool completely before the addition of the sliced carrots, pickles, ham, and mayo.
To be honest I don't know if the pickles are pickled or fresh cucumber. We like sweet, pickled cucumber which works deliciously with the other ingredients. So, I've gone with that choice and the resulting salad is truly unique, delicious, and a great change-up from my classic potato salad!
So, let's cook!
Here's what you need for this Midnight Diner Potato Salad:
- Large Potatoes - You can use almost any potato like red, gold, white, or even russet.
- Yellow Onions - Yellow onions are sweeter and milder in flavor and a great complement to potatoes.
- Carrots - Thinly sliced carrots are added to the salad. If the carrots are large you might want to halve are quarter the slices as shown in the series.
- Cooked Ham - Just like in the episode, I cut cooked, thin sliced ham into small 1" squares. You can use either honey ham or smoked ham.
- Sweet Pickle Chips - I like the texture and flavor of bread and butter pickles which works well with the salty ham.
And for the Japanese Mayonaise:
- Miracle Whip Salad Dressing - Miracle Whip has a sweeter flavor and lighter texture than mayo and works well as a substitute for Japanese mayonnaise when sugar and rice wine vinegar are added to boost the flavor to sweet-sour.
- White Granulated Sugar - A bit of sweetness helps offset the vinegar.
- Rice Vinegar - I've used both seasoned and regular rice vinegar. Both are delicious.
Please see the recipe card for the exact quantities.
♡ If you are cooking the potatoes with the skins on, remove a thin strip of the skin to make it easier to peel the potatoes after they are cooked.
♡ If the skins of the potatoes have burst while cooking the potatoes are overdone. For the best salad don't overcook the potatoes.
Cook the Potatoes. Scrub the potatoes well. Remove a thin strip of the peel and place them in a large pot. Cover with water and bring to a rapid boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender.
Drain the potatoes and while they are still hot peel them by rubbing the potato skin off with a clean kitchen towel. Place the peeled potatoes into a large bowl.
Add the Onion. While the potatoes are still hot, break them up roughly with a large fork or wooden spoon leaving large chunks. Fold in the sliced onions. The heat of the hot potatoes will soften the onions. Allow the potatoes and onions to cool completely.
Make the Japanese Mayonnaise. While the potatoes cool, in a medium bowl whisk together Miracle Whip salad dressing, white sugar, and the rice vinegar.
Fold in Remaining Ingredients. Gently fold in the carrots, ham, and sweet pickle chips. After everything is well distributed through the salad add the Japanese mayonnaise.
Chill Well. For the best-tasting potato salad cover the bowl with plastic wrap or transfer the salad to an airtight container and refrigerate until the salad is well chilled. Serve and Enjoy!
My Top Tip
♡ I recommend a Japanese mandolin to thinly slice the carrots. To safely use this kitchen tool, please use the guard and a cut-resistant kitchen glove. This tool saves time and is a great investment. I've had my "Mini Wonder" for for than 40 years and it still cuts great.
Substitutions & Variations
- Substitute Japanese Mayonnaise. If you want a more authentic flavor in the dressing you can substitute Kewpie Japanese Mayonnaise for the dressing.
- Substitute Sweet Gherkins. Slice some sweet gherkins for a smaller pickle or make my Quick Pickled Cucumber and omit the lemon.
- Shred the Carrots. Instead of slicing the carrots, you can grate them with a box grater.
Make-Ahead & Storage
This potato salad is even better when made ahead. For the best flavor make it in the morning or a day before serving. You can store this potato salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
More Delicious Potato Salads
♡ Did you love this Midnight Diner Potato Salad? Please leave us a star rating and a comment below!
Midnight Diner Potato Salad
- 3 Pounds Large Potatoes, Gold, White, or Russet
- ½ Cup Yellow Onions, Thinly Sliced
- ½ Cup Carrots, Thinly Sliced and Blanched
- ½ Cup Honey Ham, Thinly Sliced and Cut into Small Squares
- ½ Cup Sweet Pickle Chips
- 1 ½ Cups Miracle Whip Salad Dressing
- 1 ½ Tablespoons White Granulated Sugar
- 3 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar
- Cook the Potatoes. Scrub the potatoes well. Remove a thin strip of the peel and place them in a large pot. Cover with water and bring to a rapid boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender. Drain the potatoes and while they are still hot, peel them by rubbing the potato skin off with a clean kitchen towel. Place the peeled potatoes into a large bowl.3 Pounds Large Potatoes
- Add the Onion. While the potatoes are still hot, break them up roughly with a large fork or wooden spoon leaving large chunks. Fold in the sliced onions. The heat of the hot potatoes will soften the onions. Allow the potatoes and onions to cool completely.½ Cup Yellow Onions
- Make the Japanese Mayonnaise. While the potatoes cool, in a medium bowl whisk together Miracle Whip Salad Dressing, white sugar, and the rice vinegar.1 ½ Cups Miracle Whip Salad Dressing, 1 ½ Tablespoons White Granulated Sugar, 3 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar
- Fold in Remaining Ingredients. Gently fold in the carrots, ham, and sweet pickle chips. After everything is well distributed through the salad add the Japanese mayonnaise.½ Cup Carrots, ½ Cup Sweet Pickle Chips, ½ Cup Honey Ham
- Chill Well. For the best-tasting potato salad cover the bowl with plastic wrap or transfer the salad to an airtight container and refrigerate until the salad is well chilled.Serve and Enjoy!
Encharted Cook Notes
Per 1 serving. All nutritional information on this site is an estimate. Your results may vary.