How to Pick the Best Potatoes for Potato Salad, and More Potato Salad Tricks

Updated: May 26, 2023

From picking the best potatoes for potato salad to knowing just how long you should boil them, our tips will help you make a potato salad everyone loves.

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picking potatoes for potato salad
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Pick the Best Potatoes for Your Potato Salad

No one wants to finish making potato salad only to realize it bears a strikingly close resemblance to mashed potatoes. To keep your salad from falling apart into mush, it’s important to use the best potatoes for potato salad. Skip the russet potatoes and use a waxy variety instead, like Yukon gold, red potatoes or fingerlings.

Learn more about which types of potatoes you should use for different recipes.

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 Ripe Potatoes
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Make Sure the Potatoes Are Ripe

After you choose what kind of potatoes you’ll be using in your potato salad, you have to pick out the individual spuds to bring home. Go for potatoes that are smooth, firm and not wrinkled. Avoid sprouted potatoes.

Don’t forget that green potatoes aren’t necessarily safe to eat!

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potatoes for potato salad
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Store Potatoes the Right Way

Make sure you know how to store potatoes properly, especially if you don’t plan to use them right away. Put your potatoes in a well-ventilated storage container (like a crate) that allows excess moisture to escape. Then, make sure it’s covered so that light doesn’t cause your potatoes to sprout. A pantry or cupboard would be the perfect spot.

Keep your potatoes far away from onions. When they’re stored together, your potatoes will spoil more quickly.

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This pot releasing hot steam during the cooking of crabs.
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Consider Steaming vs. Boiling

The best way to avoid watery potato salad is to prevent the potatoes from getting waterlogged in the first place. That’s why we like to grab the steamer basket and keep the potatoes out of the boiling water. When they’re cooked, season them with a light sprinkle of salt.

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Potatoes boiling in a saucepan on a gas hob.
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Don’t Undercook (or Overcook) the Potatoes

Grandma knew that potatoes are like Goldilocks: When it comes to how long to boil potatoes for potato salad, they have to be cooked just right. Poke them with a fork after the water has boiled for 5 minutes (or, if steaming, after 15 minutes). Don’t wait until they fall apart when pierced with a fork. When the fork enters cleanly with the slightest bit of resistance, the potatoes are finished.

Taste of Home Deputy Food Editor James Schend suggests adding a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar to the water before it comes to a simmer, which will help create a “crust” on the potatoes. This way, they’ll be less likely to fall apart.

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Raw Potato
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Toss Cooked Potatoes in Apple Cider Vinegar

To keep the potatoes from tasting dry and lifeless, it’s best to dress potato salad while it’s warm. The only problem? Eggs in mayo-based dressings can break down when they contact hot potatoes, making the dressing greasy. As a workaround, toss your potatoes with plain apple cider vinegar. It will add a tangy flavor and protect the potatoes from drying out.

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Cutting red potatoes for a potato salad
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Wait for the Water to Evaporate

No one wants a watery potato salad, so save yourself from that fate by letting excess water evaporate from the cooked potatoes before mixing the ingredients. After tossing the potatoes in vinegar, let them cool completely in a single layer on a baking sheet. The water will escape, giving the dressing a better chance to cling to the potatoes.

Want to make sure that your potato salad is extra creamy? Only dress your potato salad with 2/3 of the dressing before chilling, letting the salad marinate for a few hours, Taste of Home Senior Food Editor Peggy Woodward adds in the rest of the dressing  right before serving, which guarantees that there’s just enough dressing in every bite.

This is our go-to marinated potato salad.

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Taste of Home

Let the Potato Salad Chill

It’s tempting to toss your potato salad together and dig right in, but it’s best to give the flavors at least an hour to meld. If you really don’t have time, you can make the dressing ahead of time and let it marinate while the potatoes cool—but the salad will taste better when it marinates as a whole. Potato salad often tastes even better on day two, if you’re able to make it ahead of time.

Find your new favorite from our top potato salad recipes.

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mama’s potato salad
Taste of Home

Don’t Skimp on the Eggs

Not all potato salad recipes are mayonnaise-based. Some are made with an oil and vinegar dressing, while others are heavy on the mustard, Greek yogurt or sour cream. (Taste of Home Senior Food Stylist Shannon Norris even likes to use pesto for her potato salads.) But many of our favorite potato salads contain eggs in one form or another. No matter which type of dressing you choose, don’t be afraid to add hard-boiled eggs to the mix: The yolks add a rich, creamy flavor.  If you love experimenting with classic recipes, then you need to try out this deviled egg potato salad.

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Cleo's Potato Salad
Cleo's Potato Salad Recipe photo by Taste of Home

Use Salty, Smoky or Fiery Ingredients

Classic potato salad recipes don’t stray far from chopped onions, celery and pickles, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative. Look to fresh herbs, thinly sliced jalapenos, radishes or chopped fennel to add a pop of flavor. You could also try salty ingredients like capers, olives or anchovies. Don’t be afraid to add meat, either. Smoked meats like ham, bacon or smoked salmon are especially flavorful.

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red, white & blue potato salad
Taste of Home

Add Some Color

We eat with our eyes first, so when you’re picking the best potatoes for potato salad, add a few colors. Otherwise, it’s just boring white potatoes swimming in a yellow dressing (unless, you make one of these red potato salad recipes). Try using purple and red potatoes for a red, white and blue potato salad, or add a splash of color with chopped celery, bell peppers, red onions, pickles, fresh herbs or smoked paprika.

Check out our potato salad recipes that are perfect for your summer barbecue.