How To Perfectly Boil Potatoes for Potato Salad

can i boil potatoes ahead of time for potato salad

Potato salad is a staple at summer gatherings, picnics, and BBQs. It’s a dish that I love to make for parties because it’s versatile, delicious, and always a crowd-pleaser.

Whether you’re preparing a classic potato salad or experimenting with different flavors, the key to a great potato salad is perfectly boiled potatoes.

In today’s blog post, I’ll guide you through the steps to boil potatoes ahead of time for the best potato salad, along with tips on how to store them and additional uses for boiled potatoes.

The Popularity of Potato Salad

Potato salad is a popular summer dish that comes in many varieties. From the creamy potato salads of the Southern United States to the tangy German potato salads, there’s a style to suit every taste.

I personally love making potato salad for parties because it’s easy to prepare in advance and pairs well with a wide range of main dishes.

Choosing the Right Potatoes

Types of Potatoes

  • Waxy Potatoes: Red potatoes, fingerling potatoes, and new potatoes hold their shape well after boiling, making them ideal for potato salad. Other varieties include French fingerling potatoes and baby potatoes, which are also excellent for maintaining texture in salads.
  • Starchy Potatoes: Russet potatoes and Idaho potatoes have a fluffy texture but can fall apart if overcooked. These are better for mashed potatoes. Another variety in this category is the King Edward potato, known for its excellent baking qualities.
  • All-Purpose Potatoes: Yukon Gold potatoes strike a balance between waxy and starchy, offering a creamy texture that’s great for both potato salad and mashed potatoes. Other versatile options include Kennebec potatoes and the popular Maris Piper potatoes, which are often used for fries and roasting.

Best Potatoes for Potato Salad

  • Red Potatoes: Firm and flavorful, they hold up well in salads, making them a classic choice for potato salad.
  • Yukon Gold Potatoes: Creamy and smooth, these are perfect for a more luxurious potato salad. Their buttery texture adds a rich flavor to any salad.
  • New Potatoes: Small and waxy, great for bite-sized chunks. Their thin skins and firm texture make them ideal for salads where you want the potatoes to remain intact.
  • Fingerling Potatoes: These small, elongated potatoes are waxy and firm, providing a unique texture and appearance to your potato salad. They are also easy to slice into uniform pieces.
  • Baby Potatoes: Similar to new potatoes, baby potatoes are small and have a firm, waxy texture. They are often sold in mixed colors, adding a visually appealing element to your dish.
  • Kennebec Potatoes: Known for their excellent cooking qualities, Kennebec potatoes are versatile and hold their shape well, making them a good choice for potato salads.

can i boil potatoes ahead of time for potato salad-potato salad

Potatoes Not Ideal for Potato Salad

While many types of potatoes can work well in potato salads, some are not ideal due to their texture and cooking properties. Here are a few types of potatoes to avoid when making potato salad:

  • Russet Potatoes: These starchy potatoes have a fluffy texture that tends to fall apart when boiled. They are better suited for mashed potatoes or baked potatoes.
  • Idaho Potatoes: Similar to Russets, Idaho potatoes are very starchy and can become mushy and disintegrate when mixed into a salad. They are excellent for baking and frying but not ideal for potato salads.
  • King Edward Potatoes: While they are great for baking and roasting, their high starch content can make them too soft and crumbly for potato salads.
  • Maris Piper Potatoes: Known for their use in making fries and roasted potatoes, Maris Piper potatoes are also quite starchy and prone to falling apart when boiled for salads.
  • Purple Potatoes: Although visually striking, purple potatoes have a slightly dry and mealy texture that might not hold up well in a salad. They can add color to your dish, but their texture is not as desirable for traditional potato salads.

Ingredients for Potato Salad

  • Potatoes: Red potatoes or Yukon Gold potatoes
  • Red Onion: Finely chopped for a bit of bite
  • Green Onions: Adds freshness and color
  • Hard-Boiled Eggs: Chopped, for extra protein and texture
  • Dill Pickles: Chopped, for a tangy crunch
  • Celery: Adds a crisp texture
  • Duke’s Mayo or Miracle Whip: For a creamy base
  • Sour Cream: Adds richness
  • Yellow Mustard: For a bit of tang
  • Apple Cider Vinegar or White Wine Vinegar: For acidity
  • Salt and Black Pepper: To taste
  • Fresh Herbs: Such as dill or parsley, for garnish

Preparing to Boil Potatoes

Prepping the Potatoes

  1. Wash and Scrub: Use a vegetable brush to scrub the potatoes clean under cold water.
  2. Peel or Not to Peel: Depending on your preference, you can leave the skins on for added texture or use a vegetable peeler to remove them.
  3. Cutting: Cut the potatoes into large chunks or smaller pieces, depending on your preferred texture for the salad.

Boiling the Potatoes

  1. Cold Water Start: Place the potatoes in a large pot of cold water. Starting with cold water ensures even cooking.
  2. Season the Water: Add a generous amount of salt to the water to season the potatoes as they cook.
  3. Bring to a Boil: Place the pot on medium heat and bring the water to a boil.
  4. Cooking Time: Boil the potatoes for about 15-20 minutes, or until they are fork-tender. The cooking time can vary based on the size of the cut potatoes.
  5. Drain and Cool: Drain the potatoes in a colander and let them cool to room temperature. You can also spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet to cool more quickly.

Preventing Excess Moisture

Preventing Excess Moisture

  • Pat Dry: After draining, pat the potatoes dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture.
  • Cool Completely: Ensure the potatoes are completely cool before mixing them with other ingredients. This helps maintain the texture of your salad.

Storing Boiled Potatoes

If you’re boiling potatoes ahead of time, proper storage is crucial:

  1. Airtight Container: Store cooled potatoes in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  2. Storage Time: Boiled potatoes can be stored for up to 3 days before making the salad.
  3. Avoid Excess Moisture: Ensure the container is sealed properly to prevent moisture from making the potatoes soggy.

Making the Perfect Potato Salad

Now comes the fun part – putting it all together! Once your potatoes are cooled and ready, grab a large bowl and start combining your ingredients. 

I like to toss in the boiled potatoes first, followed by the finely chopped red onion, green onions, hard-boiled eggs, dill pickles, and celery. These ingredients add such a nice crunch and burst of flavor to the salad.

Next, it’s time to whip up the dressing. In a separate bowl, mix together Duke’s Mayo or Miracle Whip with sour cream, yellow mustard, and apple cider vinegar. 

Don’t forget to season it with salt and black pepper to taste. This creamy, tangy dressing is what really brings the potato salad to life.

Once your dressing is ready, gently fold it into the potato mixture. Make sure everything is well-coated and evenly mixed – you don’t want any dry spots. This step is key to getting that rich, delicious flavor in every bite.

Finally, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and pop it in the refrigerator. Let it chill for at least an hour before serving. 

This not only helps the flavors meld together but also ensures your potato salad is nice and cool, perfect for those hot summer days. And there you have it – a classic, crowd-pleasing potato salad that’s ready to be enjoyed!

Boiled potatoes

Alternative Uses for Boiled Potatoes

Boiled potatoes aren’t just for potato salad. Here are some other delicious ways to use them:

  • Mashed Potatoes: Mash with butter, heavy cream, salt, and pepper for a creamy side dish.
  • Sauteed Potatoes: Fry boiled potato chunks in olive oil with fresh herbs for a crispy and flavorful side.
  • Potato Soup: Use boiled potatoes as a base for a hearty soup with vegetables and broth.
  • Breakfast Hash: Combine boiled potatoes with sausage, bell peppers, and onions for a hearty breakfast.
  • German Potato Salad: Mix boiled potatoes with bacon, red onion, and a vinegar-based dressing for a tangy side dish.
  • Potato Skins: Hollow out boiled potatoes, stuff them with cheese and bacon, and bake until crispy.
  • Sautéed Green Beans and Potatoes: Combine boiled potatoes with sautéed green beans, garlic, and olive oil for a delicious and healthy side dish.
  • Sautéed Mushrooms and Potatoes: Sauté mushrooms with boiled potatoes in olive oil and garlic for a rich and earthy accompaniment to any meal.

Tips for the Best Potato Salad

  1. Use Waxy Potatoes: They hold their shape better and provide a creamier texture.
  2. Season Generously: Potatoes need a good amount of seasoning to bring out their flavor.
  3. Don’t Overcook: Boil until just fork-tender to avoid mushy potatoes.
  4. Chill Properly: Allow the salad to chill before serving for the best flavor.


Why Boiling Potatoes Ahead of Time is a Good Idea

Boiling potatoes ahead of time for potato salad is a great way to stay organized, especially when preparing for a large gathering or party. Here’s why it’s beneficial:

  • Saves Time: Pre-boiling potatoes allows you to focus on other aspects of meal preparation closer to the event.
  • Consistent Texture: Boiling potatoes in advance and letting them cool helps maintain their structure, preventing them from becoming mushy when mixed with other ingredients.
  • Flavor Development: Letting the potatoes sit and chill allows them to absorb flavors from the dressing better, resulting in a more delicious potato salad.

Boiling potatoes perfectly is the first step to making a delicious potato salad. By choosing the right potatoes, prepping them correctly, and following the steps to boil and store them, you can ensure that your potato salad is a hit.

Whether you’re making a traditional potato salad, a creamy version, or trying out different styles, perfectly boiled potatoes will always be the star of the dish. Happy cooking!

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can i boil potatoes ahead of time for potato salad

Classic Potato Salad Recipe

  • Author: Christina Orso


  • 2 pounds red potatoes or Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup green onions, chopped
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dill pickles, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 cup Duke’s Mayo or Miracle Whip
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • Salt and black pepper to taste


  1. Prepare the Potatoes: Wash and scrub the potatoes under cold water using a vegetable brush. Peel them if desired, or leave the skins on for added texture. Cut the potatoes into large chunks or smaller pieces, based on your preference.
  2. Boil the Potatoes: Place the cut potatoes in a large pot of cold water, adding a generous amount of salt to season. Bring the water to a boil over medium heat. Boil the potatoes for 15-20 minutes, or until they are fork-tender. Drain the potatoes in a colander and let them cool to room temperature. To speed up cooling, spread the potatoes out in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  3. Prepare Other Ingredients: While the potatoes are cooling, finely chop the red onion, green onions, hard-boiled eggs, dill pickles, and celery.
  4. Combine Ingredients: In a large bowl, combine the cooled potatoes with the chopped red onion, green onions, hard-boiled eggs, dill pickles, and celery.
  5. Make the Dressing: In a separate bowl, mix Duke’s Mayo or Miracle Whip with sour cream, yellow mustard, and apple cider vinegar. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
  6. Mix the Salad: Gently fold the dressing into the potato mixture until all ingredients are well coated.
  7. Chill: Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving to allow the flavors to meld.
  8. Serve: Before serving, garnish with fresh herbs such as dill or parsley. Serve chilled and enjoy!

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