No barbecue is complete without a bowl of creamy potato salad on the picnic table. If you haven’t had the pleasure of tasting it before (um, what are you waiting for?!), potato salad is a dish that’s typically made from boiled potatoes, chopped veggies—like onions or celery—and some sort of creamy dressing that’s usually mayonnaise- or vinegar-based. It’s served at barbecues, picnics and summer gatherings alongside burgers and dogs, but it’s delicious any time of year, TBH. Recipes for this seasonal staple tend to be super simple—the hard part is choosing the right spuds. So, what are the best potatoes for potato salad? Read on to find out.
*These* Are the Best Potatoes for Potato Salad That You Can Buy
How To Choose The Best Potatoes For Potato Salad
There are more than 4,000 varieties of potato out there (!!!), and more than 200 available in the U.S. Thankfully, there are only three main categories of potato, which makes choosing the right ones a bit easier:
- Waxy: These potatoes that have minimal starch, and therefore retain their shape when boiled. Their thin skin makes them a breeze to use for potato salad, since peeling them is optional. They’re also smoother and less grainy and mealy on the inside than starchy potatoes. When used in potato salad, they stay tender yet firm and make a less fluffy salad than starchy potatoes.
- In-between: While they have more starch than waxy potatoes, they can still hold their own in potato salad. Also called all-purpose potatoes, in-between varieties make a great substitute for waxy potatoes because of their medium moisture and starch content.
- Starchy: Starchy potatoes have thick skin and a drier, mealier texture. Thanks to their large cells, they don’t hold up well to boiling or mixing because they take on more water than waxy potatoes when cooked. (This is why they’re great for mashed potatoes.)
So, waxy potatoes are best for potato salad. But in-between potatoes are also fine to use in a pinch, and even starchy potatoes work if you like your potato salad on the creamy side.
To make potato salad with waxy potatoes, look for New, Red Bliss, Kennebec or fingerling potatoes at the grocery store. In-between varieties that work for potato salad include Yellow Finn, white and Yukon Gold potatoes. Most people should avoid starchy potatoes, like Russets, because they’ll fall apart instead of maintaining their shape. On the other hand, if you prefer super soft, creamy potato salad, starchy spuds will soak up all the dressing like a charm. Just be sure not to overcook them when boiling. Moral of the story: You do you.
Tips for Buying Potatoes
- Look for clean, smooth potatoes, no matter the variety.
- Give them a squeeze. Potatoes should be totally firm and not give at all when gripped.
- Small potatoes are always great for potato salad. They boil quickly and evenly, thanks to being pretty consistent in size, and boost the salad’s overall flavor.
- Avoid potatoes with wrinkles, soft ends, green spots or bruises. This can mean they were stored in too warm an environment or are losing moisture. If you choose a big bag of potatoes and don’t get a chance to examine each one before buying, don’t sweat slight discoloration or bruising. You can just cut those spots off before cooking.
- Smell the spuds before you add them to your cart. If they smell like soil, they’re fresh and ready to use.
How To Store Potatoes At Home
If you’re anything like us, you’re quick to toss a ten-pound bag of potatoes into your cart but rarely use them all before they start sprouting and going soft. Believe it or not, potatoes can last up to six months if they’re stored properly. Here are a few tips for storing potatoes so you get the most out of them before they go bad:
- Toss potatoes that are showing signs of sprouting or losing their firmness. Like, as soon as you bring them home. A bad potato in the bunch can spread its sprouts to the rest of them. (Oh, and just FYI, it’s safe to eat a sprouted potato as long as the potato is still firm, and the shoots and their surrounding areas are cut off before cooking.)
- Don’t wash potatoes until you’re ready to use them. Scrubbing, peeling or washing spuds ahead of cooking will only introduce moisture and make them go soft faster. Save the prep work for when you’re ready to use them.
- Don’t keep the potatoes in the plastic bag you bought them in. We know, we know. It’s annoying. But potatoes keep longer when they’re stored in a well-ventilated area, and those little holes in the bag aren’t enough to really let them breathe. Instead, place the potatoes in a wire basket or mesh or paper bag. (If you go the paper bag route, be sure to leave the top open to promote air flow.)
- Don’t refrigerate them. This might strike you as surprising—doesn’t refrigerating produce always extend its shelf life? Well, potatoes don’t do so well in the cold since they’re so starchy. They thrive in a cool, dark environment, like a root cellar, unheated basement or dark cupboard that’s low to the ground and far away from heat sources, like a stove or radiator.
- Keep them out of direct sunlight. Whether you’re storing spuds in a basement, closet or cupboard, just remember: They grew in the ground, so they thrive in the dark. Minimal light exposure is a must since direct sunlight can speed up the sprouting process.
- Store potatoes by themselves—not with other fruits or vegetables. You know how some fruits and veggies (like bananas, apples and avocados) brown faster if they’re kept in a paper bag? That’s due to the ethylene gas they emit as they ripen. If countertop produce is kept in close proximity to potatoes, the ethylene gas can speed up their spoiling process, too.
Recipes for Potato Salad
Now that your spuds are ready to use, let’s get cooking. Here are a few of our favorite potato salad recipes: