Potato salad is not recommended as a make-ahead dish to be frozen and served later. However, if you bring home lots of leftovers from a picnic or other event, freezing potato salad is an option to avoid waste.
Because potato salad doesn’t freeze well, we only recommend freezing potato salads made with certain ingredients, such as vinegar-based dressings. We do not advise freezing potato salads with dairy products or eggs.
With potato salad, to freeze or not to freeze comes down to ingredients.
When making a large batch of potato salad and need to freeze some of it, consider these options:
- If the recipe calls for ingredients like mayonnaise or sour cream, substitute it with Miracle Whip.
- Keep certain ingredients on the side (such as hard-boiled eggs) instead of mixing them in. Freeze any egg-free leftovers.
- Try one of the suggested recipe ideas below. They all feature freezer-friendly ingredients.
Can Potato Salad Be Frozen?
Potato salad typically doesn’t freeze well, so we only recommend freezing potato salad made with vinegar, vinaigrette, or a Miracle Whip dressing.
You typically make vinegar dressings with olive oil, vegetable oil, sesame oil, or others. The most common oil in vinaigrettes is olive oil, which can be safely frozen and thawed. Olive oil may appear cloudy when it is cold, but that does not indicate spoilage. Gently stir the potato salad, and the oil & vinegar will remix.
Creamy dressings that use Miracle Whip instead of mayonnaise are good candidates for freezing. Miracle Whip is creamy thanks to a mixture of cornstarch and egg yolks. This salad dressing will not separate when frozen. The consistency and flavor will remain intact.
Potato salad recipes that use dairy ingredients are not ideal for freezing. Dairy products such as mayonnaise, sour cream, and yogurt do not freeze well. They lose their texture, becoming grainy and watery, and may taste acidic when thawed.
Hard boiled eggs do not freeze well. Although the yolks remain fresh, the whites become rubbery and inedible. Avoid freezing potato salad that contains hard-boiled eggs.
When potatoes are frozen, the water separates from the starch. Therefore when you thaw potato salad, it may be watery. You can remedy this by stirring the ingredients.
Related topic: Can you freeze potato soup?
Given the typical ingredients in potato salad, you must take extra caution when storing it. If you left the dish out for more than two hours, it might already have bacteria growth, and you should discard it. If it has been sitting in the fridge for over five days, it might not be safe to freeze for later.
Ideally, potato salad would be chilled and frozen within two hours after preparation.
The first step to freezing potato salad is dividing it up into appropriate portion sizes. Once you thaw potato salad, you should not refreeze it. Make each portion small enough that you will be able to eat it all once you have thawed it.
Next, you need the right equipment: freezer-friendly plastic bags or airtight storage containers.
- Freezer-safe plastic bags: scoop the potato salad into the bag, squeeze the air out, and seal.
- Storage containers: scoop the potato salad into the container, leave a couple of inches of room from the top of the salad to the lid (food expands when frozen), and seal.
If using storage containers, make sure you choose an appropriate size. A container that is too small may crack when the potato salad freezes and expands. A container that is too large will have too much air, increasing the risks of spoilage.
Investing in a vacuum packing machine may be worth it – not just for potato salad but also for all your food-freezing needs.
Lastly, always label your freezer items with a name and date. Even though your tasty potato salad is fresh in your mind now, it can easily get lost or forgotten about in the freezer later.
You may not remember if your frozen potato salad is still safe to thaw and eat without an accurate date.
Proper storage helps maintain the overall color, texture, flavor, and nutritional content of your food. However, the process of freezing and thawing is bound to change the product a bit.
Thawing potato salad is the tricky part. Given its tendency to spoil quickly when left out at room temperature, you must carefully defrost it to avoid dangerous bacterial growth.
The best method is to put your frozen potato salad in the fridge until it defrosts thoroughly. That way, the dish stays under forty degrees.
Another method is thawing in cold water. Put the container of frozen potato salad in a sink filled with cold tap water. Make sure your container is leakproof! The frozen container will chill the water, so every thirty minutes, drain the water and add fresh cold water. This method should keep the potato salad cold enough to prevent bacteria growth as it thaws.
It is not recommended to microwave or leave on the counter to thaw. Never leave potato salad out for more than two hours at room temperature. These methods can lead to food poisoning.
It is worth mentioning that while you can safely freeze potato salad, it will not be the same as freshly made.
Related article: Can you freeze macaroni salad?
How Long Does Potato Salad Last in the Fridge?
Potato salad only lasts about four to five days in the fridge, so any leftovers you may have would need to be eaten rather quickly.
Properly freezing potato salad will extend its life. It remains good for up to three months in the freezer. It is necessary to throw out anything older than that.
Make sure it is stored in freezer-safe containers and completely sealed.
Signs of rotten potato salad include unusual odor, color, texture, or taste, and of course, mold growth.
If it smells, looks, or tastes off – don’t risk it. Throw it out.
Furthermore, if it has been in the freezer for more than three months, consider it unsafe to eat even if it appears ok.
How To Use Frozen Potato Salad
Here are some ideas on how to use frozen potato salad:
Old Fashioned Potato Salad (without mayonnaise) features simple ingredients such as onion, garlic, and fresh parsley mixed with an apple cider vinegar & oil dressing.
German Potato Salad is served warm and features bacon and scallions seasoned with mustard and a white wine vinaigrette.
Serbian Potato Salad combines onion, garlic, and roasted red pepper in a white vinegar & oil dressing.
Miracle Whip Potato Salad includes all your favorite ingredients mixed with a dressing made of Miracle Whip, mustard, pepper, and other spices.
Now let’s explore the ingredients and cooking methods for the best potato salad that also freezes well.
Always start cooking the potatoes in cold water. It may be tempting to pre-heat the water (like when cooking pasta), then add the potatoes, but it’s not a good idea. The hot water will overcook the outside of the potato while the inside is still undercooked. To cook potatoes consistently through, put the potatoes in cold water, then start heating.
To add more color and texture to your potato salad, don’t peel the potatoes. Just make sure to give them a good scrub to remove all dirt.
Potatoes can be boiled whole or already cut into bite-sized chunks. Adjust the cooking time accordingly.
If you’re in a hurry and need to cool the potatoes quickly before adding the dressing, place them in a single layer on a baking sheet and refrigerate.
Potatoes are just the simple foundation of a great potato salad. You must add flavors and textures through your other ingredient choices. Try the following combinations:
- Crunchy with celery, bell peppers, pickles, onion, cucumbers, apples, or even toasted nuts.
- Tangy with capers, vinegar or vinaigrettes, mustard, or relish.
- Colorful with peas, chives, red onion, or pimentos.
- Savory with olives, bacon, or other cooked meats.
- Cheesy with feta, blue cheese, Gorgonzola, or smoked cheddar.
There’s a huge variety of potatoes available. Read this guide to choose the right potato to get the consistency you want:
1. Red, New, and Fingerling potatoes are waxy and hold their shape when boiled. They are perfect for most potato salads.
2. Russets are starchy and will fall apart after boiling. They are best for smooth mashed potatoes.
3. All-purpose potatoes like Yukon Gold can be used as a substitute for waxy potatoes, but they may not provide the best result.
Eggs are the quickest to spoil. Keep your potato salad in an airtight container (or covered tightly with plastic wrap), don’t leave it out at room temperature for more than two hours, and use it within five days to maintain freshness.
Boiling the potatoes for too long can cause your potato salad to become watery and mushy. Boil the potatoes for approximately ten to fifteen minutes. Pierce them with a fork. It should be tender all the way through but not fall apart.