The Best Ways to Keep Potato Salad from Getting Watery

Potato salad is a tangy meal suitable for a potluck or picnic.
Image Credit: Wiktory/iStock/GettyImages

Potato salad is a summertime staple in the United States. The tender potatoes blend with creamy mayonnaise and tart vinegar to make a hearty, zesty side dish that few can say no to.


Making potato salad isn't as simple as you might believe, however. One wrong step and you could be left with potatoes suspended in a watery mayonnaise base that looks unappetizing and tastes like boiled potato.

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It's difficult to fix a watery potato salad, but you can take steps as you make the salad to keep the salad rich and creamy.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 lbs. red potatoes, quartered

  • Stockpot with lid

  • Fork

  • Colander

  • Bowl

  • 1/4 cup pickle relish, optional

  • 1/2 cup cooked peas, optional

  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onions, optional

  • 2 large chopped hard-boiled eggs, optional

  • 1/4 cup chopped celery, optional

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise

  • 1 tsp. cider vinegar

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 1 tsp. parsley

  • Plastic wrap


  1. Place the potatoes in a large stockpot and cover them with 2 inches of water.
  2. Bring the water to a boil over high heat.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium and cover the pot. Allow the potatoes to boil for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they're tender enough to pierce with a fork.
  4. Drain the potatoes into a colander and allow them to cool until they're lukewarm or cooled completely. Potatoes will continue to sweat if you mix them while they're hot, and this can make the mayonnaise watery. Allowing the potatoes to cool will also prevent the potatoes from falling apart when you mix them with the other ingredients.
  5. Drain the pickle relish well. While some of the fluid is desirable because it contributes to the taste of the potato salad, adding too much can make the salad watery.
  6. Place the cooled potatoes in a large bowl. Mix the potatoes with 1/2 cup cooked peas, 1/2 cup chopped yellow onions, 2 large chopped hard-boiled eggs, 1/4 cup chopped celery and 1/4 cup drained pickle relish, if you're using them.
  7. Mix the ingredients with 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon parsley and salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the potato salad for at least fours hours. Some recipes need time to set, and the dressing will become thicker and more flavorful as it chills; the potatoes also absorb some of the dressing.


Omit or reduce the celery, as fresh-cut celery can drip water into the salad.

Use only as much mayonnaise and vinegar as called for in the recipe. The mayonnaise and vinegar form a dressing that should coat the ingredients and bind them together, but the potatoes and other ingredients shouldn't be suspended in the mayonnaise.

If your potato salad is too heavy on the dressing, add more potatoes and other ingredients and mix them together.



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