The Best Potatoes for Potato Salad

Are you using the right kind?

March 16, 2022

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Raw potatoes close up on a wooden table


Raw potatoes close up on a wooden table

Photo by: Karisssa/Getty Images

Karisssa/Getty Images

By Fraya Berg for Food Network Kitchen

Fraya is a chef and a contributing writer at Food Network.

Surprise, all kinds of potatoes can be used for potato salad. Which variety you use depends a which kind of potato salad you're making. Below, we walk you through when to use each type of potato, plus how to boil each. And for a complete guide to making potato salad, check out our story How to Make Potato Salad.

The Best Potatoes for Potato Salad

Many people proclaim waxy potatoes to be the best for potato salad. But not so fast. American potato salad, the kind you find in every supermarket deli with mayo and yellow mustard, is actually made with starchy potatoes and a lot is sold every day across the U.S.


Photo by: Foodcollection/Getty Images

Foodcollection/Getty Images

When to Use Waxy Potatoes for Potato Salad

Waxy potatoes such as red potatoes, fingerling potatoes and new potatoes, have less starch than other potatoes. This means you can cut them before cooking and gently simmer them in salted water and they won’t fall apart. Many potato salads call for potatoes to be sliced before cooking—German Potato Salad and the potato portion of a classic Salad Nicoise are two examples.

Raw uncooked potatoes in white bowl


Raw uncooked potatoes in white bowl

Photo by: Merrimon/Getty Images

Merrimon/Getty Images

When to Use Starchy Potatoes for Potato Salad

Starchy potatoes, such as Russets and Idaho potatoes, have loads of starch granules that swell up with water when cooking. It’s what we put a premium on when we’re making baked potatoes, fries and mashed potatoes. The reason many people don’t use them for potato salad is because they will get mushy if overcooked. However, if you cook them correctly, you’ll have perfect American potato salad.

Natural light photo of raw small potatoes in metal bowl on wood table


Natural light photo of raw small potatoes in metal bowl on wood table

Photo by: billnoll/Getty Images

billnoll/Getty Images

When to Use Large White or Yukon Gold Potatoes for Potato Salad

Yukon Gold and all-purpose white potatoes are the middle-of-the-road potato. They have less starch than a Russet potato, but enough so that they can be cut up and cooked in salted water for mashed potatoes or potato salad. And true Yukon Golds are a lovely yellow color that shows through many potato salad dressings. Literally any potato salad recipe that calls for waxy potatoes can be made with Yukon Gold potatoes.

Should Potatoes for Potato Salad be Peeled Before or After Cooking?

It depends on the potato you're cooking. Since we recommend always cooking starchy russets whole, they should be peeled after cooking.

Waxy and all-purpose potatoes can go either way, and it’s a matter of personal preference. We have recipes that call for peeling before, and others that call for peeling after.

Traditional German potato salad with cucumber, onion and mayonnaise.


Traditional German potato salad with cucumber, onion and mayonnaise.

Photo by: gkrphoto/Getty Images

gkrphoto/Getty Images

The Best Way to Cook Potatoes for Potato Salad

Waxy potatoes and all-purpose potatoes can be boiled whole or cut; starchy potatoes must always be boiled whole.

When cooking any potatoes, add them to a pot, cover them with cold water by an inch, add a big pinch of salt and turn the heat to high. When the water boils, reduce the heat and simmer the potatoes until they are firm but tender when pierced with a fork or paring knife. Test cut potatoes as soon as the water comes to a boil, it doesn’t take long to cook small pieces of potato, especially if they’re slices. Whole Russet potatoes will take longer; to test, remove one from the pot with tongs and pierce it with a paring knife, which should slide into the center of the potato easily. For a step-by-step guide complete with photos, head over to our story, How to Boil Potatoes.

To peel the skin from potatoes, use a paring knife and gently tug off large pieces. The hotter the potatoes are, the easier they are to peel; we suggest wearing 2 pairs of disposable gloves to protect your hands from the heat. After peeling, cut the potatoes in cubes.

Potato Salad Recipes

Classic 100 Potato Salad

Classic 100 Potato Salad

Photo by: Caitlin Ochs

Caitlin Ochs

If you’ve ever had potato salad at a BBQ joint, from a supermarket deli or in a paper souffle cup at a diner on a plate with a club sandwich, you’ve had American potato salad. American potato salad is made with starchy russet potatoes and yellow mustard.  

Photo by: CON POULOS


When you toss hot potatoes in dressing, the flavors really soak in - especially when one of those flavors is bacon. Best eaten while still warm, this potato salad can still be made ahead of time. Simply reheat it before serving and then toss in the herbs.


Photo by: Antonis Achilleos

Antonis Achilleos

Mayo, sour cream and russet potatoes are what make this potato salad creamy. The potatoes are cooked whole and unpeeled, so try to use potatoes that are all the same size to ensure even cooking.

Food Stylist: Jamie Kimm


Food Stylist: Jamie Kimm

Photo by: Antonis Achilleos

Antonis Achilleos

Loaded with fresh chives and dill, this creamy potato salad with peas is reminiscent of many Eastern European salads.

Sour cream, bacon, cheese and green onion--everything you’d want on a loaded baked potato--make fantastic potato salad mix-ins.

Food Stylist: Anne Disrude
Prop Stylist: Pamela Duncan Silver


Food Stylist: Anne Disrude Prop Stylist: Pamela Duncan Silver

Photo by: Kana Okada

Kana Okada

The smoky heat of chipotle pepper balances the natural sweetness in this sweet potato salad. Cilantro, green onions and lime impart a Tex-Mex flourish.

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