I really hate wasting food. What is it about picnic food, but I always seem to end up with too much leftover potato salad, even with a lot of guests. Maybe it's because everyone brings a batch. So can you freeze potato salad? Turns out, you CAN, but it doesn't mean you SHOULD.
Can you freeze potato salad?
Generally, yes, you can store potato salad inside your freezer as long as it is properly packed and sealed.
You also need to buy some sturdy freezer-safe containers. I use paper tape and a marker to date my frozen food containers, but if you decide to use freezer bags instead, you can just mark dates on these with permanent marker.
Keep potato salad in the freezer for two months or less.
What food experts say about freezing potato salad
Most home chefs and cooks figure potatoes are cheap, and since freezing tends to distort their texture, toss it after four or five days of refrigeration and make a fresh batch when you want more.
But we all know how much work potato salad is to make, especially when you get the seasoning and balance of flavors JUST RIGHT.
That said, you still CAN freeze potato salad, it just makes the potatoes mealy and draws water out of the other vegetables like the pickles and onions, so it will come out runnier than before it went in. Ours came out of the freezer ... not great ... to put it mildly.
How to freeze potato salad
Did you make a huge batch and you already know it's not all going to get eaten the first day? Consider separating it out into containers or large baggies before you even put it out to serve, so it freezes at its freshest point. (Before it sits out on the picnic table all day, for example.)
We highly recommend freezer-to-oven-to-table glass food savers like these. They are sturdy and they handle temperature transitions well.
Wash containers and utensils well. Don't add potato salad to warm containers.
Leave 1/2 to 1 inch of space at the top because freezing food expands.
Don't leave the containers sitting out on the counter—refrigerate filled containers while you are working on others, then place them in the freezer all at once.
Make sure the lids are on nice and tight or the bags are fully sealed. Mark them as needed with the date.
Defrosting and thawing potato salad
Potato salad is sensitive to temperature changes not only because of the mayo, but the onion and egg, too. Wet ingredients that are more alkaline than acidic tend to harbor bacterial growth, so it's best kept cold when on a buffet.
Same goes when you want to thaw potato salad for serving again: Don't leave it out on the counter to defrost. Let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
I can't recommend microwaving frozen potato salad to bring it to the right eating temperature—even on a defrost setting—because the cell walls of the potatoes are already going to be hard hit by the freezing process and may be pretty mealy as it is.
If you overheat it in the process, you'll have runny, cold-in-some-places-hot-in-others, mealy potato salad.
Need other tips on freezing your favorite foods? Try these tips:
Saving or storing food can save time and money, but potato salad may be one of those side dishes that just don't come out very tasty when frozen and thawed. If texture is important to you, you may want to test a batch in the freezer and try it yourself thawed before serving to guests. Let us know your results.