Q. I made a large amount of potato salad for a family gathering and I have some extra in the refrigerator. Can you freeze potato salad?
A. Technically, yes, you can freeze potato salad, but it’s difficult to maintain the same flavour and consistency after freezing. Cooked potatoes lose much of their consistency after being frozen and thawed, often becoming soggy, which will change the consistency of the potato salad. The potatoes will be mushier than they were before freezing, and if the dressing is mayonnaise based, it may separate.
There are some things you can do to help protect the integrity of the potato salad before packaging it for freezing. Potato salad can be frozen in an airtight freezer bag with the air sucked out to create an airtight seal, but it is a better idea to freeze it in a rigid plastic container with a moisture proof lid to minimize the risk of the potatoes being squished. Scoop the potato salad into the container, leaving about an inch of space at the top to allow room for the salad to expand. Label the lid with the name and date, and freeze. Potato salad can be stored safely in the freezer for up to a month. To thaw, remove container from the freezer and defrost in the refrigerator for a few hours. Do not thaw on the counter at room temperature.
Potato salads with oil and vinegar based dressing can be frozen in the same manner as mayonnaise based ones, with less concern about separation of the dressing. Oil often gets cloudy under cold conditions, but the cloudiness should disappear when the oil returns to room temperature.
Before serving, give the salad a good mix to reincorporate any ingredients that may have separated, and to evenly distribute the dressing through the salad. Consider adding a little more fresh dressing to liven up the flavour. Also, if the mixture is a bit too soggy, mash some of the potatoes to thicken up the mixture. Some freshly chopped herbs stirred in will keep the colour fresh and bright, and perhaps the addition of some freshly boiled potatoes to contrast with the thawed ones will improve the texture.
If you know ahead of time that you might need to freeze some potato salad, consider splitting your salad into two batches immediately after cooking. Dress the first batch and serve, but freeze the second batch before adding the dressing. Upon defrosting the plain potato salad, add the salad dressing for the freshest flavour possible.