Food Guide

Sticky Potato Salad: Unraveling the Mystery Behind the Texture

Why is my potato salad sticky?
That’s a question we’ve all asked ourselves at one time or another. If you’re anything like me, you’ve also asked, “Is there a better way to make potato salad?”

Well, the answer is a resounding yes! There are a few simple steps you can take to ensure that your potato salad is never sticky again.

Keep reading to find out more.

1. You used the wrong kind of potato

I used the wrong kind of potato.

I used a waxy potato instead of a starchy potato.

Waxy potatoes are lower in starch and higher in moisture than starchy potatoes, so they can make your potato salad sticky.

Starchy potatoes, such as russets, are higher in starch and lower in moisture, so they tend to produce a fluffier potato salad.

2. You didn’t use enough vinegar

If your potato salad is sticky, it’s possible that you didn’t use enough vinegar.

Potato salad is a dish that needs to be kept cold, so it’s important to use vinegar to keep it from spoiling.

The vinegar will also help to keep the potatoes from getting soggy.

3. You didn’t use enough olive oil

You didn’t use enough olive oil.

If you don’t use enough olive oil, your potato salad will be sticky.

The oil is what keeps the salad from sticking together.

4. You didn’t drain the potatoes well enough

Potato salad can be a real sticking point for some people.

In fact, it’s one of the most common issues we see on the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s Ask Karen community questions forum.

Some people will say their potato salad is fine when they first make it, but then it becomes sticky and gluey within a few hours.

Others will say their potato salad never seems to set up and thicken properly.

There are a few reasons this might happen, but the most likely explanation is that the potatoes haven’t been drained well enough.

The key to getting perfect potato salad is draining the potatoes thoroughly before adding them to the salad.

This is especially important for waxy varieties like russets or Yukon golds.

If you don’t drain them well enough, the potatoes will continue to release their starches as they sit in the salad, which can lead to a stickier texture.

You also don’t want to overmix your potatoes with the dressing.

5. You left the potato salad out too long

5. You left the potato salad out too long

If you leave potato salad out at room temperature for too long (specifically, over 4 hours), you will notice that it begins to break down and get sticky.

This is because potatoes are high in starch, and as they break down they release the starch, which makes the salad sticky.


While all of these reasons could be the cause of your sticky potato salad, the number one reason is probably that you used the wrong kind of potato.

Potatoes are naturally starchy, so they need to be cooked properly in order to release their natural sweetness and avoid being too sticky.

Emily W.

Emily Wong is an Asian-American food writer the founder of With nearly 8 years of experience, she has a passion for making cooking accessible to everyone and sharing her personal experiences with food. Emily's vision for is to create a community of food lovers who are passionate about cooking, eating, and sharing their experiences with others. Read my story
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