When I make potato salad, macaroni salad, tuna salad, and sometimes ham salad, it seems like there's always a puddle of excess liquid at the bottom of the storage container the next day.

Does anyone know what is causing this or how to prevent it from happening?

I always cook the pasta in water with oil to limit absorption, and I always try to drain it thoroughly. I also always use regular mayonnaise or salad dressing instead of the light ones which have more water in them. A day later, I am always draining off the excess liquid and remixing with mayonnaise all over again.

The supermarket salads never seem to have this problem: what are they doing differently? Can anyone help???

  • 1
    1) never put oil in the water when you cook pasta, it just makes it cook unevenly. 2) Are you tasting the salad with the same spoon/eating it out of the container? Saliva will cause the mayo to break down, leaving you with a puddle. Commented Jan 12, 2013 at 22:57
  • Consider posting recipes, ingredients, procedure. Without, it's just guesswork.
    – Thomas
    Commented Jan 12, 2013 at 23:09
  • 6
    Actually, oil on the pasta water has almost no affect at all. It certainly cannot affect the cooking, as it essentially floats on top of the water, whereas the pasta is under it, and in the small amount of time pasta cooks, you aren't going to get much of an oil water emulsion, even from the motion of rapidly boiling water.
    – SAJ14SAJ
    Commented Jan 13, 2013 at 1:58
  • is it all water or oily water? maybe mayo is separating. Maybe salt in dressing is drawing out moisture: do you cook pot or pasta with salt?
    – Pat Sommer
    Commented Jan 14, 2013 at 17:36
  • 1
    Do you use a paper towel to drain some moisture out of the tuna? I guess the problem actually is your mayo, since it's the common denominator in your problem salads....
    – Mien
    Commented Aug 6, 2013 at 19:41

11 Answers 11


Have you tried baking pasta, after boiling it in the water?

I highly recommend you bake the pasta in the oven on very low heat, for 20 minutes, then you will see that there is no more liquid.

Also it gives the macaroni a spongy condition which makes it able to keep the liquid in it.

I believe if you bake the pasta before mixing with mayonnaise, you will get a good result.


Syneresis is likely the culprit here:

the extraction or expulsion of a liquid from a gel, as when serum drains from a contracting clot of blood. Another example of syneresis is the collection of whey on the surface of yogurt. Syneresis can also be observed when the amount of diluent in a swollen polymer exceeds the solubility limit as the temperature changes.

Adding a Polysaccharide such as Xanthan gum or Guar gum will help. You'll see these in the ingredient lists of many commercial dressings, yogurts etc.


I'm not sure there is a real solution to your issue. Once pasta is cooked and mixed you should eat it. If it is a 'hot' pasta recipe (e.g. "spaghetti al pomodoro") and then you put in the fridge and open it the next day, you'll have the same problem, with the difference that you might warm it again, thus making the excess of water evaporate.

Any time you put something in the fridge, you'll have the feeling it 'produces some water'. (You can see the same with salad: put it in a plastic bag, then in the fridge. After a day it will be a bit moisty).

The only turnarounds I see are:

  1. Eat it the same day you prepare it! (strongly suggested)
  2. Put the cooked pasta in the fridge SEPARATED from the sausage ingredients, and mix them 5 minutes before you are going to eat them.
  • 1
    All of the salads I mentioned are cold and should be eaten cold. After I prepare and mix the salads, they're not hot or even warm. They're usually at room temperature. Then I put them in the fridge to chill due to the mayo. I do understand the evaporation issue. However, it seems like there is always too much liquid or moisture in the container the next day to be condensation. You can actually pour it out. Any thoughts?
    – user15206
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 20:22
  • A couple of thoughts: 1. I understand might be some practical issue, but if you cook it 5 hours before and let it out of the fridge, you'll have a cold salad with less moisture 2. did you try cooling the pasta immediately with cold water when you take it out from the pot (when it's cooked of course)? It should help. In any case, I'll ask to my grandma and let you know the response.. stay tuned ! :-)
    – Daniele B
    Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 8:05
  • Thanks to everyone for their comments and ideas. I'm still looking for the solution to this problem.
    – user15206
    Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 21:39

After you boil macaroni, drain. Do not rinse. Leave in colander for at least an hour to cool while periodically stirring. It will become tacky. This will eliminate your problem.


When you add salt to the salad, it acts to extract water from the macaroni, the celery, the onions and anything else you have in it.

  • Was about to post exactly that. :) And that is what likely happened. Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 9:25
  • -1, osmosis will draw negligible amounts of water through the intact cell walls in the uncut surfaces of the celery and onions, if left raw, especially with edible-salad-salt-concentrations. There will be more fluid leaking through the cut surfaces, but in total also negligible. The pasta won't be affected at all.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Jun 29, 2018 at 5:49

The reason the stores products do not have this issue is that stores often use extra preservatives in their salads. The mayo is almost always going to break down. I would continue to store it the way you have been, since everything tastes better after a day or two in the fridge. Just re-stir before serving. If it’s really excessive, I would use a paper towel to blot away the excess. Best of luck to you.


I think that if you would mix some potato or corn starch in with the salads that should eliminate the problem.

  • ... and leave you with a nastly floury sludge. Seriously, starch needs heat to bind liquid (gelation).
    – Stephie
    Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 5:29
  • Binders that could work in some sauces without heating would be nut flours or breadcrumbs. Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 9:27

Try to store the salad without condiments (mayonaise, salt or anything that could be added). I had the same problem. Be careful also with tomatoes, the juicy ones won't help preventing you salad to keep "dry"


I make mine and then let it cool in the fridge with the lid off for a few hours. That usually lets the excess water evaporate off and lets the mayo/spices/veggies/pasta/tuna/whatever mix together and absorb with minimal mayo. After a few hours you can add more mayo if needed. Good Luck!


I salt my celery before using it in salads. If you salt and mix it, let it sit, it will exude water. Then I rinse it and squeeze it in a dishtowel or strong paper towel. Since I have started doing this, I have never had puddles in my salads.

If you put the salted celery in a strainer and bowl, you will see how much water it produces. Likely the same amount as you are seeing puddle in your salad.


The reason it probably gets water is from tasting it and putting the utensil back in the salad. Saliva will break down the mayo or salad dressing and viola!!! Water.... When you taste it put it in another dish and use a different utensil. Don't let your fork touch the serving spoon either.... It contaminates it.....

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