Today, I am a mind reader.
I am going to predict the reaction of all readers outside the Western New York region (or those who have never lived or visited here.) “Wow. Boiled potatoes with butter. Big deal.”
I must tell you gently that you’re wrong. Wrongity wrong wrong WRONG wrong.
These are no mere boiled potatoes. These are salt potatoes.
Look closely at the photo. Do you see that white dusty appearance to the potatoes?
That is a super fine coating of salt left from boiling in heavily salted water, draining and air drying. Are you ready for another telepathic demonstration?
Many of you are now saying, “Oookay. Boiled potatoes in salty water. Whoopee.” Have a little faith, folks!
I only share my favorite recipes with you. This is definitely one of them.
Salt potatoes are a fixture on the Upstate New York and Western New York summer barbecue/picnic/county fair/carnival circuit. Where there is a grill fired up, there is likely to be a pot of water on the boil for a big bowl of buttered salt potatoes.
Around these parts, salt potatoes represent summer as much or more than potato salad. They ARE summer.
They are so popular, that they’re sold as “kits” (the kits are nothing more than perfect sized potatoes and a packet of salt) in even the smallest grocery stores. It was one the first things my husband requested for his Father’s Day cookout and I guarantee you these will be on the Fourth of July menu for three-quarters of the households in our region.
So, what’s the difference between a mere boiled potato and a salt potato? A boiled potato is dropped into plain or lightly salted water, boiled until tender and served, usually, with butter and chopped herbs.
Salt potatoes, on the other hand, use a formula to determine how salty the water should be. Generally speaking, bring to a boil three quarts of water, stir in three-quarters of a pound of good old-fashioned table salt, then carefully lower in four and a quarter pounds of Size B new white boiling potatoes.
When they’re tender, drain in a colander and let air dry a bit to form that signature white dusting of salt. Top with butter and serve hot, warm, cold or anywhere in between. Then die of happiness when you take your first bite.
It is this method and formula that transforms a plain old boiled potato. Because of the quantity of salt in the water, it boils at a higher temperature, better cooking and developing the starches the potato contains.
When this happens, you have a creamier potato. And whoah is it creamy.
Tender, but not waterlogged; salty but not Dead-sea salty; salt potatoes are a revelation.
I have a third and final example of my powers of thought transference. Some are now asking what they would possibly do with four and a quarter pounds of cooked potatoes.
Well, my first answer is “eat them!”, but I understand that not everyone is feeding a regiment with each meal like I am. There are some mind-bendingly delicious applications for leftover salt potatoes.
- Home fries: Chop up leftover salt potatoes and fry in a heavy skillet with additional butter or bacon grease. You’ve never had better home fries in your entire life.
- Crash Hot Potatoes: The Pioneer Woman’s fabulous Down-Under treatment for potatoes becomes that much easier with leftover salt potatoes. It probably goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, you can ramp back on the salt you sprinkle over the smooshed, olive oiled and rosemaried potatoes before baking. They are salt potatoes, after all.
- Smashed Potatoes: Reheat your salt potatoes, smash lightly, add a splash of heavy cream, some garlic, black pepper and chopped herbs. Stir well with a wooden spoon, serve with a grilled steak or portabello mushroom and prepare to be very happy.
- Potato Salad: Cut chilled leftover salt potatoes into bite sized pieces, toss with mayonnaise, chopped onions and celery, a squirt of yellow mustard, freshly ground black pepper and stir. Voila! Almost instant potato salad.
- Cold Salt Potato Midnight Snack: Yes. You haven’t lived until you’ve hit the refrigerator after staying up too late to watch a movie, skewered a cold salt potato on a fork, and nibbled delicately until the potato has disappeared. Trust me.
There is one last item to cover in this salt potato discussion; that is the question of whether to toss with butter or let the butter melt and run down over the hot salt potatoes. I’m in the latter camp, because I like the slight salt crust to be accented by rivulets of melted butter.
I love dunking my salt potatoes in the butter that pools at the bottom of the bowl. In my opinion, tossing the hot potatoes with butter to cover them completely takes away a bit from the charm of salt potatoes. The melted butter obscures the salty outer dusting.
However -and I speak the gospel truth here- they’re still delicious that way. They’re still distinctively not your average boiled potato.
They’re still creamy and salty; they’re just covered with butter. That’s not a bad thing.
This recipe is a perfect illustration of how simplicity so often delivers the most refined, intense flavours. Eating salt potatoes -whether taking a bite from the end of the little gem and dragging it through the melted butter on the plate before biting again or licking the melted butter dripping down your fork and the side of your hand- is one summer’s purest joys.
Salt PotatoesRate Recipe
- 3 quarts of water
- 12 ounces fine salt approximately 1 1/2 cups
- 4 1/4 pounds one-to-two bite sized new white boiling potatoes *see notes, washed
- 1 stick cold butter 4 ounces, cut into 8 pieces
- Chopped parsley for garnish
- Bring water to a boil in a large stockpot or soup pot over high heat.
- When water reaches the boil, stir in all of the salt.
- Lower the potatoes into the water, one or two at a time, taking care not to splash yourself.
- Return the water to a boil, lower heat to medium and simmer until the potatoes are tender, between 15 and 25 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes. (**See notes for methods on testing the potatoes for doneness.)
- Pour the water and potatoes into a colander in the sink and leave to air dry for 5-10 minutes.
- Transfer the potatoes to a serving dish and dot with the pieces of butter.
- Serve as is or garnish with chopped parsley.
To Store Leftovers:
- Pour potatoes and butter from the bowl into a container with a tight fitting lid or a zipper top bag.
Nutritional information is an estimate and provided to you as a courtesy. You should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.
did you make this recipe?
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Western NY? Nope. Syracuse my friend.
Interesting, can you also mash them for mashed potatoes? I don’t see why not.
I see no reason not to try that! 🙂 If you do, please let me know how they turn out!
yes yes yes. as a saltaholic this is a suitable dish. I saw it on t.v. but can’t remember the traditional protein served with it (if there is one). Even when I eat a baked potato I’ll pick up half at a time and eat it skin and all so this is perfect.
I can help you out there, Johnpingpong! The traditional protein served with it is Chiavetta’s or Cornell Sauce chicken. 🙂
yes yes yes. as a saltaholic this is a suitable dish. I saw it on t.v. but can’t remember the traditional protein served with it (if there is one). Even when I eat a baked potato I’ll pick up half and eat it skin and all so this is perfect.
Rachel schreiner says
Being a former New Yorker of the Rochester Anschluss Buffalo area they are a must have during the summer but I make them year round down here in East Tennessee vital a comfort food when I’m homesick. Along with beef on wick white hots and country sweet sauce.
I remember the salt potatoes kits state fair was my favorite
Ohmygosh yes! Those state fair kits are amazing. And I’m a sucker for a whole white hot, Chiavetta’s chicken, salt potato meal, too!
I remember having these once, and I’ve never forgotten them. I’m so happy to have found your recipe. Going to make them tomorrow.
I’m so glad, Patricia! Enjoy!!
Darren R. says
I grew up in Syracuse and am now in Kansas. Everytime I cook these for people, they are completely skeptical…until they eat one. After that, every time we have a gathering, I get the standard question. “Are you going to make salt potatoes?” Thanks for the recipe. I usually just wing it. Now I can pass this on so they can make them. I want to thank all the people who posted comments for bringing back such fond childhood memories: fire department clam bakes, Wegmans, picnics…and of course, salt potatoes!
Thanks so much, Darren, for sharing this with me! I’m so happy you’ve got a little taste of back home in Kansas. 🙂 We’ll convert the country to salt potatoes, one barbecue at a time. 🙂
13,219 mg of sodium PER POTATO??? Oh my…
Nope! You’ve found the glitch in the matrix, wb. 🙂 Most of the salt is drained off when you drain the water because it is dissolved in the water, but my nutritional calculator does not take that into account when determining the amount of salt that actually remains on the potatoes. It is significantly and I mean that in all caps as in SIGNIFICANTLY lower in sodium. Unfortunately, I am not equipped here to tell you exactly what the sodium is in the final potato, but I promise you most of that is el-gone-o!
Thanks so much for responding! I have wanted to try these potatoes but my high blood pressure wouldn’t have been able to handle that crazy amount of sodium, LOL! Glad to hear it’s a lot less, and I’m ready to forge ahead. Many thanks!
I don’t think many of us on Earth could handle that amount of sodium. HAHA. I’m glad you asked, WB. Happy Dining!
As a northerner transplanted to the south this recipe is crucial for survival.
I absolutely agree 🙂 So glad I could help, Kate!
Jennifer German says
This is the second time I’ve made these; we ate them as made the first time and I decided I’d make them Smashed this time with some parmesan and EVOO. So good!
Thanks so much for taking the time to rate the recipe and let me know you love it, Jennifer! I really appreciate it. And smashed with parm sounds divine!
I’m making salt potatoes for a crowd. I plan to cook them as usual on the morning of the event, but do you think it will work to keep them warm in a crock pot until the luncheon? I need to be able to transport them. Butter will need to be on the side! Thanks.
Hi Laura- I think that’ll work. You might lose some of the salt crust to condensation, but they’ll still be delicious!
I’m from the South and have never heard of potatoes prepared this way. My question is this: do the salt potatoes taste salty?
They don’t taste weirdly salty… just about the right amount of salt, but the salt really changes the texture of the inside without making them overly salty! It’s really hard to explain. 🙂
I was telling my husband about salt potatoes, but it’s been decades since I made them, so I looked it up and found your post. I first bought a kit, probably at Wegman’s, back when I was living with friends in our first apartment during college. Thanks for confirming it was not a figment of my imagination, and apparently quite a staple of western NY.
You’re very welcome, Cindy! I’m so glad you loved them! And thank you, too, for taking the time to review the recipe. I do appreciate it.
CHRISTINE FRUMEN says
Delicious! I made a smaller amount , less than 2 # of small potatoes including the purple ones. I used 6 cups of water and 1 cup of salt. Mine were eaten hot, warm and cold and each was scrumptious! Loved your information about these. Not for someone watching their sodium but much better as a midnight snack as a bowl of ice cream!
I’m with you on this as a midnight snack, Christine! So glad you loved it!
Linda Johnson says
Can’t wait ti try these patatoes
Sounds wonderful. If you pour melted butter over the potatoes, does all the salt com off.
Hi Sharon- Some of the salt does indeed come off, but some stays on it! That’s why I prefer to dip rather than pour these days.
I grew up eating these delicious potatoes. Only difference, we ate them by dipping them in melted butter. Soooooo gooood!
Ooooh yeah! I love to dunk ’em, too!