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These are the BEST mashed potatoes, perfect for Sunday dinners, holidays, or no occasion at all! I’m sharing my recipe and tips for how to make the best mashed potatoes every time!
My mom was born and raised in Idaho, so we ate mashed potatoes more than probably any other side dish when I was growing up. It’s one of the first things I learned how to make as the oldest daughter, while my mom worked on other parts of the meal. I knew I wanted to share my mashed potatoes recipe to represent foods Idaho is known for as part of my American Eats series, where I’m working my way through the most popular foods and flavors of the USA, one state at a time!
You can even make these mashed potatoes ahead of time for holiday meals so it’s one less thing to worry! You can’t have Thanksgiving dinner without creamy mashed potatoes! They are always on my plate, right there with the smoked turkey and fresh green bean casserole!
How to Make the Best Mashed Potatoes
- Wash potatoes, peel, and cut in half or quarters for even cooking without letting the potatoes get waterlogged.
- Fill the pot with enough cold water to cover the potatoes by at least an inch and be sure to salt the water! This seriously makes a big difference! I always add a generous tablespoon of salt to the water.
- Boil just until you can easily insert a knife or fork into the middle of the potatoes.
- Drain really well. Give the boiled potatoes a chance to dry out a bit before mashing.
- Heat your milk/cream before adding it a little at a time to the potatoes. Hot potatoes don’t absorb cold liquid nearly as well as warm liquid. Also, don’t just dump the warm liquid in all at once. Start by adding about 1/4 of the liquid and go from there until you get the desired consistency that you are going for.
- Make sure your butter is room temperature before adding it to the potatoes. You don’t want it melted, but nice and soft so it mixes in well.
- For extra indulgent mashed potatoes, I will sometimes add an 8-ounce package of softened cream cheese and 1 cup of sour cream to these potatoes. It makes them so rich and amazing! But if I’m making these to be topped with gravy, I usually leave it out.
- Be sure to taste and add additional salt, if needed.
What potato is best for mashing?
When it comes to making the creamiest, best mashed potatoes, classic Russets (the big brown potatoes) or Yukon golds (smaller with yellow-ish skin and buttery flesh) are best. Both Russets and Yukon golds are starchier than red or white potatoes, which are waxier and don’t mash as well.
Some people have a strong preference for one over the other, but I think both are delicious and give excellent results. To me, Russets are more traditional and what I grew up on. But I love to use Yukon golds and leave the skin on for mashed potatoes. The potatoes won’t be as quite as classic or creamy, but Yukon gold skin is very thin and I like the texture and flavor it adds.
You can even do a combination of both Russets and Yukon golds, if you want. For the mashed potatoes in these photos, I just used Russet potatoes.
How many potatoes per person for mashed potatoes?
Since potatoes vary wildly in size, a good rule of thumb is to go with about 1/2 pound of potatoes per person.
How long to boil potatoes for the best mashed potatoes?
The amount of time you need to boil your potatoes before they are ready to be mashed is going to depend on how large the potatoes are while they are boiling. But plan on at least 10-15 minutes for smaller chunks, and 15-20 minutes if the potatoes are larger.
If you cut the potatoes into smaller chunks, they definitely cook faster. However, they also absorb a lot more water this way, making for watery, less flavorful mashed potatoes. So I prefer to either boil the potatoes whole, if they aren’t too large to fit in my pan, or just cut them in half or quarters. It does take longer to boil them this way, but it’s worth it.
Always start the potatoes in cold, salted water so they cook evenly and boil until they are tender enough so that a sharp knife or fork slide easily in and out of the potatoes.
Why are my mashed potatoes gluey?
Ugh, gluey mashed potatoes are the worst. The reason some mashed potatoes turn out gluey is because they have been overworked. It’s a mistake that happens when you beat the mashed potatoes for try long, trying to get out every last lump in pursuit of the creamiest potatoes. Only it turns the starch in the potatoes into paste. Not good.
Here are my three top tips for avoiding gluey mashed potatoes:
- Make sure to cook the potatoes all the way through. A knife or fork should EASILY go through them. Sometimes when you struggle to get lumps out of the potatoes, it’s because they weren’t completely done to begin with.
- Mash the potatoes with your beaters, a potato masher, or a potato ricer first. Don’t turn your beaters on, just use them to mash down on the chunks of potato and break them up a bit before you ever start mixing.
- Don’t overmix! I know it’s tempting to fall into the trap of thinking that if you mix the potatoes longer using your electric mixer that they will be smoother and fluffier, but this is where most people run into trouble. You really don’t even need a mixer for mashed potatoes and get really wonderful, creamy consistency with a potato masher and a little elbow work.
How far in advance can you make mashed potatoes?
You can easily make the mashed potatoes 2-3 days in advance of a big meal or celebration, like Thanksgiving or Christmas. Or even just get them out of the way earlier in the day and let them stay warm in a slow cooker on low heat for 4 hours while working on the other elements of the meal.
How to reheat mashed potatoes in the microwave
Transfer the potatoes to a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 7-8 minutes, stirring once halfway through, until hot. Meanwhile, get a pot of water simmering on the stove. When the potatoes are hot through, transfer them to a heat proof bowl that can be set over the simmering water. Add the butter and stir with a large spoon until the butter has melted and combined with the mashed potatoes.
How to reheat mashed potatoes on the stove
Transfer the mashed potatoes to a large pot and add a couple tablespoons of milk. Reheat slowly and gently over low heat, stirring occasionally, until warmed through.
How to reheat mashed potatoes in the oven
Transfer the potatoes to an oven-safe dish and cover with a lid or aluminum foil. Heat in a 350 degree F oven for 15-20 minutes until warmed through.
How to reheat mashed potatoes in a slow cooker
Transfer the potatoes to a slow cooker and reheat on low heat for 3-4 hours until hot all the way through.
Can you freeze mashed potatoes?
Mashed potatoes freeze well, if you want to make them even farther in advance than just 2-3 days. In this case, I would recommend making them all the way through with the butter and everything since that will help them freeze better.
Let the potatoes cool completely, then transfer to a large freezer-safe ziploc bag for storage and press into a flat layer so that the frozen potatoes can defrost easily later on. They will freeze well for up to 2 months.
Thaw completely in the refrigerator overnight before reheating in the oven in a covered dish at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes until hot through or in a slow cooker for 2-4 hours on LOW.
Frozen mashed potatoes may be a bit more on the watery side, but this can be fixed by stirring in a few spoonfuls of sour cream after reheating.
What to do with leftover mashed potatoes
If you have leftover potatoes, you can always freeze them for later. Or you can make shepherd’s pie, potato bread, or potato rolls!
More Potato Recipes You’ll Love
- Creamy Potluck Potatoes
- Scalloped Potatoes [Au Gratin Potatoes]
- Irish Colcannon (Mashed Potatoes & Cabbage)
- Salt Crusted Baked Potatoes with Roasted Garlic & Rosemary Butter
- Homemade French Fries
- Oven Roasted Barbecue Potato Wedges
- 4-5 pounds potatoes (Russets, Yukon Golds, or a combination of both)
- 1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
- 4-6 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
- 1 cup whole milk, heated up in the microwave for 1 minute
- 1/2 cup salted butter, room temperature
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened and cubed (optional)
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley or chives, for garnish
- Fresh cracked black pepper, for garnish
- Peel potatoes and cut in half or in quarters, if potatoes are very large. Add to a large pot and cover completely until there is an inch of water above the tops of the potatoes. Add a generous tablespoon of salt to the water. Add garlic to the water, if using.
- Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to a medium to let the potatoes simmer until cooked through (usually about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes). Cook just until the potatoes are tender enough to be pierced with a fork or sharp knife. Drain well.
- Heat milk in the microwave for 60 seconds while the potatoes are draining and set aside.
- In the same pot you cooked the potatoes in, mash the potatoes by hand using a potato masher, potato ricer, or an electric mixer just enough to break them up.
- Add the warm milk slowly while mixing or mashing. Do not overmix! Mix in remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.
- Add the softened butter, a few tablespoons at a time, mixing on low speed or mashing with the potato masher after each addition. Add cream cheese, if using. Taste and adjust salt, if needed.
- Transfer the finished mashed potatoes to a serving bowl and garnish with fresh chopped parsley, cracked pepper, or chives. Serve warm.
You can replace the whole milk with half-and-half or cream for even more indulgent, creamy mashed potatoes.
If making earlier in the day, the finished potatoes can be kept warm in a slow cooker on low for 4 hours.
If making 2-3 days in advance, prepare through step 5 by adding the milk but not the butter. Store in an airtight container in the fridge, then when ready to serve, heat in the microwave for 7-8 minutes, stirring halfway through, until hot. Place of a heat-proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water and mix in the butter, a little at a time. The potatoes will stay hot over the gently simmering water for hours. Just be sure to check the water from time-to-time to make sure it doesn't run out.
If freezing, prepare the potatoes all the way, then cool completely before transferring to a large freezer-safe ziploc bag. Flatten out the mashed potatoes in the bag and freeze for up to 3 months. To reheat, thaw completely in the fridge overnight, then reheat in a 350 degree F oven for 30 minutes. You may need to stir in a few spoonfuls of sour cream if the potatoes have a watery texture after reheating.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 432Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 63mgSodium: 533mgCarbohydrates: 51gFiber: 5gSugar: 4gProtein: 7g
Curious about foods from other states in my American Eats series? Check them out below!
Alabama • Alaska • Arizona • Arkansas • California • Colorado • Connecticut • Delaware • Florida • Georgia • Hawaii • Idaho • Illinois • Indiana • Iowa • Kansas • Kentucky • Louisiana • Oregon • Puerto Rico • South Carolina • Texas