Tutorial: Mashed Potatoes

CATEGORIES: Kate, Potatoes

After Sara’s fruit salsa a few weeks ago, you should be well-acquainted with the idea of Choose Your Own Adventure cooking! What it REALLY is is getting to a point where you’re comfortable enough in the kitchen to play around with different flavors and figure out what you like. So if you think of something that’s not on our list here, give it a shot!

The Basics

–You can use any kind of potato you want for mashed potatoes; however, different potatoes will yield different results. The starch content is higher in Russet potatoes, so they build up into fluffy, light mashed potatoes whereas red and Yukon gold potatoes will be pretty creamy, but they can border on runny if you’re not careful.

–If you use Russets, it’s probably best to peel them, or at least most of them–their skins tend to be tough and unpleasant in mashed potatoes. If you like skins, feel free to leave them (or most of them) on red or Yukon golds.

–Plan on about 1 fist-sized potato per person. Extra potatoes are never a bad idea.

–Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. While you’re waiting for it to boil, chop potatoes into approximately 1/2″ cubes. They might seem a little small, but it ensures uniform cooking and it makes things go a LOT faster to have the potatoes chopped into smaller pieces.

The Big Question: Classic or Wild?

There are mashed potato purists and there are those who like to walk on the wild side. There are some who are a little both. Take me–I like classic mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving and wild mashed potatoes the rest of the time. What will you need for classic mashed potatoes? Butter, milk, salt, and pepper.

Going Wild? Choose the Adventure!

If you’re opting for something a little more exciting, choose what you’d like. You’ll need…

  • Butter
  • Liquid; milk or buttermilk work great. Buttermilk sounds a little weird, but it adds the flavor of sour cream without all the thickness. If you’re really feeling kooky, you could use whipping cream or half and half.
  • Seasonings; roasted garlic, a clove or two of finely minced fresh garlic, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, garlic salt, etc.
  • Extras; bacon, cheese (shredded sharp cheddar, blue cheese, or shredded pepper jack work great), chopped green onions, chopped chives, etc.

Potatoes Boiled; Now What?

When you can easily cut a piece of potato with a fork (and for mashed potatoes, it’s FAR better to overboil them than to underboil them), drain potatoes (don’t rinse!) and place immediately in a large bowl, preferably of a heavy-duty mixer (although you could use a good electric hand mixer). Add about 1-2 tsp. of butter (more if you want to) per fist-sized potato and mix on medium speed with the wire whisk attachment. If you’re adding cheese and want the cheese to be melty, go ahead and add it now (save it for later if you want visible shreds of cheese).

Slowly add enough milk or buttermilk to achieve a nice, fluffy consistency. Turn speed to high and add desired seasonings. When the potatoes have reached the level of fluffiness you like, go ahead and add any additional add-ins while mixing on low. Adjust as necessary and serve immediately.

Yummy yummy yummy yummy yummy.

So is there anything I left out? What do y’all like in your mashed potatoes? Are you purists or do you play with your food?


  1. We found a great recipe for garlic mashed potatoes in a Nordstrom cookbook (our favorite) and it has become a family staple. Add chopped garlic to the water during boiling. During whipping add heavy cream, sour cream, salt and pepper. I’m sure they will kill me someday but it’s worth it!

  2. I enjoy potatoes in any form! I do believe, however, that some form of garlic is absolutely necessary no matter what!

  3. mmmmm…love mashed potatoes. Sometimes we put Parmesan in them. They are so good! I love salty cheeses though. And I do usually but buttermilk in mine!

  4. a few years ago i saw a suggestion in a magazine to add a tablespoon or two of cider vinegar to mashed potatoes. we tried it and loved it so much we have added it ever since! it’s not overpowering at all but just adds a tangy,yummy taste.

  5. When I’m old and have no teeth I would like to live off of mashed potatoes!! Eating a bad, pasty version of mashed potatoes(made by other people of course!!!) totally ruins the meal so thanks for the tuturial.

  6. “aw yeah girl, I know what you’re tryin to say”
    hehe. Ü
    I love the classic version with some roasted garlic added. mmm. oh yeah. my husband doesn’t like potatoes. picky eater . . . my kids are doomed.

  7. Yum, ultimate comfort food. I’m a purist for Thanksgiving too, but we spice them up around the year. My husband throws in the garlic for his garlic potatoes. I like to throw in some cream cheese sometimes to make them creamier. I think we’re having potatoes tonight! 🙂

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