How to Make Perfect Mashed Potatoes Every Time
Learn how to make mashed potatoes with our step-by-step instructions.
Pictured recipe: Garlic Mashed Potatoes
My grandmother used to make the most amazing smooth-as-silk mashed potatoes that were never gummy, lumpy or dry. What was her secret? Tons of butter and whole milk. I would love to follow in her footsteps and make her recipe as is, but I would have to spend the next month on the treadmill working off those potatoes.
We've tested and developed many mashed potato recipes in the EatingWell Test Kitchen, discovering a few tips to getting the classic fluffy result without dousing them in a sea of melted butter and heavy cream.
How you like your mashed potatoes comes down to personal preference. Maybe you like them chunky: unpeeled and mashed by hand. Or you're a connoisseur of silky-smooth whipped potatoes. And perhaps you're looking for a way to jazz up this holiday must-have with more flavor? Whatever the case, we've got you covered. Here's everything you need to know for making the ultimate mashed potatoes, including what potatoes to buy, how to boil potatoes and tips for achieving your desired mashed potato texture. Plus find some of our favorite add-ins to stir into mashed potatoes, like roasted garlic, brown butter and more.
To make great mashed potatoes, follow the steps below. Then season the potatoes with flavorings of your choice.
Step 1: Prep the Potatoes
Pictured recipe: Vegan Mashed Potatoes
To serve about 8 people, start with 3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (about 12 medium). The potato peel offers nutritional benefits like fiber and potassium. Leave it on for rustic mashed potatoes, but peel it off if you want to whip or rice them for a smoother texture. Then cut potatoes into 2-inch chunks.
Step 2: Cook the Potatoes
How to Boil Mashed Potatoes on the Stove
Pictured recipe: Buttermilk-Sage Mashed Potatoes
Place the potatoes and 1 tablespoon salt in a large heavy saucepan; add cold water to cover the potatoes by 2 inches; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the potatoes are very tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain well.
How to Cook Mashed Potatoes in a Slow Cooker
Pictured recipe: Slow-Cooker Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Add the potatoes along with any aromatics (like garlic and onion) you wish to use in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Add 1/2 cup water (you don't need as much water in the crock pot because it creates a wet environment that doesn't allow for any of the moisture to evaporate while cooking). Cook for 4 hours on high.
How to Cook Mashed Potatoes in an Instant Pot
Pictured recipe: Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes
To use your electric pressure cooker, like the Instant Pot, place a trivet inside with the handles up. Add 1 cup of water to the pot and place the potatoes on top of the trivet. Close and lock the lid, and cook at high pressure for 10 minutes. Release the pressure using a quick release.
Step 3: Mash the Potatoes
Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl and mash with a potato masher, ricer or electric mixer. What tool should you use to mash?
Use a Potato Masher for Rustic Mashed Potatoes
This is the method to use if you leave the peel on your potatoes. Mash with a potato masher (like this one from Target, $8) until they're as lumpy (or smooth) as you like. No masher? No problem. Use a large fork with sturdy prongs and mash the potatoes against the side of the bowl.
Use a Ricer for Smooth Mashed Potatoes
Want 100%-lump-free mashed potatoes? Use a ricer (like this one from OXO, $27). A ricer pushes the potato through a grid, making small crumbles that resemble rice. They practically melt together as you stir in flavorings, resulting in a velvety-smooth texture.
Use an Electric Mixer for Whipped Mashed Potatoes
Light and airy mashed potatoes result from using an electric mixer (like this one from Cuisinart, $40). The mixer breaks up potatoes and whips air into them at the same time. Don't go overboard—the mechanical "masher" can make potatoes gummy; stop whipping as soon as they're smooth.
Step 4: Add Flavor
Stir your favorite flavorings into the hot potatoes just until combined. Season with black or white pepper to taste.
Pictured recipe: Chive & Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
After you mash your potatoes, stir in any of these super-easy, traditional mashed-potato flavorings.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 1-1½ cups "no-chicken" broth or reduced- sodium chicken broth, warmed
- 3 tablespoons horseradish
- ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 cup reduced-fat sour cream
- 1 cup buttermilk, warmed
- ½ cup snipped fresh chives
- ¾ cup crumbled blue cheese
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup low-fat milk, warmed
- ½ cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
- 2 scallions, sliced
- 3 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
- 1 cup low-fat milk, warmed
Want something different in your mashed potatoes? Stir in any of these extra-special flavorings along with 1 cup warm buttermilk or low-fat milk.
Roasted Mushrooms: Toss 5 cups chopped mixed mushrooms and 3 tablespoons chopped shallots with 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet. Roast at 425°F until brown, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven; stir in 2 tablespoons dry sherry.
Sautéed Leeks: Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 4 cups thinly sliced leeks (whites and greens from about 2 large leeks). Cook, stirring, until soft and beginning to brown, 4 to 8 minutes.
Olive Oil & Herbs: Crush 1 tablespoon each chopped fresh sage, thyme and rosemary, 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, 1 clove minced garlic and a pinch each salt and pepper in a mortar and pestle until a paste forms. Stir in 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil.
Roasted Garlic: Slice the tips off 2 garlic heads, exposing the cloves, and place in a small baking dish. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Roast at 400°F until the garlic feels soft, 20 to 40 minutes, depending on size. Gently squeeze garlic cloves from the skins into potatoes.
Brown Butter: Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Continue heating until it starts bubbling; stir and cook, watching carefully so it doesn't burn, until it turns golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes.