Perfect Mashed Potatoes (How To Make Mashed Potatoes)

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Want fluffy, light mashed potatoes with dinner? With this simple how-to recipe, you’ll get perfect mashed potatoes every time! 

Mashed potatoes in a bowl with butter

These creamy, buttery mashed potatoes are the perfect side dish for turkey and gravy, oven roast beef or pork chops. In just a few simple steps you’ll have delicious mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving, Sunday dinner or just a side to weeknight meatloaf.

Best Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes can be tricky. They can easily get too thin or too whipped, too dense or not dense enough. It really depends on your taste! In our opinion, our Mom makes the best mashed potatoes. They are thick, but smooth, dense and fluffy, but not dry. Always perfect every time and this is her mashed potatoes recipe. We will often change up how we cook or soften the potatoes to be mashed (depending on our timeframe or if we need to free up stovetop space) but our method for mashing them is always the same!

What Kinds Of Potatoes Are Best?

When making mashed potatoes, you want to use a nice, starch potato such as Russet, Idaho, or Yukon Gold potatoes. Russet is the cheapest and easiest to find, which is why most people prefer to use them. They are high in starch and mash perfectly. Idaho potatoes are very similar to Russet potatoes and will mash up the same. If you like a more creamy, buttery taste, go with Yukon Gold. You really can’t go wrong with either. Yukon golds are nice because the skin isn’t as thick and dry as a Russet so you don’t have to peel them perfectly. In fact, leaving a little bit of the peel on adds nutrients and gives it a nice texture. If you want the best of both worlds, use half of each!

Fluffy mashed potatoes in a bowl

Cooking Methods

As mentioned above, we will switch up the cooking method of our mashed potatoes depending on what our particular needs and/or timeframes are on any particular day. In a hurry? Try our Instant Pot mashed potatoes recipe. Want to cook and serve your potatoes all in the same pot (while also keeping them warm while serving)? Try cooking them in the Crock Pot! I have personally used every method below and really, you can’t go wrong with any of them!

Boiled (stove top):

Boiling potatoes is the most traditional and common way of softening potatoes to be mashed. This is the way we have included in the recipe below because we realize not everyone will have the kitchen items available for the alternative methods below. Simply bring your water to a boil with a teaspoon or two of salt and add your peeled, diced potatoes. Boil for 15 minutes or just until potatoes are tender.

Steamed (stove top):

There are some big advantages to steaming your potatoes rather than boiling them. Steaming potatoes is actually a faster method than boiling because you are heating much less water. Steaming also prevents your potatoes from getting mushy and waterlogged. It can make for lighter, fluffier potatoes. The only downside is you need a steamer basket, which a lot of people may not have. As for the method, it’s SUPER easy:

Fill a large pot with 2 inches of water and salt. Set steamer basket in pot, making sure water doesn’t come through the holes. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a rapid simmer. Add potatoes to steamer basket, cover pot, and steam for 25 minutes or until tender.

Instant Pot (pressure cooker):

I’ve got to say, cooking the potatoes in the Instant Pot is my personal favorite way of softening potatoes for mashed potatoes. It’s fast, easy, and efficient. I also love that it doesn’t take up precious stove space on Thanksgiving Day. You can plug in your Instant Pot far away from your high-traffic kitchen area and forget about it. It doesn’t heat up your house because all that heat and steam stays in the Instant Pot. We love this method so much, we actually dedicated an entire post to it HERE. 

Cut up potatoes and water in an instant pot.

Crock Pot:

I love cooking potatoes in a Crock Pot when I want to get potatoes going ahead of time and just forget about them. This is actually a great method for Thanksgiving day because you can start your potatoes and move on with the rest of your Thanksgiving meal prep. It is also a great method because after mashing them, you can put them back into the Crock Pot, switch it to “warm”, and to keep the potatoes warm until ready to serve. You can even serve them straight from the Crock Pot!  Here’s what to do:

Spray Crock Pot with cooking spray and add peeled and diced potatoes (as many as your Crock Pot can comfortably hold). Add 1 cup milk, ½ cup water, and a generous pinch of salt over the potatoes, gently stir to combine. Place the lid on the Crock Pot and cook on HIGH for 4-5 hours or until potatoes are tender. After mashing/whipping the potatoes, return to Crock Pot to keep warm until ready to serve

Perfect mashed potatoes with a spoon

Tips for making mashed potatoes

  • Cut your potatoes a little larger (if boiling) – Large potato dices won’t get as mushy or waterlogged. This can also be prevented if steaming or using the Instant Pot or Crock Pot.
  • Use a stand mixer – I don’t know about you but mashing potatoes by hand is not my favorite thing. I love using my Kitchen Aid with the whisk attachment. Makes them perfectly every time without the hand cramps.
  • Heat your dairy – Heat your milk and butter ingredients in a small saucepan or the microwave before adding to the potatoes. This will keep the potatoes warm and help with even distribution.
  • Fluffy mashed potatoes – For light and fluffy mashed potatoes, all you need to do is rinse away a lot of the starch. Rinse your potatoes well after peeling and cutting into cubes. Then, rinse again after boiling when you drain the water in the sink.
  • Creamy mashed potatoes- If you like your potatoes on the creamy side and a little more dense, add a few splashes of half and half, heavy cream or a few tablespoons of cream cheese.
  • Add some color – When serving, add a garnish of a parsley or thyme sprig to add fresh color to the potatoes.
Gravy being poured over mashed potatoes

Mashed Potatoes With Gravy

These potatoes are so good on their own, but they are my favorite with GRAVY. I mean, who doesn’t love their potatoes with a big ol’ gravy lake in the middle? Skip the powdered packet gravy or store-bought gravy and make your own. Trust me, it’s just as easy and tastes a million times better! Here are some of our very favorite homemade gravy recipes to serve with mashed potatoes:

Beef gravy slowly being poured over a mound of mashed potatoes

More Variations

If you don’t want to hop on the gravy train (or boat) there are many other ways you can serve your mashed potatoes. All of these variations can be served on their own, no gravy needed! Try them as a side with any of your favorite dishes:

  • Fully Loaded – Top your potatoes with cheese, crumbled bacon, and green onion. So good we gave these potatoes their very own post! Click HERE. 
  • Sour cream and chives- Stir in a little sour cream and top with chives and fresh ground pepper.
  • Roasted garlic- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice off the top of a head of garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap in foil and place in a shallow dish. Roast for 40 minutes or until golden and soft. Let cool for 10 minutes then squeeze out garlic cloves (to taste) over your potatoes before mashing.
Loaded Mashed Potatoes

Reheating Mashed Potatoes

No matter how you re-heat your potatoes, the most important thing to remember is to add liquid. After being in the refrigerator, potatoes tend to dry out. You can add a few splashes of milk, buttermilk, cream, or even chicken broth. Just add a splash at a time as you are re-heating them until they get back to the consistency you want. They should be right back to the consistency they were when you made them fresh. Also, don’t forget to add some butter to give them that fresh, buttery flavor. No one will even suspect they were re-heated! 

Here are four easy ways to re-heat mashed potatoes:

  1. In The Oven: Stir in the liquid and butter into the mashed potatoes and spread in an even layer in a greased 9 x 13 baking dish. Bake at 350-degrees for 30 minutes or until heated through (165-degrees). 
  2. On The Stovetop: In a large pot over medium heat, add potatoes, liquid and butter. Stir often until heated through.
  3. In The Crock Pot: Place potatoes, liquid and butter in a Crock Pot on low heat for 2 hours, stirring occasionally until heated through.
  4. In The Microwave: Though this is the fastest way of re-heating mashed potatoes, it is the least desirable. The consistency won’t be the same as when you first made the potatoes but sometimes you just need to get them heated quickly. In this case, place potatoes, liquid, and butter in a large microwave-safe bowl. Heat for 1 minute at a time, stirring well each time until heated through. 
A large white bowl filled with perfect mashed potatoes with a square of butter melting in the center

Using Leftover Mashed Potatoes

Whenever we have leftover mashed potatoes, we usually like to incorporate them into a completely different meal. It’s easy to make two meals out of one big batch of potatoes! You don’t even need to make them the very next day. Your mashed potatoes will stay good in the refrigerator for up to 4 days! One of our favorite ways to use up leftover mashed potatoes is Shepherd’s Pie. This is what our mom would always make when we had leftovers and we always loved it. Another way to use up the leftovers is to make our Cheesy Potato Cakes (pictured below). This is a delicious crispy appetizer or side dish for any occasion! You will love the creamy sauce to dip them in. If you have leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner, try our Thanksgiving Leftover Casserole. You can use up all those leftovers in one easy one-dish meal!

Recipes That Go Well With Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes go well with just about any kind of roasted, slow cooked, or fried meat. Here are some of our favorite recipes where we serve mashed potatoes as a side dish:

Bowl of mashed potatoes next to a roasted turkey

More Potato Recipes

We are big fans of all kinds of potato dishes. It’s kind of a requirement if you live in Idaho. Here are some of our other favorite potato side dishes that go great with any meal. Find them all in our Potato Recipe Roundup HERE!

How to make the Perfect Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes in a bowl with butter

Perfect Mashed Potatoes

5 from 17 votes
These mashed potatoes truly are perfect. They are light and fluffy and buttery, and the perfect side dish for turkey and gravy or roasted beef or pork.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 6

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Peel potatoes and cut into quarters. Place potatoes in a large stockpot and cover with water, add salt (about 1-2 teaspoons) and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for about 20-25 minutes or until the potatoes fall apart when poked with a fork.
  • Combine milk and butter in a microwave safe bowl and place in the microwave for about 40 seconds or until butter is melted.  This makes it so the milk doesn’t cool off your potatoes when you add it.
  • Drain potatoes and mash with a potato masher or mix in a stand mixer with whisk attachment.  If you do a stand mixer, make sure to keep it on low to medium speed. Slowly add milk/butter mixture until you reach your desired consistency adding more milk if you want the potatoes to be thinner. 
  • Mash in sour cream and salt & pepper. Serve immediately.

Video

Notes

*If you can’t serve right away keep potatoes warm in an oven safe dish covered with tin foil and placed in the oven to keep warm at about 300 degrees.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 300kcalCarbohydrates: 43gProtein: 6gFat: 13gSaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 33mgSodium: 106mgPotassium: 1000mgFiber: 3gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 400IUVitamin C: 13.1mgCalcium: 76mgIron: 2mg

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About the author

Erica Walker

Erica lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband, Jared, an attorney, and her beautiful three girls. Beyond the world of recipes, she loves adventuring with everything from kayaking, to cruising, to snowboarding and taking the family along for the thrill ride.

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    These tips were invaluable. I’ve tried mashed potatoes so often that I was getting frustrated with the results: too gummy or slushy, underdone or overcooked. At your suggestion, I quartered, rather than diced the russet potatoes before boiling them. Then I used my stand mixer with the amount of milk and butter you recommended for 3 to 4 pounds of potatoes. The results were so on mark that I will stick to this recipe forever.

  2. Wanting to make these for Thanksgiving but would like to know if anyone has prepared them ahead of time and then reheated them? I’d like to have as much work done ahead of time so I can enjoy my company. Suggestions?

    1. We’ve made them ahead of time before and it usually works great! We just reheat them over the stove with a little milk to keep the creamy consistency.

  3. 5 stars
    I am craving mashed potatoes and gravy so badly! I basically eat them once a year at thanksgiving so I’m definitely going to have to use this perfect recipe!

  4. 5 stars
    Love the sour cream in this. I’ve always loved it whenever I make baked potatoes, should have made the connection sooner. 😉

  5. 5 stars
    I didn’t think I needed a recipe for mashed potatoes. I’m soooo glad I found your recipe! I normally do mine in my pressure cooker. I was only cooking enough for my husband (I’ve gone Keto Ü) so I didn’t want to dirty up my pressure cooker. He loved them! Mashed potatoes are mashed potatoes…No Way! Not these! We’re actually moving to Idaho ♥ so I’m glad I have your recipe to break me in to the plentiful potato State Ü

    1. Woohoo! So glad that you liked this recipe– we Idahoans love our potatoes 😉 You are going to love it here!

  6. 5 stars
    Love your recipe! Have a question?
    Will be traveling down the shore on Thanksgiving morning (about a 2 hr, trip). Plan on making mashed potatoes the night before. How do I keep the potatoes soft and fluffy…….and not dry??

    1. I haven’t tried storing them overnight, but I would definitely make sure to store it in an air-tight container to keep them from being dry. As far as keeping them soft, you might just want to mix them again up with a hand mixer or kitchen aid type mixer once you get to your destination. Hope this helps!

    1. Yes, of course! It will work great. That is a lot of potatoes. You must be cooking for a big crowd. Sounds fun! The trick will be “eyeing” the amount of potatoes you have per batch once they are cooked. I would recommend dividing the cooked potatoes into fourths, and then mashing a batch at a time with the amounts of milk, butter, and sour cream in the recipe and then keep each batch warm in the oven as recommended. When you are ready to serve, you can mix them together in a big serving bowl, or pull each batch out of the oven one at a time. If you need oven space, you can also keep them warm in a crock pot on low. Be sure to stir the potatoes often so they don’t burn or stick to the sides. Good luck! 🙂

  7. Any advice on making them ahead and keeping them warm in a crockpot? Would they be ok kept in one on low until dinner if we’re short on oven space?

    1. I haven’t tried that before, but I don’t see a reason why it wouldn’t work! Let me know how it goes if you do try it!

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