THE Perfect Mashed Potatoes Recipe: 4 Ways To Make Them Perfect

4.99 from 105 votes
140 Comments

This post may contain affiliate links. See our disclosure policy.

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
Featured with this recipe
  1. Ingredients in Mashed Potatoes
  2. Best Potatoes for Perfect Mashed Potatoes
  3. Cooking Methods
  4. Tips for making mashed potatoes
  5. Frequently Asked Questions: Mashed Potatoes
  6. Mashed Potatoes With Gravy
  7. More Variations
  8. Reheating Mashed Potatoes
  9. Here are four easy ways to re-heat mashed potatoes:
  10. Using Leftover Mashed Potatoes
  11. More Potato Recipes
  12. Perfect Mashed Potatoes Recipe

These creamy, buttery, mashed potatoes are the perfect side dish for turkey, 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.

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!

Ingredients in Mashed Potatoes

  • Potatoes
  • Sour Cream
  • Butter
  • Milk
  • Salt & Pepper

Best Potatoes for Perfect Mashed Potatoes

When making mashed potatoes, you want to use a nice, starchy 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

Frequently Asked Questions: Mashed Potatoes

What is the trick to good mashed potatoes?

First of all, using the right kind of potato. We prefer Russet potatoes or Yukon Gold potatoes for smooth, creamy mashed potatoes. Second, cut the potato into large chunks (usually 4-6 equal pieces) to boil. If cut too small, the potatoes will be overcooked and mushy. Then, heat the liquid and fat you will be adding prior to mashing. A final trick is to use a stand mixer, or spend plenty of time hand mixing, so the potatoes are smooth and creamy with no lumps.

What does milk do to mashed potatoes?

Milk gives mashed potatoes the fluffy texture we all love! Be sure to heat the milk and other ingredients prior to adding to the potatoes.

Is it better to peel potatoes before boiling or mashing?

Either way is fine. It’s up to you. We almost always peel our potatoes first, which is just a personal preference. If you are going to leave the peel on, be sure to thoroughly scrub the skins clean before cutting and boiling the 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:

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!
  • 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.

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! 

Bowl of mashed potatoes next to a roasted turkey

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 two 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 one minute at a time, stirring well each time until heated through. 

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 four 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!

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.

Read More:60+ Potato Recipes from Idaho

Mashed potatoes in a bowl with butter

Perfect Mashed Potatoes

4.99 from 105 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

Video

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.

Notes

To keep mashed potatoes warm after cooking:

  • Heat oven to 300 degrees. Put mashed potatoes in an oven safe dish with a lid, or cover with foil. Keep in the oven for up to an hour, stirring occasionally. 
  • Place mashed potatoes in a slow cooker/crockpot set on low or keep warm. Stir occasionally to prevent sides from burning.


To reheat mashed potatoes:

  • 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).
  • Stovetop: In a large pot over medium heat, add potatoes, liquid, and butter. Stir often until heated through.
  • Crockpot: Place potatoes, liquid and butter in a Crock Pot on low heat for two hours, stirring occasionally until heated through.
  • 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 one minute at a time, stirring well each time until heated through.

Nutrition Information

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

Did you try this recipe?

Share It on Instagram!

Mention @favoritefamilyrecipes or tag #favoritefamilyrecipes!

Share This With the World

PinYummly

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.

More about Erica Walker

Similar Recipes

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

How many stars would you give this recipe?




Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Wow, these are soo good. I have been making mashed potatoes my whole life (I’m 60) and I decided to see how other people make them. I decided to try your version and boy am I glad I did. They were fluffy, creamy, and absolutely delicious. I had been making mine like my mom did and while they were good, they are not as delicious as this recipe. Thank you so much for sharing your family recipe. It will now be the recipe I use!!
    I also tried Yukon Gold potatoes and they are great with this recipe too.
    Much Gratitude

    1. Hi Celeste- Thank you so much for this kind comment. It is comments like this one that really make us love what we do! I am so happy that you liked these potatoes so much and we are flattered that you would take the time to come back and comment on them! Thanks again!

  2. 5 stars
    I have made mashed potatoes for years now. I make them exactly as you do except I also add crumbled bacon and grated cheese from the can into the mash potatoes. Everyone that has these that I have served love them. My Sun request that I make them like this all the time. There is something about the bacon that makes them really yummy. Give them a try sometime I really think you would enjoy them this way. ????

  3. If I want to do less potatoes do I still go my the same portions will the measurements still be the same or would they be less ?

    1. You will definitely want to decrease the other measurements by the percentage you decrease the potatoes. For example, if you only use 2 lbs potatoes, you will cut the rest of the ingredients in half and use 1/4 cup milk, 1/8 cup butter, and 1/4 cup sour cream. If the potatoes seem to thick, add a little more milk. Thanks for asking!

    1. You can definitely leave the skins on if you prefer it that way. It won’t mess anything up. Thank you for asking!

  4. Another point is to use the right potato. Russet are good for baking not so much for mashed potatoes. I find them too sandy and grainy. I use golden or yellow potatoes which have a creamy texture. I’ve also had success with red potatoes.

  5. I agree, mashed potatoes made with sour cream are good. Even better is cream cheese. Pioneer woman gave me the very very best of recipes and I haven’t gone back. 🙂 5 lbs potatoes, 1/2 c butter, 8 oz cream cheese, 1/2 c half and half or more for desired consistency (more for fluffier potatoes) and kosher salt to taste. PW says seasoned salt, I say kosher. 😉

      1. My mom always used Hellman’s mayo as well and I still swear by it. I like to put some garlic in there while the potatoes boil too.

        1. I never thought of adding mayo to mashed potatoes. I am going to try it next time I make these potatoes which will be in a couple of days for Thanksgiving. I have added garlic and I love it!

          1. You can also use 1/2 the milk and then use chicken stock tastes great ! But the source cream is a must

  6. 5 stars
    This recipe is amazing! I used peeled red potatoes, boiled the potatoes in chicken broth, drained and followed the rest of it. It was a huge hit!

      1. I reserve some of the salted potato- water and use with heavy cream and of course, real butter. What makes them so special is the potato-peeling contest we have with our kids and grandkids. Our little tradition with those we are most Thankful for. They laugh and are helping all at the same time

    1. Yes.. you can. Just put them in a 9×13 baking dish and bake at 350-degrees until heated through and whip them up with a fork again before serving.

  7. 5 stars
    Thanks so much for this great recipe, I have featured it in my Thanksgiving Recipe Round-up over at Krafty Cards etc.

  8. You can also make these ahead and freeze them….or make a double batch and freeze half. They are just as good thawed. My mom made these all the time for my youngest niece and nephew and called them Lollypop Potatoes…the kids would fill up their spoon and lick the potatoes off the spoon like they were licking a lollypop! For extra decadence, add 8 oz of cream cheese!

  9. 5 stars
    My mom taught me a few tricks just on Sunday. I could never get my potatoes like hers. First…like you said, quarter the potatoes. If you cut them up to small for some reason they just don’t turn out as well….too mushy or something. Also…drain well. My mom puts them in a strainer and lets them sit while getting the other ingredients ready. This ensures all the water is off of them. They whip up so nicely and are not gluey like some I’ve made in the past. Sounds like your mom and my mom were taught the same way.

    1. Good point about draining well.
      My mom does that too.. I just didn’t think it made a difference! Guess it does!

      1. I should say, if you drain it and let it stay for a while on a heated place potatoes will dry faster. And try to add a raw egg to warm mash instead of sour cream. It’s really great. But don’t ever use blender. Better mix it fast with a fork.

          1. No eggs in my mashed potatoes either! I feel like putting raw egg into it is asking for trouble. Meaning not safe. Sour cream, yes, or cream cheese, but not raw eggs!

    2. I usually don’t cut small potatoes or just cut at halfs. It makes them thicker. And I also add an egg to make it fluffy.

    3. The best way I know to get the excess water off the cooked potatoes is to set them back on the burner after they are drained, and turn on the heat to high. Continue to cook the potatoes for like 15 seconds. The steam that will come off the potatoes is the excess moisture that would make your potatoes soggy! Works every time and super fast:) I learned this from Chef John.

    4. 5 stars
      My kids and grandchildren always ask “maw “maw will you bring mashed potataes when we get together for dinner and my grand daughter in laws ask for the receipe every time I tell them but they say theirs doesn’t turn out right but this one sounds just like mine only I add a little mayonnaise to mine. If any leftover which I always make enough to be sure the next day or 2 I put a Little flour in them and fry potatoe patties just don’t skimp on the potatoes make them full. These are great!