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Ask anyone to name their favorite comfort foods, and mashed potatoes are bound to make the list. After all, they're full of feel-good indulgence and are blessedly uncomplicated, containing little more than potatoes, cream, butter, salt, and love.
But for something so seemingly simple, it’s amazing how easily that bowl of ethereally fluffy goodness can turn into rubbery and gluey glop. Whether you’re wondering how to make garlic mashed potatoes, creamy mashed potatoes, cauliflower, or more, we’ve got you covered. That’s why we’re breaking down how to make gold standard mashed potatoes, as well as sharing a few creative tips for taking them over the top!
If you’re making mashed potatoes in the classic style, you’ll need the potato (of course) with your choice of dairy and fat ingredients to mix in after cooking. Do you need dairy-free mashed potatoes? Any milk substitute will work just as well. Same goes for substituting butter – most stores carry several alternatives – and you can also replace butter with a little extra virgin olive oil.
When it comes to how to make homemade mashed potatoes, not all spuds are created equal. The starchy variety are definitely best for the job (think Idaho and Russets) because they break apart easily and produce that perfect light and fluffy texture when mashed. Oh, and they’re awesome at soaking up all manner of creamy and buttery goodness.
Granted, velvety Yukon Golds bring more flavor to the table (but aren’t ideal mashers), so you can always add a few to the pot with your Russets or Idahos for a bit of a boost. Or go for sweet potatoes! Just avoid waxy specimens like New Potatoes or Red Bliss, which tend to get gummy and tough when mashed.
Now onto how to cook potatoes. The traditional method for how to make mashed potatoes from scratch is to place peeled, uncut potatoes in cold, salted water. That’s right: Bring them to a boil with your water, or they tend to cook unevenly. Yes, you can cut them up to save cooking time, but know that they’ll absorb more water that way (which hampers their ability to sponge up butter and cream).
Granted, boiling isn’t the only way to cook a potato. You can prepare them in an instant pot or even a microwave – anything that gets them tender enough for mashing, as long as you take the same steps to prevent them from soaking up too much water.
How to mash potatoes? The key is handle them as little as possible. Never throw your tubers into a blender or food processor, or you’ll be on the fast track to creating cement. If you’re ok with a few lumps, stick with a hand held masher. Or if you’re into super smooth purees, turn to tools like ricers or food mills instead.
Adding liquid is essential for creating a luscious, velvety texture. Think milk, half-and-half, cream, or a combination of two or three. If you want to lighten them up, you can swap stock for part of the dairy, or select vegan options like almond milk instead. But whatever you use, be sure to warm it first. It will help your potatoes absorb the liquid better, and keep you from ending up with a cold mash.
We’re talking plenty of good quality butter – preferably unsalted, so you can control the seasoning yourself. But there’s room to play here too, by experimenting with olive oil, dairy-free butter, or even duck or bacon fat!
As you can see, making mashed potatoes is about as straightforward as it gets. But that doesn’t mean they need to be basic. Check out the recipes below for more mashed potato inspiration.
Look through our compilation of mashed potato recipes to find more.
Looking for more guidance on how to make mashed potatoes? Check out our video for The Ultimate Creamy Mashed Potatoes or another one of our articles that dive into different kinds of mashed potatoes:
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