Classic mashed potatoes are a comfort food favorite. Few side dishes compare to the creamy, fluffy goodness this humble dish provides. You can dress them up, or let the potatoes shine on their own. Either way, mashed potatoes are a favorite for a reason, they’re delicious!
This basic mashed potatoes recipe is easy to make, and if you follow just a few tips you’ll make perfect potatoes every time.
Our holiday table is not complete without homemade mashed potatoes. They’re even better when accompanied by our other favorite sides including sausage stuffing, broccoli cheese casserole, and sweet cinnamon apples.
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What potatoes are best for mashed potatoes?
There are many varieties of potatoes, but (for me) the best type for classic mashed potatoes is the russet potato, also known as the Idaho potato. These tubers have a brown skin with a white, dry flesh and are quite starchy. Not only do they make great mashed potatoes but they also make a fantastic baked potato! Another popular option includes Yukon gold potatoes. They have yellowish skin and flesh, have a smooth, waxy consistency and are slightly sweet to the taste.
Tips to make the best mashed potatoes
Mashed potatoes are really easy to make but there are a few pitfalls to avoid. Follow these tips for perfect mashed potatoes every time.
Tip 1: Don’t overcook the potatoes
Cook the potatoes until they are very tender but not so much that they start dissolving in the water as they tumble. They should break apart easily when pierced with a knife or fork.
Tip 2: Dry off the potatoes
Make sure the potatoes are drained really well, get as much water off them as possible. The best way to do this is to:
- Drain the potatoes using a large strainer.
- Then, add them back to the pot they were cooked in.
- Place the pot back on the same burner, that’s still hot – not on.
- Let the residual heat dry off any water left in the pot and on the potatoes. Give the pot a few shakes to move the potatoes around.
Tip 3: Add only warm/hot milk to the potatoes
Don’t add cold milk to hot potatoes, it will drop the temperature and make them harder to mash and rob you of that fluffy consistency you’re going for.
This step is simple but very important. Heat the milk in the microwave or in a saucepan on the stove. Word of caution: never leave milk unattended while heating. It boils over very quickly, keep an eye on it and don’t leave the stove’s side.
Tip 4: Add the butter, salt and other flavorings after the potatoes are mashed
Wait until the end to add the butter and other flavorings to the potatoes to avoid dropping their temperature. Once you get your potatoes fluffy and perfect then add flavorings. Use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to fold them in.
- 2 pounds Russet Potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
- ¾ – 1 cup Whole Milk, warmed through
- 1 tablespoon Salt, for the cooking water, plus about 1 teaspoon of salt to season the mashed potatoes at the end (we used kosher salt)
- 1-2 tablespoon Butter, softened
- Pinch Black Pepper
Mashed potato flavoring options
We usually make basic mashed potatoes because my teenage son loves them, and as he puts it, doesn’t want me messing with them. But, if you want to spice up your mash, here are some add-ins that will do just that.
- Chili Powder
- Chopped Chives
- Chopped Fresh Herbs (Parsley, Rosemary, Thyme, Sage are all good options)
- Garlic Powder
- Shredded Cheese (cheddar, gouda, parmesan, or your cheese of choice)
Peel the potatoes and cut them into roughly 2 inch pieces. Try to get them roughly the same size so that they cook at the same rate.
If you’re prepping the potatoes in advance, place them in a large bowl or pot and cover them with cold water. When potatoes are peeled they start to oxidize as soon as the flesh is exposed to oxygen. They brown very quickly, immersing them in water slows down the browning process considerably.
You can keep the potatoes covered in water, in the refrigerator up to one day. If left out at room temperature then no more than an hour, plus make sure the water is cold and add ice cubes periodically if necessary.
Heat the milk gently over moderate heat until warmed through. Do not boil and do not leave unattended. You can also heat the milk in the microwave. Keep an eye on it there too, because it can boil over making a hot mess!
Measure out the butter and let it sit at room temperature to soften.
How to make basic mashed potatoes
- Place the peeled and cut potatoes in a pot and cover them completely with cold water by a couple of inches.
- Add 1 tablespoon of salt to the water.
- Place the pot over high heat and bring the water to a full boil.
- When the water is boiling, lower the heat to medium, keep the water boiling but not too vigorously. It should not be splashing everywhere.
- Cook the potatoes for 12-15 minutes until they’re tender. They should break apart easily when pierced with a fork or knife. The cooking time will depend on the size of the potato pieces. Test one potato after 10 minutes and gauge the remaining cooking time from there.
- Drain the potatoes completely see tip #2 above.
- Off the heat, add the warm milk to the potatoes a little bit at a time, while mashing with a sturdy whisk or masher. Keep mashing until the potatoes are smooth. Add more or less milk as needed, depending on the consistency you like. If you need more than 1 cup, heat the milk before adding; don’t add cold milk to those wonderful mashed potatoes.
- When the mashed potatoes are just the way you like them add the butter, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Stir or fold to combine well.
- Taste and add more salt, if needed.
You may also like these side dishes:
- 2 pounds Russet Potatoes peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
- ¾ - 1 cup Whole Milk warmed through
- 1 teaspoon Salt plus 1 tablespoon for the water to cook the potatoes
- 1 - 2 tablespoon Butter softened
- pinch Black Pepper
- Place the peeled and cut potatoes in a large pot and cover them with cold water by a couple of inches.
- Add 1 tablespoon of salt to the water.
- Place the pot over high heat and bring the water to a full boil. Lower the heat to medium so that the water is still boiling but not splashing everywhere.
- Cook the potatoes for 12-15 minutes or until they’re tender. They should break apart easily when pierced with a fork or knife.
- Drain the potatoes completely (see tip 2 above).
- Take the pot off the heat. Add the warm milk to the potatoes a little bit at a time, while mashing with a whisk or masher. Keep mashing and stirring until the potatoes are smooth. Add more or less milk as needed, depending on the consistency you like.
- When the mashed potatoes reach the desired consistency, add the butter, 1 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Stir to combine and let the butter melt. Taste the potatoes and add more salt, if needed.