How to Make the Best Mashed Potatoes
Here’s how to easily make the BEST mashed potatoes ever. They’re delicious, so full of flavor and super light and fluffy. Just a few small but important details will take this classic side dish from good to amazing! Learn the best ingredients to use, how to get that perfect creamy texture, and even how to make them ahead of time.
Mashed potatoes are one of my all-time top favorite foods. I’m a huge fan, and I’ve made (and savored) countless batches. So when I say that this recipe is the best, I know what I’m talking about!
These mashed potatoes have it all— they’re rich and creamy, flavorful, and fluffy. And they’re the perfect side dish to almost any meal. They’re easy enough for a weeknight, but also special enough for holidays! (I’m looking at you, Thanksgiving.)
Table of Contents
- Ingredients you’ll need
- Why Yukon gold potatoes are the best for mashed potatoes
- Step-by-step guide to perfectly mashed potatoes
- The best tools for mashing potatoes
- How to make mashed potatoes in advance
- Variations and serving suggestions
- Get the recipe
- Mashed potatoes FAQs
- Other potato side dishes
Ingredients you’ll need
Just 4 ingredients are required to make this mashed potato recipe. Yep, that’s it!
- Yukon gold potatoes— the only potato variety I use for mashed potatoes. Keep reading for why!
- Salted butter— potatoes are naturally bland and using salted butter helps kickstart flavor.
- Heavy cream (preferred) or whole milk— the difference will be in flavor and richness, with cream providing the most flavor and creaminess.
- Salt and pepper
Many recipes use other ingredients like cream cheese or sour cream for additional creaminess, but these potatoes don’t need it. Stick with these 4 simple, but impactful, ingredients and you’ll have the most delicious mashed potatoes you’ve ever tasted.
Why Yukon gold potatoes are the best for mashed potatoes
- Yukon gold potatoes have a naturally rich, buttery flavor that doesn’t need a lot of added butter or cream to taste delicious. They are delicious all on their own!
- They’re also high in starches which makes them thick and creamy once mashed,
- They don’t absorb as much water as other varieties which can result in soggy or gummy mashed potatoes.
If you’re looking for a way to improve your mashed potatoes and have only ever used russet potatoes or red potatoes, this simple ingredient swap will make a huge difference!
Tip: Yukon potato peels are also very soft, and don’t require peeling (time saver!). Peel potatoes for the smoothest texture, or leave them on for a slightly chunky texture and rustic appearance.
Step-by-step guide to perfectly mashed potatoes
- Chop potatoes uniformly. Peel the potatoes if you want, then chop into 1-1½ inch chunks, trying to keep them roughly the same size so they cook evenly.
- Start with cold water so the potatoes cook evenly. Fill a medium pot with cold water and add chopped potatoes and a generous sprinkling of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat slightly and simmer for about 20 minutes until potatoes are just fork tender. Do not cook too long or the potatoes will absorb excess water.
- Dry potatoes in the oven (optional). Drain the potatoes, spread evenly onto a sheet pan, and put in a 350°F oven for about 10-15 minutes. Dry potatoes are able to absorb more cream/milk and butter, making the finished mashed potatoes very smooth and creamy. This is an extra step that I don’t do often, but if you want your potatoes to really be their best and most impressive, this makes a difference!
- Warm the butter and cream/milk. A few minutes before you’re ready to mash the potatoes, warm the butter and milk/cream in small saucepan over the stove until butter is melted. The potatoes will absorb the warm dairy more easily and you won’t have to overwork the potatoes to get everything smooth. Plus, it helps keep the mashed potatoes hot.
- Mash potatoes, but don’t overwork. Return the potatoes to the pot and add about half of the warmed dairy. Use a potato masher or other tool (keep reading for options). Add remaining dairy and mix just until smooth and creamy. Overworking the potatoes will cause them to get gummy, potatoes should still be light and fluffy.
- Add salt and pepper to taste. Start with a teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Taste and add more if needed. The right amount of salt is needed to really make the rich flavor pop, don’t be shy!
- Serve and enjoy! Mashed potatoes are best served immediately while hot (though I do have some make-ahead tips below). They are delicious on their own, or you can add toppings.
The best tools for mashing potatoes
Many recipes state you have to use a potato ricer or food mill to get perfectly creamy mashed potatoes, but that is simply not true! I have only ever used a classic potato masher as I prefer not to buy single-use kitchen gadgets, and my mashed potatoes are plenty creamy, and I have no complaints.
If you find that your mashed potatoes aren’t quite as smooth as you like, start with a potato masher to break up the potatoes, then switch to a hand-held mixer and mix for 30-60 seconds to get them smooth, but still light and fluffy.
How to make mashed potatoes in advance
Up to 4 hours in advance: If you’d like to make mashed potatoes ahead of time, the best option is the prepare the recipe as written and keep them warm in a slow cooker for up to 4 hours.
More than 4 hours in advance: Place mashed potatoes in a greased casserole dish and top with an additional 2 tablespoons of cubed butter. Cover with foil and store in the fridge for up to several days. To reheat, warm in a 350°F oven for 30 minutes. Stir until smooth and serve. This method works for reheating mashed potato leftovers too!
Variations and serving suggestions
- Garnishes. Adding pats of butter to a bowl of mashed potatoes (which will melt and puddle into the cracks) is a great way to finish off these potatoes. For additional visual flair, add a sprinkling of chives, scallions, parsley, and/or coarsely ground black pepper on top off the mashed potatoes before serving.
- Additional flavor mix-ins. Stir minced garlic, fresh herbs, or parmesan cheese into mashed potatoes for a flavor twist. You can also get creative and add whatever you like!
- Do these potatoes need gravy? Nope! These mashed potatoes have delicious flavor all on their own. But they’d also be great alongside or under your favorite gravy or sauce.
Get the recipe
How to Make the Best Mashed Potatoes
- 4 lbs Yukon gold or yellow potatoes , peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces
- ½ cup salted butter
- 1 cup heavy cream or whole milk
- 1 teaspoon salt , or to taste
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Add chopped potatoes to a large pot of salted cold water.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat slightly and simmer for about 20 minutes until potatoes are just fork tender. Drain potatoes.
- (Optional step) Spread potatoes into an even layer on a sheet pan. Toast in a 350°F for 10-15 minutes. Dry potatoes will absorb the milk and cream better, resulting in super smooth potatoes.
- Just before you're ready to mash the potatoes, warm butter and cream/milk in a saucepan until butter is melted.
- Return potatoes to the pot and add half of butter mixture, salt and pepper. Use a potato masher to mash until mostly smooth. Add remaining butter mixture and mix till smooth. (For the lightest potatoes, do this final mixing with an electric mixer for about 30-60 seconds.) Be careful not to over work the potatoes, or they'll become gummy and thick.
- Serve immediately or keep warm in a slow cooker for up to 4 hours.
- Peel potatoes if you want, or you can leave them on.
- Yukon golds will produce the best flavor and texture, but you can use russets or red potatoes if you really want to. (Russet potatoes will need to peeled.)
- To make more than 4 hours in advance: Place prepared mashed potatoes in a greased casserole dish and top with an additional 2 tablespoons of cubed butter. Cover with foil and store in the fridge for up to several days. To reheat, warm in a 350°F oven for 30 minutes. Stir until smooth and serve.
- Optional garnishes: Pats of butter, chopped chives or other herbs, and freshly cracked black pepper.
Mashed potatoes FAQs
If you don’t have yukon golds, or have your heart set on another variety, you can follow this same recipe. Results will be different, but still delicious. Note: Russet potatoes need to be peeled, you can leave red skins on but they are a little more noticeable and change the texture slightly.
I have never made this recipe with dairy alternatives. But if you have a butter or milk/cream substitute that you love the flavor of, you are free to use them. Results will vary.
Once chilled, the starches in potatoes change, which affects the flavor and they often taste “off”. To combat this, they typically just need a bit more butter, cream/milk and salt and pepper to improve the flavor. For individual servings, you can reheat in the microwave with these ingredients and stir until smooth. For larger portions, I recommend reheating in the oven as described above in my info for making mashed potatoes in advance.