Homemade Mashed Potatoes

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Make perfect light & fluffy mashed potatoes every time with these simple tips. This recipe is my go-to side dish for weeknight meals and holiday dinners. It’s always a crowd favorite!

Homemade mashed potatoes
Table of Contents
  1. Potato selection
  2. Peel, cut, and wash
  3. Boil the potatoes
  4. Mash it!
  5. Add butter
  6. Add milk
  7. Dairy-free alternatives
  8. Tasty add-ins
  9. Storing and reheating
  10. Homemade Mashed Potatoes Recipe

One of the shining stars at the dinner table is a bowl of creamy mashed potatoes. The ingredients are simple and the method is right in the recipe name. However, it’s how you incorporate them together that determines if it’s been done right. 

The starchy root vegetable needs to be prepared in a particular sequence to prevent gummy and thick texture. I share my easy yet essential techniques to nail the sought out light and smooth consistency. To get started, it’s important to select the right variety, in this case, Russet potatoes are the top choice.

Potato selection

There are different types of potatoes to choose from, but Russets are best for a light whipped texture. They are known as a mealy potato, due to its high starch level that readily absorbs moisture and yields a natural creaminess. 

Yukon Gold potatoes are also famous for their buttery and creamy taste. However, the result tends to be denser because they have a higher level of moisture and sugars. Alternatively, I make mashed red potatoes with their skin-on for a rustic appearance and use a potato masher for a chunkier texture.

Peel, cut, and wash

Cubed pieces of potatoes being washed in a colander

The key to fluffy texture is controlling the amount of starch. Potato starch molecules swell, thicken, and become sticky in the presence of hot liquids. To regulate the starch level released and cooked, I remove the skin and cut the potatoes into 1-inch cubes.

I find that this size allows enough surface area to efficiently cook the spuds and soften the pectin in the cell walls. After dicing, rinse the raw pieces with cold water to remove any excess starch that comes to the surface. You’ll see the water run cloudy, then clear as you rinse and drain several times.

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Boil the potatoes

Peeled and diced potatoes cook much quicker than whole ones, about 15 minutes until fork tender. I use a large stockpot, so there’s plenty of room for movement and bubbling. I recommend salting the water, which disperses and seasons as they cook. After boiling, drain the pot and rinse the potatoes again briefly with hot water. This process removes any last bits of starch and ensures maximum fluffiness.

Mash it!

Spoon pushing potato pieces through a strainer

I don’t use a traditional potato masher to crush the cooked spuds. Instead, press the pieces through a fine-meshed strainer or food mill. It’s a more gentle process and reduces starch release compared to pounding down with a masher. The small individual holes in the strainer separate the potato particles, preventing them from being dense and heavy.

Add butter

Adding butter to mash potatoes and stirring with a spatula

To ensure the potato mixture stays light and airy, I fold in room temperature butter before adding the milk. This process allows the fat to coat and directly bind with the starch granules, creating a silky texture. If you add the milk or even broth first, the liquid will make the starches stickier and, ultimately, the potatoes denser. 

Following this step reduces the need to add more butter in order to create a luxurious texture. After numerous taste tests, I was able to find a sweet spot to minimize the amount of fat for just the right consistency. I use two tablespoons per 2-pounds of potatoes, not bad! Of course, you can melt more butter on top to your liking.

Add milk

Measuring cup pouring milk into a bowl of mash potatoes

It’s crucial to fold in the warm milk slowly, so don’t rush. Gradually incorporating the milk in multiple instances allows the starches to have time to absorb the liquid. This process avoids a dense result. I like to add ½ cup of whole milk in three additions. 

Dairy-free alternatives

Good news, you can make this fluffy mashed potato recipe without butter and milk. Olive oil, plant-based butter, or even margarine are good substitutes. And creamy oat milk, almond milk, or cashew milk can replace regular milk.

Tasty add-ins

Feel free to add sour cream, creme fraiche, or even cream cheese to add a slight tanginess. Start with a tablespoon and increase from there, and fold them in after adding the milk. You can use heavy cream for a more decadent texture. Roasted garlic adds a sweet and savory taste for an easy gourmet variation.

Storing and reheating

Make sure to completely cool the mashed potatoes before placing them in the refrigerator or freezer. They should last for up to 3 days in an airtight container. Reheat on the stovetop over medium-low heat until warmed through, or cover and microwave in 30-second increments on high power.

When freezing, I like to place the batch in a large resealable plastic bag or portion them out in multiple packs. Defrost them overnight in the refrigerator, then reheat, or reheat from frozen on the stovetop over medium-low heat. You can defrost them in the microwave until softened and then reheat, although it will take longer due to the solid ice crystals.

Serve this with

Liquid butter and cracked pepper on top of mashed potatoes

Choosing the right potato

Russet potatoes have a high starch content and mealy texture, which are perfect for that whipped texture. Once cooked, the starches readily absorb the milk and create a smooth puree, but just make sure to add the liquid in slowly.

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Homemade Mashed Potatoes

Homemade mashed potatoes prepared using Russet potatoes make for a light, fluffy and creamy side dish.
Pin Print Review
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time35 mins
Servings 4 servings
Course Side
Cuisine American

Ingredients

  • 8 cups water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 2 pounds russet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 2 slices, room temperature
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • black pepper, as needed for seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives

Instructions 

  • In a large pot add 8 cups of water and heat over high heat until warm. Add 1 teaspoon salt, stir to dissolve, then bring to a boil. Meanwhile, prepare the potatoes.
  • Peel the potatoes and cut into 1-inch pieces. Add to a colander and rinse under cool water to remove excess starches, until the water runs clear, about 1 minute.
  • Drain and add to the boiling water. Cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 15-minutes.
  • Drain the potatoes in a colander and rinse with hot water to remove any residual starches, about 30-seconds.
  • Set a food mill, ricer, or fine-mesh strainer over the pot used to cook the potatoes. This helps to keep them warm. Working in batches, press the potatoes through into the pot. If using a strainer, use the back of a spoon.
  • Add butter and gently fold into the potatoes.
  • Microwave the milk for 30 to 45 seconds until warmed to about 120ºF (49ºC). Add ½ teaspoon of salt to the milk, whisk to dissolve.
  • Gradually fold the milk into the potatoes in three additions, allowing the milk to absorb before adding more. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • If needed rewarm the potatoes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Garnish the mashed potatoes with black pepper and chives.

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Notes

  • Make it DAIRY-FREE: Substitute butter for olive oil, dairy-free butter, or margarine. Use non-dairy milk like cashew, almond, or oat milk. The flavor will differ slightly and may not be as creamy.
  • Storing: Cool the potatoes completely, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. The potatoes can be frozen in a resealable plastic bag for about one month.
  • Reheating: Warm on the stovetop over medium-low heat. Cover and reheat in the microwave on high power in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until warmed through. Frozen potatoes can be defrosted overnight then reheated, or rewarmed when still frozen.

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Nutrition Facts
Homemade Mashed Potatoes
Amount Per Serving
Calories 248 Calories from Fat 63
% Daily Value*
Fat 7g11%
Saturated Fat 4g20%
Cholesterol 18mg6%
Sodium 340mg14%
Potassium 986mg28%
Carbohydrates 42g14%
Fiber 3g12%
Sugar 3g3%
Protein 6g12%
Vitamin A 224IU4%
Vitamin C 13mg16%
Calcium 78mg8%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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Reader Interactions

19 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Min says

    Hi Jessica, thanks for the recipe. How long before could we pre prepare this dish? Does it need to be served warm? Going to try to out on Christmas Eve! Thanks n Merry Christmas!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Min! If you refrigerate and cover the mashed potatoes you can make them 1-2 days before. I would just reheat in the microwave before serving, it will take better then it’s at least warm. Merry Christmas!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Katt- I think a masher will work fine! Just use more of a delicate press so the mashed potatoes stay light and fluffy.

  2. Cheryl Baumann says

    Hi I’m using your recipe for mashed potatoes n I dont have a ricer-im making 10 pounds of mashed poratoes-can I just use my stand mixer?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Cheryl- Are you using the mixer to break down the potatoes? If so I would work in small batches just to lightly mash them so they don’t get gluey.

  3. Lynne says

    Hi Jessica… I tried homemade mashed potatoes a few years ago, even bought a ricer, because that was supposed to be best… they came out bad. Never tried again. I’m going to try your recipe, following the steps to a tee! Wish me luck!!👍🏼

  4. heidi engle says

    In addition to the lovely recipe, I appreciate the scietific explanation for the steps. Thank you! I am going to look for your book for more Why’s.
    I may mix mashed cauliflower w this…any tips appreciated!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      You’re welcome! I make mashed potatoes often with boiled or steamed cauliflower. I also have an all cauliflower “mashed potato” recipe and cauliflower mash on my site too!

  5. Amanda says

    Hi Jessica. I use red potatoes. I have never had them come out gluey, sticky or starchy.
    I peel and quarter the potatoes. I boil them until they are fork tender. I drain them in a colander. I put the butter in the hot pan. After it melts I place the potatoes back in the pan. I use a hand mixer to mash the potatoes until they are smooth and creamy. I add ground pink salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. They are perfect every time.
    I love your recipes! I can’t wait to try the Swedish Meatball recipe. It sounds divine.
    Happy Easter!

  6. Jeannie says

    After so many years of cooking mashed potatoes with different recipes and results. Could never get them like mom’s, this recipe is terrific, so fluffy and they taste like potatoes!! I love your recipe just as it is. I’m going to pass it on to my daughter who loves to cook for her family. God bless your table of deliciousness.

  7. Maurice Eddy says

    Yes, everyone needs mashed spuds.
    I agree with most until after it’s cooked. Then let them dry on their surface and shake them to fluff the surfaces. Then I have gone back to the wire masher my parents used 50 ears ago. Next put some butter to melt and no milk. Before serving just mash or use a fork to mix the butter through. Nice and fluffy.

  8. Dave says

    I’ll have to try your method of folding (I beat the sox off mine with a wooden spoon). Ricing is definitely the secret to fluffy potatoes. I keep mine low carb (not) by adding some buttermilk, sour cream, butter, cream cheese, chives and parsley. So yummy!

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