How To Make The Best Mashed Potatoes (Hint: It Involves Baby Red Potato)

During the holidays and any time of the year, mashed potatoes are a popular and delicious side dish. (Add sautéed greens and they become colcannon, a traditional Irish dish and main course!)

For many years I was under the impression that it was difficult to make mashed potatoes from scratch. Nothing could be further than the truth!

Choose Your Spud

The starch content of the potatoes makes a big difference in the texture of the final dish.

  • Russet (baking) potatoes are very high in starch. Using russet potatoes will give you a classic mashed potato texture.
  • Yukon Gold is another great potato to use for mashed potatoes. Yukons have a buttery taste and a creamy texture that makes them ideal for mashing.
  • Baby red potatoes are affordable and delicious. (Personally, I always make mashed potatoes with baby reds, because I always have a bag of baby reds in the kitchen!)

Many people will also use a blend of potatoes – like half Russet and half Yukon Gold. Experiment! There is no wrong answer here.

Potato Prep

Peel the skin off, or leave it on? Most cooks will peel russet potatoes, since their skin can be leathery after the potato has been boiled. You can either peel or leave Yukon Gold and baby red potato skins.

Personally, I like to use red potatoes, and leave the skin on. The skin of tender potatoes will mash right up with the rest of the potato, so it’s up to your personal preference.


I always add a few whole cloves of garlic (skin removed) to my potatoes before boiling. I mash the cloves in afterward. If you want a lighter garlic taste, you can pick out the cloves before mashing the potatoes. Or leave out the garlic entirely!

Other good additions to mashed potatoes are:

  • Rosemary (ideally fresh, and minced)
  • Thyme (powdered or fresh)
  • Pepper (white pepper if you want to keep the creamy color unbroken, or fresh ground black pepper for visual contrast).


Cut your potatoes into chunks about the size of a golf ball. It’s more important that the chunks all be relatively the same size, than the specific size you choose. Your goal is to break them down into a smaller size, so that they cook both faster and evenly.

Add the potatoes (and garlic, if you are adding it) to a pan of cold salted water, and bring it to a boil. Let the potatoes boil gently until you can easily poke a fork into them. This usually takes between 20 to 30 minutes after the water starts boiling.


Dump the potatoes into a colander and let them drain for a few seconds. Then transfer them to a large bowl, and start mashing! If you do not have a potato masher (much less a potato ricer) a fork will work just fine. If you included garlic cloves, mash them up along with the potatoes.

How much you mash depends on your own preference. I like my potatoes about half mashed, so that they still have some structure. Other people prefer that they be mashed completely to a uniform paste.

Make Them Creamy

Next, add butter and dairy. “Dairy” in this case can be anything from heavy cream to nonfat milk. Start by adding just a little bit of each (a tablespoon of butter and a short splash of dairy), mix it up, and see what you think.

I hate it when cooking instructions say “some”! But in this case the exact amounts will depend on the starch content of your potatoes, and to what degree they have been mashed.

Luckily, it’s hard to go wrong. When in doubt, err on the side of using too little rather than too much. Too much – particularly too much dairy – can make the potatoes soupy.

Add a dash of salt, and any other spices you want to include (rosemary, thyme, etc) and serve!

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Healing Touch 6 years ago from Minnetonka, MN

This looks so good. Thanks. Glad to follow. I put recipes on too as I am a foodie.

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