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How to Cook With Different Types of Potatoes

Updated on September 13, 2012

If you've ever been to a well stocked produce section, you've probably seen several different kinds of potatoes. Maybe you're curious as to what makes each potato unique. Each potato type has different moisture content and amount of starch. These properties lend themselves to different cooking methods, and they offer different textures and tastes.

As a rule of thumb, potatoes that are very waxy and contain a lot of moisture are best used for boiling, roasting, or in salads. The more dry and mealy varieties work best in mashing, baking, or frying recipes.


Baking Potatoes

Baking potatoes are large, round and have a reddish-brown color. These are the most vesatile and most widely used potato in the US. Baking potatoes are high in moisture and high in starch. These potatoes are great for any cooking method. The large starch particles absorb the moisture in the potato and expand until they burst which creates the perfect texture for fluffy mashed potatoes. You will also find most french fries are created from baking potatoes because the starch dries on the cut surface, creating a moist inside and crispy outside.


White Potatoes

White potatoes are more waxy and less moist than baking potatoes; they are also lower in starch. The skin is much lighter--ranging from white to cream colors. The skin should be smooth and free of eyes. This potato is ideal for recipes where you want to the pieces to keep their shape like in potato salad, soup, stew, scalloped or au gratin dishes. They can be boiled, roasted, steamed, or braised until tender.


Red Potatoes

Red potatoes are round, smooth and very waxy. Ripe potatoes shouldn't have eyes or sprouts. Red potatoes are high in starch and low in moisture. When cooked, they don't absorb moisture, so they keep their shape while remaining firm and smooth. These potatoes have a very thin peel that doesn't have a strong flavor, so they are usually prepared without peeling. Red potatoes are best boiled, roasted, or steamed. They are perfect for potato salads, stews, or boiled whole as a dinner side dish. Mashed red potatoes have a pretty look with the red skins, but be careful not to overcook or over mash or they will turn out very sticky and thick.


Yellow or "Yukon Gold" Potatoes

Yellow or gold flesh potatoes are higher in sugar content, but have a good balance of moisture and starch. They are usually oval shaped with thin gold skin and yellow flesh. They have a buttery flavor and creamy texture, so they are perfect replacements for white potatoes when you need to avoid butter or margarine. They can be boiled, roasted, baked, steamed or fried much like their baking potato cousin. They typically maintain their yellow color in the cooking process, but depending on the pH levels of the water, they may turn brown or gray.

Recipe to try:

Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes


Purple Potatoes

It may come as a shock, but there are potatoes with bright purple flesh and dark skin. The most popular variety originated in Peru with flesh colors ranging from dull purple to bright blue. They are small in size with a elongated oval shape. They are in the mid-range for starch and wax content making them great candidates for roasting or boiling. They make interesting mashed potatoes and can be used in salads or stews.


New Potatoes

New potatoes look like red potatoes, but they are much smaller. They are smooth, red and shouldn't have eyes. They are high in moisture, sugar, and starch. They also have a very thin peel, so they are typically prepared without peeling. Their small size and chemical properties make them cook quickly. They are best prepared baked, roasted, broiled, or fried. New potatoes are perfect for salads, stews, and soups. You could also use these potatoes in casserole dishes.

Recipe to try:

Roasted Garlic Mashed New Potatoes


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    • FullOfLoveSites profile image

      FullOfLoveSites 5 years ago from United States

      These purple potatoes look very much like purple yams.

      Voted up and useful, interesting. :)

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 5 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Great to see the different kinds of potatoes available in different parts of the world. We mostly get the starchy potatoes on sale here in Northern Ireland because lots of people like chips, baked potatoes and mashed potatoes. Other parts of the UK prefer the waxy potatoes. I have never seen purple potatoes before, although we have "blues" and "Kerr's Pinks", which have a light colour to them.

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      This is very useful information. I love potatoes in moderation. While I'm most used to baking potatoes, I definitely appreciate other kinds. I have never heard of purple or new potatoes before but I'll definitely be on the lookout for them. Nice job!