What makes the best fluffy mashed potatoes? What about tools? Dairy or not? These are serious matters for mashed potato lovers and here is how I make them, with options to fit your dinner table. Guaranteed to please.
I've tried different tools for making the best fluffy mashed potatoes and experimented with different varieties of potatoes, dairy, and flavors. Here's is my fail proof way to make fantastic mashed potatoes, along with options for your family.
Note see recipe card for complete list and measurements. When planning how much to make figure a 6-8 ounces of raw potatoes per person.
- Potatoes: for fluffy mashed potatoes, choose starchy russet potatoes. Gold potatoes will give you creamier but heavier mashed potatoes.
- Butter: Unsalted butter is the best choice so that you control the level of salt. I never buy salted butter. Use all butter or part white truffle butter (notes below) for decadent mashed potatoes.
- Dairy: Use whole milk or half and half. Low fat milk makes for watery, weak mashed potatoes and heavy cream is just that, pretty heavy for mashed potatoes.
- Salt: Use a good sea salt or white truffle salt to keep going with the white truffle theme. What I don't use is regular table salt because sea salt tastes better.
- Pepper: Here is where I use white pepper. No black flecks and the flavor is perfect for mashed potatoes. It blends right in beautifully.
Chef's Tip: I prefer to hand pick my potatoes from a big pile versus buying a bag where I can't tell what I'm really getting. When you choose them individually, there are no spoiled potatoes, no green potatoes, and they are all the same size for easier peeling. And be sure to buy organic if available. Conventionally grown potatoes have high levels of pesticides.
Substitutions and Variations
- For dairy free (vegan), use your "milk" of choice and non-dairy, plant-based butter. This plant butter tastes great.
- White truffle makes mashed potatoes totally decadent if you're a truffle lover. Here is what I use:
- Flavored salts are nice for adding subtle flavor. If you love rosemary, try a salt like this.
- For mashed potatoes with a kick, add some prepared horseradish.
- Sour cream is a delicious addition but don't over do it or they can get a little heavy versus fluffy. The tang is nice though.
- Buttermilk mashed potatoes is another classic option. I prefer to use regular milk and add my own butter.
- Garlic mashed potatoes? Roast a head or two split in half horizontally, drizzled in olive oil, wrapped in foil, at 400°F for 40 minutes. Allow to cool enough to handle, pop out the garlic cloves, finely chop or smear, and add to the mashed potatoes.
Let's Talk Tools
I don't usually include a tools or equipment section but for mashed potatoes it's important. For the fluffiest mashed potatoes, use a tool called a ricer.
A ricer pushes softly cooked spuds through a hopper with holes to yield fluffy grains of potatoes ready to be stirred with whatever you like to include. See ideas above in the variations section.
I've used both russet and golds. I prefer russet potatoes for their dry starchy fluffy result. Gold potatoes (medium starch) provide a creamier texture that gives you a little heavier mashed potato.
Don’t use red potatoes (low starch) or other thin white skinned potatoes that have a more waxy consistency. They are best for roasting and dishes where the potatoes need to hold together like potato salad.
You can use a ricer, a handheld potato masher or an electric hand mixer. I prefer a ricer for light, fluffy mashed potatoes. Try each one and learn the difference for yourself. Hand mashed tend to be chunkier, but the texture can be nice.
How To Make Ahead of Time
You can make mashed potatoes an hour or two head of time. Keep them warm in a slow cooker if you are making a big quantity for a crowd or place mashed potatoes in a metal bowl atop a pan with simmering water. Cover the bowl with plastic film then a kitchen towel.
If potatoes have stiffened up while siting, whip in a little hot milk, or a hot milk and melted butter combination. You can also make them a day ahead and heat them back up in a large pan while whisking in more hot milk and butter until they reach the consistency you prefer.
What to Serve With
More Potato Recipes
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Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes
- Ricer or electric mixer See post for tools discussion
- 2 pounds russet
- 3-4 tablespoons sour cream OPTIONAL
- ½ stick good quality unsalted butter melted or soft room temp
- ⅓ cup whole milk or half and half add more if needed
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper more to taste
Peel and chop potatoes
- Peel potatoes, cut in half lengthwise, then into halves or quarters depending on the size of the potatoes to start with. Your goal is to have the pieces the same relative size so that they cook at the same time.
- Place the potatoes in a medium saucepan and make sure you have enough cold water to cover by an inch or so. Add 2 teaspoons kosher salt to the pan. Place the pan over medium heat and bring to just under a boil; turn heat down to a simmer. If you boil the potatoes they will fall apart. Cooking gently in simmering water will allow them to stay intact. Simmer potatoes until you can easily pierce them with a paring knife. They should be totally tender but not falling apart for easy ricing.
Drain and dry potatoes
- Drain potatoes through a strainer or colander and return the potatoes to the hot pan. Place the pan back on the warm burner (turned off) and cover with a mixing bowl. Allow the potatoes to dry a bit in the warm pan before continuing, about 10 minutes.
Mash or rice potatoes
- After the potatoes have steamed dry, put the potatoes in the bowl, place the ricer over the pan and rice the potatoes. Add the butter, sour cream and enough milk to loosen things up, stirring as you go with a spoon. Stir until potatoes are smooth as you prefer. Add more butter, milk or sour cream as desired. Taste and season with additional salt and white pepper. Serve immediately.
- For light, creamy, fluffy mashed potatoes, use a ricer.
- If you want them to be over-the-top delicious for a special occasion or holiday, use white truffle butter and salt.
- Make them an hour or so ahead of time and keep warm in a slow-cooker or in a bowl seated atop a water bath covered with plastic film and a kitchen towel. Potatoes can be kept warm this way for about 2 hours.
- For a dairy-free version, use vegan sour cream and vegan butter.
- If cooking potatoes for a crowd you can keep them warm in a crock pot on low heat which frees up cooktop space if you have a small cook top or range.