The Best Potatoes For Hash Browns

Only one kind of potato makes them extra crispy.

Hash Brown Patties
Photo: Photographer Victor Protasio, Food Stylist Margaret Dickey, Prop Stylist Prissy Lee

You probably haven't given that much thought to which potatoes to use in your hash browns. Potato, potahto, right? Not exactly.

Not all potatoes are created equal, and while you may have a favorite go-to, depending on what you’re making, it might not be the right spud for the job.

A huge part of determining which potato to use is to think about what the final texture you want is. Do you want extra-crispy potatoes? Then you need a decent starch content in your potatoes. For hash browns, crispy is the name of the game, so it's important to consider the type of potatoes you’re using in order to get that crunchy, outer layer of browning.

Potato varieties also contain different moisture contents, and moisture is the enemy of crispy. Get to know your potatoes a little better, so you can pick the best potatoes for hash browns every time.

Starchy vs. Waxy Potatoes

There are two main categories of potatoes: starchy and waxy. Once you understand which potatoes belong in which camp, you’ll be able to decipher how to use potatoes in any application, from soups to sides.

Russets, the classic Idaho potato, is a starchy spud, while a red potato with a smooth, waxy skin, is a visible cue from Mother Nature indicating the potato contains less starch. Yukon Golds are an all-purpose potato that falls somewhere in the middle of the starch spectrum. If they’re all you got, they’ll make decent hash browns, but not quite as good as its larger counterpart, the russet. They are, however, our favorite spud for mashed potatoes.

Starchy potatoes like russets, also have a lower moisture content than waxy potatoes, which is ideal for browning and crisping. They don’t hold together quite as well as waxier potatoes do, but the trade off with using waxy potatoes is none of those lacy edges. We prioritize the edges and crunch, even if you have to be a little more delicate with russets while cooking to ensure your hash browns stick together.

The Bottom Line: If you’re at the store and are unfamiliar with any of the potato varieties offered, pick one up and feel it. Smooth skin will tell you all you need to know, as far as hash browns are concerned.

Stick with a skin that has texture, like a russet, and if that’s not available, Yukon golds are the best plan B.

What About Sweet Potatoes?

Sweet potatoes aren’t actually the same as regular potatoes, if we’re being technical, even if we often use them interchangeably in recipes. Botanically speaking, potatoes are tubers and sweet potatoes are root vegetables.

That said, sweet potatoes can make great hash browns, even if they are less starchy than a Russet. The low-moisture content of the potatoes is ideal for crispness and if sprinkled nice and thin in the pan, they come out just as crispy as regular. They will be sweeter, and can benefit from a nice splash of acidic hot sauce to balance out the extra sweetness. Rich in vitamin A and C, among other nutrients, they are a great way to build a well-rounded breakfast.

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