Homemade Mashed Potatoes

An essential dinnertime side.

Perfect Mashed Potatoes
Photo: Diana Miller
Active Time:
22 mins
Total Time:
43 mins
Yield:
6 cups

No Southern holiday spread would be complete without a bowl of homemade mashed potatoes, but we think this recipe is worth celebrating any night of the week. Topped with rich Turkey Gravy, our best mashed potatoes recipe just can't be beat.

Many Southern cooks have childhood memories of learning how to make mashed potatoes for the Thanksgiving feast. Share the love this holiday season, and teach your children our favorite way to make this comforting side. Once they know how to use a peeler and a hand-held electric mixer, they're old enough to whip up a batch of easy mashed potatoes.

What Are the Best Potatoes for Mashed Potatoes?

When making homemade mashed potatoes, it's important to consider how the variety of potato you use will impact the final product. Small, waxy spuds like red potatoes are great for dishes like potato salad, where you want the potatoes to hold their shape.

For mashing, however, opt for a starchier potato, such as Yukon gold potatoes or russet potatoes—these high-starch potatoes will result in a smooth, fluffy mash.

Our Test Kitchen loves to use Yukon gold potatoes because they're creamy, rich, and buttery—all qualities that we're looking for in our mashed potatoes.

Homemade Mashed Potato Ingredients

Yukon gold potatoes
These starchy spuds mash well, giving the mashed potatoes a creamy, rich texture.

Salt
Salting the water used to boil the potatoes helps to season them from the start. The potatoes absorb the salt in the water, seasoning them from the inside out. Add the remaining teaspoon of salt to taste.

Butter
Butter brings richness to these classic, homemade mashed potatoes, and it's one ingredient you should be sure not to skip. In fact, we like to serve these potatoes with another small pat of butter on top.

Half-and-half
A 50-50 mix of cream and whole milk brings moisture to your mashed potatoes. If you don't have half-and-half on hand, feel free to substitute with buttermilk, which will give the mashed potatoes a slightly tangier flavor.

Softened cream cheese
Cream cheese has a mild flavor, but it's the secret ingredient that brings an unctuous dose of creaminess to these mashed potatoes. Be sure to use softened cream cheese, which will blend into the mixture seamlessly—no lumps here. If you don't have cream cheese on hand, sour cream is a good substitute.

Coarsely ground pepper
Homemade mashed potatoes require no bells and whistles—a few cranks of coarsely ground pepper are enough to elevate this dish, accentuating the flavor of the potato.

Don't Overmix The Potatoes

Our number one tip when making mashed potatoes is to keep an eye on the consistency of the potatoes, and be sure not to overwork the creamy mixture. If too much starch is released while the potatoes are whipped, they will become gummy and unappealing. Just keep the mixer on medium speed, watch the texture, and you should have a delicious bowl of your best mashed potatoes in no time at all.

Can You Peel Potatoes Ahead of Time?

If you're preparing for a big holiday feast, you'll want to save as much time as possible on the big day. Luckily, you can peel and cut the potatoes ahead of time. Simply peel and dice the potatoes into 1-inch cubes the day before you plan to make the mashed potatoes, then soak the cut potatoes in a bowl of water overnight in the refrigerator.

Submerging the potatoes in water and prevents oxidization, a chemical reaction which turns the spuds an unsightly pink-brown color.

Keep in mind that, the larger the potato pieces, the longer they'll last submerged in the water. If left to soak for too long, smaller pieces of potato will start to break down. Even large pieces of potato will only hold for up to 24 hours in the water, so don't peel and cut your potatoes any further in advance than one day.

Can You Make Mashed Potatoes Ahead of Time?

Mashed potatoes hold particularly well in the refrigerator, and the leftovers can be used for all sorts of new dishes (Shepherd's Pie? Yes, please). If you're preparing your mashed potatoes in advance, reheat them on the stove or in the oven. When reheating mashed potatoes, we suggest adding in a little extra liquid, which will keep the potatoes from drying out. We also recommend adding in an extra swirl of butter after you've reheated the potatoes—this trick will make them taste completely fresh.

How to Store Mashed Potatoes

Store cooled mashed potatoes in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They will last three to four days if stored correctly.

What to Serve with Homemade Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are a side you'll find on every Southern sideboard, often served alongside green bean casserole, dressing, mac and cheese, and a turkey. But these perfect mashed potatoes are also basic enough to make on any ordinary weeknight—serve with roast chicken and sautéed vegetables.

Editorial contributions by Zoe Denenberg.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes

  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided

  • 5 tablespoons butter

  • cup half-and-half

  • ½ cup (4 oz.) softened cream cheese

  • ¾ teaspoon coarsely ground pepper

Directions

  1. Peel potatoes, and cut into 1-inch pieces. Bring cold water, potatoes, and 1 tsp. salt to a boil in a medium-size Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook potatoes for 16 to 20 minutes or until fork-tender and drain.

  2. Bring potatoes back to Dutch oven. Cook in Dutch oven until water evaporates and potatoes look dry. Mound potatoes on 1 side; add butter, half-and-half, cream cheese, ground pepper, and remaining 1 tsp. salt to opposite side of Dutch oven. Cook 1 to 2 minutes or until butter is melted and mixture boils.

  3. After removing from heat, beat at medium speed with a hand-held electric mixer 30 seconds to 1 minute or to desired degree of smoothness. Do not overbeat. Serve warm.

Updated by
Zoe Denenberg
Zoe Denenberg

As a professional baker, Zoe Denenberg has spent the past two years traveling across the country—from Alabama to Hawai'i—working in farm-focused pastry kitchens. She has written about food, travel, and culture for Southern Living since 2019. See more of Zoe's work at https://zoedenenberg.wixsite.com/portfolio and follow her on Instagram.

Related Articles