Basic Cooking: Perfect Mashed Potatoes


I could eat bowls of buttery mashed potatoes for dinner—which is probably why I don’t make them too often. (Hello, carb coma!) There are a zillion recipes out there for making mashed potatoes. Here’s how I make mine. They’re simple and creamy—and just a wee bit tangy from the addition of a little sour cream.

The secret is in the potato…or is it?

Truth be told, I like all kinds of potatoes for mashed potatoes. Call me a savage, but it’s true. (I know a lot of folks will say that this is blasphemy…that there is one—and only one—definitive type of potato that’s right for mashed potatoes.)

So, there are two basic types of potatoes: Floury and waxy. Floury potatoes are high in starch and include such old standbys as the Russet. Waxy potatoes have less starch and a thinner skin, like red and yellow potatoes.

Me? I love Russet and/or Yukon Gold potatoes.

How do you like your mashed potatoes?

I know a lot of folks who make mashed potatoes in a lot of different ways.

Some swear by starting their potatoes in cold water. Others use a ricer, not a masher—or a stand mixer, let’s not forget those folks. I know people who prefer rustic, skin-on “smashed” potatoes—and those who will wax poetic about aligot, a heavenly mixture of creme fraiche, cheese, garlic, and potatoes that’s beaten until it forms smooth ribbons.

Sigh. So many potatoes. So little time. How about you…what’s your secret?

Flavor, ahoy!

This recipe is just a starting point. Make your mashed potatoes extra fabulous by stirring in some:

+Wasabi powder
+Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
+Crumbled bacon and shredded cheddar cheese
+Minced green herbs and garlic
+Goat cheese and lavender
+Caramelized onions and chopped Fontina cheese

Perfect Mashed Potatoes

3-4 big Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes
kosher salt
1/2 stick butter
1 Tbls. chives, chopped + more for garnish
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sour cream
ground white pepper

Serves 4 as a side dish

Cook the potatoes

Set a large pot of water to boil on the stove over high heat. While the water’s heating, peel your potatoes.

Chop your potatoes up into small-ish chunks.

When your water has come up to a boil, toss in some kosher salt and drop your potatoes into the pot. Boil uncovered for about 15 minutes, depending on the size of your potato chunks.

To test them for doneness, fish a potato chunk out of the pot and press on it with a fork. It should break apart easily, like this:

When your potatoes are cooked through, drain them.

Season your potatoes

Put the cooked potato chunks back into your empty, hot pot.

Toss in the butter and chives.

With a potato masher, smoosh the potatoes up to break them apart and mix in the butter.

Add the sour cream to the potatoes.

Pour in the cream.

Mix the sour cream and heavy cream in with a spoon until it’s well blended. Season with kosher salt and ground white pepper to taste.

Serve & enjoy!

Serve garnished with chopped chives.



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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie serves as an Associate Creative Director at PARTNERS+simons, a boutique ad agency in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.


    • Oh fabulous! Someone on Facebook mentioned something similar to me as a great way to cut out some of the fat, but still keep the potatoes creamy. Yay! 😀


    • Ha! OMG, you really do just need lots of butter with mashed potatoes, don’t you? Yum. Like I said, if you have them in moderation, why skimp? 😀


  1. oh yeah we are huge mashed tater fans here! I like my taters to have a thick texture but not too creamy yet filled with lots of flavor. I tend to add parmesan cheese, paprika, black pepper, onion powder and garlic!

  2. I love a good mashed potato and prefer them very chunky. I use the potato water trick as well and almost always leave the skins on as I love the texture. A little butter, a little sour cream (or cream cheese if I am feeling really decadent) and salt and pepper.

    The best part about mashed potatoes is making potato cakes from them. Press a handful of cold mashed potato into a cake, dust each side with seasoned flour and fry them in a butter/oil combination. Talk about out of this world! Hot and crunchy on the outside, creamy inside…..the breakfast of champions!

  3. I think Yukon Golds make the best mashed potatoes (and potato salad too, for that matter). I add the potatoes to boiling water and use a food mill to mash them. Aside from butter, half-n-half, and salt and pepper I frequently add a good dollop of ground horeseradish to them (and English friend turned me on to the horseradish).

  4. Great tutorial on one of the finest foods known to mankind, Jessie. They sound creamy and wonderful. We’re fans of wasabi too on occasion. I also like to sometimes throw in about four chopped cloves of garlic when I put the potatoes on to boil, cooking the garlicky flavor in from the outset. And the way we add a tangy touch to ours is by using buttermilk. Really livens up the flavor without adding much fat. And I find I can use less butter when I add buttermilk and still end up with delicious, fluffy potatoes.

  5. ooh, love mashed potatoes.
    When I have time I cook mine unpeeled and then peel them. Sometimes I add celery and garlic to the cooking water to flavor them.

    I like adding horseradish to mine, or beets, or bacon.

    Also, leftover cold mashed potatoes are great on white bread with mayo…I know it sounds insane, but it’s really good 🙂

  6. Awesome Fluffyness, Jessie!

    Funny because just yesterday I watched Jamie Oliver’s show making the mashed potatoes a la Irish – with an Irish chef there also and what they did was adding scallions (spring onions) to stay true to the original recipe.
    Was great to see the addition of chives!

    Also thought the potatoes differences were great to learn of!

    GAbi @ mamaliga.

  7. Hi,

    I could bet your life 🙂 that I can make it better than you.
    Now lets see, since I’m portuguese there are certain cooking vocabularies that I don’t know in english, but I’ll try.
    I make it a bit different from most people.
    Why ? Because I mince some fresh garlic (of course I don’t use it in powder)and some onion and place it in a frying pan untill they get blondish.
    As for the puree itself, of course that it takes milk and egg yolks.
    And I like to either mashed the potatoes by hand, or use a beater but being careful as not making them too mooshy (sp?).
    When the puree is almost done, I then add the minced garlic and onion , while stirring slowly.
    Try it and then tell me about it.
    Should I also mention that when I fry potatoes (I like them in small cubes), after placing them in the plate, I sprinkle them with minced garlic and rub a nut of butter over them ?
    I also add little salt before frying them, since I then sprinkle with some table salt.

    Kind regards,


  8. This looks great! I also add some cream cheese and garlic salt to mine, but I think I’ll have to try your version sometime.

    I recently made a southern cooking and baking blog.
    I would greatly appreciate it if you would check it out!
    Thanks so much!