As an adult, mashed potatoes were one of the first things I tried to master. It really does seem simple enough, and they’re so versatile that it’s a good recipe to have in your back pocket. But there are a lot of ways to screw them up, too. I ended up with bad results ranging from crunchy (undercooked or the wrong kind of potato) to lumpy (undermixed) to goopy (letting the potatoes sit in the water too long or overmixed—that was truly disgusting). It’s not that they’ve failed every single time in 15 years, but they failed enough times to make me take note of where I was going wrong.
So here are my rules for mashed potatoes. First, always use Yukon gold or yellow potatoes. The starch content is perfect for mashed potatoes. Every different type of potato has a different texture that lends itself to different preparation methods. Russets are great for baking, red potatoes are great roasted, and Yukon gold are great for boiling and mashing.
Second, always either boil your potatoes in chicken broth, or add chicken base or bouillon to your water. If you want vegetarian, just add vegetable broth. Potatoes are pretty bland on their own, and boiling them in broth really gives so much flavor.
Third, always peel the potatoes, and dice them small. Don’t do huge chunks because it takes longer to boil, and it’s more difficult to mash later. I used to leave the skin on, but I stopped because it was too hard to get the potatoes to the creamy consistency I like.
Fourth, keep it simple. My standard mashed potatoes are just that: standard. I like to have this as a base recipe, and you can add different seasonings to make it interesting. Here are some good add-ins you can try out depending on what type of main dish you’re serving: 2 teaspoons of chipotle powder (good with a spicy marinated steak); 2 teaspoons of paprika (good with a heavier chicken or pork dish); 2 teaspoons of ground mustard (good with pork or fish); 2 teaspoons of granulated garlic (good with lots of stuff); 2 teaspoons of ground ginger (good with Indonesian Ginger Chicken); or lastly, 1-2 heaping tablespoons of pesto instead of butter (good with Chicken with 40 Cloves in the Crockpot**).
Fifth, don’t forget you can always partially make these ahead of time, even a day or 2 in advance. For big days like Thanksgiving, go ahead and dice, boil, and drain them ahead of time. For the big day, warm them up in the microwave and mash.
Last, use your stand mixer with a whisk attachment. This might technically be whipped potatoes, but so be it. I don’t like mashed potatoes with lumps, and using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment keeps the consistency nice and fluffy.
Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes
Total Time: 1 hour
Difficulty Level: Easy
3 pounds of Yukon gold or yellow potatoes
8 tablespoons of chicken bouillion granules
2/3 cup milk (any fat content is fine)
3/4 cup Daisy full fat sour cream (it is the best and all-natural)
3 tablespoons unsalted room temperature butter
Salt and pepper to taste
- Peel the potatoes, and dice them into about 2/3-3/4 inch cubes. Add the potatoes to a large pot.
- Add the bouillon granules. Add enough water to cover the potatoes about 1 inch above.
- Bring the potatoes to a boil, and cook for about 20-25 minutes. Check the consistency with a fork. Spear a cube, and if it falls in half, they’re done.
- Drain immediately in a colander. (The grossest potatoes I ever made by far were when I let the potatoes sit in the hot water for a while after boiling. All the starch released, and the potatoes were the consistency of paste! Never again.)
- Add the potatoes to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Turn it on low, and slowly work it up to medium before adding any other ingredients.
- Once they potatoes have begun to break up, turn the mixer off and add the milk, sour cream, butter, salt and pepper, and any flavor add-ins (if you want to).
- Turn the mixer back on, starting a low and working it up higher and higher. Let it do its thing for about 5 minutes (but keep an eye on it). You may turn it off and scrape the sides with a rubber spatula once or twice to make sure it’s all getting mixed.
- Stop the mixer as soon as the lumps are gone because you don’t want to overmix it. (Overmixing also releases too much starch and will make them gummy.)
- Serve hot.