The Most Perfect Mashed Potatoes
Say hello to the future star of every single holiday dinner for the rest of your life. A combination of the right potatoes and a super simple technique makes all of the difference here – get wonderfully creamy mashed potatoes each and every time (plus countless requests for the recipe each time you make them!).
Close your eyes and picture the spread on the table just before Thanksgiving dinner. What do you see?
Probably a huge turkey right in the middle, then an embarrassment of riches when it comes to side dishes covering the rest of the table with little room for water glasses if your family is anything like mine.
Now, for the most important question: What are you MOST excited to eat?!
I typically gloss over the turkey, accepting a small piece of dark meat, and load up on all of those side dishes, but the one that gets me starry-eyed every time is the mashed potatoes.
I’m an unapologetic carb-lover, so perfect mashed potatoes were my life goal for the longest time. It took some time to nail down the technique for truly magnificent potatoes, but once I uncovered it, I’ve never made mashed potatoes another way! These are incredibly easy and require only a few ingredients, meaning there is absolutely no reason for leaving them off of your Thanksgiving menu.
Keys to Mashed Potato Bliss
Mashed potatoes are pretty darn basic, right? Boil the potatoes, mash or beat in some liquid, season them, and voila! Potatoes! Except… sometimes they’re not very good, right? Sometimes they turn out gummy or dry or bland and gosh, isn’t that the worst?! Here’s how to make the best-ever mashed potatoes:
- Use Yukon Gold potatoes. The end. Yukon Gold potatoes don’t have as much starch as russet potatoes, soak up that butter and cream extremely well, and result in a super creamy end product.
- Add warm butter and cream. In the past, I’ve stirred in softened butter and milk from the fridge, or some variation thereof. Instead, here we are warming the butter and cream on the stove and mashing them into the potatoes, a little at a time. Adding them warm allows them to more easily absorb into the potatoes, making for much smoother and creamier mashed potatoes.
- Season more than you think you should! Seriously, is there anything worse than bland mashed potatoes? You may think that the amount of salt and pepper in this recipe is a lot, but I promise you that the potatoes taste AMAZING and this is not an area you want to skimp!
Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
A few years ago, as a new mom of two, I grew tired of trying to time my potatoes with the turkey being done and carved, so I started making them early in the day and keeping them in the slow cooker on warm. It worked like a charm!
Now I make them in the morning before anyone gets here and they’re piping hot when we sit down to eat.
How-To: Simply make the potatoes as directed, then splash a little heavy cream into the bottom of a 4 to 6-quart slow cooker and transfer the finished mashed potatoes into the slow cooker. Drizzle a little heavy cream on top, cover, and set to warm. Stir every 30 minutes or so and add a splash more cream if the potatoes seem dry at any point. Serve when ready!
My family clamors for these mashed potatoes each and every Thanksgiving, so depending on how many people we’re having, I make either a triple or quadruple batch to ensure there is enough for everyone to eat at dinner and then pack up with their leftovers.
I love that these are super creamy but still retain a good bit of texture and some chunkiness – the best of both worlds when it comes to mashed potatoes. I hope you’ll give this version a try and treat your family and friends to mashed potato nirvana this year.
The Most Perfect Mashed Potatoes
- 2 pounds (907.18 g) Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
- ½ cup (113.5 g) unsalted butter
- ¾ cup (177.44 ml) half-and-half
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon (0.5 teaspoon) freshly ground black pepper
- Put the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water.
- Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are very tender.
- Meanwhile, heat the butter and half-and-half in a small saucepan over low heat.
- Drain the potatoes and return to the pot. Mash up the potatoes a little with a potato masher. Add the melted butter mixture a little at a time and use the potato masher to combine. Once it has all been added, use a wooden spoon or spatula to give it a few stirs to combine completely. Stir in the salt and pepper and stir to combine. Serve immediately.
- Half and half is a common dairy product sold in the U.S. If it's not available where you live, you can substitute half whole milk and half heavy cream.
- You can keep these mashed potatoes warm in a slow cooker if making for a holiday dinner. Splash some cream on the bottom of the slow cooker, add the mashed potatoes, and then a splash of heavy cream on top. Keep the slow cooker on warm and stir occasionally. If the potatoes seem dry at any point, then just stir in some additional cream.
- These are very well seasoned (there's nothing worse than bland mashed potatoes!); if you're watching your salt intake, you may want to cut back on the salt to start and then add more to taste.
This recipe was originally published on November 22, 2011. Updated in November 2019 with new photos, a video, and extra recipe tips.
[photos by Ari of Well Seasoned]