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.
Did you make this recipe?
Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!
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]
Great recipe! I also substitute the low sodium bouillon (chicken, vegetable or beef) for the cream – my family loves it!
I made these for Sunday dinner tonight. I needed to do them ahead of time because of picking up kids from hiking. They are so good! My dad said this is our new go to. I think about the time on the holidays of getting it all done. This will save me so much time!
I hope your family is doing well. I am keeping Dominic, you and your family in my prayers.
This recipe sounds wonderful. Cannot wait to make this.
I always salt my cooking water when boiling potatoes. Make the water as salty as the sea, just like when cooking pasta. The cooked potatoes are well seasoned through out when they are soft and ready for mashing.
Love the tip for keeping them in the crockpot! Thank you.
Totally agree with adding the salt in the cooking process.
This is exactly how I make them and keep them in the slow cooker so delicious!
I’m going to tell a secret they also freeze beautiful ! I make 5 pounds mash and then let cool and freeze in freezer bowls for four servings so easy to pull out when needed!
I love your recipes
Great tips! I will stick to Yukon Gold potatoes because I noticed my red potatoes get a little gluey quick. Also, I started boiling in chicken broth and that adds a TON of flavor. You could do full broth or a water broth mixture. We also add steak seasoning to the broth. Turns out pretty good. Love your recipes as always!
We follow a very similar recipe but use the instant pot recipe and use a potato ricer. Using the ricer we can stir in the ingredients rather than use a mixer or masher to beat in the dairy and butter. Very useful tool the ricer. Used it for the first time at a family gathering and my sister, a trained chef, told us these mashed potatoes were done right before we even told her how we did them.
This is the easiest recipe to follow and make. Absolutely delicious! It was hard not to lick the spoon. Yummy!
I made it for the Shepherd’s Pie recipe. Superb!
How would you fo this with a pressure cooker? Instant Pot does the best job on potatoes!
I made these for the first time last Thanksgiving (I doubled the recipe) and they were such a hit that they are gracing our table again this year. They really are the best mashed potatoes we have ever eaten. When everyone is asking what you did differently and going back for seconds…..you know you have a keeper! Thanks so much for such a simple, yet amazing recipe.
Will definitely try this recipe this year.
The new look on the email looks great.
Oh, my goodness! I am having so much fun going through your recipes…how delicious they sound! Thank you!
I plan to update my 40-year-old baklava recipe by adding cinnamon to the syrup. Your tzatziki sauce sounds perfect with the cucumbers and lemon juice. Thank you for taking the time to fine-tune your favorite recipes, so we can easily make and enjoy them!
Great tips for the perfect mashed potatoes. I Love to add a whole roasted garlic bulb to my batch.
Now it’s perfect! thanks for the tips!
Any recommendations on gravy to serve with this? I’d love to bring it to a friendsgiving but I feel like if you bring mash potatoes you need to provide gravy!
cept…how am I going to get gravy without chicken stock…
You could try a make-ahead gravy, or check with whoever is making the turkey to see if they’re preparing gravy, I would be they are, and then you’re off the hook :)
This sounds so good! I’ve loved mashed potatoes since I was a little kid. When I was turning 6 mom asked what I wanted to eat for my birthday and I just wanted a plate of mashed potatoes! I got them too!!! Have been a life long fan of mashed potatoes. One of the first things about them is the peeling part — just buy yourself a good OXO peeler and its not such a bad job. With this little item, I don’t mind peeling at all. I do like to add garlic — powder sometimes, minced other times. And another things that works really well is sour cream or French Onion dip. Such good flavor, almost make you weep its so good. There’s no such thing as bad mashed potatoes unless you put pean in them, then you should be whipped for ruining them!!!!!
This is great. But it’s a lot of potatoes if you live alone After
I make this amount, I add softened cream cheese and combine well with spud comboportion it in freezer plastic containers or really good top lock bags. The addition makes the potatoes taste
almost just cooked when you microwave them. They last 2 months in the freezer. Try it..
I made these mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving and Christmas. They are absolutely delicious and heat up well for leftovers. And warming them in the crockpot? Genius! On Christmas Day they were in the crockpot for 8 hours and all I did was give them an occasional stir and they came out wonderfully. This is definitely my go-to recipe for mashed potatoes!
These sound delish. I have your perfect pie crust in the frige right now. I’m making Chrissy Tiegen’s mac and cheese too. I’d say it’s a BEB thanksgiving!
My question is, do you think these potatoes can be made ahead of time? I’m wondering if I can make them today and reheat tomorrow. They just take up so much room on the stove.
Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving!
Hi Norma! I’ve never made them an entire day before, but I usually make them in the morning and then put them in my crock pot on warm until dinnertime so I don’t have to worry about them right before dinner! Just add a splash of cream to the bottom and top and stir occasionally, splashing more cream if they seem to be getting dry.
A year ago, you said you were buying the Sprinkles cookbook. I also bought it and have been disappointed in how dry the Sprinkles birthday cake is. Do you have suggestions about how to make non-boxed cakes from not being so dry?
Hi Emilie, I hate dry cakes too! I have tons here on the site that I love; feel free to poke around and give a few a try!
You seriously just changed my life with the ‘do them early and keep them in the slow cooker’ idea. making all those hot mashed potatoes at the last minute was one of the most stressful parts of thanksgiving. THANK YOU!
I have been making mashed potatoes using my Instant Pot to cook the potatoes, such a time saver! I always use yukon gold potatoes, they’re the creamiest! I slice the potatoes into thirds and then load them into a steamer basket in the Instant Pot with one cup of water at the bottom. I steam the potatoes at high pressure for 8 minutes, then do a quick release. I remove the steamer basket and drain the water from the Instant Pot, then add in the butter (I cube it so it melts quickly) and then add in the potatoes on top and mash them, adding in the half & half until I’ve reached the desired consistency. This is our new go-to method, especially since my fiance can handle this part of dinner while I work on another dish!
Thanks so much for sharing your Instant Pot variation Melanie! Sounds so easy!
Who knew that heating milk and butter before would do the trick! Thank you for sharing. Would love to share your recipe on my site if that’s okey with you?
Hi Nicci, If you make the recipe and take photos, and want to blog about it, that’s okay with me, as long as you share a link back here. Thanks!
Never made them any other way, just the way my mother made them like this and her mother before.
I come from Rheinlandpfalz in Germany and this is the way we make Krumbeerebrei! :)
So that’s the secret to better mashed potatoes….half and half?
Mashed potatoes is my # 1 favorite side dish!!
Well, it’s heating the butter and half and half mixture before adding it to the boiled potatoes!
I had to let in our secret to fluffy mashed potatoes is to add in some baking powder about a teaspoon to about a kilo of potatoes when you add in the butter and milk. We don’t heat separately…add in the seasoning milk butter and baking powder all at once give it a good stir and heat gently.
Oh I’ve never heard of adding baking powder, I’ll definitely try that soon! Thanks for sharing!
I love the slow cooker tip! Just a twist I started doing a few years ago, I simmer my Yukon golds in a combo of whole milk and half and half along with plenty of salt til tender…you can add cloves of garlic here too if you like, but on Thanksgiving I am a purist….Then remove the potatoes, add a stick of butter to melt in the hot cream and use the liquid, a bit at a time, to mash your potatoes, add pepper and more salt if needed. I save some of that butter/milk combo in a glass jar and use for reheating the leftovers.
Awesome tip, thank you Lisa!!
Me too–won’t be any “no carbs” for me, ever. I say have the carbs, in moderation where you can, and get some excercise. Life is too short to not have potatoes, pasta and bread–and who wants to eat tons of meat–yuck. I have a small portion of turkey at Thanksgiving, and a pile of mashed potatoes, corn, gravy–yum–wash it down with a sliver of pumpkin pie with 3 inches of whipped cream on top. My sister is an architect with the whipped cream..knows how to get it twice as tall as the pie lol. Food is soul healing, thanks for your gifts.
Love this! It’s Really BEST MASHED POTATOES RECIPE! Can’t wait to try this Recipe in my kitchen. It’s Look so Colourfull Thank you!!
This will be my first time preparing Thanksgiving dinner and have never before made mashed potatoes. How long do you boil your potatoes for? I truly have no clue. Thanks.
Hi Abby, I never set a timer, I just check them periodically. I’ll take a couple chunks out and pierce with a fork or paring knife; if they slide right through the potato, they’re done!
Hi Abby, I put the potatoes in cold water, heat the pot to boiling, and then boil for 22-25 more minutes. I know they’re done by doing Michelle’s “done” test, just as she described.
Try using seasoned salt. It takes mashed potatoes from great to phenomenal. I have some very picky, traditional mashed potato eaters in my family (no sour cream, no cream cheese, no broth additions), but they all love this change. My gramma always added onion salt to hers, and I think the seasoned salt reminds them of that.
Oooh I’ve never tried that but like the idea, thanks for the suggestion!
I’m with you – I skip the turkey – the mashed potatoes are the best part of Thanksgiving. and if course the pie. Keeping them warm in a crock pot is a great idea – you avoid the crazy cook routine of dragging the turkey out of the oven, making gravy, slicing the turkey and beating the mashed potatoes – it really is a great comedy skit! I laughed when you wrote to add heavy cream if they seem a little dry – doesn ‘t that make everything better! Now if I can just find my potato masher dinner will be great. I always add some cream cheese to the potatoes and I am going to try adding some potato water this year-sounds like a good trick.
This recipe looks delicious, Michelle, and I have always used Yukon Gold potatoes to make my mashed potatoes, too. Although, have you ever tried making mashed potatoes by adding some cream cheese to the mixture? It gives them a nice flavor, as well as to make them even creamier. However, I really like the idea of putting them earlier in the day and putting them in the crockpot, so that your mashed potatoes are ready and waiting for whenever you have your dinner. Great idea!
Hi Valerie, I’ve never tried cream cheese, but may have to give it a try this year!
Great recipe; it’s how I make mine. But add a big spoonful of room temp cream cheese. Best ever.
What kind of potato masher is that in the video? I need this one.
Hi Renee, This is the one! >> http://amzn.to/2zduh5z
My favorite are crock pot mashed potatoes. You cook them in chicken broth for a few hours. After that, they are super easy to mash. (And very creamy. I don’t care for chunks.) And they are heated through and through. Plus all the paring and dicing is done early. There is very little left to do at dinner time. You just add your dairy to your taste (butter, sour cream, milk, etc.) and do minimal mashing. And you can leave them in the crock pot.
I’m always looking to perfect my mashed potatoes, going to try these for a dinner party this weekend! Do you think they would be okay to make ahead of time and keep warm on my stovetop warm zone?
Hi Jenn, Yes! I also use my slow cooker to keep the mashed potatoes warm on Thanksgiving – I just add a splash of cream on the bottom, stir occasionally and add another splash of cream if they seem dry. Enjoy! :)
i,m an 80 yr. old cook, and i,ve been makeing mashed potatos exactly as you said for 60 yrs. you got it down! i dont always use yukon gold sometimes russets. but everything else must be the same for perfect potatos. no shortcuts please!
I have used my apple peeler (the kind that sticks to your counter and has a crank that you turn) to peel my potatoes. Works like a charm. Remove the blade that removes the core and spirals the apples off. Stick the potato on the “fork” and turn the handle. The peeler removes the skin. Finish any missed spots with a potato peeler.
What would you suggest to use for those with dietary restrictions? No dairy in the diet.
Hi Pam, I’ve never used dairy substitutes in my mashed potatoes, but I would go with whatever dairy substitutes you typically use for butter and milk.
I’m definitely trying your recipe this year. It’s very close to my own recipe, but I have one question . . . have you ever made them in advance, and had success in keeping them warm? I hate standing over the stove babysitting the potatoes when I’m trying to get everything else on the table. Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving! Deea
Hi Deena, Yes! Last year I made them in the morning, then transferred them to my crock pot to keep warm until dinnertime. SO much easier than trying to time the boiling/mashing/etc with everything else finishing up. I just added a thin layer of cream to the bottom of my crock pot, put the mashed potatoes in, poured a little cream on top and put it on warm. It worked perfectly!
My mashed potatoes (and I like them a little bit chunky) are also very simple but also a nice version…maybe you would like to try it:
* potatoes with a high starch content (here in Germany I always use the ones named after me – Linda :)
* heavy cream
Soooo good :)
LIke you, i heat up my milk and butter just to simmer and I used to use milk in it until I tried my sister-in-law’s potatos and they were even better. The difference is that she used evaporated milk and now that’s the only way I make them now. They are often reqeusted when i offer to take a covered dish to food gatherings. i make them really milked down and creamy & save any leftover milk butter mixture for thinning them to warm themup.
For the “fluffy” people, a ricer is the way to go. You can buy a cheap, plastic one.
Made these for dinner tonight (with your Shepherd’s Pie recipe). My husband says these are appropriately named. :) Thanks!
For years, my favorite mashed potatoes have been Rachel Rays version. Boil potatoes as normal. In a side pot add butter, milk (half n half, cream, stock, potato water…whatever you use) cream cheese, and a small finely diced onion. Season with salt and a pinch of pepper. They are so delish! I was always a mashed potato purist before these. I love them!!
For Thanksgiving this year, try slow cooker mashed potatoes … they are heated through and through so you don’t have the problem of them cooling down before they’re even served … and most of the work is done hours ahead of time. I used a recipe found on the internet that cooks cubed potatoes in chicken broth for a few hours (with a little butter on top) … and then adds sour cream, cream cheese, etc. before serving.
That is my kind of mashed potatoes. I don’t think they need all of the extras that people are putting in them now. My mother always took them from the stove, drained them, sprinkled with salt, mash and then add the butter and mash until smooth and then add 2% milk, and they were as good as anyone’s mashed potatoes. She always saved every calorie that she could!
Have been making my mashed potatoes in the microwave for a few months and will never go back. These look good, but I’m shocked at all these “fluffy” lovers. I’ll take mine with a few chunks, thank you!
Delish. Pure and simple.
I’m passionate about my potatoes, and a few previous recipes I’ve used left me disappointed. I followed this recipe to-the-letter, and it was amazing. The perfect consistency and the perfect flavor.
I will definitely be making this again on Christmas!
can i use UHT milk instead of half and half? it probably won’t taste exactly the same but it wld be somewhere there right?
Hi Jenn, I am unfamiliar with UHT milk, but in general you could substitute milk for half & half.
What exactly is half and half? I’m not sure I’ve heard of it here in India..
Hi Janani – It is literally half whole milk, half heavy cream. If you don’t have it where you live, you can easily substitute a 50/50 mix of whole milk and heavy cream.
It helps to really boil your potatoes until very soft. For some reason makes them tastier. And after mashing or whipping, put a big glob of butter on top and heat in microwave for a quick minute to offset the cooling that has occurred.
These taste amazing! They are so creamy. Thanks for sharing this recipe!
Delicious! I like to make them with a ricer and then all you have to do is stir in the hot butter and milk! These look absolutely amazing! Happy Thanksgiving!
This is a great recipe for Thanksgiving to have on the table but I need to have some cut up garlic in my mashed potatoes with a little basil.
Add this to my list of yummies I am making from your site here. I am doing the sweet potatoes gratin, the cranberry upside down cake, these potatoes smashed style and I am quite certain I will be using your stuffing recipe as well. Thanks for the fun recipes!
I love mashed potatoes. Have you tried the Pioneer Woman’s recipe with cream cheese? So yummy! Changed my life!
I always heat the milk for mashed potatoes in my microwave in a glass measuring cup; only takes a couple minutes and don’t have to watch another pot on the stove. Also add some sour cream along with the butter while mashing. Yummy!
Two more things to try:
1. Try adding some cream cheese along with the butter to the potatoes. You will get a creamy and tangy flavor that is delicious.
2. For super fluffy potatoes, add about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon baking soda after all the other indredients have been mixed in. Whip them one more time with the baking soda. You will be amazed how fluffy they become. It doesn’t take much either!
These look gorgeous! I can’t wait for Thanksgiving!!!
mmmm, mashed potatoes are my favorite, but I like to add cheese and sour cream too. I’ll have to try this, thanks!
I too absolutely love mashed potatoes, but even more since I bought a potato ricer. Boil the potatoes in chunks, drain, then smash them thru the ricer into a bowl. I never tried to heat up my fatfree half & half with the butter but I will on Thursday (and i will try a little Greek yogurt for a change)!!! You also use less liquid with this method and they don’t come out all sticky like they do with a hand mixer. They are the lightest, fluffiest mashed potatoes you have ever had.
I have heard this, I am going to have to try it!
Thank you for that tip about warming the milk and butter…I’m going try that! These look so delicious and the color of the Yukon Gold potatoes look so pretty.
Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and rolls, you say? Are you coming to my house for Turkey Day, ‘cuz that is exactly my menu…with a chicken (since there’s just 3 of us) and your cranberry sauce recipe. :) This is pretty similar to how I do mashed potatoes, except I don’t mix the butter and milk/half and half together first before adding to the potatoes (I just dump the butter in, mash it around till melted, then pour milk in till I get the consistency I want.) I wonder what kind of difference it makes? I would try it on Thursday, but I think I’ll have enough going on without getting out another saucepan. But next time I make mashed potatoes I’ll give it a try. :)
I absolutely agree with your menu choices – the potatoes, sweet and otherwise – are the best part of the meal. I am going to give your warm milk and butter a try with my Yukon Gold potatoes. I guess I will have to peel them this year….sigh. Someone needs to make a machine for that.
This is almost the way I make mine but I use can milk it gives it a richer taste I’ll have to try your’s and see how they taste. O love mash potaties You sound like me. I could make a meal on mash and corn on the cob
Simple and classic! I love it! I like the Yukon Gold Potatoes too!
I love mashed potatoes, I just hate the work, so only on the holidays.
I love mashed potatoes, the fluffier the better. Always use milk (or half and half) and butter and then a sprinkling of chives. (J.A.M.’s addition of nutmeg sounds great too)
Mmm mashed potatoes are my favorite! Love them with tons of gravy.
The best tip I ever got about mashed potatoes was not to use milk but to retain about a cup of the liquid the potatoes have cooked in and add this with butter. Silky smooth potatoes every time. The starch [and the flavour] which comes out when boiled goes back into the mash. Life changing ;-)
Oooh what a great tip, I am definitely going to try this!
These DO look perfect!
I always do it that way ( so I have learned from my grandmother ).
But with some freshly grated nutmeg through it .
And to get it very airy ( fluffy we call it, hahaha ) ,you can also beating an egg through it. (Only if you use the mixer).
And …. yes, my favorite food is mashed potatoes ;-D
I’m the same way! I love my carbs.. Do you usually make plain mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving? What are your favorite add-ons?
Hi Jennifer, I do love just regular, mashed potatoes! My favorite variety though is roasted garlic.
I hadn’t thought to mix the butter and milk together first. I think I’m going to try this when I make my potatoes on Thursday. Thanks for the tip!