These mashed potato upgrades give your favorite spud sides a delicious twist.

By Kimberly Holland
July 16, 2019
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The classic mashed potato side is rich and fluffy, stirred through with milk, cream, or buttermilk, and butter. It’s a humble food, but mashed potatoes seem uniquely suited to complete meatloaf, grilled chicken, and pork tenderloin. But even as wonderful as it is in its most basic mashed potato form, it’s even more special when you expend a little culinary creativity and dress them up with a flavorful option.

Giving mashed potatoes a tasty twist can be as simple as stirring in another ingredient or simmering the milk with herbs before stirring it into the steaming potatoes. The next time you’re preparing a side of silky mashed spuds, use one of these quick upgrades to get an all-new dish with the same creamy, comforting goodness.

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Upgrade #1: Blue cheese and crispy shallots

A little bit of this funky cheese goes a long way, so stirring a few spoonfuls into hot mashed potatoes will melt the cheese, helping to incorporate it throughout the dish. For an extra flavorful finish, top the bowl of blue cheese mashed potatoes with crispy shallots. Combine a bit of oil with two thinly sliced shallots. Cook on high until the shallots are beginning to brown. Lower the temp to low and cook until all the pieces are browned and crispy. Transfer to a paper towel to remove excess oil, then sprinkle on top of the potatoes.

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Upgrade #2: Garlic and herb

Infusing milk or cream with herbs and garlic is a simple but effective way to make a potent flavor difference in mashed potatoes. Combine your preferred dairy with butter in a small saucepan. Add five or six cloves of garlic, cut in half, along with a dozen sprigs of fresh thyme or rosemary. Bring to a boil, then sit aside to steep for at least five minutes. Before adding the milk to the potatoes, strain out the solids and discard them.

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Upgrade #3: Caramelized onions and bacon

Bacon is a smoky contrast to silky caramelized onions, and in creamy mashed potatoes, they bring a cohesive sweet-salty flavor that’s quite special for humble mashed potatoes. Caramelize thinly sliced onions in butter on low-medium heat for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the onion pieces are browned and limp. Dice cooked bacon and stir the two ingredients into freshly mashed potatoes.

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Upgrade #4: Cheesy green chile

Green chiles infuse chicken enchiladas with a great deal of tang and flavor without being overly spicy or hot. That’s in part why green chiles are so popular in many types of Southwestern foods, from meatballs to steak nachos. While it might seem unusual to add such a tangy food to comforting mashed potatoes, the result is purely unforgettable. Stir one or two cans of chopped green chiles into mashed potatoes with butter and cream or milk. Spoon the potatoes into a casserole dish. Then top with shredded Monterey Jack cheese. Broil in an oven on high until the cheese is melted and beginning to bubble.

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Upgrade #5: Chipotle

Chipotle imparts a smoky flavor in tostadas, taco soups, sauces, and more. The natural creaminess of the potatoes blunts any sharp burn of the peppers, so stir in a few teaspoons of chopped chiles with adobo sauce. If you need a bit more creaminess to offset the kick of flavor, you can add shredded sharp cheddar cheese. But if you like the heat, there’s no harm in using even more chiles and sauce.

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Upgrade #6: Sour cream and onion

Sour cream mashed potatoes are rich on their own and a delicious alternative to the classic butter and milk, but the hint of tang from the sour cream pairs well with the grassiness of chopped chives. These spuds have every bit of the flavor appeal of the classic potato chip flavor in a presentation-worthy side you’d be proud to serve company.

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Upgrade #7: Loaded

Cheesy, green onion-topped, bacon-studded mashed potatoes offer a family-friendly twist two loaded baked potatoes. The good news for weeknight cooking is that it doesn’t take much more effort to go from classic mashed potatoes to these spectacular spuds. While your potatoes boil, cook several pieces of bacon. When the spuds are softened, mashed them as you normally would, with milk and butter. Stir in some softened cream cheese, then pile them into a casserole dish. Top the potatoes with shredded sharp cheddar cheese and chopped bacon. Broil until cheese has melted and turned bubbly. Then, remove from oven, top with chopped green onions, and a scoop of sour cream.

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Upgrade #8: Pesto

Pesto is a tangy, no-cook sauce made with fresh herbs, cheese, and nuts. It’s used with comforting carbs quite a bit—pasta, for example. But with mashed potatoes, it’s quite unique and almost too easy. You can make your own pesto if you have an abundance of herbs, but you can also fold pre-made pesto into hot potatoes until they’re well incorporated. Top with shredded Parmesan cheese for the finishing touch.

Related: I Discovered the Magic Ingredient for Absolutely Epic Mashed Potatoes Without Milk

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