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

By Betty Gold
October 23, 2020
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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 turkey, grilled chicken, pork tenderloin, and effectively every other main dish known to man. 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, pick one of our favorite mashed potato recipes, then use one of these quick upgrades to get an all-new dish with the same creamy, comforting goodness.

A little bit of this flavorful 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.

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.

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.

For a sweet-and-savory side, swap your Yukon Golds for sweet potatoes. Simply scoop the insides out from 5 pounds of baked sweet potatoes and discard the skins, then add in 1/4 cup maple syrup, 5 tablespoons butter, and 1 cup sour cream. Using a wooden spoon or potato masher, mix until smooth. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg.

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Chipotle imparts a smoky flavor in tostadastaco soupssauces, 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.

Cheesy, green onion-topped, bacon-studded mashed potatoes offer a family-friendly twist to 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, mash 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.

If you're looking to squeeze some extra veggies into your diet, try making your next batch of mashers with cauliflower puree rather than potatoes—or use a combination of the two that suits your palate. To make, start by chopping a head of cauliflower into florets. Then you'll steam the cauliflower in 1/2 inch water until tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Pulse the cooked cauliflower, 1/2 cup of cream, 2 tablespoons butter, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a food processor until finely pureed, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

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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.

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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.

Avocados will add an extra level of creaminess to your spuds, plus you can swap them in for some of your butter since they're packed with heart-healthy fats. Use around one avocado for every 2 pounds of potatoes, and add a tablespoon or two of butter, milk, salt, and pepper. Top with shallots that have been sautéed in olive oil until crisp.

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.