The Best Potatoes to Use for Each of Your Favorite Tater Recipes

Idaho or red bliss? Yukon gold or purple? If you don't know, you're not alone. We'll set you straight with which type to use for every potato dish.

Whether they're mashed, fried, baked, or boiled—or a component of salad, pancakes, stews, or casseroles—there are a gazillion different ways to serve potatoes. And once you decide that, you face another tricky problem: Which type of potato works best for a particular recipe?

We boil down the characteristics of the three major types of potatoes and the dishes that suit them best. Next, our culinary expert helps us match potato dishes with the best-suited spud varieties and, of course, we suggest a few recipes to try.

Types of Potatoes

For culinary purposes, potatoes are categorized according to their starchiness, which determines the dishes they're best for.


Waxy varieties—like new, red, and fingerling potatoes—have a lower starch content and thinner skin, so are best for recipes that need potatoes that hold their shape pretty well. Generally, these are the best for potato salads, boiling, and roasting.


Starchy potatoes—such as Idaho, russets, and sweet potatoes—have relatively low moisture. They get soft and fluffy when cooked, so they're the best potatoes for baking, mashing, and frying, as well as in soups and casseroles. They most readily absorb moisture, which is great when they're cooked with butter or milk but, when boiled in water, these potato varieties fall apart into a mushy mess.


Yukon gold, white, yellow, blue, and purple varieties are the happy medium of the potato world. Not too starchy and not too waxy, they're a great potato staple. Though not as fluffy as starchier potatoes when mashed, and not as firm as waxier potatoes when boiled, they provide a next-best alternative if that's what you have on hand.

The Best Type of Potatoes for Particular Dishes

For some recipes—like mashed potatoes—the best type of potato may just be a matter of preference and presentation. But with other recipes, where the starch of the potato is needed to help with the dish's consistency, opting for a waxier potato like fingerlings or creamers may make your potato dish a bit disappointing. Read on for the best potato varieties to use in your favorite recipes or preparations.

01 of 06

Mashed potatoes

Easy Mashed Potatoes: Creamy One-Pot Mashed Potatoes
Greg DuPree

The best potato for mashed potatoes really depends on your personal preference:

  • Yukon gold potatoes give you that lovely creamy mashed-potato mouth-feel without becoming too gummy.
  • If you like your mashed potatoes a little more rustic and "smashed," using a thin-skinned red variety like red bliss allows you to mash with the skin on, which cuts back on prep time and boosts the nutrition.
02 of 06

Potato salad

BBQ Potato Salad Recipe
Jennifer Causey

Pretty much any potato variety works in a potato salad, so it depends on your personal preference. "For potato salad, I love Yukons, red bliss potatoes, I make a sweet potato salad with yams—it depends on the look and textures you're looking for," says Tanya Holland, chef and restaurateur at Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, California, and host of the podcast Tanya's Table.

03 of 06

Baked potatoes

Cheesy Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes With Black Beans and Avocado
Victor Protasio

For a classic twice-baked or baked potato, pick one of the fluffier, starchy types of potatoes. "Look for something with a thicker skin, like an Idaho potato," Holland says. "Sweet potatoes also work beautifully baked."

04 of 06

Soups and stews


Bhofack2/Getty Images

The best potatoes for stews and soups depend on the ideal texture of the potatoes in the finished product:

  • For a smooth, creamy potato soup, a starchy potato like a russet easily blends into the finished product.
  • Waxier types, like small new potatoes, work better in a hearty stew where you want chunks of potato to remain intact.
05 of 06

French fries

French fries with herbs
Gary Moss Photography/Getty Images

Err on the starchy side for French fries and other recipes for fried potatoes like potato pancakes or home fries. "I like a big starchy Kennebec potato for French fries," Holland says. Waxy potatoes tend to contain too much moisture to develop the perfect crunchy-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside texture that French fry fans adore.

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Cheesy and creamy dishes

Cheesy Potato Casserole
Alison Miksch

Your potato pick matters most for recipes like potatoes au gratin or scalloped potatoes, where you need to rely on the starch of the potato to help hold the rest of the dish together. "Different potatoes have different flavors and different levels of starch," Holland says.

"If you're making potatoes au gratin and use a potato that's lower in starch," she explained. "the potatoes don't stick together well." Russet potatoes work great for this type of recipe—or go back to your all-purpose Yukons.

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