8 Pro-Approved Mashed Potato Secrets to Help Step Up Your Spud Game

Take the Thanksgiving side from good to great.


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Mashed potatoes are a Thanksgiving mainstay—the creamy, rich element on every plate. All you need to make a classic mash are potatoes, milk or cream, butter, salt, and pepper, but the silky spuds are also a great canvas for all kinds of fun additions like garlic, cheese, or fresh herbs. Mashed potatoes are simple enough to prepare, but we have methods to smooth out the process even further, and make the result even silkier and more delicious. 

Keep reading for some of our favorite tips from the pros, and prepare for your mashed potato game to go from good to great. Before you know it, all your guests will be asking for your mashed potato tips.

To peel or not to peel

Peeling potatoes is a time-consuming step of the mashed potato process, and an annoying one if you’re trying to peel them all perfectly. If you’re going to do it, get as many hands on deck as you have vegetable peelers and start peeling, leaving the bare potatoes in a pot of cold water to prevent oxidation. However, if peeling isn’t in the cards, don’t worry. “Peeling is overrated,” declared cookbook author Julia Turshen, and we agree! Sure, if you’re looking for the smoothest, fluffiest mash, you should peel your potatoes completely, but if you don’t mind a rustic feel, there’s no need to waste precious prep time peeling. 

Infuse the fat

For a sophisticated touch, try adding a hearty herb or two to your fat as you’re heating it up. As you warm milk and butter in a saucepan, for example, you could add a sprig of rosemary and a bay leaf to infuse the mixture with flavor. Just remember to discard the herbs before you start adding the fat to the potatoes, so they don’t affect the texture. For a detailed how-to, take a look at this Herb-Scented Mashed Potatoes recipe from Food & Wine.

Experiment with cheese

Cheese is one of our favorite ways to play with mashed potatoes, especially because there are so many varieties to choose from. Gruyère provides a nice nuttiness, and cheddar—a key component of this Real Simple recipe—adds a certain sharpness. On the other hand, mascarpone lends its luxuriously creamy texture. You could even use blue cheese for some unexpected funkiness.

Go for the gold

Not all potatoes are created equal. Our go-to for mash is the Yukon gold, which shines in this Creamy One-Pot Mashed Potatoes recipe. Not only do these spuds have a naturally buttery flavor, but because of their medium starch levels, Yukon golds result in an extra creamy, never-mealy texture. With thin, light-colored skins, Yukon golds are also the best option if you’re leaving your potatoes unpeeled.

Roast some garlic

Garlic is a natural choice to pair with potatoes, but have you tried roasted garlic? Kale Me Maybe food and recipe blogger Carina Wolff noted that she loves roasted garlic in her mashed potatoes since it adds “a nice rich flavor,” as well as “a little sweetness” to the spuds. Wrapped in foil and roasted in olive oil, garlic turns soft, and goes from spicy to sweet. We like folding it into room-temperature butter before adding it to hot mash, but you could also squeeze it straight into the pot. Either way, you’ll get the same rich, sweet, garlicky result. 

Invest in a ricer

If you make mashed potatoes with some regularity, it’s worth buying a potato ricer. They’re not too expensive, and they make mashing potatoes a breeze. By pressing hot potatoes through the ricer, like Martha Stewart does in this recipe, you’re able to process the potatoes gently, versus aggressively mashing them yourself. The gentleness will give you fluffier potatoes, since you won’t be releasing too much starch. Starchy mash is gluey mash!

Finish with fresh herbs

As a final flourish, sprinkle the mashed potatoes with finely chopped fresh herbs. Not only will herbs freshen things up, but they’ll also look beautiful. Chives are a classic, but we also like thyme, parsley, oregano, and sage. Mix and match for your ideal herby mashed potatoes.

When in doubt, add more butter

Let’s be honest: the most delicious, luscious mashed potatoes contain a notable amount of butter. Peeled or unpeeled, toppings or no toppings, mashed potatoes are at their best with a generous amount of butter. “When you think there’s enough butter, add more,” Turshen explained. We consider those words to live by, especially when you're whipping up a bowl of decadent mashed potatoes. 

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