This Is The Mistake Everyone Makes With Their Mashed Potatoes

mashed potato mistakes

Mashed potatoes may seem like a pretty straightforward side dish. But as simple as they seem, they don’t always turn out as planned! The fluffy, flavorful potatoes you envisioned may turn out starchy, gummy, or downright bland. But I recently learned about a simple trick that can enhance both the taste and texture of your mashed potatoes, and that’s what I’ll be sharing with you today!

Related: How To Make Instant Mashed Potatoes Taste Like The Real Thing

Do you use one type of potato when making your mashed potatoes? Most people do! But choosing only one potato may actually be working against you. Because when you use only one type of potato, there’s not a lot of room for error. Failing to get the flavor or texture just right can ruin your poor potatoes! But as I recently discovered, there are actually two simple ways to get around this mashed potato problem!

mashed potato mistakes

The Secret To Better Mashed Potatoes

The first way to improve the taste and texture of your mashed potatoes is to use two or three different varieties of potatoes, rather than just one. Combining a variety of different textures and starch levels makes for more interesting and flavorful mashed potatoes!

The second option for enhancing your mashed potatoes is to supplement your potatoes with other root vegetables. You could use turnips, parsnips, sunchokes, or sweet potatoes—whatever you like best! Adding different roots in with your potatoes will add a ton of flavor and character to your mashed potatoes.

mashed potato mistakes

To take this advice for a spin, I decided to try both methods at once. To my usual choice of russet potatoes, I added both Yukon gold potatoes and parsnips into the mix. After mashing everything together and adding a healthy amount of butter, I was delighted by how delicious it turned out! I had been worried that the additions would make my mashed potatoes unrecognizable, but that wasn’t the case at all. The Yukon golds and parsnips simply enhanced the flavor and texture of my mashed potatoes in a really wonderful way.

After seeing (and tasting!) what a difference it made, I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to using just one type of potato!

4 More Mashed Potato Mistakes (And How To Fix Them!)

mashed potato mistakes

1. Cutting Your Potatoes Too Small

Cutting your potatoes into small pieces may make them cook faster, but that’s where the good news ends. Small potato pieces will absorb more water than larger pieces during cooking. Water-logged potato pieces lead to watery and bland mashed potatoes, and no one wants that! So when you’re cutting your potatoes before cooking them, make sure your pieces are at least 1 1/2” wide.

mashed potato mistakes

2. Letting Your Cooked Potatoes Sit In The Water

If you boil your potatoes before mashing them, it’s important to take them out of the pot as soon as they’re done cooking. If your potatoes continue to sit in the water, they’ll continue absorbing more water. This leads to the same issues I mentioned above—watery, bland mashed potatoes. Make sure to drain your potatoes as soon as they’re done!

mashed potato mistakes

3. Mashing Potatoes With A Food Processor

Your food processor is a very handy tool, but when it comes to making mashed potatoes, it is not your friend! Processing cooked potatoes will unlock all of the starches trapped inside them. Those starches will turn your mashed potatoes into a gummy, glue-like mess! Instead, use a handheld potato masher. The wavy kind is great if you like your potatoes a bit lumpy. If you like them really smooth, use a grid-style masher.

mashed potato mistakes

4. Adding Cold Liquids

Whether you like to add milk, cream, or chicken broth to your potatoes, it’s best to warm the liquid up first. Adding warm liquids to your warm potatoes makes them easier to combine. It will also help your potatoes will stay warmer, longer!

I like to take it to the next level by sautéing some garlic in a bit of butter, then pouring my milk in. Then I add the warmed garlic butter milk to my potatoes, and it makes for great texture and flavor!

mashed potato mistakes

What do you like to add to your mashed potatoes?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

MORE IDEAS FROM

Holidays

  • My favorite way is to cook the potatoes in milk, butter and seasonings. Use the same milk when mashing the potatoes. I got this idea from Foodnetwork’s Tyler Florence. This is a family favorite.

  • I enjoy everyone’s input. My mom and a friend of mine, [that was an Army cook] always use WHITE pepper in there mashed potatoes. Didn’t see that flavor listed today.

  • OK. I don’t think I would like parsnips. I cook my potatoes in Chicken stock or water with bullion cubes and minced garlic, pour off and save for soups or gravy. Then I immediately mix in lots like 1 stick plus (depending on #s) of butter, the cream cheese (4 oz/5#) and maybe even sour cream. No water, no milk. These potatoes are so good, can be eaten straight up, cold. I make at least 5# at a time for the 2 of us and then scoop the left-over into quart freezer bags, flatten and freeze. Instant meal PRN. Sooooo good.

  • My Mother taught me to add a little Garlic powder, a little Onion powder, S&P, & some grated cheddar, (about 1 cup, to a medium saucepan of mashers). On top, she would sprinkle a bit of Paprika & Parsley, for serving.

  • Hi, a traditional addition to mashed potato is butter, egg yolk, cream, pepper, pinch of salt and a pinch of nutmeg.
    Old potatoes go into cold water, new potatoes into boiling water, drain as soon as cooked, return to the pan and dry off over the heat before adding the warmed additions.
    Garnish with chopped, fresh parslry (or your favoutite herb).Adding other vegetables, although divine is not strictly mashed potatoes
    Whichever way you try them, I hope you enjoy them.
    My personal potatos of chioce are King Edwards, goood all rounders and so tasty, are these available in the US?
    Happy mashing from the Isle of Man xx ☺

  • Great tips that i never knew!!! Wanted to let you know also Jillee, about that company with the eyelash serum. I contacted them twice within a week to make sure i was cancelled and they GUARANTEED me i would NOT be charged. 2 days later they tried to charge me $94. Thank gosh i have a bank that moniters my charges well and they put a stop on it and contacted me both by email and phone and are giving me a new debit card number. Its calked NUVEGA…They are from the UK. Hopefully others read this and are warned. Never again for me trying a free trial product. Thank you for your help

  • I cook potatoes in chicken broth, after cooking drain the broth into a bowl then use some of the reserved broth to mash potatoes instead of milk…very tasty and stays hot longer.

  • I also used red potatoes, but I do peel them, I drain them from the liquid put them in a bowl with butter and cream cheese and they are the most awesome potatoes ever, I mix them with my mixer, and they are light fluffy and awesome.

    • Be sure not to use the electric mixer, if you have non-stick pots. It chips the surface & that goes into the food from then on. It’s carcinogenic, too, so I always transfer the drained potatoes (or whatever) to a big bowl where I add stuff & mash them.

  • Like my parents before me, I always whip my potatoes. I dont want one tiny lump in them. They are NEVER gummy. I add them to my bowl right after draining and break them down on low for a minute, then increase speed while adding a cup of heated milk combined with a melted stick of butter. This isn’t added all at once, but frequently as u whip w/blender until they are light and fluffy, but still hold their shape. And, if your’e adding salt – do it as you whip. Almost impossible to add it afterward.

    • Caren, when I was younger and had children at home, this is exactly how I would make mashed potatoes, also, when we would have a lot of company on holidays I would use my standing mixer.
      Now, the children are grown, and we have grandchildren and two great-grandchilren. :-)
      Now, it is just my husband and me at home, so I take the easy way out. I buy already mashed potatoes at my supermarket, sometimes the store brand and sometimes Bob Evans brand. They are delicious and can be dressed up with sour cream or whatever you choose.
      My daughter brought me a container of these potatoes when I was down with the flu a few years ago, and I have been “hooked” ever since. BTW, my daughter is a Karen. :-)

  • I love mashed potatoes and always make them whenever I cook something that has gravy. We grow our own, and really don’t find any difference in the final product. Mash, add a bit of salt & milk then turn into a nice serving bowl with a few green onions on the top. No garlic, no cream cheese, etc. Potatoes stand on their own. I usually cook extras and take them out before mashing to make potato salad the next day. It seems to me that all these “extra flavors” are totally not necessary, and just make more work ( and dirty dishes) for an already busy host or hostess. If there are leftover mashed potatoes, my husband makes them into patties the next day which are delicious fried with bacon, eggs & toast.
    We have to get back to simpler cooking, the new cooking shows boggle my mind with all the ingredients, weird combinations and sinks full of dishes to deal with. I’ve always felt that people should mostly be eating what is grown locally. With some exceptions: I love using lemons (but can’t) grow them here, and am glad we don’t grow cilantro here – it tastes like soap to me. But we sure can grow wonderful, delicious potatoes!

  • For great flavor, I use baked potatoes. If short on time they can be started in the microwave. I also keep the skin on. To mash, I use a hand mixer. The skin gets broken into little pieces and add great flavor.

    • The skin has a lot of nutritional value including fiber. It’s a shame to throw out the skin. When I bake a potato, I eat the skin with the meat! Healthy!! You can also add cooked cauliflower to mashed potatoes. I’ve heard that that it can be sub’d for potatoes without notice. If you do peel be sure to compost!

  • But whatever you do, don’t toss the potato boiling water- if your potatoes were peeled, that is. I always save it and all its flavors and vitamins. I collect potato, carrot and chicken {poaching) boiling waters to use for chicken noodle soup; so tasty! Some I use for baking bread. If I don’t use it fresh, I freeze it. The only “vegetable waters” I don’t save are cabbage and rutabaga (some call it swede).

    P.S. Couscous is not a grain but pasta.

  • Great tips! One I read recently was, after draining off the water, to leave heat on very low for a bit and allow the steam to escape from the potatoes (I would stir slightly during this process to make sure they don’t stick or burn) before mashing to help eliminate a lot of the moisture. I had never thought to warm up the butter and milk first, at very least I could measure and set them out before cooking the potatoes so they would be at room temperature. I like to add sea salt, fresh ground pepper, garlic powder and dried chives to mine.

    • Sounds good except that garlic powder (& garlic salt) give me terrible indigestion. I don’t know why because regular garlic cloves do not bother me at all. We use chives from the garden: they add flavor and are really easy to grow. Another reason to use products that are grown close to you.

  • My family is Dutch and often make ‘stamp’, either carrots, onion, and potatoes, or spinach and potatoes mashed together. Lots of butter!
    We love it served with smoked sausage.
    The only way I could get my kids to eat spinach!

  • If I’m having mashed potatoes with beef, I add beef dripping instead of butter. I know it sounds awful, but my dad did it and the mash just has a different level of flavour!

    • I personally don’t think mayonnaise belongs in mashed potatoes. Just get to enjoy the real flavor of potatoes with salt, milk, and a small pat of butter on top. Also a few green onions on top make the dish beautiful. Keep the mayonnaise for potato salad and sandwiches!

      • LOL, hey, Diane, whatever floats :-) your boat, most folks add what ever they wish to add.

  • I have a question for all of you…. I have Thanksgiving dinner for 18 people on a 17×4 foot table. I try to have 2 dishes of the the same on either end s of the table. What would you suggest I use to keep my food warm as the food cools off by the time I sit down to eat. Chafing dishes? Thanks

    • I don’t know if you can get it in the U.S. but there’s a stand with three spaces on it, underneath the stand is a metal tray, and under each space you put a tea light, I think it’s a brilliant idea, and it’s not so expensive that you couldn’t buy two. You can also use them as plate warmers. Take a look on Amazon.

    • Chafing dishes would be ideal! My local dollar store has the burners for chafing dishes, so be sure to look for some cheaper options.

      However, ceramic casserole dishes with lids will keep warm quite a while on their own. That also goes for enameled dutch ovens, if you happen to have one. You could even plug in a crock pot and serve something like mashed potatoes out of it! Good luck Cindy!

    • Why don’t you do a simple buffet style dinner? No doubling up of serving dishes, no need for the huge table, and easier cleanup! And you will eat with your guests! I feel quite nervous when seated around a huge table and the hostess has no time to sit with us.

  • I always add a generous amount of onion salt and sour cream to my mashed potatoes. I get rave reviews from guests using these additions. Also, if these items are added you can freeze mashed potatoes and they are still delicious! If frozen, it is really good to add shredded cheese to the top of them for a “different” flavor.

  • It was a game-changer for me when I recently made mashed potatoes for 20 people and used my instant pot. I used russets and scooped the whole potatoes into my hand-held ricer for “mashing.” Made them again with fewer potatoes and didn’t add as much water so they didn’t cook soft enough. I let them sit in the hot water with the lid on for 10 more minutes and they were perfect. So using the same amount of water no matter how many potatoes is key. Delicious with the added butter and cream cheese. Followed this recipe. https://pinchofyum.com/instant-pot-mashed-potatoes.

    • I, too, loved making my mashed potatoes in the IP, but rather than putting the potatoes in the water, I put them in my steamer basket. It keeps the potato above the water, so it doesn’t absorb anything but the steam. Dumped the water and then returned potatoes to the IP (that was already warm, so helps keep them HOT). Added warm butter/milk/garlic (and sometimes cream cheese) slurry and mashed with a hand held masher.
      OOTW (out of this world).

      • I wondered about that but followed the recipe. I’ll use a rack next time. I made Mississippi Beef Roast in the IP after removing the potatoes to rice them, and used the potato water for that. Figured it could make my gravy a mite tastier, per my mother’s use of some potato water in her gravy.

  • I am adding a chunk of butter and ground nutmeg always, sometimes ground turmeric – the whole becoming yellowish.
    Topping with always with a bunch of freshly cut cilantros.

  • My sister-in-law adds several milk-based products like cream cheese and cream to her mashed pots as well as different kinds of potatoes and a turnip. When she finishes making the dish, she serves it in a slow-cooker to keep them warm on the holiday buffet. Sooo good!

  • I think the biggest mistake people make when making mashed potatoes is not seasoning the water they are cooking the potatoes in. I always add a few bay leaves, salt (or some celery tops) and a teaspoon of peppercorns to my water before I boil my potatoes. It really adds a nice depth of flavor to them.

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