The BEST Mashed Potatoes — Buttery, creamy, PERFECT mashed potatoes that rival your favorite restaurant’s version but EASY and ready in 45 minutes!! The quintessential holiday side dish for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or a great family-friendly weeknight comfort food side dish!!

overhead view of the best mashed potatoes in a large white bowl. The potatoes are garnished with a pat of butter and fresh parsley.

Classic Mashed Potatoes Recipe

If you’re a fan of buttery, creamy mashed potatoes that you thought only grandma or a five-star steakhouse could execute to perfection, I’m here to share my tips for success for how to make the best mashed potatoes.

Turns out, it’s not quite as easy as throwing some potatoes in water and then mashing them up with butter and cream in order to yield the best possible results — almost that easy, but not quite.

However, this post will guide you through what to do and not do. If you’re already a mashed potato pro, feel free to scroll down to the recipe and skip my chatter, photos, and advice.

These potatoes are an absolute must at an holiday table such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter.  They’re a crowd favorite and the epitome of classic holiday side dishes. After all who could have Thanksgiving dinner without mashed potatoes!

Make sure to check out my comprehensive Easy Foolproof Roasted Turkey post as well as Easy Homemade Perfect Gravy!

Mashed potatoes are also great weeknight comfort food and are ready in 45 minutes from start to finish making them a great family-favorite comfort food side dish.

A large serving bowl of mashed potatoes from scratch topped with turkey gravy and a pat of butter. An orange towel lies in the background.

Ingredients for the Best Mashed Potatoes

This is the simplest ingredients list and that’s what makes them so good. Real food, simply prepared, and kept simple.

To make mashed potatoes from scratch, all you need are the following ingredients:

  • Potatoes
  • Unsalted butter
  • Half-and-half 
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper

What Are the Best Potatoes for Mashed Potatoes? 

Mashed potato purists will say that you should use 100% Russet potatoes. The reason for this is that they are really starchy and it’s probably the most traditional.

However, it’s a nice option to mix half Russet potatoes with half Yukon Gold potatoes which are more buttery and a bit waxier. The two combined make a wonderful batch of mashed potatoes. 

I’m not as big of a fan of using solely Yukon Golds without being mixed with some Russets, but you can experiment of course.

Overhead view of a bowl of homemade mashed potatoes with a spoon sticking out of it. An orange towel lies nearby, as does a small dish of butter.

How to Make the Best Mashed Potatoes

This really is such a simple process but just make sure to follow my advice for mashed potato success.

  1. Cube your potatoes, put them in a pot of cold water, drain the water once, refill with more cold water, and bring to a boil with a lid on the pot which will take about 10 minutes.
  2. Remove the lid, and allow the potatoes to rapid simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until done.
  3. Drain, return the potatoes to the pot, and shake them around in the pot vigorously. This will break them up a bit and will help to release excess steam and water, which you don’t want or need in your final dish.
  4. Set the pot over medium heat for about a minute to help cook off any of the final amount of water that was released.
  5. Drizzle in melted butter, half-and-half, salt, pepper, stir, and mash. Voila, you’re ready to dig in!

How Long to Boil Potatoes for Mashed Potatoes

When a fork or a dinner knife punctures the potatoes, they’re done. Don’t forget about them and keep them going longer! It will probably take about 30 minutes for them to be done, but of course it will depend on the size, type of potato, and how rapidly your water is simmering.

Overboiling breaks down the potatoes, water logs them, and won’t yield the creamiest mashed potatoes. They’ll taste a little, well, watered down.

Close up view of the best mashed potatoes topped with gravy and a pat of butter.

To Peel or Not to Peel the Potatoes?

This isn’t a time where I am trying to up my fiber content and the skins have got to go for me. If you’re somehow trying to keep these “healthier” by including the skin or you just like the texture of the skin in your creamy batch of goodness, then you can keep them on. However, for my family and me, no skins allowed and we peel our potatoes.

Should I Keep the Potatoes Whole or Cut Them Before Boiling?

Grandma probably threw her potatoes whole into the pot, but this isn’t good form because a whole potato takes a long time to cook through completely, and in the process, whole potatoes tend to cook very unevenly.

It is best if you cube your potatoes into about 1 to 1.5-inch chunks and boil the chunks.

Homemade gravy being poured over classic mashed potatoes in a large serving bowl.

What Kind Of Milk or Cream Is Best for Mashed Potatoes?

I use half-and-half, which is a mixture of half whole milk and half heavy cream. For us, this is the perfect middle ground. 

If you want to lighten them up, you could use all whole milk or possibly a nondairy milk if you’re drying to keep them dairy-free or vegan. You’d want something thicker in my opinion like cashew milk rather than rice milk for instance.

Although I love rich foods, using all heavy cream is just a bit too rich for me but if you’re up for the challenge, go for it.

Do I Really Need All That Butter?

Ummm…yes. Haha! Well maybe not, technically speaking. My recipe calls for 1.5 cups of butter. That’s 3 sticks in the US, or 24 tablespoons. 

If you’re trying to replicate the mashed potatoes from your favorite restaurant or steakhouse, I can guarantee they’re using that much butter, and probably more. Note that this recipe also serves 12 so I see nothing wrong with 2 tablespoons of butter per portion and I strongly recommend keeping the butter quantity as is.

However, if you’re trying to get all diety on me, you could probably drop the butter down to 1 cup, which is 2 sticks, or 16 tablespoons. Any less than that and your potatoes won’t taste like mashed potatoes are supposed to taste. This, after all, isn’t a recipe that’s known for it’s healthy properties. This is a decadent holiday side dish, case closed.

I have heard of people successfully using a vegan buttery substitute like Earth Balance if you’re trying to keep the mashed potatoes dairy-free or vegan.

Overhead view of homemade mashed potatoes and gravy in a large serving bowl.

How to Mash Potatoes 

I recommend a good old-fashioned potato masher for classic mashed potato consistency and texture. If you prefer smoother mashed potatoes with less texture, then this smooth potato masher is your ticket.

If you want them even smoother, then look for a potato ricer. It’s more work because you have to run the potatoes through it, batch by batch, and I don’t really love the consistency of mashed potatoes pureed down to baby food consistency, but some people do.

Do not use a handheld electric mixer or stand mixer to mash them. It will overmix them rapidly and you’ll be left with gummy potatoes. Not a good look for the family-favorite side dish at your holiday feast!

Can I Make Mashed Potatoes in Advance?

In theory, yes. For make ahead mashed potatoes, make them as written, store them airtight in the fridge for up to 4 days, and rewarm them in something like a slow cooker, Instant Pot, the microwave, or a double boiler on the stove.

However, it will take nearly as long to re-warm this very big batch of potatoes as it would to just make them from scratch the day-of, which is what I strongly recommend.

Plus, they never taste quite the same re-warmed and made in advance in my opinion as they do fresh. Therefore, if you’re in a jam or for some reason making-ahead is your singular solution or option, then with reluctance, yes, it’s possible to do so.

Close up overhead view of mashed potatoes and gravy.

What’s the Best Way to Reheat Mashed Potatoes?

If you’d like to prep these best mashed potatoes in advance or simply wind up with leftovers, I recommend reheating them gently in a pot over low heat until warm (you may need to add a splash of milk or cream). You could also reheat larger servings in a slow cooker or Instant Pot. 

Can I Make This Recipe With Sweet Potatoes?

Absolutely! I adore sweet potatoes and you can follow this exact recipe and just swap in sweet potatoes for regular potatoes. I do absolutely suggest peeling the sweet potatoes.

Please make sure to check out my Sweet Potato Casserole. It’s the absolute best sweet potato casserole and hundreds of readers send me emails year after year raving about it!

What Kind Of Gravy Should I Serve with the Mashed Potatoes?

We all know that mashed potatoes are good on their own but really just get infinitely better with some gravy. This Easy Perfect Gravy is wonderful and highly recommended!

Can You Freeze Mashed Potatoes? 

Yes! Let them cool completely, then seal in a freezer bag or a freezer-safe container. These easy mashed potatoes will last up to 3 months. 

When ready to enjoy, place in fridge overnight to thaw or reheat from frozen in the oven (transfer to a baking dish first). 

The BEST Mashed Potatoes — Buttery, creamy, PERFECT mashed potatoes that rival your favorite restaurant's version but EASY and ready in 45 minutes!! The quintessential holiday side dish for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or a great family-friendly weeknight comfort food side dish!!

Tips for Add-Ins to the Mashed Potatoes

Purists would add nothing, however for those rule-breakers of us out there who want to jazz up the mashed potatoes, here are few suggestions. I would add the following items in when you’re adding in the melted butter and half-and half, with the exception of the garlic. 

If you want to make these homemade mashed potatoes even better, here are some add-ins: 

  • A couple cloves of garlic, finely minced (for this option, cook the garlic in the saucepan with the melted butter and cream so that raw garlic taste mellows)
  • Chives
  • Other fresh herbs you have on hand from making turkey (rosemary, sage, parsley, etc.)
  • Shredded cheese such as Parmesan or sharp cheddar, or chunks of blue cheese or goat cheese
  • Cooked bacon bits

The BEST Mashed Potatoes — Buttery, creamy, PERFECT mashed potatoes that rival your favorite restaurant's version but EASY and ready in 45 minutes!! The quintessential holiday side dish for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or a great family-friendly weeknight comfort food side dish!!

The Best Classic Mashed Potatoes - Buttery, creamy, PERFECT mashed potatoes that rival your favorite restaurant's version but EASY and ready in 45 minutes!! The quintessential holiday side dish for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or a great family-friendly weeknight comfort food side dish!!
Yield: 12

The Best Mashed Potatoes

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes

Buttery, creamy, PERFECT mashed potatoes that rival your favorite restaurant's version but EASY and ready in 45 minutes!! The quintessential holiday side dish for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or a great family-friendly weeknight comfort food side dish!!

Ingredients

  • 5 pounds Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1 to 1 1/2-inch chunks (or a mixture of half Russet and half Yukon Gold potatoes)
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (3 sticks or 24 tablespoons)
  • 1 1/2 cups half-and-half (whole milk or heavy cream may be substituted*)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

Instructions

    1. Add the potatoes to a large stockpot, cover with 2 inches cold water, drain the water (removes starch), and refill with more cold water to cover by 2 inches.
    2. Bring to a boil over high heat with a lid on the pot which will take about 10 minutes.
    3. Once the water is boiling, remove the lid, and allow the potatoes to rapid simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes over medium-high heat, or until done. The potatoes are done when you can easily pierce with a fork or dinner knife. Don't overboil the potatoes once they are done.
    4. While the potatoes are boiling, to a separate medium saucepan, add the butter, half-and-half, and heat over medium-low heat to allow the butter to melt. Once the butter has melted, keep the saucepan over medium-low or low heat. However, you do not want this to simmer but simply keep this butter-cream mixture warm until the potatoes are done cooking and ready to mash.
    5. When the potatoes are done, drain the water, return the potatoes to the pot, and shake them around in the pot vigorously. This breaks them up a bit and will help to release excess steam and water, which you don’t want or need in your final dish.
    6. Place the pot over medium-high heat for about a minute to help cook off any of the final amount of water that was released; turn the heat off.
    7. Drizzle in melted butter and half-and-half mixture, add the salt, pepper, and mash to your desired consistency. For traditional mashed potatoes, I use this masher. For smoother use this smooth masher, and for ultra-smooth use this potato ricer.
    8. Taste, and adjust the salt and pepper to taste. I generally add more salt and pepper, but start with amounts called for and increase to your tastes. Serve immediately.
    9. Potatoes will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Notes

*I prefer half-and-half, which is a half whole milk and half heavy creamy rather than all of one, or all of the other. However, suit your personal taste preferences. I have read of people using nondairy/vegan milk-substitutes in mashed potatoes however I have never personally tried although did write more about it in the "What Milk or Cream Is Best" section in the body of the blog post.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 424Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 17gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 72mgSodium: 401mgCarbohydrates: 42gFiber: 4gSugar: 3gProtein: 6g

More Potato Side Dishes:

ALL OF MY POTATO RECIPES!

Easy Foolproof Roasted Turkey — Learn how to make juicy, flavorful herb-roasted turkey that’s not dry! This turkey has all the flavor that grandma’s used to have, minus the hassle – no brining, no basting, and no stress! This is THE COMPREHENSIVE post to read for how to make THE BEST turkey for your Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday celebrations!

Easy Perfect Gravy — An EASY, foolproof recipe with lots of TIPS for PERECT gravy that’s ready in 5 minute!! The whole family will LOVE this gravy over their Thanksgiving turkey, mashed potatoes, or as a comfort food addition to your dinner table during other times of the year!!

Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Topping — This is the BEST sweet potato casserole ever!! The sweet potatoes are tender and creamy, while the streusel topping adds a delightful buttery crunch thanks to the pecans! 

sweet potato casserole with pecan topping in white baking dish

Parmesan and Herb Roasted Potatoes — These herb roasted potatoes are sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and are made with seasonings you already have on hand. So easy to prep, and crazy delicious!

Herb Roasted Potatoes on baking sheet

Crispy Parmesan Ranch Roasted Potatoes – The BEST roasted potatoes you’ll ever eat!! Tender potatoes seasoned with ranch mix and topped with a CRISPY Parmesan breadcrumb topping! So DELICIOUS you don’t even need a main course!!

Crispy Parmesan Ranch Roasted Potatoes - The BEST roasted potatoes you'll ever eat!! Tender potatoes seasoned with ranch mix and topped with a CRISPY Parmesan breadcrumb topping! So DELICIOUS you don't even need a main course!!

Honey-Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Honey-Cinnamon Dip – The honey glaze and the creamy cinnamon dip make these potatoes irresistible!!

Honey-Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Honey-Cinnamon Dip - The honey glaze and the creamy cinnamon dip make these potatoes irresistible!!

Honey Butter Smashed Sweet Potatoes – Soft, tender potatoes with crispy skin and the most HEAVENLY melted honey butter on top!! EASY comfort food that’s a perfect side dish anytime!!

Honey Butter Smashed Sweet Potatoes - Soft, tender potatoes with crispy skin and the most HEAVENLY melted honey butter on top!! EASY comfort food that's a perfect side dish anytime!!

Loaded Twice Baked Potato Casserole – Tender potatoes mixed with butter, cheese, sour cream, bacon, and green onions for the ultimate in LOADED baked potatoes!

Loaded Twice Baked Potato Casserole

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