How to Make Mashed Potatoes

Knowing how to make mashed potatoes is a necessary skill for all of us who think that mashed potatoes are the ultimate comfort food!

how to make mashed potatoes

I could happily eat mashed potatoes every day. Fortunately, they are very easy to make.

When I'm thinking about Thanksgiving dinner ideas, I think of mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes are one of my essential recipes for Christmas dinner, too.

What kind of potatoes to use?

I use just about any variety of potatoes - whatever I happen to have on hand when I get the urge to make mashed potatoes. They all taste great.

If you go shopping for potatoes specifically for mashed potatoes, look for these varieties, which some people feel have the ideal texture for mashed.

  • Idaho
  • russet
  • Yukon Gold

Should you peel your potatoes?

If your potatoes are thick-skinned, you'll probably want to peel them. If they are thin-skinned, it's up to you. To mash them without peeling, just give them a good scrub with a vegetable brush before cooking. They will look and taste a bit different than you are used to, but they will still be delicious - and they retain all of the nutrients of the skin.

Do I have to warm the milk?

Real mashed potato purists warm the milk and ensure that the butter is soft before adding them to the potatoes. I'm never that organized, and my potatoes are always delicious anyway.

Here's how to make mashed potatoes. These directions will make about 4 cups/1 L of mashed potatoes. Multiply the recipe as needed.

Check that you have these staples at home

  • in an unheated room

    • potatoes

  • in the cupboard

    • salt
    • pepper

  • in the fridge or freezer

    • milk
    • butter

Get out your equipment

  • Essential

    • a saucepan
    • a potato masher

  • Nice to have but not necessary

    • a hand mixer
    • a whisk
    • a vegetable brush
    • a potato peeler (you can also use a paring knife)

    The recipe

    6 medium all-purpose potatoes, quartered

    1/2 cup/125 mL milk

    1/4 cup/60 mL butter

    Scrub or peel the potatoes.
    Put them in a pan and just cover them with cold water.
    Bring to a boil.
    Reduce heat, and boil gently for about 15 to 20 minutes, until very tender when pierced with a fork.

    Drain the potatoes thoroughly and return them to the pot.
    Immediately begin mashing with a potato masher.

    Add the milk and the butter and continue mashing.
    Mash some more!
    Continue mashing until every lump is gone, and the potatoes are smooth.

    Add a bit more milk until the potatoes have the consistency you like.

    Serve immediately, or keep them warm until you're ready to serve.

    Let each person add salt, pepper, and more butter, to taste.

    Now you know how to make mashed potatoes!


    • Use any milk in place of the 2% milk: skim milk, 1%, whole milk, or buttermilk. Or use yogurt or sour cream.

    • Use a non-dairy milk substitute (like soymilk or rice milk) instead of dairy. Be sure to choose a variety with a mild flavor.

    • Use vegetable broth or chicken broth instead of milk.

    Ideas for making this recipe your own

    • Add grated cheese or cream cheese to the potatoes.

    • Add herbs. How about some tarragon or parsley?

    • Get really creative and add the flavorings of your choice. Garlic? Horseradish? Use your imagination.

    • Add another boiled vegetable to the mix. Try very soft cauliflower, or parsnips, or turnips.


    • For a lighter texture, use a whisk to stir the potatoes just before serving them.

    • If you prefer very fluffy mashed potatoes, use an electric hand mixer. This will incorporate air into the potatoes, making them very light and fluffy.

    • Make more mashed potatoes than you think your family will eat. Use the leftovers to make Hamburger Pie with Mashed Potato Crust.

    Now that you know how to make mashed potatoes, you may want to learn to make these potato dishes: