How to Make the Best Creamy Mashed Potatoes

Ready to make creamy mashed potatoes from scratch? Follow along as our Test Kitchen shows you how.

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When I was growing up, mashed potatoes were a given at dinnertime. But it wasn’t until later in life that I learned the real reason Mom liked to serve this side so much: mashed potatoes are quick and easy to whip up! You can even make them ahead of time and reheat mashed potatoes when you’re ready.

How to Make Creamy Mashed Potatoes

Ready to learn how to make the creamiest mashed potatoes? Follow along as we guide you through this recipe for Traditional Mashed Potatoes, just like Mom used to make.


  • 6 medium russet potatoes (about 2 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk or heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup butter, cubed
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Dash pepper


Step 1: Prep the potatoes

Person using a knife to chop peeled potatoes into cubesTMB Studio

Before we start cooking, we need to show the potatoes some love. Grab a vegetable peeler and a chef’s knife.

Peel the potatoes one by one, sending the skins into a scrap bowl. If you find it’s taking a while to peel your taters, check out our tips on how to use a potato peeler efficiently.

Next, chop the potatoes into 2- to 3-inch pieces. While it might be tempting to cut them smaller to speed up your cook time, tiny potato pieces will absorb too much water while boiling and not absorb the butter and milk later on. You’ll also want the potato pieces to be even in size so none of them end up over- or under-cooked.

Step 2: Boil the potatoes

add water to cut potatoesTMB Studio

Place the chopped potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. No need to fill the pan to the brim, but make sure there’s at least an inch of water covering the potatoes.

Salt the water to season the potatoes and then bring the pot to a boil over medium to high heat. Let the potatoes cook for 20-25 minutes or until tender. You’ll know they’re ready when a fork glides through one easily.

With a slotted spoon, scoop the taters from the water. Or, using hot pads, carefully lift the pan and pour the cooked potatoes into a strainer. Whichever method you use, be sure to let the potatoes drain completely and cool until they stop steaming, so any excess moisture can evaporate.

Step 3: Prepare the cream and butter

Milk, butter, salt and pepper in a small saucepan over the stovetopTMB Studio

Add the cream, butter, salt and pepper to a small saucepan over low heat, stirring to combine. Heating up the dairy products first will prevent the potatoes from cooling down too much and let them absorb into the potatoes more fully for an extra-creamy and luxurious end product. For especially flavorful and rich mashed potatoes, use our Test Kitchen’s pick for the best butter.

Once the butter has melted and the cream is steaming, but not boiling, cut the heat.

Editor’s Tip: Before adding your butter to the saucepan, let it come up to room temperature. This will allow the cubes to melt quickly so the cream or milk doesn’t scorch.

Step 4: Mash the potatoes

mashing potatoes with a ricerTMB Studio

mashing potatoesTMB Studio

Now it’s time to mash! We recommend using a potato ricer for super smooth and fluffy mashed potatoes. It may be old school, but a potato ricer is one of the heirloom kitchen tools we’ll never ditch. To use one, simply place a few pieces of potato into the ricer and press down on the handle over a large bowl. Continue ricing potato piece by potato piece until you have a bowl full of potato squiggles. Then, pour the warmed cream mixture over the potatoes and stir to combine.

If you don’t have a ricer, use a potato masher. Place all of your potatoes and the cream mixture in a large bowl and mash away until they reach your desired consistency. Be sure not to over-mash or mix the potatoes. Doing so will cause them to be goopy and gluey. Here’s more on the best ways to mash potatoes.

Editor’s Tip: Resist the temptation to dump the cooked potatoes into a food processor or blender. These machines will severely overwork your potatoes and give them a gluey texture. Ick! Check out these other common mashed potato mistakes to avoid.

Step 5: Serve the mashed potatoes

Finished mashed potatoesTMB Studio

Time to enjoy these perfect mashed potatoes! Gobble them up by the spoonful straight from the bowl, or transfer to a serving plate and pair with a savory main course.

Mashed Potato Variations

Now that you know the basics, our Test Kitchen offers some insanely tasty upgrades to the basic mash:

  • Herbed mashed potatoes: Add 2-3 tablespoons of thinly sliced green onions, snipped chives or chopped parsley.
  • Garlic mashed potatoes: Add 10-12 cloves of oven-roasted garlic, chopped or minced.
  • Baked mashed potatoes: Put the potatoes in an oven-safe dish, top with 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs and 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan, and then broil until golden brown (1-2 minutes).
  • Rich and creamy mashed potatoes: Take a tip from the Pioneer Woman’s mashed potatoes and add softened cream cheese and seasoned salt to your mashed taters.
  • Vegan mashed potatoes: Replace the milk and butter with vegetable broth, unsweetened almond milk and a bit of vegan butter.

Tips for the Creamiest Mashed Potatoes

What kind of potatoes are best for mashed potatoes?

Though russet potatoes are the traditional choice, feel free to use any potato you’d like. Our tasting panel also gave high marks to recipes featuring Yukon Golds and red potatoes. Here’s more on what to make with every type of potato.

Do you need to peel the potatoes?

If you’re pressed for time, feel free to leave the skin on the potatoes—just be sure to scrub them well. The end result won’t be as smooth or picture-perfect, but some of us prefer things that way.

How do you reheat mashed potatoes?

If you plan on saving the mashed potatoes for later, let them cool and then store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days. When you’re ready to eat the leftovers, microwave them on high, stirring every 30 seconds until heated through.

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James Schend
Formerly Taste of Home’s Deputy Editor, Culinary, James oversaw the Food Editor team, recipe contests and Bakeable, and managed all food content for Trusted Media Brands. He has also worked in the kitchen of Williams-Sonoma and at Southern Living. An honor graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, James has traveled the world searching for great food in all corners of life.