Traditional Mashed Potatoes

by Alice Currah on November 14, 2011

With my favorite cranberry sauce cooked and a turkey brining in my refrigerator for tonight’s dinner, I am also making a few Thanksgiving inspired side dishes to go along with our pre-Thanksgiving turkey meal.

Even though it is not quite Thanksgiving yet, I can’t imagine eating turkey without butter topped mashed potatoes to go with it… and don’t even get me started about gravy.

Last year I posted a recipe on how to make creamy mashed potatoes using Yukon Gold potatoes and passing the potatoes through a metal mesh strainer.  But today I would  like to share with you a more traditional mashed potato recipe using Russet potatoes and a potato masher.

Making mashed potatoes is very easy and adaptable.  Many people use either milk, half and half, heavy cream, butter, cream cheese, buttermilk, sour cream, broth, or a combination of any of the mentioned items to add to boiled cubed potatoes before mashing them.  There isn’t a steadfast rule on making mashed potatoes other than to make sure the potatoes are fully cooked (preferably at a low simmer) and to avoid using a food processor or blender (and sometimes a mixer) at a high speed.  If you mix potatoes at a high speed what you’ll end up with is a potato dish with a glue-like texture. However, I do like to use a mixer at a low speed.  A couple other tools for mashing potatoes is a rice mill and a masher.

Traditional mashed potatoes is made by mashing boiled potatoes, milk, butter, and seasoning it with salt and pepper.  These are all common ingredients found in the kitchen and makes a wonderful, delicious, and comforting side dish.  The recipe I’m sharing with you today is for traditional mashed potatoes.  However, feel free to swap out the milk and instead use half and half or cream.  Just keep in mind, the higher the fat content is in the liquid, the richer the potatoes will be.  An equally important aspect (to me) of making mashed potatoes besides not over-mixing at a high speed is making sure the ratio between the potatoes and the liquids are in proportion to the desired texture you are seeking.

My formula for a more dense mashed potato is 1 lb. of potatoes to 1/4 cup of liquid (including butter).  For a medium consistency I like this ratio: 1 lb. potatoes to 1/2 cup total liquid (including butter).  For  thin consistency I use 1 lb. potatoes to 2/3 cup of liquid (including butter).  Keep in mind you can always add more liquid but you can’t take liquid away.  So if you’re not sure about what type of consistency of mashed potatoes you would like to make, start at a 1/4 cup of total liquid for every 1 lb. of potatoes and add more until you reach your ideal mashed potato dish.

Lastly, if you’re wondering about the difference between Yukon gold and Russet potatoes, Yukon gold has a more buttery flavor to them and has a lower starch content than Russet making it a more ideal potato to use in fancy meals. However, Russet potatoes are less expensive and work just fine.  Most people don’t notice the difference after all the butter, milk, and cream have been added.



Traditional Mashed Potatoes
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
  • 4½ pounds Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed in 2-inch pieces
  • 1½ cups whole milk
  • ½ cup butter, room temperature
  • Salt and pepper
  1. In a large pot, boil the potatoes in salted water on high heat for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to a simmering boil and cook the potatoes until a fork can easily poke through the potatoes – about 15-20 minutes.
  2. Turn off the heat and carefully strain the potatoes over a sink. Return the potatoes to the pot. In a large microwave safe bowl, heat the milk in the microwave for 90 seconds. Add the warm milk and the butter to the pot. Mash the potatoes, milk, and butter together with a potato masher. Season with salt and pepper.
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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

movita beaucoup November 14, 2011 at 8:09 am

This is just how my mother taught me to make mashed potatoes. And it’s just the way her mother taught her. So good! I’m starting to wish that Canadian Thanksgiving hadn’t already passed…


Manju November 14, 2011 at 4:33 pm

this is soo creamy good!! It is so nice to see all the thanksgiving recipes around now :)


Shannon November 14, 2011 at 4:51 pm

I always wondered why sometimes they ended up with a glue-like consistency! Those must’ve been the days I was in a hurry. Why does it do that exactly? Just curious! Thanks again, Alice!


Alice November 14, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Hi Shannon,
When you over process potatoes at a high speed, the starch binds together and forms a glue like texture.


2sistersrecipes November 14, 2011 at 9:08 pm

Hi Alice! Just came across your site and I have to tell you, I love your recipes , photos but most of all your writing is beautiful! You have a wonderful talent! :) Anna


Mandi November 15, 2011 at 11:15 am

Who doesn’t like mashed patatoes!
I always add a pinch of nutmag….


Lauren from Lauren's Latest November 15, 2011 at 11:18 am

Seeing all of these awesome recipes is making me excited for Thanksgiving! Great photos!


Shayna November 15, 2011 at 11:43 am

I had no idea about Yukon gold vs. Russets. Thanks for the info – good to know!

@Mandi, nutmeg sounds like a neat addition, too!

I tried these amazing mashed potatoes recently…ranch + sour cream + bacon bits. Too rich for Thanksgiving? I think not.


Tickled Red November 15, 2011 at 11:49 am

Can I just say I will potatoes just about any ole’ which way. Love that you are showing multiple ways to make mashed potatoes. I hope that you and your family enjoy the pre-Thanksgiving ;D


leaf (the indolent cook) November 16, 2011 at 9:29 am

You gotta love the traditional. And I must say, they look quite fetching in that gorgeous blue bowl… prettily garnished, too.


merry jennifer November 16, 2011 at 1:35 pm

My dad always made the mashed potatoes for our Thanksgiving meal. Since he’s been ill and in the hospital, and since he won’t be home until the day before Thanksgiving (we hope), the duty has fallen to me. I’ve made them before, of course, but this year the pressure to get them right – to get HIS mashed potatoes right – is really on.

Thanks for your post about them. It actually makes me feel better to review the basics. Crazy, right?


Nicholle Montalvo November 21, 2011 at 11:31 am

I adore mashed potatoes! One of the ultimate comfort foods, if you ask me. There’s nothing quite like the smell of the butter melting on top of the creamy, fluffy potatoes :) Is it wrong to want this for breakfast?? ;)

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sabrina clements December 29, 2011 at 7:46 am

Great information…. Thank you very much for sharing this…


Angela David November 20, 2012 at 11:45 pm

I add scallions, garlic, butter,can milk cheese and bacon bits and my family love it!!!!


Alice Currah November 21, 2012 at 1:20 am

Sounds divine!


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