Mashed potatoes are the ultimate cozy and comforting side dish, and they’re infinitely pairable with any protein or vegetable. And because they’re so tasty when done right, there are few things more disappointing than when they turn out wrong. Luckily, you can transform thin and watery spuds into thick and creamy mashers. Keep reading for tips from professional chefs on how to thicken mashed potatoes, and what you can do to keep them from thinning out in the first place.
3 reasons mashed potatoes get too thin
There are many reasons your mashed potatoes look a little anemic, according to our chef experts. Keep reading to see which culprit is causing your watery potatoes, and what you can do next time to keep them from thinning out in the first place.
1. You didn’t give them time to drain
One reason mashed potatoes get too thin is obvious: excess liquid. “Maybe you’ve added too much cold milk or butter, or haven’t drained them properly,” says Brian Theis, recipe developer, TV personality and author of The Infinite Feast: How to Host the Ones You Love (Buy from Amazon, $23.51).
To prevent your potatoes from getting too watery, drain them thoroughly and allow them to sit in the empty pot for a minute or two, recommends Norah Clark, pastry chef and food editor for Boyd Hampers. This allows them to release steam and lets any extra water evaporate. She also recommends adding warm milk and butter instead of cold: “This prevents temperature shock, which can cause separation.”
2. You cut them into too small chunks
We understand the temptation to dice your potatoes into small pieces so they boil more quickly. However, if they’re too small, they’ll become waterlogged and make for liquidy mash. “If your mashed potatoes are watery, it’s usually because you’ve cut them too small before boiling and they’ve retained a lot of water,” says Theis.
To prevent this from happening, cut your potatoes into large chunks — halves or quarters — before boiling. Bonus: This means prep work will go faster!
3. You used a waxy kind of potato
Sometimes, mashed potatoes are too thin simply due to the kind of potato used. Waxy potatoes, like New potatoes and French fingerling, naturally absorb more water, which may make them thin out more easily when mashed.
“Instead, select high-starch potatoes like Russets or Yukon Golds,” says Clark. “They absorb less water than waxy potatoes, resulting in a creamier texture.”
How to thicken mashed potatoes while making them richer
You don’t have to toss your mashed potatoes and start from scratch just because they’re looking a little thinner than you’d like. Check out these tips from chefs for fattening them up while making them rich and indulgent.
Cheese it up
Cheese and potatoes are some of the most delicious foods out there, so of course they complement each other. Clark recommends adding cream cheese for extra tang and richness or your favorite kind of freshly grated cheese. Babar even recommends using powdered cheese, which comes in a variety of flavors.
Stir in this type cream
Both heavy cream and sour cream can help thicken your mashed potatoes while making them rich. They not only add flavor, but they also add significant fat, which helps make mashed potatoes silky and satisfying.
How to thicken mashed potatoes while making them healthier
While rich, creamy mashed potatoes are always a treat, sometimes you want a healthier way to indulge. Just check out these tips from the experts to make your mashed potatoes thick and healthy. (And click through to see why potatoes are actually pretty good for you to begin with.)
Add mashed cauliflower
“For a healthier twist, consider adding mashed cauliflower to the potatoes,” says Clark. “Cauliflower is lower in calories and carbs but still contributes to creaminess and thickness.” Cauliflower also packed with vitamins and minerals that help fight cancer, heart disease and dementia. And because it’s so mild in flavor, the cauliflower should blend pretty seamlessly into your potatoes.
Add powdered milk
“The best way to thicken your mashed potatoes while making them healthier is by adding powdered nonfat milk powder,” says Nosheen Babar, recipe developer, culinary instructor and creator of Untold Recipes by Nosheen. “The powder will thicken the potatoes and add extra protein to them at the same time.”
Add Greek yogurt
If you don’t mind a little added tang to your mashed potatoes, adding Greek yogurt can provide thickness and nutrients, suggests Clark. Greek yogurt is packed with hunger-squashing protein, bone-strengthening calcium and gut-healthy probiotics. Before adding a dollop to your mashed potatoes, just make sure it’s unflavored — unless you want your potatoes to have a vanilla kick! (Have extra Greek yogurt? Click through to see how you can make a Greek yogurt cheesecake for dessert.)
Surprising ways to thicken mashed potatoes
Did you know there are even more ways to thicken mashed potatoes? Check out these surprising tips from our chef experts.
Put them in the oven
You might not have to add anything to your masked potatoes to make them thicker. Since thin mashed potatoes are often too liquidy, heating them up will help evaporate some of that liquid and thicken them up. “Returning them to a pot without water and stirring them with a fork might dry them out,” says Theis, “Instead, try putting them in a 300°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes, uncovered.”
Starch — in multiple forms — can help thicken your mashed potatoes. Theis recommends adding a spoon a time of cornstarch until they reach desired thickness. You can also use potato starch, which is a great thickening agent, and is naturally present in the potato’s cooking water. “Save some of the potato cooking water and stir it back into the mashed potatoes until they reach the desired thickness,” says Clark.
Add instant mashed potatoes
One more solution to thickening mashed potatoes? Adding more potatoes — instant ones, that is. Adding instant mashed potatoes as a thickener is Theis’s method of choice, in fact. “A quick fix is to sprinkle in instant potato flakes and mix until you reach your desired consistency,” agrees Clark. “This also enhances potato flavor.” (Click through to see how adding stock can add even more flavor to your mashed potatoes.)
Want more tips and recipes for cooking with potatoes? Check out our stories below.
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