How To Make Thanksgiving Mashed Potatoes


When it comes to the annual Thanksgiving feast, many Americans turn to the traditional food served by their ancestors. Golden roast turkey, fresh cooked vegetables, savory gravy and homemade pies may take center stage, but without those mounds of fluffy mashed potatoes, there simply isn’t anything to serve the gravy on. The key to making delicious mashed potatoes is choosing the right potato and cooking it to perfection to preserve both flavor and texture.

Step 1

Select a dry, mealy potato like russet or Yukon gold for making mashed potatoes. “New”, or baby, potatoes that are harvested when young do not make good mashed potatoes. Always choose mature potatoes.

Step 2

Examine the potatoes for blemishes or bruises. To make the best mashed potatoes, use only firm, fresh potatoes.

Step 3

Wash potatoes in cold water. Peel with a paring knife or vegetable peeler, taking care to remove all peelings. Cut away any dark spots. The area near the eye of the potato is often dark. Although this is normal, for pure-white mashed potatoes remove any discolored portions of the potato. Cut the potatoes into quarters.

Step 4

Place the potatoes in a large cooking pot and cover with cold water. Cold water preserves the flavor of potatoes. Add 1 1/2 tsp. of salt to the water. Bring to a rapid boil.

Step 5

Reduce heat and boil gently for approximately 20 minutes. Actual cooking time varies with the type of potato and the amount you are cooking.

Step 6

Test for doneness by piercing with a knife or fork. Potatoes should be tender but firm enough to maintain their shape. Over-cooking potatoes causes loss of flavor.

Step 7

Drain potatoes in a colander. Place drained potatoes back into the cooking pot and place over medium heat to remove excess moisture. Toss to prevent sticking.

Step 8

Heat the milk in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the butter and allow to melt.

Step 9

Place potatoes in a glass or plastic bowl. Mash with a potato masher until potatoes are smooth. Add the milk and butter mixture a little at a time and whip the potatoes with an electric mixer. Continue to add milk until potatoes reach the desired consistency.

Step 10

Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with Thanksgiving dinner.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not mash potatoes in a blender or food processor. This breaks down the starch in the potato causing the mashed potatoes to be gummy and gooey.

Things You'll Need

  • 4 - 6 potatoes, medium
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 - 4 tbsp. butter
  • Paring knife/vegetable peeler
  • Cooking pot
  • Large bowl, 2 qt.
  • Potato masher
  • Electric mixer


  • University of Mississippi Extension: Mashed Potatoes
  • University of Wisconsin Extension: Plan for Potatoes

Who Can Help

  • University of Illinois Extension: Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Keywords: make mashed potatoes, mashed potato recipe, Thanksgiving mashed potatoes

About this Author

Nannette Richford is an avid gardener, teacher and nature enthusiast with 4 years experience in online writing and a lifetime of personal journals. She is published on various sites, including Associated Content. Richford holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from the University of Maine Orono and certifications in 7-12 English, K-8 General Elementary and Birth to age 5.