How to make mashed potato: from class mash to the sweet potato version

This is how to make mashed potato perfectly, every time

how to make mashed potato
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Learning how to make mashed potato is all about patience: it seems easy, and mostly it is, but you do need a bit of practice and a good eye for measurements to get it perfectly right. The reward is silky, moreish mash that goes with just about anything (ok, maybe not dessert).

When you have mastered the basic recipe, you can then start adding other fancy touches to your mash or using it as a topping for popular dishes.

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What kind of potatoes are best for mashing? 

The key to great mashed potatoes is, of course, choosing the right kind of potato. You need a floury variety that goes fluffy when boiled. Maris Piper is easily the best variety for mashing, but most medium-sized white potato varieties will also work.

One tattie that we wouldn't recommend using is the New Potato, (far too delicate) and White Potatoes, aka Baking Potato, (wrong flavour and texture altogether) are also not advised. Stick to our advice and you will most certainly master that mash. 

Another great option for mashing is sweet potato, which makes for a slightly sweeter (as you might expect) mash that's also lower in starch. Jump to learn how to make sweet potato mash.

How to make mashed potatoes

Ingredients:

To serve four, you'll need:

  • Maris Piper or other floury potatoes, 1kg
  • Full-fat milk, 150ml
  • Butter, unsalted, 30g 
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Method:

1. Peel and chop the potatoes into large chunks. Bring them to the boil in a large, deep pan of salted water.

2. Boil for about 20 to 30 minutes, until the potatoes are completely cooked and fall apart when you prod them with a fork. 

3. Drain well, making sure they're completely dry before returning them to the pan.

4. Begin mashing with a potato masher, adding the milk and butter as you go along. Do this with the heat off to avoid burning your mash. 

5. The ideal mash consistency should be silky but not watery, which is why it's a good idea to keep adding a bit of milk at a time to achieve the desired consistency.  

6. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Tip: You can use olive oil instead of butter. The flavour will be a little different, but it works just as well. You can also use plant-based milk and butter for a vegan version.

Want to make extra-fancy mash? 

Transfer it to an oven-proof dish, and sprinkle liberally with grated cheddar or parmesan. Stick in a hot oven for about 10 minutes, or until crispy and golden. 

How to make sweet potato mash

Sweet potato mash

(Image credit: Getty Images)

You will need

  • Two medium sized or one large sweet potato per person
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A wedge of butter to taste
  • A dash of milk

1. No need to wash the sweet potatoes, since you're going to peel them this time! 

2. Once done, half your sweet potato, half again and again, until you have four to six small-ish chunks. Put into a pan of salted, boiling water and cook for around 15 minutes – the potatoes need to be soft inside but not falling apart.

3. Drain thoroughly allow the potatoes to dry off a little (just returning them to the now empty pan and letting the steam escape for a minute or two will take care of that). This will ensure your mash isn't soggy, but fluffy.

4. Add a generous knob of butter to the mash and a dash of milk, a pinch of salt and black pepper and mash until the sweet potatoes are of a consistency you like (we like a few lumps left in, but you might prefer a smoother mash). 

5. Garnish with parsley and another knob of butter (naughty).

Top tip: Grind some nutmeg into the mash halfway through mashing it for added flavour and sweetness.

Olive oil mashed potato: a flavoursome alternative to butter

Did you know that you can quite easily substitute butter with olive oil? It can make for a silky and delicious mashed potato that tastes fresher and less cloying than traditional mash. Add a squeeze of lemon for even more flavour. We do recommend adding the oil before you add your milk – everything will mix together better.