No matter how you like your 'taters, Nicole McLaughlin, aka NicoleMcmom has some tips and tricks to make some of our most popular potato side dishes the best they can be, from prep to pan to plate.
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With hundreds of potato side dish recipes to choose from, we couldn't possibly cover all of them in one article, so we narrowed it down to five of the most popular types: mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, potato casseroles, roasted potatoes, and potato salad. We'll give you practical tips for making potato side dishes, from choosing the right potatoes (it really does make a difference) to prepping, cooking, and serving. Let's get started.

1. Mashed Potatoes

mashed potatoes
Credit: Allrecipes Magazine

Different potato varieties mash differently. Russet or Idaho potatoes have the kind of starch that breaks down during cooking and gives you a fluffy mash, while red potatoes are waxy and give you a very smooth and creamy mash. For a happy medium between the two, try Yukon Gold potatoes.

Top tips:

  • Scrub, peel, and cube potatoes into 1½-inch chunks.
  • Put the potatoes into a large pot, and add enough cold water to cover them by about an inch of water. Choose a large enough pot to allow the water to bubble up but not boil over.
  • Salt the water to flavor the potatoes. Some cooks also like to add a bay leaf or a couple of peeled garlic cloves.
  • Simmer until fork-tender. Remove a piece of potato and mash it with a fork; it should be cooked all the way through.
  • Drain potatoes in a colander (remove the optional bay leaf), then return potatoes to the hot pot (with the heat turned off) so the residual heat cooks off extra water. No more watery mashed potatoes!
  • Don't overwork the potatoes when you're mashing them. This breaks down the cell structure and turns them gluey and flat.
  • For fluffier, lump-free mashed potatoes, you can push them through a potato ricer or food mill. Otherwise, just mash them in the pot with a simple potato masher for a more rustic texture.
  • Add slices of softened butter and mash into the potatoes. After the first mash, pour heated milk into the potatoes and mash again make them creamy. You can also add sour cream for a little more richness and tang. Adjust the seasonings, spoon into a warmed serving bowl, garnish with parsley, and serve.


2. Baked Potatoes

Garlic Baked Potato
Credit: sanzoe

Starchy Russet or Idaho potatoes make the best baked potatoes. With thick, sturdy skins, they are better able to hold all the toppings and extras you can stuff them with. Twice-baked potatoes take it a couple of steps further: You scoop out a baked potato, mix the cooked potato with any number of creamy, savory add-ins, spoon it all back into the potato skins, and bake again.

Top tips:

  • Scrub the potato skins but do not peel.
  • Pierce the potato skin with a fork or paring knife to let steam escape.
  • Foil or no foil? Potatoes wrapped in foil hold in steam, making the skins more tender. For crispier skins, skip the foil.
  • Oil or no oil? Rubbing a little olive oil on the potato skin softens it slightly as it bakes. You can also skip the oil if you like. Your potato; your rules.
  • Set the potatoes in the oven right on the rack or on a sheet pan. Bake at high heat (400 to 450 degrees F (200 to 230 degrees C).
  • Set out butter, sour cream, cheese, snipped herbs, chili, etc., and let everyone customize their own loaded baked potatoes.

3. Potato Casseroles

potatoes au gratin in a casserole dish
Credit: Meredith

Yukon Golds are ideal for potato casseroles such as scalloped potatoes and potatoes au gratin because they hold their shape well even when thinly sliced.

Top tips:

  • Use a mandoline or sharp chef's knife to make thin, even slices.
  • Layer the slices evenly in the baking dish, and season between layers.
  • If you cover your casserole with foil before baking, cut a few slits in the top to let steam escape.
  • After you take the casserole out of the oven, let it sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

4. Roasted Potatoes

Honey-Roasted Red Potatoes
Credit: Allrecipes

Any potato is a good candidate for roasting, but the best potatoes are varieties such as Yukon Gold and red-skinned boiling potatoes. They're waxy enough to hold their shape and starchy enough to soak up flavors.

Top tips:

  • Scrub the skins and leave them on.
  • Cut in uniform pieces so they cook evenly.
  • Dry them thoroughly on paper towels before coating and roasting.
  • Lining your sheet pan with foil instead of parchment paper leads to better browning.
  • Don't crowd the sheet pan if you want crispy skin. Crowding causes steaming instead of roasting.
  • After drizzling potatoes with oil and seasonings, get your hands in there and toss the potatoes to coat them evenly.
  • Roast on high heat — at least 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  • Flip potatoes with a spatula a couple of times during the roasting so all sides get evenly browned.

5. Potato Salad

bowl of American Potato Salad
Credit: lutzflcat

The potatoes you use for potato salad depend on your personal preference. A starchy Russet potato breaks down as it cooks, resulting in a creamier consistency, while an all-purpose Yukon Gold or waxy red potato holds its shape and gives you a firm but tender texture.

Top tips:

  • If you're using a waxy potato, you can leave the skins on. (Do note that red potato skins can sometimes be a little bitter.)
  • Cut potatoes into uniform pieces.
  • Start potatoes in cold, salted water and bring them to a boil. Simmer until fork tender.
  • While potatoes are cooking, you can prepare the dressing in a separate bowl so you don't overwork the potatoes when you toss them with the dressing.
  • For the best flavor, make potato salad the day before and let it chill. It always tastes better the next day.

You can connect with Nicole as NicoleMcmom on Allrecipes and on Instagram @nicolemcmom.