Mashed potatoes are a requirement on the Thanksgiving table, and a hearty side dish for any meal throughout the fall and winter. But they do require some labor: Peeling, chopping, boiling, mashing. One of my favorite Thanksgiving tips is to do all this labor ahead and keep the potatoes warm for hours in the Crock-Pot.
But then it hit me: Why not use the slow cooker from start to finish? Could you take half the labor out of mashed potatoes? Turns out, you can — and, guess what? I'm never going back. Here's a step-by-step recipe for the best mashed potatoes, made from start to finish in the slow cooker.
The Easiest Mashed Potatoes Ever
The slow cooker, it turned out, is the magic pot when it comes to mashed potatoes. Here's how it works: Just cut up your potatoes after peeling them (if you like them peeled!) and put them in a slow cooker with a small amount of liquid.
Cover and cook until they're very tender, then mash them right in the pot and stir in milk and butter. Put the lid back on and turn the slow cooker to warm, and your potatoes are ready whenever you are.
No big pot for boiling water or steaming the potatoes, and the whole thing is much more hands-off.
Make the Mashed Potatoes on Thanksgiving Morning
From now on, this is how I'm doing this on Thanksgiving morning. I'll start my potatoes first thing, right after breakfast, and then mash whenever I have a spare minute in the afternoon.
The timeline is so much more forgiving; you don't have to remember to start water boiling or align your schedule to when the potatoes should be made.
A Few Things to Be Aware Of
Depending on how long you cook the mashed potatoes, the milk will probably begin to caramelize and brown around the edges of the pot, the way it does on top of a baked potato gratin. I scraped away this browned milk, but you can also leave it in (it's actually quite delicious; it just changes the color, and not everyone wants little brown specks in their potatoes!).
You could also probably cook the potatoes overnight on LOW, but I did not test this. On all of my testing runs I cooked the potatoes on HIGH for about 4 hours. I had the best final result when the potatoes really got soft and fell apart; don't skimp on the cooking time.
The final recipe here, too, is one for rich, creamy, holiday-style mashed potatoes. But you don't have to add the butter and milk; you can of course just use the basic method and mash up the plain potatoes for a lighter dish.
How To Make Mashed Potatoes in the Slow Cooker
What You Need
5 pounds russet potatoes
3 to 4 cloves garlic, optional
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
3 to 3 1/2 cups milk, or a mixture of milk and cream
1/2 cup unsalted butter
4-quart (or larger) slow cooker
Potato masher or ricer
Wooden spoon or spatula
- Peel and chop the potatoes: Lightly grease the slow cooker insert with butter or cooking spray. Peel the potatoes and chop into small pieces about 1 inch to a side. The smaller the potatoes, the faster they will cook, obviously. Transfer the potatoes to the slow cooker.
- Add the seasonings: Smash the garlic cloves, if using, and drop on top of the potatoes. Stir in the salt and a generous quantity of black pepper.
- Pour in 1 1/2 cups milk: Pour in 1 1/2 cups milk and stir the potatoes once.
- Cook until tender: Cover the slow cooker and cook 4 to 5 hours on HIGH or until the potatoes are very tender and soft. Turn the heat to WARM.
- Melt the butter: When the potatoes are done, melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat.
- Warm the dairy: Stir 2 cups milk, or a mixture of milk and cream, into the melted butter and warm gently over low heat.
- Mash the potatoes: If you used garlic but don't want the potatoes super garlicky, remove the garlic cloves and discard. Use a spoon to scoop out and discard any browned bits on the sides of the pot. Use a potato masher or ricer to mash the potatoes right in the pot.
- Slowly stir in the dairy: When the potatoes are as smooth as you like, slowly stir in the warmed dairy and butter. The potatoes will look soupy at first but the potatoes will quickly soak up the liquid. Add an additional 1/2 cup of milk or cream if you want them to be even creamier.
- Taste and season: Taste and season with additional salt or pepper if desired.
- Keep warm: To keep the potatoes warm, leave in the covered slow cooker on the WARM setting for up to 4 hours.
- Dairy-Free Potatoes: You can also cook the potatoes in chicken or vegetable broth instead of milk.
- Lighter Mashed Potatoes: This recipe is based on our Perfect Mashed Potatoes and they are quite rich and creamy. But of course you don't need to add the butter, milk, or cream — you can simply cook the potatoes and then mash them without additional dairy.
- Potato Add-Ins: I like to switch up the flavor (and color) of my mashed potatoes. I add rutabaga, or use a mix of Yukon Gold and russet for color and flavor. This is easy here; just cut up the potatoes or another root vegetable and cook along with the main bulk of the potatoes.
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