Here’s How Long to Boil Potatoes for Perfect Mashed Potatoes

published Nov 20, 2023
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Potatoes boiling in pot.
Credit: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Pearl Jones

Does the amount of time your potatoes boil matter when it comes to making mashed potatoes? You bet it does. Undercook your potatoes and you’ll get unsmashable taters — but you probably already figured that. What fewer people know is that you can also overcook potatoes, resulting in waterlogged potatoes that fail to deliver that fluffy or creamy texture you’re after. So here’s how long to boil potatoes for mashed potatoes.

How Long to Boil Potatoes

Your potato boiling time will depend on a couple of different factors: the types of potatoes you’re using, and whether you’re boiling whole potatoes or diced potatoes. 

Yukon Gold potatoes deliver creamy mashed potatoes and are usually small enough to cook whole. We recommend boiling them for 30 minutes. Then peel by rubbing the skins off with a dish towel. Some people love the color of purple potatoes, which are typically a similar size and have a similar texture to Yukon. You can cook them the same way.

You can use fingerling potatoes for mashed potatoes. Boil whole for 15 to 20 minutes, then remove skins with a dish towel.

Starchier Russets result in fluffy mashed potatoes; they’re larger, so we recommend peeling them and then dicing them into 1 1/2-inch cubes so they cook evenly. We recommend boiling them for 10 to 15 minutes.

Credit: Photos: Alex Lepe, Joe Lingeman, Shutterstock; Design: The Kitchn

How to Tell When Your Potatoes Are Cooked

To test your potatoes for doneness, insert a toothpick, skewer, or fork. It should go in easily with no resistance, and the potatoes should be tender but not falling apart.

Tips for Boiling Potatoes for Mashed Potatoes

Boiling time is just one factor. Here’s what else you need to do for perfectly cooked potatoes.

  • Scrub potatoes well under running water, even if you plan to peel them.
  • Make sure the potatoes in the pot are covered by 1 inch of water.
  • Start with cold water to ensure even cooking.
  • Add at least 1 tablespoon of salt per pound to the cooking water.
  • Bring the water with the potatoes to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered.

Note that some cooks like to be very generous with the salt, adding as much as 1/2 cup to the pot for optimal seasoning.

Should You Peel Potatoes Before Boiling?

It depends. When you boil potatoes before peeling, the skins are very easy to remove. You can do this with smaller potatoes. Hold the cooked potato in a towel over the sink and use the towel to rub the skin off.

Because we recommend dicing larger potatoes like Russets, however, we recommend peeling those potatoes first.

Some people prefer a more rustic style of mashed potatoes with the peel, in which case, you do you. Just know that the potatoes won’t be as fluffy or smooth.

Can You Boil Potatoes Ahead of Time?

Boiling your potatoes well in advance of mashing them may make the complicated operation of Thanksgiving dinner a little easier. You can boil them up to two hours ahead of using them if you keep them refrigerated. Before mashing, warm them back up in hot water, then drain well. They will be a tad more waterlogged in this case, so you may want to undercook a tiny bit before refrigerating.