The Best Potatoes for Roasting, Baking, and Beyond
“It’s not always easy to figure out which potatoes to use for what,” writes Deborah Madison in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Some 25 years after the book was published, those words still ring true, especially when you consider the range of conventional and heirloom potato varieties available at supermarkets and farm stands.
The best potatoes for roasting, baking, mashing, and frying aren’t always interchangeable. The same potatoes you’d dice for a chunky vegetable soup or use for a gratin don’t necessarily work best for making mashed potatoes. This is because potatoes are a varied lot, spanning a range of sizes, textures, absorbency, and starchiness.
What Are the Best Potatoes for Roasting?
While all sorts of potatoes are delicious when roasted in the oven, Yukon Gold potatoes are arguably the best potatoes for roasting for many reasons. Yukon Gold potatoes have the perfect amount of starch, which means they soften well in the oven, while their partially waxy texture helps them maintain their shape.
To navigate the wide world of potatoes, it helps to consider their three main categories: starchy potatoes, waxy potatoes, and all-purpose potatoes.
- Starchy potatoes such as Russet or Idaho potatoes are ideal for baking, mashing, and frying.
- Waxy potatoes are best to use in any recipe where you want the potato to keep its shape. Examples are Red Bliss, Russian Banana, and fingerlings.
- All-purpose potatoes like Yukon Gold and purple potatoes have moderate amounts of starch and moisture, so they can be used in most recipes (whether mashed, steamed, or roasted).
Here, eight of the best potatoes for roasting, baking, mashing, and more.
Yukon Gold Potatoes
Yukon Gold potatoes are often considered to be “all-purpose” potatoes, as they work well in a variety of different dishes. They have enough starch for their interiors to become creamy when heated in the oven, and are waxy enough to keep their shape as they form a pleasantly crunchy crust. Although Yukon Golds are the best potatoes for roasting, you can definitely use them in an array of recipes that call for waxy or starchy potatoes.
Russet potatoes are arguably the best potatoes for baking, although they are also great for mashing and frying. The main reason thick-skinned Russet potatoes are perfect for baking and more is because they contain significant amounts of starch.
“Their flesh soaks up liquids and falls apart into a fluffy, mealy texture,” writes Joshua McFadden in Six Seasons. “This is exactly what you want for baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, potato soup, and French fries. But it’s not what you want in, say, potato salad, hash, or gratins.”
Thanks to the marketing efforts of the Idaho Potato Commission, this trademarked name can be applied to any potato grown in Idaho, but most with this label are Russets. And so, you can use most Idaho potatoes and Russets interchangeably in mashed, fried, or baked potato recipes.
Red Bliss Potatoes
Easily identified by their thin red jackets, Red Bliss, also commonly called red potatoes, have yellow interiors and are considered waxy. They’re best suited to salads, gratins, and other dishes where you want your vegetable to maintain its structural integrity.
Purple Majesty Potatoes
With their rich purple hues, these waxy potatoes are easy to spot at farmers markets and grocery stores. Like Yukon Gold, Purple Majesty potatoes have medium starch and moisture levels, making them versatile enough to use in baked or roasted dishes but less suited to mashed potatoes.
Often confused with new potatoes due to their petit stature, fingerlings are a separate variety of mature potatoes. Their thin skins don’t require peeling, and firm interiors can withstand high cooking temperatures without losing their shape.
Russian Banana Potatoes
An heirloom fingerling potato, Russian Bananas are typically three to four inches long and have thin skins and firm, waxy interiors.
Try Russian Banana potatoes in Mustard-Braised Potatoes with Chicken Thighs or Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Pea Shoots, Pesto, and Hazelnuts
This catchall term applies to any potato that’s harvested early in the season. So new potatoes can be Russets, Red Bliss, and any other young potato. Because they’re harvested early, new potatoes tend to have less starch and maintain their shape better than mature starchy potatoes. They also tend to have thin skins and ample moisture.