The Mashed Potato Recipe I’ve Loved Since I Was a Kid (They’re Impossibly Easy to Make)

published Nov 18, 2021
Kitchn Love Letters
Microwave Mashed Potatoes Recipe

These quick and simple mashed potatoes are just as comforting as the stovetop verison.

Serves4

Prep15 minutes to 20 minutes

Cook12 minutes to 15 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Credit: Sophia F. Gottfried

Before COVID-19 disrupted dinner parties and potlucks, I was known in my circle of friends for cooking elaborate meals. Kneading and boiling bagels just in time for Sunday brunch? Loved it. Making pasta dough and red sauce from scratch for a cozy get-together? Bring it on. Thanksgiving was my favorite — as a senior in college, I cooked a Friendsgiving turkey for 20 people. Sure, I called home hourly for coaching from my parents (and one roommate had to go out for a last-minute meat thermometer), but it was a success nonetheless.

But as the early panic of the pandemic turned to drudgery and omnipresent anxiety, my enthusiasm for focaccia and windowsill-grown scallions petered out. And without friends and family to gather with, I lost my desire to cook completely. I made food, sure, but just simple stuff — and it felt like a chore, not the respite it once was. By the time the holidays rolled around, I suggested my family and I order takeout. 

Credit: Sophia F. Gottfried

This year, my mom proposed going back to basics to get me out of my rut, so I decided to revisit Come to My Tea Party, an out-of-print children’s cookbook I got as a gift when I was 8 years old. As I crouched down and pulled it off the very bottom of my bookshelf, I remembered my first contribution to a holiday meal — mashed potatoes — came from the little blue-and-white volume. Flipping the book open, there were the six ingredients (potatoes, water, butter, milk, salt, and pepper — and my addition, written in the margin in pencil, a splash of cream) and super-simple instructions (essentially, slice the potatoes, cook them in the microwave, then mash with milk, butter, and salt by hand) that had made me feel like a properly grown-up cook. 

On the first Thanksgiving after I was gifted the cookbook, I woke early and put on one of the jumble of aprons hanging on the kitchen door over my pajamas. I slowly (with my mom’s help) scrubbed and peeled the gritty potatoes, cut them into pale rounds, then peered at the dish going around and around in the microwave. My family bustled around me, tending to the stove, grabbing ingredients for their own dishes out of the fridge. If the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade was playing on the TV in the other room, I don’t remember; I was too taken with waiting for the mashing (and tasting) to start.

After carefully transporting the glass casserole dish, fogged up with starchy steam, to the table at my great aunt’s house, I remember waiting eagerly for everyone to take a bite. They were a hit, and I was so proud — my extended family even demanded I bring the potatoes to every Thanksgiving thereafter. It’s the first memory I have of making something with great care for people I love.

Mashed potatoes on the mind, I started flipping through the other cookbooks mom had saved from her own childhood: Betty Crocker’s Cook Book for Boys and Girls from 1957 and Teach Me to Cook from the 1960s. Among the retro illustrations and sweet tips on how to set a table and make party favors, I recognized our family French toast recipe, and one for potato salad. “Every time I open one of these, it makes me feel happy immediately,” mom told me. “But I didn’t just keep these books for sentimental reasons.” She’s right — all of the recipes are simple and dependable, and most of them are good

So, this Thanksgiving, despite years spent learning to whip up complicated recipes, my cooking won’t be Instagrammable or elaborate by any means. My table will be no-frills, the menu probably all from vintage kids’ cookbooks — but at least I’ll be back in the kitchen. 

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. Kitchn Love Letters is a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.

Microwave Mashed Potatoes Recipe

These quick and simple mashed potatoes are just as comforting as the stovetop verison.

Prep time 15 minutes to 20 minutes

Cook time 12 minutes to 15 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 2 to 2 1/2 pounds

    Yukon Gold potatoes (3 large or 6 medium)

  • 2 tablespoons

    water, plus more as needed

  • 1/2 cup

    whole milk, plus more as needed

  • 2 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons

    light cream, heavy cream, or half-and-half

  • 1 tablespoon

    finely chopped fresh chives (optional)

Instructions

  1. Peel 3 large Yukon Gold potatoes and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place the slices in a large microwave-safe bowl (we use an oven-safe casserole dish with a lid) and add 2 tablespoons water. Cover and microwave until soft and fork-tender, checking every few minutes by pricking with a fork, 7 to 15 minutes. If any potato slices are sticking to the bottom as they cook, add an additional tablespoon of water and stir to dislodge them.

  2. Carefully remove the hot dish from the microwave and uncover. Mash with a potato masher, stopping just shy of your desired texture. Add 1/2 cup whole milk, 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Continue to mash to your desired texture — we like it with a couple lumps, but others may prefer perfectly smooth. Taste and season with more kosher salt or thin out with more milk as needed.

  3. Add 2 tablespoons cream or half-and-half, and stir to combine. Garnish with 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives and freshly ground black pepper if desired.

Recipe Notes

Mashing options: You could use a stand or hand mixer, but be careful to use a low speed and not to overmix, as you’ll get a too-starchy, gluey end result. Plus, mashing is fun!

Covering options: The original recipe says you can use plastic wrap to cover the dish, but I prefer a glass or Pyrex casserole dish with a corresponding lid. You can also use an upside-down microwave-safe plate as a lid.

Make ahead: The mashed potatoes can be made the morning of or a couple hours before serving. Reheat in the microwave.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Adapted and reprinted with permission from Nancy C. Akmon, author of Come to My Tea Party: A Cookbook for Children.