16 Types of Potatoes, Explained

updated Dec 5, 2023
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Overhead view of assorted potatoes.
Credit: Photo: Vicky Wasik

There are three main types of potatoes to choose from at the store: starchy, waxy, and those in between (which are referred to as “all-purpose”). The trick is knowing which potato works best in which circumstance.

Consider this a user’s guide to the all the different types of potatoes you can think of. We break down which potato is best for baking, boiling, roasting, and more.

Starchy Potatoes

Starchy potatoes are great for baking, frying, and mashing. Because of their starch, they don’t hold together very well when cooked, but they are are fluffy and absorbent.

Credit: Photo: Vicky Wasik


Say “potato” and most people will think of Russet potatoes, also commonly referred to as Idaho potatoes. They are typically quite large with rough brown skin.

Russet potatoes are ideal baking potatoes and are also good fried, mashed, or served in scalloped potatoes. Most of your french fries are made with this faithful standby. The starch makes fries fluffy on the inside, but crispy on the outside.

Credit: Photo: Vicky Wasik

Sweet Potato (Jewel Yam)

This is the most commonly found market sweet potato. The flesh is drier than other potatoes and bright orange. You can use it to make pie, purée it for soup, or bake it.

One sweet potato has more than 14,000 IU of Vitamin A. To put that in perspective, the recommended daily allowance is 2,300 IU of Vitamin A per day for women and 3,000 for men.

Credit: Photo: Vicky Wasik

Japanese Sweet Potato

This variety has a pink to purple skin with a yellow to white flesh. Its flavor is sweet and nutty. Japanese sweet potatoes can be grilled, steamed or baked. Use them in curry, stuff them with meat, or simply season with salt and pepper.

Hannah Sweet Potato

Very much like a Jewel potato, but with lighter skin and flesh. It isn’t quite as sweet as other sweet potato varieties, but it’s just as delicious. It is best used in savory applications, due to its milder sweetness and lighter color.

Waxy Potatoes

Waxy potatoes work well in dishes like soups, stews, Niçoise salad, and scalloped potatoes where you would need to boil, slice, or roast. They have a smooth, waxy texture so they hold their shape while cooking.

Rose Finn Apple

This is an heirloom fingerling with a pink, often knobby skin with golden buttery yellow flesh. It has an earthy flavor and is great boiled, grilled, sautéed, deep-fried, and served in salads.

Russian Banana

This potato has a pale yellow skin with rich yellow flesh and a firm texture. It is good grilled, sautéed, fried, roasted whole, or steamed for potato salads.

Red Thumb

This fingerling with bright-red skin is a favorite among chefs, due to the pink marbling of the flesh. It’s a small, buttery potato that is best boiled or roasted. Use it as a side dish or serve it sliced in a salad.

Credit: Photo: Vicky Wasik

French Fingerling

This heirloom fingerling has smooth, pink skin and yellow flesh. There is usually a little pinkish ring right under the skin. It is a great potato for roasting.


These are little fingerling-shaped potatoes with a silky texture and a nutty flavor. Best roasted or boiled whole. They were discovered in the Swiss Alps by French Farmer named Jean Pierre Clot.

Austrian Crescent

This is an heirloom variety with yellowish, tan smooth skin and very light yellow flesh. It is best in potato salads, but also great boiled, steamed, and roasted.

All-Purpose Potatoes

All-purpose potatoes have a less starch than starchy potatoes, but not so much that they completely fall apart when cooked. They will work for most potato dishes. Consider these your kitchen potato standby.

Red Gold

These are medium-sized tan- and red-skinned potatoes with golden flesh. The texture is smooth and moist and the flavor is sweet and nutty. They are best baked, boiled, roasted, or mashed gently. Try them in this red potato salad.

Credit: Photo: Vicky Wasik

Purple Majesty

Oblong potatoes with very dark purple skin and purple moist, firm flesh. It keeps its color when cooked and is high in antioxidants. They are best roasted, baked, added to soups, and mixed into potato salads. Serve them as a side along salmon, as in this recipe.

Credit: Photo: Vicky Wasik

Norland Red

Red skin and moist, creamy white flesh that holds up well when cooked. The farmer suggested serving them boiled, sliced, and topped with butter and herbs. Can be boiled for potato salads as well as roasted, mashed, and baked. Great boiled for Southern smashed potato salad, or whizzed into a soup.

Credit: Photo: Vicky Wasik

Yukon Gold

This potato has a characteristically thin skin, which makes it perfect for serving kids who may have sensory concerns with the skin on other spuds. Its flesh is creamy and yellow and it’s a workhorse in the kitchen. Use it mashed, boiled, fried — you name it.


This is a large potato with tan skin and white flesh. It’s great baked, mashed, fried, or shredded into latkes. It holds together well in boiling water as well.

All Blue

This potato is truly blue both inside and out. It has a dry texture, but holds its shape well, so it’s best baked and drizzled with butter or olive oil, or boiled/steamed for a potato salad. Steaming and baking will ensure it keeps its color best. If you do boil it, you can keep the cooking water to dye clothes or eggs.

How to Pick the Perfect Potato

It’s a good idea to inspect your potatoes before you buy them. A little dirt is fine and perfectly normal, but you want to watch out for and avoid any sprouting from the eyes (the little indents in the potato), soft spots, cuts and gouges, or any potato with a green tint to the skin.

Green coloring means the potato has been exposed to too much light and developed the toxin solanine, which can cause some nasty conditions like cramping, headaches, diarrhea, and fever. Such a potato also will have a bitter flavor.

How to Clean Potatoes

To clean potatoes simply give them a good scrub under some water to remove the dirt and debris and inspect them for any deep eyes that should be cut out. You don’t need to peel potatoes unless you want to, as the skin is edible.

Starchy potatoes are great for baking and frying. Because of their starch, they don’t hold together very well when cooked, but they are are fluffy and absorbent — perfect for butter on a baked potato or the oil in a fryer. They are decent mashed, but care must be taken not to overwork them or else you’ll have a gluey mess.