Recipe Review

I Tried Reddit’s Popular “Potato Volcano” (Yes, It Involves Molten Cheese Lava)

published Jun 12, 2020
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Credit: Jesse Szewczyk

Reddit is filled with passionate home cooks looking to share their knowledge (and show off their creations). There are countless subreddits covering a wide range of culinary topics from grilling to bread baking, all filled with tips, tricks, and recipes — some new, and some old.

I recently came across a Reddit thread within the r/Old_Recipes subreddit filled with people making something called a “potato volcano,” which I quickly learned is an old-school recipe from the 1942 version of Joy of Cooking. As a fan of the classic cookbook, I knew the recipe would be solid — but I also had my doubts about whether it would actually taste good (it seemed a bit gimmicky). Here’s what happened when I gave it a go at home.

Credit: Jesse Szewczyk

How to Make a “Potato Volcano”

A potato volcano is a mashed potato dome with a molten cheese center that flows like lava. The whole thing gets coated in butter, sprinkled with breadcrumbs, and baked until golden-brown. It looks kind of like a giant scotch egg, and it’s a bit of a project to make.

The first thing you have to prepare is homemade mashed potatoes. I used the recipe from Joy of Cooking, which calls for butter, salt, and evaporated milk. At first the potatoes seemed too stiff and slightly dry, but that actually came in handy for forming the volcano. The second component is the filling (aka the lava), made with a combination of melted butter, egg yolks, cheese, salt, and paprika. The recipe didn’t specify what type of cheese, so I went with shredded sharp cheddar. You just beat everything together until combined.

At this point, it’s time to assemble the volcano. Shape the mashed potatoes into a mound on an oven-proof plate (I used a glass pie pan) and hollow out the top to form a deep, high-walled well. Joy of Cooking states that the hole should be the size of a tea cup, so I actually grabbed a tea cup from my cupboard and pressed it into the potatoes to form an indentation. Pour the filling into the hole, then cover the top with more mashed potatoes to seal it shut. This part was slightly difficult — it took about five minutes to smooth out all the cracks with my hands. Brush the whole thing with butter, then sprinkle it with breadcrumbs. The recipe doesn’t specify how many breadcrumbs, so I used 1/2 cup and that was plenty. Bake until golden-brown, then serve immediately.

Credit: Jesse Szewczyk

My Honest Review of the Potato Volcano

As funny a concept as a “potato volcano” is, I have to admit it was delicious. My roommate thought it was ridiculous, but it was an interactive dish that didn’t take itself too seriously, and I loved that about it. The cheese really did pour out of it like a volcano! It’s the most extra potato dish I’ve ever seen, and it was exactly what I needed to brighten my day.

While I would absolutely make this dish again, I’d make a few adjustments to give it more flavor. The concept itself is great— after all, what’s not to like about molten cheese mixed with mashed potatoes? — and the assembly works like a charm, but it was a bit bland. The mashed potatoes could have benefitted from some additional herbs, spices, or salt, such as garlic powder, onion powder, and seasoning salt. The filling also could have used some mix-ins, such as chopped herbs, caramelized onions, or another variety of cheese.

Credit: Jesse Szewczyk

4 Tips for Making Your Own Potato Volcano

Before you head into the kitchen to make your own potato volcano, a few tips.

1. Give your mashed potatoes extra seasoning. The Joy of Cooking recipe only calls for 1/2 teaspoon salt, but I found that they needed at least double that amount. Before assembling the potato volcano, give the mash a taste and adjust the seasoning. The cheese filling isn’t very salty, so it needs to be properly seasoned for the whole thing to taste good.

2. Seal the potato dome completely. When covering the filling with the potatoes, make sure it is completely sealed and there are no cracks or holes. Even the smallest crack can result in cheese spilling out, so take your time and make sure it’s sealed.

3. Don’t overbake. The recipe simply states to “brown” the potato volcano in a 380°F oven and does not give an exact time. I found that 12 minutes was perfect. If you bake it too long, you run the risk of it splitting open, so take it out as soon as it’s golden.

4. Serve immediately. For maximum ooze, serve the potato volcano as soon as it comes out of the oven. After about 15 minutes at room temperature, I noticed that the cheese started solidifying.

Have you ever made “volcanic” potatoes? Tell us in the comments below.