Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
Yield: 6-8 servings (easy to scale up or down)
Classically light, fluffy, creamy, and buttery, this recipe is everything good mashed potatoes should be – and so simple.

  • 2 pounds potatoes (4 to 6, depending on size) peeled and cut into 1½-inch chunks*
  • 6 tablespoons (84g) butter, melted (see tip in recipe notes)
  • ½ cup (120ml) buttermilk (I like whole milk buttermilk; may use low-fat)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt (plus 2 teaspoons salt for cooking water)
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. Prep-ahead tips: The potatoes may be peeled, chopped, placed in cold water, and held at room temperature for up to two hours or so before cooking. When ready to cook, drain, rinse well, and refill the pot with the prescribed 8 cups of cold water and 2 teaspoons salt. An added benefit of the soak is that a good bit of starch will rinse off the potatoes, adding to their light, fluffy quality later. Allowing the potatoes to soak in cold water for even 5-10 minutes, and then draining and rinsing well, will offer similar benefit, which you will see in the cloudy water.

    Directions: Bring 8 cups of water, the potatoes, and 2 teaspoons salt to a boil in a large pot. Cook at a brisk simmer (but not a full rolling boiling), uncovered, until the potatoes are very tender, about 15 minutes from the time a simmer is reached. Helpful hint: potatoes should fall apart easily when pierced with a fork.

    Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot in which they were cooked. (Helpful hint: reserve a cup or two of the cooking water if you expect leftovers or plan to reheat. It’s perfect for loosening the potatoes when reheating.) Mash the potatoes, and then work in the butter (I use my hand masher to sort of mash, whisk, and stir; you may put the potatoes through a ricer if preferred, although I do not) and then continue with the warmed buttermilk (see “did you know” tip, below), salt and pepper. If the potatoes are stiffer than you’d like, you may add another drizzle of buttermilk. Take care not to overwork the potatoes as they will turn gummy. Check for seasoning and serve hot.


*What’s the best potato to use? Russets create the lightest, fluffiest mashed potato, while Yukon golds are denser but creamier with a hint more flavor. For a combination of all of these qualities, I often use a 50-50 mix of Russets and Yukon golds.

A few more things…
While measuring the water in which the potatoes cook may seem unnecessary, it ensures properly salted water that flavors the potatoes while cooking. Also, when seasoning at the end, you’ll likely be able to use a good bit less salt than you typically do.

•And then reserve some of the cooking water as it’s good for loosening leftover potatoes and restoring them to their light and fluffy glory. Store the cooled cooking water in the refrigerator and use as needed.

To keep the potatoes warm, place the bowl over a pan of simmering water for up to 30 minutes. If necessary, you can add a little of the reserved cooking water to loosen and keep them creamy. Some people like to hold mashed potatoes on warm in a slow cooker. If your cooker is big enough, instead of putting the mashed potatoes directly in the cooker, you can add about 2 inches of water to the cooker and then place your serving bowl filled with the potatoes in what is essentially a water bath. As the water heats up, the steam will keep the potatoes warm and prevent them from drying out.

•Did you know that it’s better to add the butter to the potatoes before the milk? The water in milk will combine with the starch molecules in the potatoes and make them gluey. However, when the butter is added first, it coats the starch and results in silkier potatoes. Tip: I melt the butter in a mug or small Pyrex liquid measure in the microwave, and then mash that into the potatoes. Then I follow with the buttermilk, gently warming in the same mug. If the buttermilk mixes with residual butter in the mug or becomes too hot, it may curdle a little. If this happens, don’t worry. The small lumps will dissipate when stirred into the potatoes and will not affect the taste.

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