Mashed Potatoes are a classic, homemade side dish that up until not too long ago were considered easy and approachable by most cooks. But with the invention of instant potatoes in the early 1960s, homemade mashed potatoes have become a lost art. Now while I’ll never try to judge your food choices, I’m here to tell you—REAL mashed potatoes aren’t that hard to make AND there are so many reasons to avoid the box!
So why should you avoid boxed potatoes?
While the taste of instant potatoes has improved over the years, there’s still a significant health trade-off. First, boxed potatoes typically contain a lot less fiber than their fresh counterparts. But beyond that—look at all the additives that are in a typical box or pouch of Butter Mashed Potatoes:
While my homemade recipe contains six ingredients, some varieties of boxed mashed potatoes have OVER 40 ingredients. Here’s a quick rundown of the most concerning additives:
- Trans fats are STILL in some brands of boxed mashed potatoes. Don’t look for them on the Nutrition Facts panel since Big Food companies lobbied the FDA many years ago for a loophole (if trans fats are less than 0.5g per serving, 0g is printed on the label). So if a box, bag, or can of processed food has “partially hydrogenated” anything in the ingredient list, just put the item down. Although the FDA has made a preliminary determination that trans fats are not GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) and even small amounts can be dangerous to your health, they continue to drag their feet to put an end to their use in our food system!
- Various dairy ingredients are added to these shelf stable potatoes in hopes of giving them a more homemade, buttery taste. Unfortunately most of the dairy ingredients come from dairy cattle living on factory farms and are pumped with growth hormones to increase milk production, regularly treated with antibiotics,fed genetically modified corn.
- Potentially dangerous preservatives like BHA and BHT are used to keep these potatoes shelf stable. Both of these preservatives have been linked to increased risk of cancer in animals.
- High sodium levels probably aren’t that surprising. But when you consider a 1/2 cup serving has over 400mg of sodium, you can see how these highly processed potatoes take salt to a truly alarming place.
- MSG disguised under names like autolyzed yeast extracts, malted barley, and other hydrolyzed vegetable protein are common additives to boxed potatoes—all in hopes of increasing flavor. While food companies and the FDA believe MSG and these high-glutamic acid alternatives are all safe, many people claim to still have adverse reactions to them.
- All different types of phosphates are packaged into these boxed potatoes and all types of processed foods. While most of these phosphate additives are considered safe, their overuse has created concern with “Doctors … linking [phosphates] to higher rates of chronic kidney disease, weak bones, and premature death.” 1.
- Emulsifiers and thickeners also make their way into boxed potatoes. Emulsifiers (such as lecithin) may start to receive increased scrutiny as recent studies have linked them to increased incidence of metabolic syndrome and inflammatory bowel diseases.
- Lots of GMOs are also snuck into these potatoes in the form of oils, sugars, citric acid, and soy lecithin. If your family has made the decision to eliminate GMOs, most boxed potatoes should be on your “avoid” list.
Why I choose organic potatoes?
Beyond the issue of all the additives in these boxes, potatoes are one of the vegetables that I always try to buy organic. Why? They’re notorious for being a fairly pesticide-intensive crop. A 2006 USDA report showed that over 80% of potatoes still contained a significant amount of pesticides even after being washed and peeled. The Environmental Working Group’s research confirms these concerns with potatoes ranking high in pesticide residues earning them the dubious honor of repeat-offender status on EWG’s Dirty Dozen list of produce.
My recipe for the Absolutely BEST Creamy Mashed Potatoes
So how can you avoid all these additives and pesticides in potatoes? Ditch the box, grab a bag of organic Yukon gold potatoes, and whip up a batch of my BEST, Creamiest Mashed Potatoes Ever! Yes, they take more time than the boxed variety, but I promise—making mashed potatoes really isn’t that hard. In my recipe I use a potato ricer so you don’t even have to worry about peeling the potatoes—talk about a time saver! And I’ve even shared an option that lets you make them ahead of time. What more could you ask for! 🙂
Cheers! Let’s get cooking!
- 3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1-2 cloves minced garlic (optional)
- 1¼+ half and half (or milk and some cream if you prefer)
- 4 tablespoons butter
- salt and pepper to taste
- Butter, sour cream, chives, grated cheese, or green onions
- In a 8-quart pot boil water leaving enough room for the potatoes. Add salt and garlic (optional).
- Scrub the potatoes to make sure they are clean and free from any dirt.
- Quarter potatoes. Make sure the pieces are similarly sized to ensure even cooking.
- Carefully place the potatoes in the boiling water and cook for 15-20 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork.
- Drain potatoes into a colander reserving a little of the liquid (2 cups should be more than enough—you won't need to use it all).
- Cool the potatoes for 5 minutes, then rice the potatoes back into your 8-quart pot. If you prefer you can use a potato masher instead of a ricer for a chunkier, skin-on style of mashed potatoes.
- Add the half and half, butter, and mix together with a sturdy wooden spoon. Use the reserved water for extra flavor and to get the desired consistency ... or if you prefer, add more half & half for creamier mashed potatoes.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Garnish, serve and enjoy!
Don't use a mixer or over-beat the potatoes. Riced potatoes will come together quickly and make beautiful, creamy mashed potatoes.
If you want to prepare these potatoes in advance, cook and rice the potatoes. Once cooled, cover and set them aside or refrigerate overnight. When you're ready to prepare the potatoes, microwave the riced potatoes until warm. Gently heat the half and half / butter mixture on the stove and in a separate container, the reserved liquid from boiling the potatoes (this can also be done in the microwave). Follow the directions above.
Kitchen Tips and Resources:
- A great potato ricer makes these creamy mashed potatoes possible. This ricer made by OXO Good Grips is fantastic and is available at Amazon, Bed Bath and Beyond, and many other retailers of kitchen merchandise. Note: Some potato ricers have different size holes. For a more country-style mashed potato with some skins, choose the larger-sized holes. For a smoother, no-skin style mashed potato, choose the smaller-sized holes.
- A great, multipurpose colander is definitely something you should consider for draining potatoes, vegetables, or pasta! I bought this OXO Good Grips colander as a replacement for a really old plastic one that I had bought at a dollar store in the 90’s. Who knows what kind of weird plastics and hormone-disrupting chemicals were in that old one. Yikes! Maybe it’s time you invest in a new colander as well?
- Scrubbing potatoes isn’t a whole lot of fun, but this OXO vegetable brush makes it quick and easy.