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Move aside, turkey. Mashed potatoes are the real star of Thanksgiving! Pillowy and perfect, mashed potatoes always deserve a place at the table but do require a bit of work. If you decide to make them from scratch, you’ve got at least an hour of peeling, boiling, and mashing ahead of you. If you opt for the instant version, you’re saving a lot in time and effort, but sacrifice in overall flavor and texture.

Mashed potatoes are made by boiling chunks of peeled, starchy potatoes (such as russet or yukon) until soft and mashed to a desired consistency using milk, butter, and other added flavors like garlic or cheese. Recipes for mashed potatoes usually average around 45 minutes, but the ubiquitous side dish is always a crowd favorite.

Potato Ricer ($19)

A standard potato masher always works, but for super smooth, lump-free spuds, a ricer is the way to go.
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On the other hand, instant mashed potatoes take a fraction of the time and produce consistent results. Made from dehydrated potato flakes and potato flour (plus other additives), these potatoes are reconstituted with warm milk or water for an instant dish. Instant mashed potatoes are great for the budget-conscious and those tight on time, but the lackluster flavor and questionable texture are factors to consider. Read on for more recipes for mashed potatoes, with notes on how to use instant mashed potatoes as a substitute.

Garlic Parmesan Browned Butter Mashed Potatoes

Cafe Delites

Talk about a myriad of flavors! Umami-rich garlic, parmesan, and browned butter flavor this pillow-like puree, ideal for pairing with a seared steak or other decadent protein. Instant mashed potatoes could probably use a little help from decadent browned butter; start by heating the milk with sauted garlic to infuse as much flavor as possible. Get the recipe

Vegan Mashed Potatoes

Minimalist Baker

Contrary to popular belief, you can make mashed potatoes without dairy!  Vegans can rejoice with this recipe for dairy-free potatoes, all with the help of a little vegan butter and roasted garlic. You could absolutely jazz up the box with vegan butter and roasted garlic, just use water to rehydrate potatoes instead of milk. Get the recipe

Cheddar Mashed Potatoes

Little Spice Jar

Cheese and potatoes are a match made in heaven and these cheddar mashed potatoes are simply divine. Sprinkle generous amounts of chopped green onions to add some bright notes to an otherwise rich dish. Sub out the red potatoes for instant, but definitely don’t skip on the generous addition of sour cream and half-and-half. Get the recipe

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Delicious As It Looks

Bring garlic to the forefront with this recipe for classic mashed potatoes. Calling for small red potatoes, it’s up to you to keep the skins on or remove them for a smoother mash. With instant mashed potatoes, you don’t need to worry about skins—simply stir in as much garlic butter as possible! Get the recipe

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

The Chic Life

We don’t need all the starches all the time, do we? Sneak in some steamed cauliflower to cut on calories, especially when there’s more than enough gravy to balance it out! If you go for instant mashed potatoes, be sure to steam and smash the cauliflower separately before combining. Get the recipe

 Loaded Baked Mashed Potatoes

Home Cooking Memories

Every vegetable should come topped with bacon and cheese, right? These rich potatoes are topped with a generous amount of melty cheese, crispy bacon, and chopped green onions. Go for instant mashed potatoes if you’re in a time crunch, but chopped bacon definitely deserves a from-scratch mash. Get the recipe. 

Related Video: The Best Way to Reheat Cold Mashed Potatoes

Header images courtesy of Hungry Jack and Delicious as It Looks.

Rachel Johnson is a millennial food person; she writes about food, all she Instagrams is food, and she just can't stop talking about it. Her first cookbook, "Stupid Good: A Shut Up and Cook Book" was published in 2014, encouraging the merits of fresh, vibrant food and cooking for yourself as a twentysomething. Today, Rachel works as a freelance food writer and photographer specializing in online food media and manages her brand, Stupid Good Food. She lives in Austin with her boyfriend, dog, and full pantry.
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