Holiday Mashed Potatoes


This is not a recipe, because I don’t believe in mashed potato recipes. This is more of a conversation about mashed potatoes.

Or perhaps an ode.

After all, mashed potatoes are a beautiful thing and deserving of poetry. Odes, ballads, songs. Mashed potatoes are a staple of many meals around my house, but without a doubt, they appear at the holiday table. “Every day” mashed potatoes are usually made in what I call “rustic” mashed potato fashion. That means just using a hand-held masher. I actually love, and in some ways prefer, rustic mashed potatoes. Throw some milk, butter, salt, and pepper in there, mash ’em up right in the pot you used to cook them, and they make the meal, whether it’s chicken fried steak, pork chops, whatever, it’s not the same without the mashed potatoes.

“Holiday” mashed potatoes are a whole ‘nother thing. Holidays are deserving of using the electric mixer. (Sometimes birthdays, too.) On a holiday, I whip the potatoes to smooth and creamy perfection. If it’s a major holiday involving a huge feast, I make the potatoes early in the day and put them in a crock pot on low. That gets the potatoes out of the way, keeps ’em warm, and leaves me time for other things. I sprinkle the top with parsley and let a dab of butter drool all over it.

Holiday mashed potatoes, hot and ready when you are.

For holiday mashed potatoes, I usually add garlic and shredded cheese plus cream cheese. Cream cheese is the number one secret ingredient for the richest, creamiest mashed potatoes. You don’t necessarily want to throw the five hundred thousand extra calories into your every day rustic mashed potatoes, but since calories don’t count in holiday meals anyway, that’s the time to go all out.

A little story as an aside, one year my mother, who got more and more “frugal” with her eating habits as she got older (and I don’t mean frugal in terms of cost but in terms of health-consciousness), announced that she was making the Thanksgiving mashed potatoes without milk or butter. Just water! They mashed up wonderfully and deliciously with just water! Or so she said. Everyone stared at her with suspicious eyeballs. By the way, she was opposed to salt, too, so you can just imagine how these mashed potatoes tasted. They were the worst mashed potatoes I ever had in my life. I don’t think anyone allowed her to ever make mashed potatoes again. (Lesson to you: Do not try new and extreme health-conscious ideas on a holiday.) I would probably only eat mashed potatoes with water ever again under one circumstance–if I could have Thanksgiving with my mother again.

Okay, back to good mashed potatoes. Tell me about your holiday mashed potatoes?


  1. Nancy says:

    I agree, if I could have Thanksgiving with my Mom again I would even let her add her mashed whatever it was she tried to sneak into them! Turnip? Some kind of squash? Not sure what it was! lol I prefer mashed with milk, butter, salt and pepper…whipped actually, with nary a lump!

  2. Jane says:

    That’s how the French do mashed potatoes, using the cooking water. It’s really good!

  3. Gem says:

    You don’t want to know.

  4. Paulette says:

    Scrub the potatoes, leave skins on and dice. Boil in water with garlic cloves. Mash with a handmasher, the boiled garlic cloves mash up too. Add warm milk with butter melted in it, cream cheese, salt and pepper. And like you, I do them early and let them warm in the crockpot. People go on and on about them…the cream cheese is a must.

  5. Lisabeth Olson says:

    Well I have to agree with all of you except the cream cheese, that goes into my Cinnamon Applesauce Salad. I just like good old mashed potatoes like Grandma used to make. She would never change them from the way we had them then. She used a hand masher also.
    My daughter asked me about 10 years ago if I would mash the potatoes for dinner like I did when she was little. I didn’t realize I couldn’t get them lumpy anymore! I have grown out of lumps.
    You have a wonderful day with all of your (children) farm animals. See I call all of mine my babies even my 1400 pound Holstein cow.

  6. prayingpup says:

    Ah-h-h-h. . . . I LOVE mashed potatoes. My “holiday” potatoes get cream cheese, shredded cheese, whole cream, butter (real butter), bacon fried and crumbled, green onion – all mashed up in them!!!! Then, into the crock pot to stay warm!

  7. whaledancer says:

    I prefer my mashed potatoes like your “rustic” ones, mashed with a hand masher, a little heavy with maybe a few small lumps to let you know they’re real. The only difference between my everyday mashed potatoes and my holiday ones is that for a holiday I add more butter and use cream instead of skim milk. The problem is that mashing potatoes for a crowd with a hand mashed takes some muscle!

    I sometimes make garlic mashed potatoes, but not on holidays, because I don’t want the flavor of the potatoes to compete with the main event: the roast.

    Thanks for the Crockpot tip! I’ve wished for a way to make the potatoes ahead without having them reheated like leftovers, or taking up stove space. I’m going to try that.

  8. Pete says:

    Hmm. We may be one of the few places that actually prefer potatoes just about any way but mashed! Or smashed, as it is usually called here. When we do have them, we like them dry. Lumpy is just fine…

  9. Jan says:

    Love the crock pot idea! I usually do potatoes almost the last thing, so it’d be nice to make that list of last minute things shorter. I’ve never had mashed potatoes with cream cheese. It doesn’t overpower the potato taste for adding gravy? How much do you add?

    • Suzanne McMinn says:

      Jan, it depends on how much potatoes! I probably added about 6 ounces of cream cheese yesterday, and that was a lot potatoes (don’t remember exactly). No, it doesn’t overpower the taste any more than mashing with milk–it’s just creamier! (I use milk, too, with the cream cheese.)

  10. texwisgirl says:

    I’m with whaledancer. Rustic, lumpy, heavy = yummy! No extra whipping necessary! Just a spot of butter and a little milk and voila!

  11. Lisa says:

    For special occasion mashed potatoes, I use a ricer. I also use heavy cream and salted butter. I’m not interested in worrying about calories when I cook, serve or eat a special occasion meal!

    I typically offer gravy and garlic chive butter, so people can doctor their potatoes as they wish.

  12. Rachel says:

    My holiday mashed potatoes sound a lot like yours, though I don’t mind a few lumps. But I make mine with cream cheese, cream or milk, butter and salt and pepper. YUM! I made a 5 lb bag of potatoes for dinner yesterday and put in 1 full bar of cream cheese, 1/2 C cream, a stick of butter and lots of salt and pepper, mashed them up really well with the hand masher since the electric mixer was dirty and they were perfect.

  13. Marion says:

    nutmeg – mashed potatoes have to have just a sprinkling of nutmeg on them to be “right”.

  14. Grace says:

    I love the herb lovage in mashed potatoes. It has a kind of “maggi” taste and smell but goes so well with potatoes. Just chop finely or crush for dried. Yum!

  15. bonita says:

    Nancy, your mom and mine must have read the same magazines—mine used to put mashed rutabaga in the potatoes. As a kid, I hated it…as an adult I find I like it, many of my holiday guests like it too. But above all the potatoes (with or without rutabaga) have to go through a food mill or a ricer, then hand-whipping, no mixer! Egg for richness, lots o butter, salt , pepper and nutmeg added. Mom kept them warm in the top of a double boiler, that’s what I do, too. Never thought of using a crock pot!

  16. Anita says:

    A big fat dollop of sour cream goes into my mashed potatoes. Then if there are any left over, when we reheat we use ranch dressing instead of butter, or at least mix in some parmesan cheese.

    Or we make potato cakes. NOM!!

  17. LisaAJB says:

    I like to leave the skins on. Partially because of laziness and partially because as a child my parents told me that all the vitamins were in the skin (because I’d never eat it.) In Iowa we have A&E dairy that makes a wonderful sour cream. I like to get one of the flavored sour creams such as the chive, and mix that in to make them more rich.

  18. LisaAJB says:

    I should add that I never do anything but mash by hand. I don’t like it when they get too gooey.

  19. Enjay says:

    I use chicken broth, whole milk and a little garlic and onion for my holiday mashed. MMMMMM
    I miss the mom I had growing up. I’d even make the gross creamed canned spinach that she insisted everybody loved, even when she was the only one that ate it, if I could see her again, pre-brain tumor.

  20. Julia says:

    For everyday mashed potatoes, margarine, some of the water they were cooked in, dry milk, and salt and pepper. For holidays, the same, except use real milk. Always the hand mixer. And I’m going to try the crock pot idea at Christmas–one less last-minute thing to do.

  21. Melissa (N4M) says:

    In my mashed potatoes, I use sour cream, butter, dash milk, and dry ranch dressing seasoning…..YUMMY!!

  22. Rhonda says:

    Ah the odes to mashed potatoes, nothing better than ‘rustic’ or holiday mashed. Wish I knew about the crockpot earlier-what an excellent idea. My SIL made them yesterday with her mom’s help, gotta love relative help. Miss my grandmother’s help too. You know you’ve made enough when you can’t get your hand-held beaters all the into the bowl.

  23. Victoria Sturdevant says:

    I cook my mashed potatoes in my pressure cooker with garlic. It only takes nine minutes! I mash them with butter, sour cream, S&P and sometimes chives or green onions. I’ve used the crockpot tip for years.

    Did you know you can “bake” potatoes in one, too? Put the scrubbed potatoes in (not water) cover and cook.

    • Suzanne McMinn says:

      Victoria, I had NOT thought about using the crock pot for baking potatoes! Neat idea for when your oven is busy doing something else! (I don’t like microwaved “baked” potatoes at all–there is always a hard spot, it seems. I don’t really like microwaved anything.)

  24. Diane says:

    My dad makes good mashed potaotes. He uses and electric mixer puts in a whole stick of butter, then milk, seasons it they are great!!! There is never any left overs.

    Oh mashed potatoes with water sounds really gross. ewww. Kind of made me thinking they must of tasted raw somehow. I work at a school cafteria and if they had it their way the instant potatoes would be servered with no butter or salt!! Which first they are instant, second they would taste gross with no flavoring at all. yuck. lol.

  25. kellyb says:

    My son is in charge of making the holiday mashed potatoes. He took over this task when he was about 10. He likes lots of butter and very warm milk or cream. He then whips them to perfection. I think they taste better than any I ever make. Yesterday was our family Thanksgiving; we had 35 over for dinner. DS had to make 4 batchs of potatoes that we kept warm in 2 large crockpots. Very few leftovers, they were delicious.

  26. Sue says:

    We use about 10 potatoes, a heaping tablespoon of minced onion, chopped fresh parsley, some butter, milk, salt and pepper, and a whole 8oz. package of cream cheese! We also run them through the food mill/ricer thingy so they are smooth and creamy. I make them the day ahead, put them in a buttered casserole dish and bake them on the holiday dinner day. I’ve always received compliments on these potatoes!

  27. JOJO says:

    We like ral old fashined mashed potatoes. I boil them and drain of the water and then return them to the fire a bit to move more water. I then turn off the fire an put a stick of butter on top and put the lid of the pot to let the butter melt–when that is done. I mash them with an old fashined masher-my favorite is the one with the little square openings. I mash until the lumps are gone and then add HOT milk and salt and pepper to taste and mash until they are the consistancy I want– we like a good bit of pepper–the black pepper, I dont care for the flavor of the white pepper, when I put them in the bowl. I always put a few pieces of butter on top to melt down. I usally do the potatoes last so they go on the table good and hot. If need be, I will cover then with foil and keep warm in a very low oven.– We love mashed potatoes! I always make extra–Hubby likes fried potato cakes, or I will make some potato pancakes.

  28. Miss Judy says:

    I always rice my potatoes (even for everyday), special dinners I like to put the cream cheese and sour cream and real butter. Thanksgiving day Hubby was supposed to mash(rice) the potatoes, he turned it over to his sister…I was ticked when I saw her smashing them with a potato masher! I never said a word. She didn’t put in any cream cheese either. Next time I will fix them (myself)ahead and put them in the crockpot!
    Suzanne, you need a “potato bag” to microwave your baked potato. They are delicious made in the bag!No hard spots or dried up wrinkled spuds!

  29. mike says:

    every day should be a national pie for breakfast day

  30. granma2girls says:

    I also leave the skin on my potatoes when i use them for mashing. My grown up kids really like them. One time I thought I would peel them because of company coming, and I heard “Where’s the peel? They are missing that taste and texture!”. So peel it is.
    I like to add a dollop of horseradish to my mashed potatoes, especially when making roast beef or pork. It’s just enough to give it a little zip, but not enough that you can tell what it is. Even those, who dont like horseradish, love them!

  31. princessvanessa says:

    Potatoes peeled before cooking on the range. When done drain water, move taters to one side of pot to pour cream on hot pot bottom [to warm the cream], and a few pats of butter on top of spuds to melt. Mash potatoes with potato masher. Add some sour cream with chives and sprinkle some salt and continue mashing until almost whipped. Pepper is added by the person eating it.

  32. Ramona says:

    We don’t have them for some reason at Thanksgiving. Guess it’s cause we do dressing.

  33. Ydubby says:

    Garlic will ruin a good pot of creamy mashed potatoes quicker than anything. No garlic period.

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