Craving the warm comfort of mashed potatoes but don’t want to bother making them from scratch? Well, guess what? You can make boxed mashed potatoes just as delicious as you can from fresh potatoes — it’s true!
There’s a common misconception that instant mashed potatoes are unhealthy and aren’t real potatoes, and I’m here to debunk that myth. Believe it or not, boxed mashed potatoes are healthier than you think and come from real dehydrated potatoes.
Instant mashed potatoes work as a nice blank slate for cooking. There are so many options for transforming your everyday plain old potatoes into a rich, creamy, quick side dish the whole family can enjoy. Even just adding a few tablespoons of butter, flavorful cheese, seasonings, and fresh herbs will make your taste buds dance in delight. But there’s more, of course!
Here are my favorite ways to make boxed mashed potatoes taste better. Enjoy!
Boxed Mashed Potatoes vs. Fresh Mashed Potatoes
So what exactly is the difference between fresh and boxed mashed potatoes? For starters, instant mashed potatoes are essentially dehydrated flakes made from real potatoes. They generally have the same nutritional value as fresh potatoes, with about two-thirds starch by dry weight and a smaller amount of dietary fiber, protein, and vitamins.
Instant potato flakes are usually higher in sodium to please the palates of the masses. So if you want to watch your sodium intake, maybe use unsalted butter or go easier on the salt added. Overall, fresh and boxed are not that much different when it comes down to ingredients, so if you prefer convenience, instant mashed potatoes are the way to go.
How to Make Boxed Mashed Potatoes
Boxed mashed potatoes make for a delicious, easy dinner side dish. They don’t require many dishes and can be ready to eat in a matter of minutes. I find that the best ways to make a tasty dish of instant mashed potatoes are on the stove, in a slow cooker, or in the microwave. Below are some simple instructions that you can follow for each of these cooking methods.
On the Stove
This is my preferred method as it’s both quick and easy for mixing in more ingredients. Based on the portions in the box instructions, combine water, salt, and butter or margarine (depending on your preferences) in a small saucepan. Heat to a boil.
Once boiled, remove from heat and pour in cold milk. Next, stir in your potato flakes and let them stand until they are nice and moist. Whip lightly with a fork, and serve!
In a Slow Cooker
Obviously, using a slow cooker will be a slower cooking process, but it’s great for adding more ingredients and melding them together for extra flavor. You can add fresh herbs, cloves of garlic, broth, and more dairy products to elevate your dish.
Follow the instant recipe instructions on the back of the box for the proper proportions. For example, if you have a 1.5-quart mini crockpot, most boxes say to use 1/3 cup to make 3 to 4 servings as a side dish. Cook on low for about 1 to 2 hours. You’ll know the potatoes are done when they’ve heated through and have a natural texture.
In the Microwave
Cooking your boxed mashed potatoes in the microwave is undoubtedly the quickest and easiest way to prepare your potatoes. Keep in mind this method doesn’t allow as much space to add in more ingredients, as most microwaves are small, and the bowl you use needs to fit inside.
To prepare, combine water, milk, salt, and butter (based on the proportions of the box instructions) in a microwave-safe bowl. Then microwave the mixture on high for about 2 minutes for 2 servings or 4 minutes for 4 servings. When finished, remove from the microwave and stir in the potato flakes till they are moistened and fluffy. Serve and enjoy!
How to Make Boxed Mashed Potatoes Better
Now that you know the ins and outs of cooking your boxed mashed potatoes let’s explore how we can make them taste just as amazing as the homemade creation we all know and love. A wide variety of ingredients go well with mashed potatoes, so narrowing it down to ten was tricky! Nevertheless, these are my top favorite hacks for sprucing up your instant mashed potatoes.
Make your instant potatoes more rich and creamy by adding some milk! I recommend using at least 2% milk, but whole milk will have the best effect. Anything under 2% won’t be much different than water. If you really want to make your mashed potatoes decadent, use half-and-half or buttermilk, which is sure to take the delicious creaminess up a notch!
Instead of adding water to your instant mashed potatoes, try using chicken, beef, or vegetable broth. Broth adds a more vibrant and complex flavor. And don’t worry, your potatoes won’t taste like chicken or beef. But if you are worried, feel free to use vegetable broth instead.
Make It Buttery
This one is a no-brainer. Butter and mashed potatoes are like peanut butter and jelly — they belong together! I recommend using real butter, not margarine, as it isn’t as rich and flavorful. Whether it’s salted or unsalted is based on your preference.
Add Sour Cream
We put sour cream on our loaded baked potatoes, so why can’t we on our instant mashed potatoes? Sour cream adds a bit of extra tang and a creamy element that will make your potatoes tastier and fluffier!
Add Ranch Dressing
Ranch dressing may seem like an odd choice, but it surprisingly tastes so good in mashed potatoes! Even just a tiny bit can give your potatoes a nice zesty kick. Bottled ranch dressing or dry ranch dressing mix are both great options.
If you’re a cheese lover like me, you can’t miss out on the magic cheese brings to your boxed mashed potatoes, and there are so many different cheeses to try! I find cream cheese, cheddar cheese, muenster cheese, and blue cheese to be most delicious. They each bring their own unique element to your potatoes that take your dish to the next level.
Spice It Up
Spices are a great way to add even more flavor and dimension to your potatoes. I find that the best seasonings that pair well with instant mashed potatoes, other than salt and pepper, are garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, garlic salt, rosemary, thyme, sage, and parsley.
Make It Meaty
Add even more savoriness to your potatoes by adding meat! Not only does it add flavor, but it gives your potatoes a great texture as well. Ham and bacon taste the best. My personal favorite is bacon bits.
Add Fresh Herbs
Fresh herbs are a great way to balance out the savory and rich notes of your mashed potatoes and offer light, aromatic flavors. Chives are a popular favorite, but fresh parsley, dill, rosemary, tarragon, and thyme are also delicious.
Make a Shepherd’s Pie
A classic Irish comfort food, shepherd’s pie is a must-try when you’ve got a box of instant mashed potatoes in your pantry. A shepherd’s pie made from scratch can take hours, but when cooked with boxed mashed potatoes, you’ll have your dinner ready in a flash.
The prep is quick, and there are only six ingredients needed for the ground beef filling. All you need is your instant mashed potatoes, brown gravy mix, and condensed cream of mushroom soup. This recipe requires minimal cooking — just brown the beef on the stove and toss it in the oven with the other ingredients. The oven will do the rest for you!
Are boxed mashed potatoes real?
Yes! Instant mashed potatoes come from real potatoes that go through an industrial cooking process. Then they are mashed and dehydrated to be conveniently packaged in the boxes we see on the shelves at the store today. All you need is some hot water or milk to bring them back to the fluffy goodness we know and love.
Are boxed mashed potatoes unhealthy?
Overall, no. Boxed mashed potatoes may be slightly unhealthier than fresh potatoes, but not by much. They have close to the same amount of vitamins and minerals except for vitamin C. They have also scored “good” in the nutrition category based on calories, sodium, fat, saturated fat, iron, calcium, fibers, and sugars.
What is the best brand of boxed mashed potatoes?
Idaho potatoes are the most popular favorite of the boxed mashed potato brands, but these results are merely subjective. Idahoan instant potatoes are said to have a surprisingly “fresh potato taste” and a silky-smooth texture.
Although boxed mashed potatoes have gotten a bad rep, there really is no harm in cooking this quick and easy alternative. They can be just as rich, creamy, and delicious as homemade mashed spuds. All you have to do is simply add more ingredients.
Don’t be afraid to get creative with it! So many yummy things can compliment this starchy food, so it’s in your best interest to have some in your pantry year-round, as you never know when the next lazy comfort food craving will take over.
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