Perfect Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
(Party Potatoes Recipe)

My go-to recipe for make-ahead mashed potatoes. Perfect for parties, potlucks and special occasions.

This isn't Hungry Jack.

When I was a child, Dad was in charge of mashing the potatoes at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Sunday Dinner, a stage-worthy performance of dramatic flourish and culinary tension.

Act One: Dad smashed the potatoes with a hand masher, but just so far. “You want lumps,” he admonished. “This isn’t Hungry Jack.”

Act Two: He swiped a tasteful of potatoes with the tip of his little finger, then air-smacked his lips, tasting in turn for smoothness, creaminess and saltiness. In the next minutes, he would add what sure looked like equal measures of butter and cream – making my young eyes widen and later, my nutrition-conscious eyes wince – and plenty of salt and pepper.

Act Three: Tableside, we moaned over Dad’s comfort-perfect mashed potatoes, declaring them ‘heavenly’. Still, like cooks everywhere, Dad was more critical of his results than anyone else, smacking his lips once more, asserting that another pat of butter would make all the difference.

Is it any wonder I have celestial standards when it comes to mashed potatoes? No ‘diet’ mashed potatoes here, thank you, at least not for special occasions. So when my dad’s not around to make the potatoes, I turn to these wonderful make-ahead mashed potatoes. The butter, cream cheese and sour cream combine in a smooth consistency (with a few lumps of potato!) and reveal a certain earthy sweetness when the potatoes are made a day ahead.

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Send a favorite recipe via e-mail.


Make-ahead mashed potatoes for a crowd
Hands-on time: 25 minutes
Time to table: 50 minutes
Makes 8 cups (easy to halve and double)
  • 4 pounds baking potatoes, washed, peeled, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup salted or unsalted butter, room temperature, cubed
  • 8 – 12 ounces Neufchatel (low-fat cream cheese), room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (don’t skip, a key ingredient)
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • A pat of salted butter, optional
  • Fresh thyme for garnish, optional

Place potatoes in a large saucepan, barely cover with water, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer; cook until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and return potatoes to hot pot or a large mixing bowl.

Mash til almost smooth. Mix in the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Mix in the sour cream and nutmeg. Season to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl. If using, top with a slice of butter and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves. Serve immediately.

Alternatively, transfer potatoes to a buttered shallow baking dish and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves. Cover with foil and refrigerate. Return to room temperature, reheat at 300F for about 30 minutes.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE Per Half Cup: 200Cal; 11g Tot Fat; 7g Sat Fat; 0mg Cholesterol; 68mg Sodium; 21g Carb; 0g Fiber; 1g Sugar; 4g Protein; Weight Watchers 4 points
Adapted from The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook

Party Potatoes, ready for the oven

To save a dish, use a cooking pot in which a hand mixer can be used.
Baking potatoes are the starchy potatoes, ones like russets and Idahos. (Did you know? An Idaho potato is a russet that’s been grown in Idaho, branded by location like Parmesan Reggiano from Italy!) Some times baking potatoes are described as ‘mealy’ potatoes since the flesh is a little dryer. I haven’t tested this recipe with any other kind of potato (why mess with perfection?) and think that a baking potato’s flesh is perfectly suited for this particular recipe, which adds moisture with the dairy ingredients and can be made ahead of time and reheated.
For mashing, I love the control afforded by a hand-held electric mixer. Otherwise, mash by hand or use a stand mixer. Never mash potatoes in a food processor unless you favor mashed potatoes in a glue-like mess.
The potatoes will reheat more evenly and quickly when a shallow baking dish is used.

More Potato Recipes

~ Mashed Potatoes & Carrots ~
~ Those Pink Potatoes ~
~ Slow-Baked Potatoes ~

~ more vegetable recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade
~ more Thanksgiving vegetable recipes ~
the 2008 collection from A Veggie Venture

This Year, Make It a Make-Ahead Thanksgiving

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LOVE this! I was thinking of adding a bit of cream cheese this year to my potatoes. So I'm glad to see it in your recipe!
I quadrupled the batch and made these last night to reheat today for a group of 35... I'm hoping for the best!

How early should I take out the potatoes to let them warm up to room temperature? An hour or so?
Kate ~ Good for you! How soon to take them out is a function of how deep / big the container is. You'll want them to be warmed through so a couple of hours isn't too long. Enjoy!

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna