Perfect Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
(Party Potatoes Recipe)

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes for a Crowd

How to make smooth, rich and fluffy mashed potatoes with baking potatoes, butter, cream cheese, sour cream and seasonings – sure, serve them right away but these mashed potatoes are especially designed for cooking ahead of time to serve later, heated up in the oven or in a slow cooker. These mashed potatoes are great for serving a crowd and perfect for parties and family gatherings. Trust me, making the potatoes ahead of time takes so much pressure off the cook. Hooray! No more mashing potatoes at the last minute!

Perfect Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes ♥, also called Party Potatoes, smooth, rich and fluffy, great for serving a crowd, perfect for parties and family gatherings.

Homemade Comfort Food, Perfect for Thanksgiving and Other Family Occasions. Budget Friendly. Great for Meal Prep. How to Feed a Crowd. Potluck & Party Friendly. Naturally Gluten Free.

He Was Such a Ham! Memories of My Dad Making Mashed Potatoes

Memories of my dad making mashed potatoes ♥

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, checking 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.

So it 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 necessary lumps of potato!) and reveal a certain earthy sweetness when the potatoes are made a day ahead.

QUESTION Who was in charge of the mashed potatoes in your family? Do you have a fond memory? I hope you'll share it!

Perfect Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes (Party Potatoes) ♥, rich, fluffy mashed potatoes, perfect for parties and family gatherings.

What Goes Into Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes?

In all my recipes and most well-written recipes, every ingredient serves a purpose. Each one matters. Each one contributes to the overall dish. It's not that an ingredient can't be substituted by something else but when choosing the substitute, it's important to understand why the original ingredient was present in the first place.

  • Potatoes! Of course. But what kind of potatoes? Can you use just any ol' potato to make mashed potatoes? Is one kind of potato better than another? For mashed potatoes, choose the same potatoes we use for baked potatoes, the rough-skinned and mealy-fleshed russet potatoes, some times called Idaho potatoes or baking potatoes.
  • Butter! Butter both flavors the potatoes and lightens their texture.
  • Cream Cheese & Sour Cream These dairy products add richness and smoothness to the end product, especially when making mashed potatoes ahead of time. If you're serving the mashed potatoes right away, use the techniques in Rich & Creamy Mashed Potatoes which call for only butter and cream. A good substitute for cream cheese would be ricotta, a good substitute for sour cream would be full-fat Greek yogurt.
  • Seasonings Just salt, pepper, a little onion powder and the all-important nutmeg. Could you play with these? Sure. Adjust to your own taste.
Perfect Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes ♥, also called Party Potatoes, smooth, rich and fluffy, great for serving a crowd, perfect for parties and family gatherings.

How to Make Mashed Potatoes Ahead of Time.

The detailed recipe is written in traditional recipe form below but here are the highlights. You can do this!
  • Peel the Potatoes Wash the potatoes, then peel them. I've tried so many trendy vegetable peelers (pricey, prone to breaking, not safe in the dishwasher, rust if not given TLC) but long ago returned to an old-fashioned metal peeler with a swivel blade like this vegetable peeler (affiliate link) from Sweden. It costs just a couple of dollars to buy one which might explain why they have become a bit hard to find. My best source? A small-town hardware store's kitchen section and yeah, its very antithesis, Amazon.
  • Avoid Browning or Graying When exposed to air, the potatoes can turn an unpalatable color. Avoid this by dropping the peeled potatoes into a bowl of water. This is an especially important step if you are preparing a big batch of mashed potatoes, it really does take time to peel them.
  • Cook the Potatoes For a big batch, you might need to use a couple of large pots.
  • Warm the Remaining Ingredients In a separate pot, warm up the cream cheese, sour cream and seasonings. Why? After the potatoes are cooked, we want to mix warm potatoes with warm dairy. Why? Because warm potatoes with cold dairy might cause the potatoes to seize up.
  • Cook Off Excess Water Drain the potatoes after they're cooked, then return the potatoes to the hot pot and put it back on the stove for a few minutes so that the dry heat will cause excess water to evaporate. This step is so important, it helps avoid watery mashed potatoes.
  • Finally, Mash the Potatoes Mash the potatoes on their own first, using an electric hand mixer (my favorite, for control) or a hand-held potato masher (for a good arm workout). Then add the warmed-up ingredients, mashing until light and fluffy.
  • Taste! This is such an important step with mashed potatoes, especially while the potatoes are still hot. (Did you know? It's good to taste test a dish for seasoning while it's at its eventual serving temperature, hot, room temperature, chilled. It's a chef's secret!) If you want, these mashed potatoes are ready to move to the table!
  • Decide: Oven vs Slow Cooker Many of us, however, are putting these potatoes in the fridge to reheat before meal time. If you'll be re-heating them in the oven, spread the potatoes in an oven-safe casserole dish, shallow is better than deep. If you'll be reheating them in a slow cooker, pack the potatoes into a crockpot, just be sure it'll fit into your fridge along with everything else! And if it doesn't, you'll need to use an interim dish.
  • Refrigerate Refrigerate the potatoes.
  • Allow Lots of Time to Return to Room Temperature Remove the potatoes from the fridge several hours before serving. Oven space and time is often at a premium for a meal where mashed potatoes are served, hello, Thanksgiving and other holidays. The less-cold the potatoes, the shorter the oven time. But the same thing applies to a slow cooker too. Bringing the potatoes to room temperature beforehand lets them reheat more evenly in the slow cooker, this prevents the outer edge from getting too hot and even burned.
  • Reheat Both options work well: the oven or the slow cooker. You'll be happy with either method, pick which one works best for your situation. I especially like to rely on the slow cooker when carrying the potatoes to a potluck or party. The potatoes get really hot at home, then stay warm just by plugging them in once reaching the dinner destination. Just make sure the host knows you'll need a spot and an outlet: way easier than oven space in most kitchens!
  • Eat Up! You're going to love these potatoes!
Perfect Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes (Party Potatoes) ♥, rich, fluffy mashed potatoes, perfect for parties and family gatherings.

You Might Wonder Be Wondering ...

Have another question? Ask away, I'll do my best to answer!

  • Which Potato Is Best for Mashed Potatoes? Baking Potatoes, also called Russet Potatoes or Idaho Potatoes. Different kinds of potatoes have different levels of starchiness.
  • Can You Use Another Kind of Potato? Yes. But It's Not Ideal. Baking potatoes have just the right amount of starch for mashed potatoes. Next best would be a Yukon potato, it has a mid-level of starch. The least best would be a red-skinned potato or a new potato, these have the least amount of starch.
  • How to Identify Baking Potatoes In the store, look for potatoes that have dull-brown and rough skins. They're often the largest potatoes and might be called "russet" potatoes or "Idaho potatoes". If you prefer smaller baked potatoes, look for them packaged in bags versus loose in bins. Smaller potatoes are especially good for individual servings and portion control for the most wonderful (Sloooow) Baked Potatoes. For mashed potatoes, size doesn't matter, big ones work, small ones work.
  • How Far Ahead Can Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes Be Made? Early in the day of serving? Of course. The day before? Absolutely. Two days before? Yes. More than that, no, I wouldn't.
  • Can Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes Be Frozen? Yes, I think so. I haven't frozen mashed potatoes but do think it would work. As always, the trick is to avoid freezer burn. I do this by packing food into a heavy freezer container, then pressing a layer or double layer of waxed paper on top of the food. This avoids air and ice crystals touching the food, the bane of freezing home-cooked foods. How long could you freeze mashed potatoes? I'd use them within a month, especially if you're cooking ahead of time for a big, important meal like Thanksgiving. I'd also recommend letting the frozen mashed potatoes thaw in the refrigerator for a couple of days, no microwave, okay?

Bookmark! PIN! Share!

How do you save and share favorite recipes? recipes that fit your personal cooking style? a particular recipe your mom or daughter or best friend would just love? If the idea of make-ahead mashed potatoes hits the mark, go ahead, save and share! I'd be honored ...
Perfect Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes (Party Potatoes) ♥, rich, fluffy mashed potatoes, perfect for parties and family gatherings.


Hands-on time: 25 minutes
Time to table: 50 minutes
Makes 10 cups (recipe easy to halve or double)
  • 4 pounds (1860g) baking potatoes
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick, 115g) salted butter, room temperature, cubed
  • 8 ounces (225g) cream cheese, either low-fat Neufchatel or full fat, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces/170g) sour cream, either low-fat or full-fat
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (don’t skip, a key ingredient)
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • A pat of salted butter, optional
  • Fresh thyme or another big of fresh herb, for garnish, optional

PREP Wash and peel the potatoes, drop into cold water as each one is peeled to prevent browning. Cut the potatoes into same-size pieces and rinse under running water to remove excess starch.

COOK Place the potato pieces in a large saucepan, barely cover with unsalted water, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer; cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes, then drain off the cooking water.

WARM THE ADDITIONS While the potatoes cook, in a small saucepan, gently melt the butter on low heat. Stir in the cream cheese, sour cream until they melt, also the nutmeg, onion powder, salt and pepper. Keep the mixture warm but do not allow to boil.

COOK OFF EXCESS WATER Return the drained potatoes to the still-hot pot, leave the pot dry but turn on the heat to about medium high. Stay close, watching carefully, you want to cook off the excess liquid that the potatoes will express without burning the potatoes. This takes two or three or even five minutes and makes all the difference.

MASH If needed, transfer the potatoes to another bowl for mashing. With a hand mixer or a potato masher, mash only the potatoes by themselves until almost smooth. Then mix in the warm butter-cream cheese-sour cream mixture until light and fluffy. Taste and add additional salt and pepper as needed.

TO SERVE RIGHT AWAY Transfer to a serving bowl. Top with a slice of butter and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves. Serve immediately.

TO SERVE LATER, REHEATED IN THE OVEN Transfer the mashed potatoes to a buttered shallow baking dish and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves. Cover with foil and refrigerate for up to two days. Return to room temperature for several hours. Then reheat at 350F/180C for about 60 minutes; leave the foil on for the first 30 minutes, then uncover, stir and finish reheating for the last 30 minutes. For a bit of color, put the potatoes under the broiler for a couple of minutes.

TO SERVE LATER, REHEATED IN A SLOW COOKER Lightly butter or spray the sides of the slow cooker. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to two days. Return to room temperature for several hours and reheat on LOW for 4-5 hours without stirring until the last hour.

ALANNA's TIPS To save a dish, cook the potatoes in a 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. Many cooks rave about potatoes mashed with a "potato ricer" – I bought one to try just for mashed potatoes but was unimpressed. The inspiring recipe makes the potatoes even creamier with another 4 ounces cream cheese. To my taste, that's just too rich and frankly, too "cream cheesy". My way, the potatoes remain totally "mashed potatoes" – to my taste, that's perfect! The potatoes reheat more evenly and quickly in the oven when a shallow baking dish is used versus a deeper, narrower baking dish. No time to bring the potatoes to room temperature before finishing in the oven or the slow cooker? Heat the potatoes on the stove, stirring often. I find myself wanting to add milk here, that loosens the potatoes even further.

TIPS ESPECIALLY FOR SLOW COOKERS A double batch is a bit much for even a large slow cooker, it works but isn't ideal. For a big dinner, maybe use a couple of slow cookers rather than just one. Check your fridge to make sure the slow cooker will actually fit, especially if fridge space is at a premium before a big meal. If you're lucky? It's cold enough to keep the slow cooker in the "outdoor" fridge, that is, the back step when the temperature's below 40F/4C.
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Half Cup (assumes low-fat Neufchatel and full-fat sour cream): 146 Calories; 8g Tot Fat; 5g Sat Fat; 22mg Cholesterol; 135mg Sodium; 15g Carb; 1g Fiber; 2g Sugar; 3g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 3 & PointsPlus 4 & SmartPoints 6 & Freestyle 6 & myWW green 6 & blue 6 & purple 4
Adapted from Silver Palate, Cook's Illustrated's mashed potato tricks and my Three Secrets for Rich & Creamy Mashed Potatoes at A Veggie Venture.

More Favorite Potato Recipes

(hover with a mouse for a description; otherwise click a photo to view the recipe)

Mashed Cauliflower (Low-Carb Mashed 'Potatoes') Mashed Potatoes & Carrots Those Pink Potatoes
~ potato recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade

~ Three Secrets for Rich & Creamy Mashed Potatoes ~
~ Slow Cooker Garlic Smashed Potatoes ~
~ Simple Scalloped Potatoes ~
~ potato recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture

Thanksgiving Recipes, Menus & More, organized for easy browsing & targeted searches ♥

This Year, Make It a Make-Ahead Thanksgiving

Slow Cooker Turkey Breast ♥ Easy Enough for Every Day, Special Enough for Occasions. Great for Meal Prep. Recipe, insider tips, nutrition and Weight Watchers points included.

Squash Puff ♥, an old family recipe traditional at Thanksgiving, a welcome savory make-ahead casserole, just creamy winter squash topped with pumpkin seeds. Rave reviews! Weight Watchers Friendly. Vegetarian.

Cranberry Chutney ♥, a thick relish with pecans, raisins, dried apricots, ginger and spices. One of my oldest recipes, perfect for Thanksgiving and beyond.
  • THE RECIPE Cranberry Chutney A holiday tradition, fresh cranberries plus dried fruit, nuts and wintry spices.
  • ANOTHER TAKE Savory Rhubarb Chutney A savory chutney made with rhubarb, onion and dried fruit.

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

~ potato recipes ~
~ cream cheese recipes ~
~ sour cream recipes ~

~ All Recipes, By Ingredient ~
~ How to Save Money on Groceries ~

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, for more scratch cooking recipes using whole, healthful ingredients, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

© Copyright Kitchen Parade
2008, 2014, 2015, 2020 & 2021

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. 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!

  2. 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?

  3. 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!

  4. We loved the mashed potatoes from your recipe. Enjoyed reading about your dad, too. I did pack them into the crockpot after mashing, and brought it out of the fridge in time to reheat on Thursday. Even the leftovers were moist and great!

    1. Laurie Again11/30/2023

      I did use the Yukon gold! I hand mashed, and they were absolutely amazing. I would have left on those tender skins if it had not been for company!


Post a Comment

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