If there’s one vegetable that everyone can agree on, it’s the potato. In the United States alone, there are over 100 varieties of potatoes and over 45 billion pounds of potatoes are harvested in the U.S. each year. Potatoes are actually the most-consumed vegetable in the U.S. but they are also beloved all over the world. Talk about versatility – potatoes can be baked, boiled, mashed, whipped, fried, or scalloped; they can be used for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even dessert, like in this Chocolate Potato Cake.
Potatoes are also healthy. They contain high levels of important vitamins and minerals including iron, vitamin C, and potassium. Potatoes are also highly sustainable, needing less land and water than other crops. Growing up, I ate one type of potato – the Russet – but now I love to cook with all types of potatoes. But, not all potatoes are created equal. It’s important to pick the right kind of potato for the recipe you’re making. Here’s how to cook with all types of potatoes.
There are more than 100 types of potatoes that can be divided into categories based on color and size, but the most important distinction is the amount of starch they contain. This is one of the best ways to determine how to cook with these potatoes. Potatoes fall into three categories: starchy, waxy, and all-purpose.
Starchy potatoes are high in starch and low in moisture. They’re fluffy and absorbent which makes them a good choice for boiling, baking and frying. On the other hand, they don’t hold their shape very well so they aren’t the best choice for casseroles, gratins, potato salads, or any dishes where you want the potatoes to stay intact. Examples of starchy potatoes are Russets and Idaho potatoes.
Waxy potatoes have a low starch content and contain more moisture. They are firm, moist, and creamy. They do hold their shape after cooking so they are the perfect choice for casseroles, roasting, and potato salads. Examples of waxy potatoes are Red Bliss, New Potatoes, and Fingerlings.
All-Purpose potatoes have a medium starch content that falls in between the starchy and waxy ones. Like their name, you can use these potatoes for any purpose. They may break a bit, but shouldn’t fall totally apart. Examples of all-purpose potatoes are Yukon Gold and Purple potatoes.
Varieties of Potatoes
Now that you know about the starch content, let’s look at the different varieties of the most common potatoes and what we can do with them.
Russet or Idaho potatoes are probably both the most recognizable potatoes and the most common. Russets are large and have tough brown skin with white flesh. They have a fluffy, soft texture and are best for baking, mashing, and making fries. Because they are absorbent, they will soak up broth, water, non-dairy milk, or vegan butter to add to their flavor. They will not hold their shape, so these aren’t the potatoes to choose for dishes where you want that. Try these Russet Potatoes With Creamy Spinach and Ramp Sauce, Loaded Baked Potatoes With Carrot Bacon, Potatoes Oreganata: Greek Potato Hasselback Casserole, Homemade Baked Potato Chips, Dill Pickle French Fries, Baked Potato Falafel, and these Spicy Turmeric Twice-Baked Potatoes.
White potatoes look kind of like Russets with a light brown/tan skin, but they are rounder and smaller than Russets with thinner skins that can get deliciously crispy when baked. They have medium starch content, making them good all-purpose potatoes. These potatoes will hold their shape better than Russets, but not totally. White potatoes are good for mashing, boiling, steaming, roasting, and will hold their shape well enough to make gratins. White potatoes are the star of this Potato Kofta in Butter Sauce and this Hearty Barley Lentil Soup With Potatoes.
Purple potatoes have medium starch and fall into the all-purpose category. Not only is the skin deep a purple, but the flesh is too, which makes for striking dishes. The color is due to the high antioxidant content, which makes them extra nutritious. They have a delicious flavor that’s earthy, nutty, and buttery. Purple potatoes are good for baking, boiling, steaming, roasting, frying, and grilling. Make a bright presentation with this Hearty Purple Potato Stew, this Purple Mac and Cheese, and this Cheesy Purple Potato Tart.
Yukon Gold potatoes have a medium starch content that makes them all-purpose potatoes. They have thin, yellowish-white skin with light yellow flesh. They have a slightly sweet taste with a smooth, waxy texture and moist flesh. Their medium starch content means you can use them for mashed potatoes as well as for boiling, baking, and making fries. Yukon Golds will, however, fall apart if you overcook them. Use them to make this Tempeh Shepherd’s Pie, Garlic Scape Pesto Potato Crust Pizza, Chile-Garlic Potatoes and Cauliflower With Turmeric, and this Potato and Mushroom Gratin.
Red potatoes have a low starch content and fall into the waxy category. They have red skin which does not need to be peeled and white flesh with a firm, waxy texture. Red potatoes hold their shape when boiled and sliced, which makes them perfect for potato salads, scalloped potatoes, and gratins. Larger Red potatoes have more starch content, so choose smaller ones if you want them to hold their shape. Use Red potatoes to make this Herb-Infused White Sesame Curry With Red Potatoes and Mushrooms, Indian Mashed Potatoes With Curried Gravy, Perfectly Roasted Potatoes without Oil, Roasted Aloo Gobi, and these Roasted Red Potatoes With Turmeric and Thyme.
Fingerling potatoes get their name from their shape, which resembles fingers. They have a low starch content which puts them in the waxy category. Fingerlings have thin, light yellow skins and light yellow flesh with a firm, moist texture. Their flavor is nutty, mild, and earthy. These are good for boiling, baking, roasting, and potato salads like this Dijon Fingerling Potato Salad and this Lentil and Fingerling Potato Salad With Spicy Mustard. Fingerlings can be pricey, but if you want a special presentation, these are the way to go. Just look at these Fingerling Potato Rounds!
New potatoes are any variety of potato that has been harvested young before the sugars converted into starch. That means that they are very waxy. They are small and round with thin skins and come in a variety of colors, depending on the variety of potato. New potatoes are sweet, firm, and creamy. These are perfect for steaming, boiling, roasting, and salads. They are very perishable, so they need to be used quickly. Try them in this dish of Roasted Carrots and New Potatoes With Arugula Pesto or these Tandoor Aloo: Marinated New Potatoes.
Now that you know all about potatoes, it’s time to start cooking. We’ve got lots of recipes you’ll want to try. Check out these 26 Summer Spud-tacular Recipes, Celebrate Potato Day With These Tasty Dishes, 15 Recipes for National Tater Day, Our Top Ten Vegan Tater Recipes and Beyond Mashed Potatoes and Fries: 20 Drool-Worthy Potato Recipes You Need to Try. For more potato recipes, check out our vegan potato recipes.
There is no vegetable that is more well-known, more versatile, and more loved than potatoes. Have fun experimenting and try a different type of potato each night this week.
Lead image source: Russet Potatoes With Creamy Spinach and Ramp Sauce