Recipe: How to Make Perfect English Mashed Potato

When I need comfort food, mashed potato it is.  Reminiscent of childhood large plates of mashed potato, buttery and herby, steaming hot from the pan and piled with other vegetables, it takes me back to days of large gardens, lazy days, and few cares.

As simple as mashed potatoes is to make, some care is needed otherwise a gluey mash or a dry flavourless pile of potatoes is the result. Here are some tips that might help you to find the perfect mash.

We have three different mashed potato recipes for you:

Floury Potatoes: From the English perspective (the French view it differently), it helps to use potatoes with a high starch content and low water and sugar content. Unfortunately it is difficult to tell which potato is which – different sources will list a potato as floury in one and as an all-rounder in another. Additionally, potatoes will change their characteristics over time , being more waxy early in the season, and losing starch over time. One way of telling is to mix one part salt to 11 parts water in a measuring jug and add the potato. A floury one will almost always sink to the bottom of the jug, while a waxy one will float.

The French differ and use a waxy potato for their mashed potato.

English Mashed Potatoes

Perfect English Mashed Potatoes

size while cooking
To prevent water absorption by the potato, cook in larger pieces in just enough boiling, salted water. Even better, cook with the skin on and slip it off once they are cooked. You can also steam the potatoes.

Many people will say don’t mash too much as you don’t want to crush the starch granules. But just before serving, I like to use a wooden spoon to beat/stir vigorously, and this lightens the mash a little.

Boil or steam your potatoes, and drain them well. Place the potatoes back into the hot saucepan and shake around gently to let the potatoes dry off. Add warm milk, about 3/4 cup for 4 medium potatoes, about 30g of butter or 2T olive oil, and sea salt and black pepper to taste. Gently mash them and stir to incorporate the milk and butter or  oil. Top with a little extra butter or olive oil when serving.

recipe notes and alternatives
Mashed potatoes accommodate various additions for added flavour:

  • Add shopped parsley and stir through the mashed potatoes
  • Use up that last bit of cheese by grating or chopping finely and adding to the potatoes with the butter and milk
  • Gently stir in some finely sliced cabbage that has been stir-fried in butter or olive oil with 1tspn caraway seeds for 2 minutes until wilted
  • Add cream or sour cream, 2 Tblspns horseradish cream and some chopped dill


Feel free to browse recipes from our Retro Recipes series, our vegetarian recipes from our first blog from 1995 – 2005. You might also like our How To information here. Or you might like to browse our Ingredients information here. Check out our easy Potato recipes here and here.

browse other Potato recipes