It’s about time I introduced you to my family’s mashed potato recipe! Meet the only mashed potatoes I ever want to eat.
Every Thanksgiving, my mom opens up a 1970s church cookbook called “Thyme to Cook” to make them. They’re called “Refrigerator Potatoes” and the recipe cites three authors, with my great-grandmother Lucille listed third. I call them Lucille’s mashed potatoes, so that’s what I’m calling them today.
For several years now, I’ve contemplated how to offer a “Cookie and Kate” version of these mashed potatoes (as in, a lighter version). But why mess with a good thing? We’re talking about a traditional holiday recipe that I enjoy twice a year, on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Let me tell you, these mashed potatoes are worth it. Lucille’s mashed potatoes are creamy and dense, tangy and irresistible. They are all of those things. Here’s what they are not: light, fluffy, milky or watery. Lucille’s potatoes are everything that I want mashed potatoes to be! Nothing more and nothing less.
Lucille’s recipe calls for cream cheese and sour cream, rather than milk or cream. The cream cheese helps fortify the mashed potatoes, so they reheat beautifully. That’s why the recipe struck church lady gold—it’s delicious and you can cross the mashed potatoes off your list a day or two in advance. Hence the name “refrigerator mashed potatoes.”
This year, I decided to share recipe as is, with some of my notes added for clarity. I’ll breakdown the ingredients, too. Ready to make the best mashed potatoes?!
Wait, can I tell you a little bit about my great-grandmother Lucille? She was a special lady. Brilliant, too.
Lucille was the oldest of six sisters. She graduated from high school at the age of 16 and college at 20, in 1924. Before the internet existed, she immersed herself in my family’s genealogy and wrote an entire book about our family’s history. She printed it for future generations, complete with a pull-out family tree. The names date back to Switzerland in the 1300s. Lucille was really something else.
She was older when I was born, but I remember her big laugh and the M&M’s she always kept in a fancy container on her coffee table.
Mashed Potato Considerations
Let’s break down the ingredients and methods used to make Lucille’s mashed potatoes.
First up? The potatoes. My family always uses Russet potatoes, which is how I like these mashed potatoes. They taste like the inside of a baked potato. I’m into that. Rumor has it that Yukon Golds are creamier, but Adrianna says they take longer to cook and break down.
Next up: To peel, or not to peel your potatoes? My mom and grandma always peel the potatoes before making these mashed potatoes. I love the flavor of potato skins and I like some texture to my mashed potatoes, so I didn’t peel mine. I’m also lazy. Peel your potatoes if you want smooth, skin-free mashed potatoes.
Do you like some texture in your mashed potatoes? For some texture (shown here), just use a potato masher and mash just until the potatoes are as chunky or creamy as you’d like them to be.
Or do you prefer smooth mashed potatoes? Be sure to peel your mashed potatoes before cooking. Then, either keep mashing with your potato masher, or use a hand mixer or stand mixer to blend them until smooth. For ultra super smooth mashed potatoes, use a ricer to process the potatoes and then a mixer to blend them until creamy (see Adrianna’s method here).
How to Make Mashed Potatoes
Once your potatoes are mashed, stir in the remaining ingredients. Cream cheese and sour cream offer lots of flavor and extra creaminess (you can used reduced fat varieties if you want). The mashed potatoes aren’t complete without a little butter and some salt. Lucille’s secret ingredient? Onion powder. It gives these mashed potatoes a subtle, gimme-more-of-that quality. Don’t skip it.
Once everything’s stirred in, these mashed potatoes are delicious and ready to eat right away. However, you can let them cool and store them for later. Reheating them in the oven seems to concentrate the flavors even more, and I find them a little more irresistible after they’re baked. Holidays are hectic, so choose whichever option is most convenient.
To serve, you can dress them up with a garnish (or not). My grandma sprinkles a ground paprika on top for color (not the hot or smoked kind). You can also do finely chopped chives, or parsley, or just a pat of butter. They’re amazing no matter how you serve them! Now that I’ve made them for myself, I must say—mashed potatoes are really easy to make. Real, homemade mashed potatoes or bust!
Craving something different? Don’t miss my savory mashed sweet potatoes.
Please let me know how these mashed potatoes turn out for you in the comments! I hope they become your family’s favorite mashed potatoes, too.
Lucille’s Mashed Potatoes
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 35 minutes (plus optional 30-minute reheat time)
- Yield: 8 to 12 servings 1x
- Category: Side
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: American
My family’s favorite mashed potatoes recipe! These mashed potatoes are creamy, rich and tangy, thanks to the cream cheese and sour cream. You can make these mashed potatoes ahead of time, too (see the final step for details). Recipe yields 8 large or 12 medium servings; I believe you could successfully halve the recipe for a smaller crowd.
- 5 pounds Russet potatoes, preferably organic*
- 3 teaspoons salt, divided
- 6 ounces cream cheese (that’s ¾ of one brick)
- 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¾ teaspoon onion powder
- Optional garnishes: Finely sliced fresh chives, pat of butter, sprinkle of mild paprika (not the smoked kind) and/or freshly ground black pepper
- To prepare your potatoes, you can either scrub them clean and leave them unpeeled (like I did) or rinse and peel them (for smooth, skin-free mashed potatoes). Then cut the potatoes into even chunks about 2” in size (see photos).
- Place the potato chunks in a large Dutch oven or soup pot. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt, and enough water to cover the potatoes by 1 to 2 inches.
- Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Continue cooking, reducing the heat as necessary to prevent overflow, until the potatoes are easily pierced through by a fork, about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Carefully drain off all of the water and return the potatoes to the pot. Mash the potatoes until they reach your desired consistency (I like mine a little chunky, but you can mash them completely smooth if you prefer).
- Add the cream cheese, sour cream, butter, the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt and the onion powder. Stir until everything is mixed together evenly. You can serve the mashed potatoes immediately at this point, with garnishes of your choice.
- If you’re making these mashed potatoes in advance, transfer them to a casserole dish with a lid (my Dutch oven is oven-safe so this was unnecessary). Smooth the top, cover, and store the mashed potatoes for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. To serve, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the mashed potatoes, covered, until warmed through, about 30 to 35 minutes. Serve with garnishes of your choice.
Leftover mashed potatoes? They will keep well in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 4 days.
*Why buy organic? Potatoes are #12 on the Dirty Dozen list, meaning that conventionally grown potatoes are generally high in pesticide residues.
“Light” option: I used full-fat cream cheese and sour cream, but my mom uses reduced fat and I honestly can’t tell the difference.
Make it dairy free/vegan: I haven’t tried, but I think these mashed potatoes would be great with 1 ¾ cups vegan sour cream (see my cookbook, page 217) in place of the sour cream and cream cheese. You can omit the butter or stir in a tablespoon or two of extra-virgin olive oil in its place.
Recommended equipment: I made these mashed potatoes in my 5.5-quart Dutch oven, which was just big enough, and used my OXO potato masher (those are affiliate links).
▸ Nutrition Information
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.