Food & Nutrition

Delicious Ways to Enjoy 5 Kinds of Potatoes

From blues and reds to whites and yellows, get the lowdown on popular potato varieties.

Potatoes are a year-round staple, whether you enjoy them in a cold salad at a summer potluck, mashed or roasted at holiday gatherings, or as part of a traditional Irish meal around St. Patrick's Day.

And that's just because they taste good! Now consider their excellent nutritional profile: A medium-size potato (5.3 ounces, about the size of a computer mouse) has half your day’s vitamin C requirement. If eaten with its skin, a potato has more potassium than a banana and is a good source of fiber. Just note: The fleshy part of the tuber is nutritious, too! No pressure to eat the peel unless you enjoy it.

Basic varieties of starchy potatoes

There are five basic types: yellow-fleshed, red-skinned, white, blue and Russet. They are categorized by color and by starch: less starch yields a firmer potato. 

Yellow-fleshed 

These dense, creamy potatoes, typified by the Yukon Gold variety, are moderately starchy, and so make excellent mashed potatoes and au gratins. They are flavorful, slightly sweet and perfect for steaming, boiling, stir-frying and pan-frying (as in hashed browns or hash).

Red-skinned 

Often called “new potatoes,” these spuds have a vibrant red skin — and some, a mottled red skin. They have a mild, earthy taste and are the least starchy of any variety, so they’re best roasted with olive oil and herbs. Because they hold up well, they’re also great in potato salads.

White potatoes 

Perhaps the most versatile potato, these are available in round little balls or long fingerlings (not named for fingers but for little German fish). They should not be confused with larger Russets; white potatoes, like Irish creamers, are always small with a creamy white or pale beige skin. Use them for salads, mashed potatoes, oven fries and any dish that requires boiled or steamed potatoes.

Blue potatoes 

Closely related to the original potatoes from South America, blues are actually available in a range of colors: blue, violet, purple or lavender. These fairly starchy potatoes have a nutty, earthy taste. They are good roasted or mixed into doughs (bread, muffin or even tamale).

Russets

Sometimes called baking potatoes, Russets are the starchiest potatoes, with thick, netted-brown skins. They make fluffy mashed potatoes and classic baked potatoes, as well as great French fries. Their skin is so thick and chewy that these are the only potatoes that can be turned into potato skins. Because of their dry, starchy texture, they're also ideal for making gnocchi or potato noodles.

Best-ever mashed potatoes

Many mashed potato fans agree: Microwaving is the best cooking method! Here's how to zap your way to a perfect batch.

1. Wash (but do not dry) 4 or 5 medium Russet or yellow-fleshed potatoes. Without pricking or peeling them, place the potatoes in a large, microwave-safe bowl with a vented lid, or cover the microwave-safe bowl with plastic wrap and poke a small holes in the wrap.

2. Microwave on high for 8 minutes without disturbing.

3. Remove bowl from microwave—beware of hot steam—remove the lid or plastic wrap. Using an electric mixer at medium speed or a hand-held potato masher, mash the cooked potatoes. Add skim milk, fat-free chicken or vegetable broth, a little butter or olive oil, and/or some Dijon mustard and chopped fresh herbs to taste.