How Long to Boil Potatoes?

Boiling potatoes is a fundamental cooking skill that comes in handy for various dishes, from creamy mashed potatoes to delicious potato salads. But, to achieve the perfect texture and taste, you need to know the ideal boiling time for this versatile vegetable. In this article, we will explore the factors affecting boiling time, so you can be confident in preparing perfectly cooked potatoes every time.

The boiling time for potatoes varies depending on their type, size, and desired outcome. Generally, it takes about 10-25 minutes to boil potatoes to the right consistency. Following a few essential tips will ensure that you get the desired results, regardless of the dish you’re serving. Let’s delve into these factors to help you become a pro at boiling potatoes in no time.

Types of Potatoes for Boiling

When it comes to boiling potatoes, the type you choose can greatly impact the final result. Here, you will find information on the most common types of potatoes suitable for boiling.

Russet potatoes are starchy, making them perfect for mashing. When boiled, they have a light, fluffy texture. They can become slightly mushy if boiled for too long, so be attentive to their cooking time.

Yukon Gold potatoes are an all-purpose potato with a perfect balance of starch and wax. They hold their shape well during boiling, making them ideal for potato salads or dishes where you want the potatoes to remain intact. Their buttery flavor is an added bonus.

Red potatoes have a waxy texture, which helps them maintain their shape when boiled. They are perfect for dishes that call for bite-sized, boiled potatoes. Their red skin adds a pop of color to your dish as well.

Waxy potatoes encompass a variety of potatoes, including red-skinned and new potatoes. They contain less starch than their starchy counterparts and hold their shape well during boiling.

Starchy potatoes, such as Russets, have a high starch content and tend to break apart when boiled. They are best suited for mashing or in recipes where a creamy texture is desired.

All-purpose potatoes strike a balance between waxy and starchy, making them versatile for all types of recipes, including boiling. Yukon Gold and round white potatoes fall into this category.

New potatoes are harvested young and have a thin skin, which means you can skip the peeling step. Their waxy texture and small size make them ideal for boiling whole.

Round white potatoes are another example of all-purpose potatoes. They have a firm texture, making them suitable for boiling. Their thin skin means they do not require peeling beforehand.

In summary, when boiling potatoes, consider your desired end result. For a fluffy, creamy texture, opt for starchy potatoes like Russets. For dishes that require potatoes to hold their shape, go for waxy options like red or new potatoes. And if you need an all-purpose potato that performs well in most situations, try Yukon Gold or round white potatoes.

Preparing Potatoes for Boiling

When preparing potatoes for boiling, you have several options depending on your desired result. Choose between peeled or skins on, and consider whether you want to cook whole potatoes or cubed potatoes.

To begin, always start by thoroughly washing your potatoes under running water. Use a scrub brush to ensure the skins are clean, especially if you plan on keeping them on. This removes any dirt or debris, ensuring an uncontaminated cooking process.

If you prefer to boil potatoes with their skins on, simply give them a good scrub and proceed to the next step. Many people enjoy potato skins for their added texture, flavor, and nutrients.

In case you’d rather have peeled potatoes, use a paring knife or a vegetable peeler for easy removal. Hold the potato firmly in one hand and carefully remove the skin in a continuous motion, trying to keep the peeler or knife close to the surface to minimize waste.

Next, decide on the size of your potatoes. Whole potatoes may take longer to cook, but they are suitable if you plan to mash them afterward. To boil whole potatoes, ensure they are of similar sizes to promote even cooking.

On the other hand, you can opt for cubed potatoes for quicker cooking and more manageable serving sizes. To do this, simply slice the potatoes into evenly sized pieces, ideally no larger than 2 inches. This will speed up the cooking process and achieve a uniform consistency.

Now that your potatoes are ready, you can proceed to boil them in a pot of generously salted water for an appetizing and flavorful dish.

Boiling Process

To ensure consistently cooked potatoes, start by placing them in a pot with cold water. Add enough water to cover the potatoes by an inch or two. Season the water generously with kosher salt, at least a tablespoon per quart of water. Using cold water and seasoning with salt is essential for evenly cooked and flavorful potatoes.

Place the pot on the stovetop and turn on the heat to high. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer. For smaller, whole potatoes, such as those used for potato salad, boiling time takes around 15-20 minutes. When boiling larger, whole potatoes or those cut into smaller chunks for dishes like mashed potatoes, the cooking time may extend to 25-35 minutes.

Keep an eye on the potatoes and use the tip of a sharp knife or a fork to test for doneness. The potatoes should be tender and offer little resistance when pierced. Avoid over-boiling the potatoes, as they may become waterlogged and mushy, making them less enjoyable in your favorite dishes. Once you have identified that the potatoes are cooked to your desired doneness, carefully drain the hot water and allow the potatoes to cool slightly before handling or incorporating them into a recipe.

Remember these key points to achieve perfect boiled potatoes every time:

  • Start with cold water
  • Season with kosher salt
  • Bring water to a boil, then simmer
  • Monitor cooking time depending on potato size and recipe
  • Test for doneness to prevent overcooking

Potato Texture and Tenderness

When boiling potatoes, achieving the desired texture and tenderness is crucial. It’s essential to find the right balance for various recipes, as some call for a creamy texture while others require a fluffy consistency.

To achieve a fork-tender texture, you’ll know your potatoes are ready when a fork can be easily inserted and removed from the potato without resistance. This level of tenderness is perfect for dishes like mashed potatoes and potato salad, where a soft, creamy texture is the goal.

On the other hand, if you’re aiming for a fluffy texture, it’s essential to avoid overcooking the potatoes. Overcooked potatoes become waterlogged and mushy. To achieve a light, airy consistency, monitor the potatoes closely and test for tenderness throughout the boiling process. Fluffy potatoes are ideal for dishes like baked potatoes or for pairing with a roast dinner.

Here are some general guidelines for boiling times based on the size and type of potato:

  • Small new potatoes: 10-15 minutes
  • Medium-sized potatoes: 15-20 minutes
  • Large potatoes: 20-25 minutes

It’s important to note that these are general recommendations and may vary depending on the specific type of potato you are using. Always test for tenderness with a fork to ensure the desired consistency.

Remember to start with cold water when boiling potatoes and bring the water to a boil with the potatoes already in the pot. This helps ensure even cooking and keeps the textures consistent throughout.

Seasoning and Flavor Enhancements

When boiling potatoes, the right seasoning and flavor enhancements can make a big difference in the final dish. As the potatoes cook, consider adding various seasonings to the water to infuse the spuds with extra flavor.

Start with salting the water – add a generous amount of salt to the boiling water prior to adding the potatoes. This step ensures that the potatoes absorb some of the salt as they cook, seasoning them from the inside out.

Herbs such as fresh or dried parsley can be added to the boiling water or sprinkled over the cooked potatoes. Other great options include thyme, rosemary, and dill. When using fresh herbs, be sure to rinse them thoroughly before adding them to the water or finished dish.

Incorporating dairy products like butter and cream can give the potatoes a richer, creamier taste. You may stir in a small amount of melted butter and warm cream after draining the potatoes, until they reach your desired consistency.

A simple sprinkle of pepper provides a subtle heat and enhances the overall flavor of the potatoes. You can adjust the amount to suit your taste preferences.

A dash of vinegar can add a bright, tangy note to your boiled potatoes. Opt for milder vinegars, such as white wine or apple cider vinegar, in order not to overpower the dish.

If you plan on storing the boiled potatoes, place them in an airtight container to maintain their freshness. Store the container in the refrigerator and consume the potatoes within a few days.

By following these tips, you can elevate your boiled potatoes and create a delicious and satisfying dish. Don’t be afraid to experiment with various seasonings and flavor enhancements to find the perfect combination for your taste buds.

Assessing Doneness and Potatoes

When boiling potatoes, it’s crucial to know when they have reached the perfect level of doneness. To assess the doneness of your potatoes, follow these simple steps:

  1. Check the cooking time: Depending on the size and type of your potatoes, boiling time may vary. Smaller potatoes typically cook more quickly, while larger ones take longer. As a general guideline, expect small potatoes to cook in about 12-15 minutes and larger ones in 20-25 minutes.
  2. Use a paring knife or fork: The most reliable method to check for doneness is to insert a paring knife or fork into the center of the potato. If it slides in easily with little resistance, your potatoes are done cooking.
  3. Microwave alternative: If you prefer using a microwave instead of boiling potatoes, make sure to poke holes in the potatoes with a fork to allow steam to escape. Cook them in a microwave-safe dish for about 10-12 minutes, flipping halfway through. To determine the doneness, use the same method of probing with a paring knife or fork.

Once you’ve determined that your potatoes are cooked to your desired level of softness, follow these steps to finish the process:

  • Drain the potatoes: Carefully pour the potatoes into a colander over the sink to drain out excess water.
  • Allow them to steam-dry: After draining, let your potatoes sit for about 1-2 minutes in the colander to allow excess steam and moisture to dissipate.
  • Cool and serve: At this point, your potatoes are ready to be served as a side dish or incorporated into your favorite recipe.

Remember, practice makes perfect. The more you cook potatoes, the more confident and knowledgeable you will become in assessing their doneness and achieving the ideal texture for your meals.

Additional Potato Recipes

As you explore the delicious world of potatoes, you’ll be thrilled to know there are countless recipes to try. Each dish showcases potatoes in unique ways, giving your taste buds a treat. Some favorites that you should try are:

  • Potato salads: A classic side dish, perfect for summer picnics and barbecues. You can make a traditional version with boiled potatoes, mayonnaise, and mustard, or get creative with different dressings and add-ins like bacon, pickles, and hard-boiled eggs.
  • Casseroles: Potatoes make a comforting base for various casseroles. A well-known example is the scalloped potato casserole with thinly sliced potatoes, creamy sauce, and a crispy breadcrumb topping. Another option is a cheesy potato casserole, combining potatoes with cheese, sour cream, and onions.
  • Soups: Potatoes can be blended into velvety soups, providing a hearty and satisfying meal. Some examples include potato leek soup, creamy potato chowder, or a more complex lobster bisque with potatoes.
  • Potato dishes: From side dishes to main courses, potatoes are versatile and can be transformed into various preparations. Some popular dishes include:
    • Hasselback potatoes: Thinly sliced, baked whole potatoes with butter, garlic, and fresh herbs, resulting in a crispy outside and tender inside.
    • Gnocchi: Soft, pillowy potato dumplings paired with your choice of sauce like tomato, pesto, or brown butter and sage.
    • Potato wedges: A popular snack or side, these oven-baked or fried potato wedges can be seasoned with salt, pepper, and an array of spices – the possibilities are endless.

These are just a few ways you can cook potatoes beyond simply boiling them. With such versatility, there’s no doubt that you will enjoy experimenting and discovering your new favorite potato recipes.

Tips and Tricks

For perfect boiled potatoes, consider your personal preference and the type of potato you’re using. Here are some valuable tips for you:

  • To cook potatoes faster, use a large pot filled with water, making sure the water covers all the potatoes. This helps them cook more evenly and quickly.
  • Choose small potatoes, like baby potatoes, if you’re in a hurry as they typically cook faster due to their size. Plus, they have a delectable and creamy texture.
  • Large potatoes, medium potatoes, and baby potatoes all require different boiling times. For large potatoes, it usually takes around 20-25 minutes, while medium potatoes may take 15-20 minutes. Baby potatoes often need just 10-15 minutes to cook thoroughly.
  • When it comes to mashed potatoes, the best varieties are those with a higher starch content, such as Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes. Their starch makes them fluffier and creamier, which is perfect for mashing.
  • To peel or not to peel? That’s up to you. Unpeeled potatoes retain more nutrients, while peeling them removes the skins and results in a smoother texture. If you choose to leave the skins on, ensure you’ve scrubbed them well.

Remember to adjust these suggestions to your individual taste and needs for the best boiled potatoes. Happy cooking!

Storing Boiled Potatoes

After boiling your potatoes, you may have leftovers that you want to store for later use. To ensure that your boiled potatoes maintain their freshness and quality, follow these simple storage guidelines.

First, transfer your boiled potatoes to a microwave-safe bowl. This will allow you to easily reheat them when you are ready to enjoy them again. Make sure the potatoes have cooled to room temperature before proceeding to the next step.

Once the potatoes are cooled, cover the microwave-safe bowl with a tight-fitting lid or plastic wrap. This helps to create an airtight seal and prevents moisture loss, keeping your potatoes fresh and avoiding any potential odors from affecting other items in your refrigerator.

Now, place the covered bowl in the refrigerator. It’s best to store your boiled potatoes in the middle or lower shelves, as this area is generally cooler and more suitable for preserving their overall quality. Your boiled potatoes can last up to 3-5 days when properly stored in the refrigerator.

In case you want to store your potatoes for an even longer duration, consider freezing them. To freeze boiled potatoes, spread them out on a baking sheet and place the sheet into the freezer for a couple of hours. Once the potatoes are completely frozen, transfer them to an airtight container or a freezer-safe plastic bag. Label the bag with the date, so you’ll know how long they’ve been stored. Frozen boiled potatoes can last up to 3-4 months.

When you’re ready to use your stored boiled potatoes, you can easily reheat them in the microwave or on the stovetop. If you have frozen the potatoes, it’s advisable to thaw them in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight for best results before reheating.

By following these steps, you’re ensuring that your boiled potatoes are stored safely and maintain their quality, making them ready for you to enjoy in your next meal.

How Long to Boil Potatoes for Mashed Potatoes

How to boil your potatoes for the best mashed potatoes, easy and fast!
4.94 from 72 votes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 2 people
Calories 275 kcal


  • potato peeler
  • pot on the stove
  • fork
  • potato masher


  • 6 pieces potatoes
  • 1 tbsp vinegar


  • Choose your potatoes. For mashing, it’s best to use potatoes with a medium starch content, such as the Yukon Gold potatoes.
  • Wash and peel the potatoes, ready for boiling. For easier mashing later on, it’s also best if you cut them up into smaller pieces.
  • Fill a pot of water for boiling. You can add a teaspoon of vinegar if you want, as it will help maintain the original color of the potatoes.
  • Boil the potatoes for around 20 minutes. Test them regularly by poking them with a fork. When the fork can be inserted into them easily, they’re done.
  • Drain the potatoes but keep them in the pot, as it will make them easier to mash. Alternatively, you can transfer them into a bowl.
  • Use the potato masher to mash the potatoes. If you’ve boiled them for enough time, this shouldn’t take too much effort. Ideally, the mash will be light and fluffy!
  • Add any extra ingredients or seasonings of your choice and serve the mash as a side to your meal!


Calories: 275kcal
Keyword how long to boil potatoes, Mashed Potatoes
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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
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