Russet vs Idaho Potatoes

Potatoes are a staple ingredient in many cuisines across the world, and with numerous varieties available, it’s important to know the key differences between the popular Russet and Idaho potatoes. Both of these potato types are widely used in American cooking and are known for their distinctive characteristics. In this article, we’ll explore the unique features of Russet and Idaho potatoes and how they can impact your culinary creations.

Russet potatoes, also known as Idaho potatoes, are a type of starchy potato that is predominantly grown in the United States. Their brown, rough skin and oblong shape contribute to their visual appeal, while their white, fluffy interior is well-suited for a wide range of dishes. Meanwhile, Idaho potatoes are synonymous with Russet potatoes and are specifically grown in the state of Idaho. This state’s unique soil and climate conditions contribute to the potatoes’ high quality and consistent taste.

Now that we’ve introduced the topic of Russet and Idaho potatoes, it’s time to delve deeper into their key characteristics and how they differ from one another. By understanding these differences, you’ll be better equipped to select the appropriate potato variety for your cooking needs and create delicious dishes for you and your loved ones.

Key Takeaways

  • Russet and Idaho potatoes are popular starchy potato varieties with distinct characteristics
  • Both potatoes are versatile in cooking and ideal for various dishes
  • Understanding the differences between Russet and Idaho potatoes will help you choose the best variety for your specific culinary needs

Key Characteristics of Russet Potatoes

Appearance and Flavor

Russet potatoes, including popular varieties such as Russet Burbank and Russet Norkotah, have an elongated shape and rough, brown skin. They may have noticeable eyes on their surface. The skin is packed with nutrients and flavors, which contribute to their earthy and slightly nutty taste. The flesh is pale, starchy, and has a high starch content.

Nutritional Value

Russets are packed with essential nutrients that are beneficial to your health. Here’s a snapshot of what you can expect in a medium-sized Russet potato:

  • Calories: 168
  • Protein: 4.6g
  • Fat: 0.2g
  • Carbohydrates: 37g
  • Fiber: 2.6g
  • Vitamin C: 36% of the daily value (DV)
  • Vitamin B6: 32% DV
  • Potassium: 24% DV
  • Manganese: 18% DV

Considering their high starch and low moisture content, Russet potatoes are relatively energy-dense, providing you with a quick source of energy.

Suitable Cooking Methods

Russet potatoes, with their high starch and low moisture content, are perfect for numerous cooking methods. Their fluffy, light interior makes them ideal for:

  1. Baking: The starchy texture helps them become soft, fluffy, and easily absorb flavors while baking.
  2. Frying: The low moisture helps achieve a crispy exterior when fried, making them a popular choice for French fries and hash browns.
  3. Mashing: The high starch content facilitates a creamy, smooth mash, which pairs well with gravy or other toppings.
  4. Roasting: Their elongated shape and low moisture allow them to maintain their form during roasting, delivering a delicious, crispy crust.

When preparing Russet potatoes, remember to thoroughly wash the skin to remove any dirt, and trim away the eyes or any green spots. You can then cook them whole or cut them into desired sizes depending on your preferred cooking method.

Key Characteristics of Idaho Potatoes

Appearance and Flavor

Idaho potatoes have a distinct appearance, with a dark brown, rough skin, and a classic oval shape. They belong to the Idaho russet variety, which is grown in the rich volcanic soil of the state of Idaho. The Idaho potato commission has certification marks for potatoes grown in Idaho®, ensuring top-quality products. When it comes to taste, Idaho potatoes have a starchy flavor and a fluffy texture when cooked.

Nutritional Value

Idaho potatoes offer you a good source of nutrients, providing you with essential vitamins and minerals. Here’s a summary of the nutritional value in a medium-sized Idaho potato:

  • Calories: 168
  • Carbohydrates: 37g
  • Protein: 4.6g
  • Fiber: 2.7g
  • Vitamin C: 28% of daily value
  • Potassium: 25% of daily value

Suitable Cooking Methods

There are various cooking methods suitable for Idaho potatoes, given their high solids and low moisture content:

  • Baking: Idaho russet potatoes are perfect for baking due to their starchy and fluffy texture.
  • Frying: If you enjoy French fries, consider Idaho potatoes for their crispy exterior and tender interior.
  • Mashing: The low moisture content allows for a creamy and lump-free mashed potato dish.

Comparison Between Russet and Idaho Potatoes

When comparing Russet and Idaho potatoes, it’s essential to understand their differences and characteristics so you can choose the best variety for your needs. Both potatoes are popular choices for various recipes, but they possess distinct features that could make one more suitable for specific dishes.

Russet potatoes, also known as Idaho potatoes, are the classic brown-skinned variety that you commonly encounter at the grocery store. They have a high starch content and a light, fluffy texture when cooked. This makes them ideal for baking, mashing, and frying. You might prefer to use Russet potatoes when making dishes like baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, or French fries, where their mealy texture gives the dish a desirable consistency.

On the other hand, Idaho potatoes are not necessarily a separate variety from Russet potatoes, but rather a term referring to any potato variety grown in the state of Idaho. As a result, Idaho potatoes can vary in their characteristics. Generally, they are known for their rounder shape, thin skin, and robust texture. Because Idaho potatoes can include various types, they may be suitable for diverse recipes such as salads and soups, as well as roasting, mashing, and frying.

Here are the key differences between the two:

  • Starch Content: Russet potatoes have a higher starch content, while Idaho potatoes can vary depending on the specific variety.
  • Texture: Russet potatoes are mealy and fluffy when cooked, making them perfect for baking and mashing, while Idaho potatoes tend to have a more robust texture.
  • Shape and Skin: Russet potatoes are more oblong, with thick brown skin, whereas Idaho potatoes can have a rounder shape and thinner skin.

In summary, when you need a high-starch, fluffy potato for baking or mashing purposes, the classic Russet is your go-to option. However, if you require versatility and wish to explore different varieties with unique textures, you may want to consider selecting an Idaho potato.

Varieties of Potatoes

Yukon Gold Potatoes

Yukon Gold potatoes are a popular variety due to their buttery, smooth texture and exceptional flavor. They have a golden yellow skin and flesh with a slightly sweet taste. Because of their versatility, you can use Yukon Golds in almost any dish, including mashing, baking, or boiling.

Red Potatoes

As the name suggests, red potatoes have red skin and white flesh. They are often smaller in size, and their firm texture makes them ideal for salads and dishes that require retaining their shape after cooking. They have a slightly earthy and nutty taste, which adds a delicious twist to your recipes.

White Potatoes

White potatoes are characterized by their thin, light-colored skin and white flesh. They have a mild flavor and a creamy texture when cooked, making them perfect for boiling or mashing. Keep in mind that their high starch content can make them prone to becoming gluey if overcooked.

Fingerling Potatoes

Fingerling potatoes are small, slender, and finger-like in shape, hence the name. They come in a variety of colors, including red, yellow, and purple. These potatoes have a firm, waxy texture and a slightly nutty flavor, making them ideal for roasting or sautéing. They hold their shape well when cooked, adding a unique visual touch to your dishes.

New Potatoes

The term “new potatoes” refers to young potatoes that are harvested early in the season. Their skin is thin and easily rubbed off, while their flesh is tender and moist. New potatoes typically have lower starch content and are great for boiling, steaming, or roasting. Enjoy them in salads or as a stand-alone side dish.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are an entirely different species from other potato varieties, but they are often included in discussions due to their similar culinary uses. They have a sweet, rich flavor and a slightly firmer texture than white potatoes, making them ideal for baking and in dishes that benefit from their natural sweetness.

Blue Potatoes

Blue potatoes, such as the Purple Peruvian, have a striking blue or purple skin and flesh that retains its color when cooked. These potatoes are typically small to medium-sized and have a moist, firm texture. Their mild, earthy taste can complement a variety of dishes, particularly when you want to add visual interest to your presentation.

A bag of russet potato wooden vintage background

Potato Dishes and Recipes

When it comes to potato dishes and recipes, the choice between Russet and Idaho potatoes can significantly impact the flavor and texture of your meal. Both types of potatoes have their unique characteristics and ideal uses in cooking.

Baked Potatoes

For a delicious baked potato, you can’t go wrong with a Russet potato. Its high starch content provides a fluffy interior, while its rough skin crisps up nicely in the oven. To bake, simply:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C).
  2. Wash and dry the potatoes.
  3. Prick the potatoes with a fork to allow steam to escape.
  4. Rub the potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
  5. Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until tender.

Idaho potatoes, although less starchy, can also be used for baked potatoes. However, their slightly lower starch content may yield a less fluffy texture.

Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are another classic dish that can be made using either Russet or Idaho potatoes. Russets have the advantage of a light, fluffy texture when mashed, while Idaho potatoes provide a smoother, creamier consistency. To make mashed potatoes:

  1. Peel and cut your potatoes into even-sized pieces.
  2. Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender, about 15-20 minutes.
  3. Drain and return the potatoes to the pot to dry for a minute or two.
  4. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher or ricer.
  5. Add butter, milk, or cream, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Whichever potato type you choose, you can also customize your mashed potatoes with add-ins like garlic, cheese, or herbs for your desired flavor.

Remember that Russet and Idaho potatoes can be used in various other dishes, such as french fries, roasted potatoes, potato salad, soups, potato pancakes, potato wedges, scalloped potatoes, casseroles, and even grilling. Each type of potato will bring its unique flavor and texture to these dishes. The choice is yours to experiment and discover your preferences!

Potato Cooking Techniques

When it comes to cooking Russet and Idaho potatoes, there are several techniques that you can use to achieve great results. Here’s a brief overview of some popular methods to help you make the most of both types of potatoes in your kitchen.

Baking: Both Russet and Idaho potatoes are perfect for baking because they have a high starch content. To bake them, you simply need to preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C) and cook them for around 45 minutes to an hour, depending on their size. This will produce a crispy skin and a fluffy interior that is perfect for enjoying with your favorite toppings.

Mashing: Russets are ideal for mashing due to their high starch content and fluffy texture. To mash potatoes, simply boil them until they are fork-tender, then drain and mash them using a potato masher or a fork. You can add butter, cream, or milk to enhance the flavor and achieve a creamier consistency. Idaho potatoes can also be mashed, but they might produce a slightly denser result.

Roasting: Roasting potatoes brings out their natural flavors and creates a crispy exterior. Russet and Idaho potatoes both roast well, but Russets may yield a fluffier texture. To roast potatoes, cut them into evenly sized pieces, coat them in oil, and cook them in a preheated 425°F (220°C) oven for approximately 30-40 minutes.

Boiling: This method works well for both types of potatoes and is great for producing tender potatoes for salads or other dishes. Start by washing your potatoes and cutting them into even-sized pieces if necessary. Then, place them in a pot of boiling water and cook them until they are fork-tender, which usually takes around 20-30 minutes.

Frying: When it comes to frying potatoes, Russets, and Idahos both excel. You can use these potatoes for dishes such as french fries, hash browns, or crispy pan-fried potatoes. To fry potatoes, cut them into your desired shape, and cook them in hot oil until they are golden brown and crispy, making sure to flip them occasionally to ensure even cooking.

Steaming: Steaming potatoes locks in their natural flavors and nutrients while maintaining a firm texture. Both Russet and Idaho potatoes can be steamed, but Idaho potatoes may hold their shape better under these conditions. To steam potatoes, place them in a steamer basket over boiling water and cook for around 15-20 minutes, or until they are tender but still slightly firm.

Health Benefits of Potatoes

Potatoes, both Russet and Idaho, are nutritious and can be a beneficial part of your diet. They are rich in essential nutrients like potassium, fiber, and vitamin C, providing several health benefits.

When you consume potatoes, you are fueling your body with a good source of potassium. This mineral is essential for maintaining proper nerve and muscle function and maintaining a healthy blood pressure. Additionally, you receive a significant amount of dietary fiber when eating potatoes, which supports digestion and provides a feeling of fullness. This can be particularly beneficial if you are trying to manage your weight or keep your blood sugar levels in check.

Your body will also benefit from the vitamin C present in potatoes. This powerful antioxidant aids in collagen production and contributes to a strong immune system. Besides, vitamin C is essential for the absorption of iron, which supports the proper functioning of red blood cells.

In terms of calories, potatoes are relatively low, with an average-sized potato containing around 110 calories. This makes them a good option for those watching their caloric intake while still trying to get essential nutrients. Keep in mind that the way you prepare them can significantly impact the calorie content; for example, frying will add extra calories and unhealthy fats.

To break it down, here’s what you get from an average-sized potato:

  • Potassium: Around 620mg
  • Fiber: About 3g
  • Vitamin C: Approximately 45% of the daily recommended intake
  • Calories: Roughly 110

By incorporating Russet or Idaho potatoes into your meals, you can enjoy these health benefits and support overall wellness. Just remember that moderation and thoughtful preparation methods are key to making the most of these nutritious tubers.

Industrial Use and Trade

When it comes to industrial use and trade, Idaho potatoes, particularly the Russet variety, hold a significant position due to their unique characteristics and origins. Grown in Idaho, these potatoes benefit from the state’s fertile volcanic soil, which provides essential minerals to support healthy growth and development. With an intricate irrigation system, Idaho farmers ensure that these potatoes are well-watered for optimal cultivation.

The Idaho Potato Commission plays a crucial role in regulating the production and trade of these potatoes. They oversee certification marks and trademarks, guaranteeing that genuine Idaho potatoes are easily distinguishable in the market. This distinction is essential, considering that Idaho produces almost one-third of the US potatoes, making it the top potato-producing state in the country.

In the industrial sector, Idaho potatoes, especially Russets, are highly valued for various reasons:

  1. Starch content: Due to their high starch content, Idaho potatoes, specifically Russet potatoes, are perfect for industrial processing and manufacturing, such as making potato chips and french fries.
  2. Consistency: Idaho potatoes’ consistent size and shape make them favorable in the food processing industry, ensuring that the end product meets the required specifications and standards.
  3. Shelf life: Their long shelf life due to their thick skin ensures reduced food waste throughout the supply chain, from farm to table.

To conclude, when discussing industrial use and trade of potatoes, Idaho potatoes, particularly Russet potatoes, serve as an excellent example of a premium product, with its trademark quality and taste supported by the unique growing conditions and stringent control measures.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main differences between Russet and Idaho potatoes?

Russet and Idaho potatoes are often confused, but they are not the same. Russet potatoes are large and oblong-shaped with a dark brown, rough skin and a high starch content, making them ideal for baking and frying. Idaho potatoes, on the other hand, are a specific category of Russet potatoes, grown in the rich, volcanic soil of Idaho. This unique soil gives Idaho potatoes a distinct taste and slightly different texture compared to other Russet varieties.

Which potato variety is better for baking?

Both Russet and Idaho potatoes are excellent for baking due to their high starch content. The starch allows the interiors to become light, fluffy, and tender when baked. However, Idaho potatoes might have a slight edge in taste as the unique growing environment imparts a desirable flavor.

Can Russet potatoes be substituted for Idaho potatoes in recipes?

Yes, you can easily substitute Russet potatoes for Idaho potatoes in most recipes. Since Idaho potatoes are a type of Russet, they have similar properties and can be used interchangeably without significantly altering the dish’s texture or flavor.

What are the best uses for Russet potatoes?

Russet potatoes are highly versatile and can be used in various recipes. Due to their high starch content and flaky texture, Russets are perfect for baking, frying, and mashing. Examples of dishes featuring Russet potatoes include baked potatoes, French fries, and mashed potatoes. They can also be used in potato salads and other dishes where a fluffy texture is desired.

Are Idaho potatoes ideal for making mashed potatoes?

Yes, Idaho potatoes are well-suited for making mashed potatoes. Their high starch content lends a light and fluffy texture to the finished dish. Additionally, their unique flavor can add an extra layer of deliciousness to your mashed potatoes. But remember, any Russet potato variety will also yield fantastic results.

How does the nutrition of Russet and Idaho potatoes compare?

Both Russet and Idaho potatoes offer similar nutritional profiles. They are low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium, and a good source of potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and dietary fiber. However, the specific nutrient values may vary slightly depending on the growing conditions and soil quality.

Russet vs Idaho Potatoes

Here's a simple recipe for roasted russet potatoes:
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 289 kcal


  • 4 large russet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C).
  • Wash and scrub the potatoes, then cut them into bite-sized pieces.
  • In a large bowl, mix the olive oil, garlic powder, paprika, salt, and pepper.
  • Add the potato pieces to the bowl and toss them until they are evenly coated with the seasoning mixture.
  • Arrange the potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  • Roast the potatoes in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until they are crispy and golden brown on the outside and tender on the inside.
  • Serve hot and enjoy!


Calories: 289kcal
Keyword russet vs Idaho 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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