Potatoes in any form are considered a comfort food from a bag of potato chips that bring you right back to childhood picnics to mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving. The number of potato types is as numerous as the ways to use them.
There are many types of potatoes that are organized into a few main categories. The ways to use these varieties are numerous. It’s important to understand the differences between the types in order to pick the right one for your next recipe.
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Big Guide to Potatoes: Every Type Explained (video)
There are three main categories of potatoes. Each group has a different texture, making them ideal for usage in various recipes.
Starchy potatoes contain mostly starch and lack moisture. They are floury in texture. Their rough skin protects their creamy, white insides. They are long in shape. They are absorbent and pliable. Their softness makes them ideal for use in recipes that involve mashing as they break apart easily and lose their shape when cooked.
Waxy potatoes are higher in moisture and sugar and contain less starch. Their skin has a waxy texture and covers the vegetables’ firm insides. They are smaller in shape than starchy potatoes. Waxy potatoes hold their shape well and are more resistant to mashing.
All-purpose potatoes are right between starchy and waxy. They contain more starch than waxy potatoes, but maintain their shape when exposed to heat and boiled. They can be mashed, but will not be as fluffy as starchy potatoes. Their versatility makes them suitable for most dishes though there are benefits for selecting from the waxy or starchy category when wishing to achieve a particular outcome.
Potatoes are often pegged as comfort food. Did you know that they are actually healthy too? What are the benefits?
According to Healthline, a 6.1 ounce baked potato provides 4.3 grams of protein, 3.8 grams of fiber, 28% of the RDI of Vitamin C, and 27% of the RDI for Vitamin B6.
Want to know how to get the most out of these nutrients? Eat your potatoes with the skin on as that’s where most of the nutritional value lies.
Looking for a healthful dose of antioxidants? Colored potatoes boast three to four times more antioxidants than white potatoes and are known to neutralize free radicals.
Sweet potatoes top the charts as they are considered more nutritious than broccoli or spinach! The high levels of vitamin A in them helps prevent cancer. Iron, potassium, and dietary fiber are also packed into sweet potatoes.
Blood Sugar Control
Starch immediately comes to mind at the mention of potatoes and is often seen as negative. However, the starch in potatoes is resistant starch. Resistant starch does not get fully broken down by the body, allowing it to linger in the large intestine and provide healthful gut bacteria. Insulin resistance is one benefit of this process.
Short-chain fatty acid butyrate is a primary food source for gut bacteria. The resistant starch in potatoes is converted into this food source, strengthening the colon, potentially guarding against colorectal cancer.
Most of the studies on this benefit have been performed on animals so the exact benefits for humans are too inconclusive for solid recommendations but are promising.
Iron, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and zinc are essential to a healthy skeleton. Potatoes offer these nutrients.
Potatoes contain chlorine which benefits muscle movement, memory, and mood. Chlorine also assists in the absorption of fat, brain development, and maintenance of cell membrane structure.
Carbs get a bad rap. However, potatoes contain vitamin B6 which is instrumental in converting carbs and proteins into glucose and amino acids. This process makes the carbs readily available for energy usage.
Skin and Immunity
The vitamin C in potatoes is great for reducing cold symptoms and keeping the skin glowing.
Potatoes fit into the gluten-free diet. As they are free of gluten in their natural form, potatoes are great for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Potatoes are one of the most filling foods out there. Filling foods help to curb hunger and keep you satisfied longer, assisting with weight loss and regulation. Potato proteinase inhibitor 2 (PI2) is a protein in potatoes that keeps you feeling full longer.
Surprised at these facts? Delicious as they are, potatoes are a healthy vegetable. It’s when they are fried and oil added that extra calories and fat are tacked on, making them less so.
Types of Potatoes
The number of different potatoes you have to choose from can be overwhelming. Even after learning about the categories, how do you know what will be best for your recipe? It’s time to get the low-down on spuds and their usages.
Russets, with their course, brown skin are the most readily recognizable potato. Their pliable insides make them great for mashing. It is important to note that over-mashing them can result in a gluey texture. They are great for baking, but they aren’t the best choice for chopping up and throwing in an oven-baked sachet. They will get squashy when cooked which is why it’s best if they are baked skin on and in one piece.
Top uses for russets:
- Mashed potatoes
- Baked potatoes
- French Fries
Check out these recipes using russets:
Yukon golds are versatile potatoes with slightly waxy skin that is great taken off or eaten right along with the yellow flesh after washing. They can be mashed, boiled, or fried. They are excellent baked as well but are better off sliced before going into the oven. Their outer skin isn’t as tough as that of russet and they don’t hold their shape in the same way making russets a better choice for a classic baked potato.
Top uses for Yukon golds:
- Mashed Potatoes
- Roasted Potatoes
Recipes for Yukon golds:
Red golds add color to any dish and are as versatile as Yukon golds. They are nutty in taste and have slightly waxy skin. They stand up to most cooking methods from baking to mashing. Due to their small size, the only method they are impractical for is baked potato-style.
Top uses for red golds:
- Skin-on potato salad
Red gold potato recipes:
Not only are fingerling potatoes adorable due to their small size, but they are also surprisingly low-maintenance! No peeling is required due to their thin, unimposing skin. They stand up to most cooking methods.
Top uses for French fingerlings:
Check out French Fingerling recipes:
The Jewel yam is a sweet one. Deep orange and fragrant, jewel yams are sweet potatoes. They are great for baking as they have the same tough, outer skin as russets and also take well to mashing.
Popular uses for jewel yams:
Jewel Yam recipes:
- Sweet Potato Casserole With Marshmallows
- Cinnamon Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Garlic
- Air Fryer Sweet Potato Fries
Charlotte potatoes and a potato salad recipe are a match made in heaven. Small and great at keeping their shape, they are most popular boiled and then eaten cold, but they taste wonderful hot as well due to their clean flavor. They are least suited for mashing.
Popular uses for charlottes:
- Potato salad
Charlotte potato recipes:
Purple Majesty potatoes are the brightest on the list. Not only do they add brightness to the table, but they provide an earthy sweetness. Their versatility is as striking as their color. They can be boiled, mashed, baked, grilled, and fried as well as added to vitamin waters and ice cream.
Category: Waxy (due to their versatility they could be considered all-purpose)
Popular uses for purple majesty:
Check out these purple majesty recipes:
White potatoes can vary in appearance. Some have smooth skin and brilliant, white color, and are long in shape. Others have tanner skin with occasional lines or freckling and are the size and shape of a baseball. They are lower in starch than russet potatoes making them more versatile.
Popular uses for white potatoes:
White potato recipes:
Careful not to confuse yams and sweet potatoes as sweet potatoes offer their own unique qualities. Packed with health benefits, these vegetables are actually roots and are unrelated to yams though often mistaken for them. Yams contain far more starch than sweet potatoes. They are also completely unrelated to white potatoes and therefore are not interchangeable when cooking.
Popular uses for sweet potatoes:
Sweet Potato Recipes:
- Sweet Potato Oven Fries with Mustard Dipping Sauce
- Chai-Spiced Baked Sweet Potatoes
- Pecan-Crusted Sweet Potato Casserole
What To Do With Left-Over Potatoes
Potatoes tend to get gobbled up. But what do you do on the rare occasions when you have leftovers on your hands? There are numerous ways to make sure cooked potatoes in any form don’t go to waste.
It might seem like potatoes that have been mashed are destined to remain in this state. Not so! Mashed potatoes can be used for many things:
- Shepherd’s Pie
- Potato rolls
Check out this video to explore the possibilities.
Once the steak is gone, it might be hard to pawn off the rest of your baked potatoes. But don’t despair, you have options:
- Twice Baked Potatoes
- Home Fries
- Hash Browns
Vegetables go in the refrigerator and dry goods go in the cupboard. But where do uncooked potatoes go until they’re ready to be used? Not in the refrigerator! A cool, dark place with proper air circulation is ideal.
If your potatoes are homegrown, cure them with warm temperatures and humidity before putting them in the pantry.
Already sliced or peeled your potatoes? Vacuum seal them or sprinkle them with water to prevent browning.
What about cooked potatoes? Place cooked potatoes in airtight, moisture-vapor-resistant containers or resealable plastic bags. The most important thing is to keep the oxygen out as this leads to discoloration and spoilage. Putting tin foil around a baked potato might be tempting, but this is an unsafe storage method. Botulism spores have been known to survive the heat of cooking. Wrapping a baked potato in foil is a breeding ground for these spores. Place baked potatoes in plastic as well.
Cooked potatoes should be stored in a refrigerator at lower than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Not ready to toss those baked potatoes into another recipe? Freeze them! The idea of freezing potatoes is cringe-worthy because raw potatoes turn mushy when put in the freezer. But cooked potatoes stand up much better to the cold. Follow these steps:
- Chop them up
- Put in a freezer bag
Easy! For best results, use frozen potatoes in soups or casseroles.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long are potatoes good for?
Baked potatoes can be kept in the refrigerator for three to five days. Mashed potatoes last four to six days in the refrigerator. Both will last six months in the freezer.
Uncooked potatoes in the pantry can last for three to five weeks as long as they are in good condition when purchased.
How do I pick good potatoes when shopping?
There are a number of ways to determine the freshness of potatoes in the grocery store:
- Firm to the touch: A firm skin means they have not yet begun to degrade
- Smooth skin: Outward blemishes can indicate a rotting inside
- Bruise-free: Bruised potatoes will spoil faster
- Sprout-free: If they’ve begun to sprout, they’re spoiling
- No green tint: A green tint is a serious problem as it can indicate ‘solanin,’ an illness-causing toxin.
Are potatoes easy to grow?
Due to their tolerant nature, potatoes are easy to grow. Full sun, loose, fertile soil, and one inch of water per week are all you need for an abundant crop. They can be grown in a container, pot, or bed.
Sweet potatoes are also easy to grow. Since they are a tropical species that do better in warmer climates or when planted after the ground has grown warm in the Springtime. They are heat-tolerant and largely unphased by pests.
Why is there a hole in the center of the potato?
Ever cut open a potato to find a black spot in the center? It looks startling against the healthy color of the potato flesh, but don’t be alarmed. This is called a ‘hollow heart.’ Environmental conditions such as cold temperatures and wet soil are the cause of this disease. Potatoes contract hollow hearts while growing. However, they are safe to eat.
Can I cook a potato without an oven?
For health reasons, baking in the oven is preferable, but you can ‘bake’ a potato in the microwave.
Steps for cooking a potato in the microwave:
- Poke a few holes in the potato with a fork
- Microwave for 7-10 minutes
- Flip the potato halfway through the cooking process
- Allow to cool for a moment
Outwardly, potatoes are straightforward. However, here are a few things I bet you didn’t know about this vegetable.
- They are 80% water
- They are the fourth most important crop worldwide
- Potatoes were the first food to be grown in space
- The potato was first grown in Southern Peru and domesticated between 3000 and 2000 BC
- Potatoes are environmentally-friendly
- Potatoes are grown in all 50 of the US States
- Thomas Jefferson is said to have brought “French fries” to the US
- Marie Antoinette wore potato blossoms in her hair
Versatile, delicious, and nutritious, there’s little to dislike about potatoes. What are you waiting for? Jump on that potato recipe you’ve been contemplating, resting in your newfound knowledge of the usages for each variety and the nutritional value that comes along with them.