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No Lump Mashed Potatoes for a Perfect Thanksgiving Dinner

by Angela Roberts on November 13, 2011

I know that you eat mashed potatoes beyond the Thanksgiving table, but, I dare you to find a more important day for this perfect no-lump recipe. Most days of the year, I like red potatoes, smashed with skins on for a rustic feel. But on this day, they must be smooth and perfectly done.

Perfect is a crazy word to describe any food for Thanksgiving, where each person has their own food memories and family recipes. But, in this case, there is only one way to serve your picky Aunt Edna or your father’s new wife holiday mashed potatoes. They must be smooth, completely free of lumps and not fancied up by any old or new trends, such as garlic, sour cream, pecorino, mascarpone or bacon.  Save these for another meal when serving it your way doesn’t crush the family food memory of your dinner guests. I’m not saying you should bend over backwards or compromise the gourmand in you, but some things are best left alone and mashed potatoes  serve you best as the stepping stool for your famous gravy. The taste is not nearly as important (although please don’t forget the salt) as is the texture on this day that we give thanks and eat like roaring pigs.

Lumpy mashed potatoes are a kitchen failure and we have all been there, or at least I have. To get out those lumps caused by potatoes not cooked long enough, the beater comes out and the whipping begins. The problem is that the lumps never disappear, but the potatoes turn into a goo or a paste and there is no way to save them.

If you have bad memories of ruined mashed potatoes that even the dog wouldn’t eat, and you fear the upcoming holiday season, I have the secret weapon. I discovered this a few years ago when I was given a simple, inexpensive ricer, which belongs in every kitchen. The ricer and a few simple tips and you will be a mashed potatoes rock star.

My Best Tips for Perfect No Lump Mashed Potatoes:

  1. Peel potatoes (especially for holiday menus). Save the rustic look for a different time.
  2. Start potatoes in cold water. Cook all the way through to fork tender, but don’t cook so much that they are water-logged.
  3. Scald the milk. Add a little at a time.
  4. Use whole milk and real butter. Heavy cream is not necessary, but a splash is nice.
  5. Use a ricer. Use a ricer. Use a ricer.  This guarantees no lumps and provides the perfect texture.
  6. Freshly grated nutmeg takes the bland away and gives the potatoes a little umph. Just a dash or two, not too much.
  7. Cook potatoes in cast iron dutch oven or heavy pot that has a lid.  Drain and return to pot, which keeps potatoes warm.
  8. Taste and season. I love white pepper (it has a zing). Don’t forget the salt.

Perfect Mashed Potatoes by Angela Roberts

I am a purist and only use potatoes, milk, butter, salt, pepper and nutmeg. I use regular white potatoes, but some cooks prefer yukon golds. No matter. Just follow the tips, and don’t forget to taste along the way.

I hope you have the smoothest potatoes and stress-free Thanksgiving family dinner party. No doubt, something will go askew. We’ve all had years where the turkey didn’t cook, someone got too drunk, or too many family secrets got divulged. Normal Thanksgiving! But, this year at least you’ll have good potatoes.

Tell me, what is  the Thanksgiving disaster you most remember?
These potatoes were featured over at Yummly.

3.0 from 1 reviews
No Lump Mashed Potatoes for a Perfect Thanksgiving Dinner
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
  • 2 pounds white potatoes, peeled (some love yukon golds for a creamier texture.
  • 2 teaspoons salt (for water)
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons whole milk
  • splash of cream (optional)
  • salt, white pepper to season
  • dash nutmeg (about three gratings)
  1. Peel potatoes, and cut into quarters and cut again. Rinse in cold water. Put just enough cold water in pan to cover potatoes by two inches.
  2. Add 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to boil and then simmer until fork tender. Drain and put back into pot and add butter. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Scald milk.
  4. Smash potatoes with fork or old fashioned masher tool and add a few tablespoons of hot milk and three tablespoons of the butter. Mix with a wooden spoon.
  5. Take through the ricer and return to the pan. Turn the heat on low and add the rest of the milk a little at a time and use wooden spoon to stir.
  6. Add nutmeg. Stir again. Add in last tablespoons of butter.
  7. Taste and season again with salt and pepper if necessary.
For lighter potatoes, add in milk. Do this a little at a time to avoid runny potatoes.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Joan Nova November 13, 2011 at 6:22 pm

A few years ago our Thanksgiving dinner plans went askew when my son decided he wanted to do a fried turkey so he went out and bought the fryer. But that Thanksgiving Day it poured. We tried to wait it out, hoping the weather would turn. Finally, when there was no change in the weather and it was way past the time the whole turkey should have gone in the oven, he spatchcocked the bird to cook it for dinner. Turned out to be the best turkey we’ve ever had!

Thanks for the ricer tip. The FOODalogue kitchen doesn’t have one. :)


angela November 13, 2011 at 6:32 pm

A spatchcocked turkey sounds awesome. Yes, get the ricer. It’s good for making gnocchi too. Any Spanish dishes at your table?


Anna @ hiddenponies November 13, 2011 at 8:34 pm

Haha, sounds like you’ve had some interesting Thanksgivings in your past too :) I’ve definitely fallen victim to over-mashed, gluey potatoes…yours look delicious!


Norma November 13, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Your potatoes sound just like mine. I also use white pepper and that dash of nutmeg is a must.


chris November 13, 2011 at 7:50 pm

my problem has always been gluey mashed potatoes. gluey and lumpy. I do have a ricer but have never used it! Will that cure the glue too?


angela November 13, 2011 at 8:52 pm

Yes, Chris, I think so because it’s the over whipping that turns that starch into glue. Good luck. Let me know how it works out.


Rich November 14, 2011 at 1:58 am

Thanks a mucho. Gives me thyme ( sic) for a couple of “dry runs” before turkey day.


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella November 14, 2011 at 4:48 am

I agree with your tips Angela! I love my potato ricer for a smooth mashed potato-except I ask hubby to do it :P


angela November 14, 2011 at 5:18 am

Funny, Lorraine, I ask my hubby too. Sometimes it takes a little muscle for that.


Valérie ( France ) November 14, 2011 at 8:45 am

Je te souhaite un beau lundi


bellini November 14, 2011 at 10:59 am

I could never have my turkey dinner without these beauties, topped with a little gravy and turkey as a side dish:D Excellent tips Angela! The type of potato is also very important to prevent the “glue” effect.


Robin Sue November 14, 2011 at 2:57 pm

The only thing that goes askew is that I eat too much. Oh one funny thing did happen when my SIL was charged with doing the greenbean casserole and thought it called for 2 tablespoons of black pepper. Wow! I will have to remember the nutmeg, that is a lovely touch.


Trix November 14, 2011 at 5:23 pm

A ricer, of course! Brilliant. I agree that sometimes classics should be left alone – and what is better than mashed potatoes with butter and salt? (And thank you for your comment about my shepherd’s pie – I have no doubt that you are being modest!!!)


Bianca @ South Bay Rants n Raves November 14, 2011 at 6:52 pm

Will have to pass this recipe onto the hubs. Since we have no family in LA, our Thanksgiving consists of us in our PJs all day, eating a small turkey & sides. I’ll definitely add this to the mix :)


Barbara November 14, 2011 at 8:14 pm

Yep….as I was reading along, I thought RICER! And sure enough, that was your secret. I love my ricer but have never added nutmeg to my mashed potatoes. Definitely going to try it.


Jessica November 15, 2011 at 5:25 pm

I love the addition of nutmeg! You’re right, thanksgiving is the time to perfect mashed potatoes and make sure there are no clumps!


5 Star Foodie November 16, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Always perfect with a ricer! I’m intrigued by the addition of nutmeg, I’ve never done it, but what a great idea!


MAg Zaldivar November 22, 2011 at 6:02 pm

An anecdote about mashed potatoes; My sister who is a great cooking once didnt have time to do the mashed potatoes for Christmas celebration. So she decided to buy it in Kentucky Fried chiken. Even that happened 15 years ago, nobody forget that !!! even she always cook delicious recipes…


angela November 24, 2011 at 1:17 am

That’s too funny. Now a days, though, the grocery store sells some not too bad mashed already made. Not for me, though. :)


Tracy Watson November 24, 2011 at 1:11 am
JC December 12, 2011 at 10:59 pm

Don’t have a ricer. Will a cheese grater do?


Laura Bond November 3, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Just bought a rice pot and have never used one before, help!!


DBStar November 25, 2013 at 10:56 am

The ricer is very hard on my hands and I can only do a few potatoes at a time with it so I really don’t like it. How do they get pureed potatoes like I see on tv all the time? My problem with mashed potatoes is that there are always still some lumps. I get good flavor but everyone is always saying that if you over mix they turn into glue so I am afraid to mix too long. Help!


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