Rule #1 of Thanksgiving: if it can be made ahead, do it. Rule #2 of Thanksgiving: mashed potatoes taste best when prepared at the last minute.
Yeah, we’re going to break that second one.
Each year at the big holiday, I spend cocktail hour over a hot stove, churning potatoes, steam evaporating the lipstick off my face. I always leave the mashed potatoes until the last minute because I’ve been told that they should not be made ahead of time due to their precious texture.
After a little experimenting last year, I discovered that this was so, so wrong.
This year, I’ll be spending the moments before the meal like everyone else- with a pool of Camembert spilling off a cracker in one hand, and a glass of wine in the other. I hope you’ll join me.
Mashed potatoes are a mixture of starch, milk, butter, and salt. If the texture is a little off because you made them in advance, they’re not going to be bad. Less than perfect potatoes are worth it if it means you can eliminate one more stressor from the high-stakes holiday. Plus, if you have extra time for happy hour, you really won’t care.
A few tips about make ahead mashed potatoes
The key to good potatoes is making sure the water that you boil them in is as salty as the sea. No amount of seasoning after the fact can make up for under-seasoned cooking water. Use at least a quarter cup of kosher salt (less if you’re using table salt).
You can make your potatoes with olive oil, butter, or a combination of both to give more depth of flavor. I like adding garlic (so does David Tanis), but you can leave it out if that’s not your thing.
Once you’ve got the flavor down, mash them however you’d like. I prefer a skin-on, chunky mash. Use a potato ricer if you’re after something creamier.
This is the point where you can allow the potatoes to cool, cover them, and transfer to the refrigerator. You just made a key element of Thanksgiving dinner 1 or 2 days in advance and you’re already on your A-game.
Harness that energy and bring it for the big day.
Take the potatoes out of the refrigerator in the morning and allow them to come to room temperature, then reheat them with hot milk (in 1/2 cup intervals) as needed. Add more salt to taste.
If you do undercook or overwork your potatoes and they aren’t perfect, all you have to do is add more butter and pour yourself a glass of wine.
No one else will care, so you should let your worries slip away, too.
Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
Yes it's possible- and delicious!
- 2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed clean and cut into 1-inch chunks (peel them if you don't like the skins)
- 8 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- Kosher salt
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil or melted butter (or a combination)
- 1 cup reserved cooking liquid
- 1-2 cups whole milk, heated
- Freshly cracked black pepper
Place potatoes and garlic in a large pot, cover with water. Bring water to a boil, add 1/4 cup salt, stir, and cook at a simmer until potatoes are cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.
Drain potatoes and garlic, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Return to pot and mash. Stir in olive oil and reserved cup of cooking liquid, then thin to desired consistency with milk. I start off with 1 cup. Check seasoning. At this point I'll crack in a ton of black pepper and I'll usually add another teaspoon or so of salt, but trust your own tastebuds. Let the potatoes cool, cover them, and chill them if you're making them ahead (up to 2 days in advance).
The day you'd like to serve them, take them out of the refrigerator in the morning and let them come to room temperature. Add hot milk (in 1/2 cup intervals) to reheat them. Crown the mountain of potatoes with a sneaky tablespoon of butter or olive oil and serve.