Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes Are a Bear Hug of a Dish

Get ready to replace your go-to mashed potato recipe.

November  5, 2018

Mashed potatoes are comfort food at its best: they're warm, creamy, buttery, and deeply savory.

In Heartburn Nora Ephron writes: "In the end, I always want potatoes. Mashed potatoes. Nothing like mashed potatoes when you’re feeling blue. Nothing like getting into bed with a bowl of hot mashed potatoes already loaded with butter, and methodically adding a thin cold slice of butter to every forkful. The problem with mashed potatoes, though, is that they require almost as much hard work as crisp potatoes, and when you’re feeling blue the last thing you feel like is hard work."

And it's true. There's no better feel-good food than a bowl of mashed potatoes.

But then, there's the coaxing of an enormous stock pot of water to boil—please! Do it for me!—and a seemingly interminable wait until your potatoes are fork-tender. There's the draining step, which feels like you're taking a blisteringly hot ocean and trying to heave it into a teeny tiny colander. Oh, and there're all. of. the. dishes. As Ephron suggests, mashed potatoes have some room for improvement.

Photo by Ty Mecham

So one day, I found myself, potato-in-hand, thinking: Hm. Isn't there a certain kitchen tool that's making headlines for its ability to tenderize, impart flavor, and expedite even the slowest of slow-cooks?

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Top Comment:
“I used this recipe (along with butternut squash w/ red onions and goat cheese, tandoori-spiced turkey, wild rice, and double-chocolate cream pie) at Thanksgiving, and it was a win. Easy to make, easy to clean up--a mercy while juggling the other plates--and toothsome!”
— Keith S.

I locked eyes with my Instant Pot. "Let's do this," I said.

"Are you yelling at your stovetop again?!" called my boyfriend from the next room.

And "do this," we did. My Instant Pot and I got right to work. Making mashed potatoes in a multi-cooker had been done before, but there were a few things I wanted to solve for to make an easier-than-breathing version:

1. No draining.

Many of the recipes out there called for using the Instant Pot's steamer basket. If you wanted to mash your potatoes right in the pot after cooking (no extra dishes allowed!!), using a steaming method of cooking first would then require you to lift out a thinly lipped bucket of scalding water and dump it out, before replacing the vessel and proceeding. I was determined to find a way to cook the potatoes with liquid that could be mashed right into them.

2. One-Pot Only, Please.

You know what's the antithesis of easy, cozy, comfort dinners? Lots and lots of dishes, awaiting your attention. No thanks. These get mashed right in the Instant Pot—ricers and immersion blenders, be gone!—and you can serve 'em straight from there.

3. All of the flexibility.

I wanted a recipe that could serve as a blueprint for the easiest-ever mashed potatoes, without locking anyone into specifics right off the bat. These are just that.

Laced with tangy buttermilk and creamy, buttery leeks, they're the ones that speak most to me at the end of a long day (or, piled up nice and high on my Thanksgiving plate). But, mashed potatoes are a personal matter, and I'm not here to stand between you and your desired mix-ins or toppings. Stick roughly to the liquid to potato ratio for this recipe, and then by all means, swap away. Here are a few ideas:

  • Not feeling leeks? Minced shallots, more garlic, a small yellow onion, or ramps would all be fantastic to sub in. Or, skip that step altogether and head straight to pressure cooking the potatoes in about a cup of liquid (broth + deglazing wine, or just broth).
  • If you'd rather skip the wine, deglaze the alliums with more broth.
  • Spice up your life (yes, that's a Spice Girls reference, and no, I don't regret it) with lots of extra cracked black pepper for cacio pepe vibes, or sprinkle in turmeric and ground ginger and drizzle with browned butter for beautifully nuanced flavor.
  • Before you get to your leeks, sauté some bacon—or guanciale, or pancetta—right in the Instant Pot, set aside once crisped, and use the rendered fat to cook your leeks. Sprinkle the crisps on top of your finished potatoes for an out-of-control (in the best way) combo.

Ephron's extra butter-garnish is, however, always strongly suggested for serving.

What's your all-time favorite comfort food? Let us know in the comments!

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Ella Quittner

Written by: Ella Quittner

Ella Quittner is a contributing writer and the Absolute Best Tests columnist at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.


Keith S. December 3, 2018
I used this recipe (along with butternut squash w/ red onions and goat cheese, tandoori-spiced turkey, wild rice, and double-chocolate cream pie) at Thanksgiving, and it was a win. Easy to make, easy to clean up--a mercy while juggling the other plates--and toothsome!
Ella Q. December 3, 2018
Hi Keith,

Thanks for your comment—so glad to hear you enjoyed it!

John M. November 23, 2018
Not sure if was deciding to use an immersion blender or leaving the skin on as you mentioned but although tasty it had the consistency of superglue
Ella Q. November 23, 2018
Hi John,

Typically using an immersion blender or food processor on potatoes (in. my experience) tends to give that that gluey texture. I'm sorry to hear that happened to you! And glad they still tasted good. Happy Thanksgiving!

Gregg G. November 19, 2018
Any advice on number of servings this recipe makes? Could it be doubled?
Ella Q. November 20, 2018
I’d say it serves about 6-8 comfortably, or more if it’s one of many sides. Yes, I’ve heard from commenters who have doubled it without issues. Just make sure you’re not exceeding the max fill volume in your cooker.

Nick November 17, 2018
Can I make these a day or two ahead of time for Thanksgiving?
Ella Q. November 18, 2018
Hi Nick,

You certainly can. Like most mashed potatoes (in my opinion), they're best fresh, but they can be made in advance and reheated if easier—I'd just be sure to add additional butter and cream or milk or buttermilk (or some combo of all three) when you reheat, because they'll need extra moisture.

Eric K. November 6, 2018
I want to dive headfirst into those swirly buttery spuds.