Best Instant Mashed Potatoes: Who Needs a Masher?

Making mashed potatoes can be a real production. You have to boil and peel some industrial-sized bag of spuds, give yourself tennis elbow mashing them all, and then add enough butter, cream, and salt to murder your entire family—and 90% of the time they’re still kind of bland and lumpy. But, wow, can you even imagine the reaction if a bowl of them didn’t land on the table for Easter, Thanksgiving, or Christmas dinner? 

A lot of home cooks don’t want to hear this, but instant mashed potatoes are good. They’re smooth. They’re creamy—especially if you add plenty of milk and butter. And they’re extremely easy to make. (Although, I can now say from experience that making 15 different types of instant mashed potatoes at once dramatically reduces the convenience factor.)

The Sporked team was joined at the tasting table by Jasmine Williams, Mythical’s people and culture coordinator, who says she grew up on instant mashies. We dug our forks into a lot of bowls of reconstituted potato flakes and came up with this list of the absolute best. Don’t let a judgey in-law keep you from spending your potato-making time in better ways.

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Best of the Best

Betty Crocker Creamy Butter

In the 1990s, there was a Betty Crocker commercial that featured a very handsome, very hungry, slightly damp man saying the word “potatoes” and then proceeding to eat potatoes. And I have to agree with hot wet man: potatoes. When it comes to convenience foods, Betty Crocker truly does it all—cake mixes, brownie mixes, Suddenly Salad, which I wholeheartedly love and recommend—but she doesn’t get nearly enough credit for her potato products. These mashed potatoes were the first we tried, and they completely blew their competitors out of the water. “It’s, like, really creamy,” said Sporked editorial assistant Naajia Shukri. “I’ve definitely eaten way too many instant mashed potatoes in my life, and sometimes they can be really gritty. These are not that.” Jasmine agreed, calling them “really smooth and fluffy.” These are also packed with flavor and don’t need additional seasoning—or even gravy, really—to land on the dinner table.

Credit: Ryan Martin / Walmart

Rating:

9.5/10

Sporks

Best Blank Slate

Idaho Spuds Classic Mashed Potatoes

Big boxes and bags of unseasoned potato flakes abound at the grocery store, but not all of them manage to taste all that much like potato. The spuds inside this mind-blowing bargain of a box (seriously, 18 servings for around two bucks?!) need salt and probably a little more butter than the cooking instructions call for, but they’re a great blank canvas for gravy, roasted garlic, sour cream, or other mix-ins. “It doesn’t have much flavor, but it’s as potato-y as mashed potatoes can get,” Jasmine said. “I kind of like these a lot.” These would be good paired with something super flavorful, like shepherd’s pie.

Credit: Ryan Martin / Walmart

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

Best Pre-Seasoned

Idahoan Baby Reds

Most instant mashed potato flakes require water, butter, and milk to become food anyone would want to eat. Not Idahoan. These magical packets of dehydrated potato are good to go (and genuinely tasty) with just boiling water. We tried a couple of their varieties, but the Baby Reds came out on top thanks to the real potato skins in the mix. I think a lot of people could be fooled into thinking these were really mashed baby reds, and that’s a pretty high compliment. Sporked staff writer Danny Palumbo, who likes mashed red potatoes because they tend to be creamier, was convinced we’d added fat to the packet. “Holy god,” he said, “These are really buttery.”

Credit: Ryan Martin / Target

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

Best Store Brand

Signature Select Mashed Potatoes

A lot of instant mashed potatoes can be sticky or even gritty (you have to be open to adding more liquid than the package calls for), but these potatoes had an exceedingly pleasant texture everyone in our tasting appreciated. “They’re kind of whipped and airy, even though they’re dense,” Jasmine said, adding that the consistency reminded her of good Hawaiian shave ice in a weird way. “I think it reminds me of a mashed potato you’ve put through a ricer,” staff writer Jordan Myrick pointed out. “They’re really creamy.” These are definitely “blank potatoes,” as Jasmine called them, but with some light zhuzhing, they’ll make a great side dish.

Credit: Ryan Martin / Albertsons

Rating:

7.5/10

Sporks

Best Garlic

Sprouts Organic Mashed Potatoes Garlic

These potatoes were not a hit in terms of texture—Danny described them as “gummy”—but they pack a lot of flavor. If you’re, say, in an Airbnb and don’t have a full arsenal of spices at your disposal, these are a good option to go with steaks from the grill. Jordan was bewildered but not totally turned off by their strong oniony flavor. “The smell? French onion soup. The taste? French onion dip powder. These are mashed potatoes that want to be French onion soup.” Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily, but definitely add a little extra milk to these to loosen them up.

Credit: Ryan Martin / Sprouts

Rating:

7/10

Sporks

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About the Author

Gwynedd Stuart

Gwynedd Stuart, Sporked’s managing editor, is an L.A.-based writer and editor who spends way, way too much time at the grocery store. She’s never met an Old El Paso taco or mozzarella stick she didn’t like.

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  • i use Bob’s Red Mill Potato Flakes and replace water and milk with Imagine Creamy Potato Leek Soup for extra potato oomph and vegan creaminess, then adjust the seasoning. fools everyone – nobody knows it’s instant and vegan – bazinga!!

    Reply
    • WHOA that sounds amazing!

      Reply
    • I may try that! Sounds amazing!

      Reply
  • The very best instant mashed potatoes were this brand called Potato Pearls Excel which went away and are now being produced by a new manufacturer. I can’t speak for the new product, but the old one was amazing. It would just floor you how good and authentic tasting this product was. I became aware of it through Mormon friends. This is the brand they would get when they did their food storage canning.

    Reply
  • America’s Test Kitchen picked Hungry Jack potato flakes the best and I think they taste the best as well because they don’t taste like powder but more like pieces of potato.

    Reply