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Different Kinds Of Potatoes And How To Cook With Them

Feb 19th, 2024

Honestly, there’s no better food than a potato. Don’t even try to convince us otherwise!
You could eat a different potato a different way each day and spend a lifetime getting through them all (well, that might be an exaggeration). You could make fries, mash, pies, casserole, roasts and so much more, and you can do it all with purple, yellow, white, orange, red, petite, fingerling, russet and a hundred other kinds of potatoes.  

We can't go through all of the varieties of potatoes here, but we can look at the main kinds of potatoes that all spuds are broadly categorized into. That way, you can identify and recognize the best ways to cook every potato you come across for the rest of your life. 

And really, what more could we need in life, anyways?

Common potato varieties and how to prepare them

Russet potatoes

Also known as the Idaho potato, these types of tubers are long in shape, high in starch and low in moisture. Their fluffy interior absorbs flavors readily, making them ideal for creamy mashed potatoes or thick, crispy fries. 

Red potatoes

Red potatoes, with their vibrant skin and creamy interior, are a versatile workhorse in the kitchen. Unlike their starchy cousins, they have a waxy texture that allows them to hold their shape when cooked, making them perfect for a variety of dishes. Roast them in olive oil, sauté them with onions, make them into a breakfast hash or slice them into fries.

White potatoes

White potatoes are fairly bland at first look, but they really shine when grilled or roasted and served with a white sauce. They have thin skin that cooks well and won’t dry out too much, so no need to peel them before cooking. 

The best way to cook them is by mashing them, as their high starch content will make for creamy, fluffy spuds. Alternatively, cut them into uniform cubes and roast at high heat for crispy, golden bites of joy — this method transforms the starches into sugars, caramelizing the exterior while creating a fluffy interior.

Yukon Gold

This cross between a white potato and a yellow potato is smooth, flavorful and often used in fine dining circles. Creamy flesh and a buttery flavor make them ideal for mashing, roasting and in soups, while their flavor really shines when served alone in scalloped potatoes or potato gratin.

Yellow potatoes

Similar to Yukon Golds but slightly firmer, they excel as mashed potatoes, roast potatoes and in potato salads. Their mild flavor complements various seasonings, while their firm texture holds up to sauces, soups and other condiments.

Purple potatoes

Beyond their eye-catching vibrant skin and flesh, purple potatoes boast a unique nutritional profile packed with anthocyanins, antioxidants that are found in other red-, blue- and purple-colored foods. 

Their dense, slightly waxy texture falls somewhere between starchy Russets and waxy red potatoes. This versatility allows them to shine in various dishes, but their bright colors are best displayed in a mash or as spiralized noodles. 

Fingerling potatoes

Fingerling potatoes come in red, yellow and white potato varieties — just, smaller. 

Because of their small, long shape, they cook quickly and typically have a sweeter flavor and creamier texture. Slice them into coins and sauté them with onions, or cook them whole until the skins are caramelized and the interior is soft and sweet. 

Petite potatoes

Like fingerling potatoes, this kind of potato comes in many varieties, though they’re usually small, round and fairly uniformly-shaped. 

Because of their small size, these potatoes are best cooked whole or in halves. Boil them whole to cook them evenly throughout, then let them cool and add to a salad for a burst of crunchy, creamy flavor. Or, slice them in half and roast them skin-side-up on a pan with olive oil and fresh herbs. That way, they cook evenly and their skins get nice and caramelized. 

Sweet potatoes

Okinawan potatoes

The Okinawan sweet potato, also known as beni imo or beni jima, isn't technically a potato but a sweet potato variety native to Okinawa, Japan. Unlike regular orange sweet potatoes, it boasts a vibrant purple flesh brimming with unique flavor and health benefits. They’re popularly used in Hawaiian cooking where they’re added to both savory and sweet dishes. 

Murasaki potatoes

With a creamy white flesh and deep purple skin, these “Japanese” sweet potatoes were actually developed in Louisiana, though they’ve become popular all over the world since.

Their white flesh turns slightly yellow when baked, but they’re best prepared as a baked potato so that the inside goes caramelized and sweet! 

Red garnet potatoes

Often called “red yams,” these red garnet potatoes have a light purplish-red skin and a bright orange flesh, making for both an attractive and delicious spud. 

When baked, these potatoes go beautifully sweet and caramelized on the inside — making them perfect for sweet potato pies and other sweet/savory foods. 

Jewel yams

Similar in color to red garnet potatoes but a little shorter and stouter, these sweet potatoes have the size and structure to make great fries and cubes. Roast them a little longer and they’ll get soft enough to make beautifully smooth pie filling, sweet baked potatoes and velvety boiled potatoes. 

Beauregard potato

This sweet potato is the poster-child of sweet potatoes. The skin is flavorful, but not too thick. The flesh is bright orange, but not too soggy. It’s perfectly sweet and perfectly savory, and it’s soft enough for a pie but tough enough for a fry. It’s an all-star spud!

No two potatoes are alike. Next time you’re looking through the potato section at the grocery store and wondering just what the heck all of these ‘taters are good for, remember this list and pick the spud that’s perfect for you and what you’re cooking. You’re sure to love it all, no matter what!


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Featured photo by Andrea Huls Pareja on Unsplash

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives in Spokane, Washington. She loves to travel, camp (in warm weather) and bake.

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