Making Your Mouth Water: How To Thicken Mashed Potatoes?

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Thanksgiving is, without a doubt, the best holiday of the year for foodies like myself. 

As soon as Halloween is over and I wake up from my sugar coma to find myself surrounded by candy wrappers and chocolate in my bed, it’s November, and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. I love Thanksgiving because it brings family members together and I get to sleep without having to set my alarm for a week straight. 

But, more than anything, I love mashed potatoes. I don’t know if it’s just some deep-rooted Irish complex, but my mouth waters as soon as I think about these two magical words. This warm, creamy, dairy-laden starch might be too much of an indulgence for everyday fare, but the fact that we don’t have it frequently makes a bowl of mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving a true blessing. 

I know a lot of people out there can relate. But, let’s admit, we are not there for any kind of mashed potatoes. Our good old dish must be rich, smooth, buttery, and most importantly, thick! Soggy and soupy mashed potatoes will just make us feel cheated, as if you only missed the jackpot by one digit. 

So, if you accidentally make yours a bit too runny for your taste, what to do now? Don’t worry, my mother’s guide on how to thicken mashed potatoes is here to save the day! 

Why Are My Mashed Potatoes Runny? 

In fact, there is more than one thing that can make your mashed potatoes watery. If you are staring down at a bowl of white liquid and wondering what went wrong, ask yourself these questions: 

How to thicken mashed potatoes? – Source: Today Show

Did You Overcook Your Potatoes?

Overcooking can make your mashed potatoes too runny – Source: Mashed

So you wanted fluffy mashed potatoes but the dish turned out to be runny instead? It is possible that you boiled your potatoes too long or that you cooked them too hard (i.e., in very rapidly boiling water). Mashed potatoes are perfect when they are cooked gently, not vigorously. Here is a tip from my mom: Keep the lid off the pan while you’re cooking to keep an eye on the temperature of the water.

The outcome would be just as bad if you undercook the potatoes. Don’t be tempted to drain your potatoes too early. Otherwise, it would turn out to be lumpy. In addition, undercooked potatoes contain glycoalkaloids that can prove toxic when you consume them in high doses. In case you realize you accidentally do so, just add a little bit of milk or cream and cook the potatoes over low heat until the lumps begin to soften.

Did You Drain And Dry Your Potatoes Well? 

Once you are done boiling your potatoes in water, it is vital to drain and dry them thoroughly. This is a step that many people don’t realize is so important. If you don’t, the excess moisture that remains on the potatoes will have nowhere to go once you start mashing, which makes your dish mushy. 

Did You Add All Of The Liquid At Once? 

I know you won’t be happy, but this is a sad truth: Not all recipes available out there are accurate. Even if you have read the recipe well, it is important to determine the proper ratio of milk or cream based on the size and type of your potatoes. Using too much liquid also leads to the dreaded runny dish. 

Be mindful when adding liquid to your potatoes – Source: Baking Mischief

Next time, if a recipe requires a cup of cream, take it slowly. You can begin by adding a quarter cup and gradually pour more until your potatoes are moist but not runny. Keep in mind that you can always add more liquid, but you can’t remove the excessive amount.

Before getting to the meat of the matter, here is a small tip picked up from Redditors that has proven to be effective: You should mash your potatoes before introducing any liquid. Boiled potatoes will retain a surprising amount of water that will only become visible after they have been mashed. Therefore, give them a “dry” mash to determine their consistency before adding any milk or butter.

7 Foolproof Ways To Save Your Mashed Potatoes

But, well, even if you have made one of the mistakes above, it is not the end of the world. You can keep your soggy mashed potatoes and turn them into a delicious soup… or you can make them the best and thickest you have ever had with these 7 simple tricks. All of them take less than a few minutes and won’t affect the taste of your beloved potatoes! 

Add A Thickening Agent 

Thickening agents, such as corn starch, flour, or powdered milk, can instantly add a creamy and flavorful texture to recipes, whether savory or sweet. In this case, those are true saviors that will help you thicken up your mashed potatoes in a jiffy! 

Here is a fun fact for you: Because cornstarch is pure starch, it has twice the thickening power of flour, which is only part starch. So in such an emergency case, I would go for corn starch, but both of them will work just well. 

Corn starch is the perfect solution in this case – Source: Times Of India

To achieve the ideal consistency, simply add one tablespoon at a time until you are satisfied. Make sure to mix them thoroughly before adding another tablespoon, but don’t over stir. Once the mashed potatoes are thickened to your liking, let them rest. Cornstarch can thin if it is agitated any longer.

It’s also important to keep your mashed potatoes warm so that they completely dissolve into the mixture.

How To Thicken Mashed Potatoes – Heat On A Stovetop 

Another way to thicken mashed potatoes is to heat them. All you have to do is throw them into a large pot then heat them over low to medium heat. Don’t forget to check on them and stir every few minutes to keep your potatoes from sticking to the bottom of the pot. 

While using a stovetop to heat your runny potatoes, keep these in mind: 

  • Don’t stir the pot too much! Instead of solving the problem, over-stirring makes it worse. It might destroy the texture of the potatoes, resulting in an overly sticky or even gluey dish. 
  • Instead of a ladle or a spoon, stir your soggy mashed potatoes with a fork. This will save you from over stirring and allow extra liquid to evaporate quickly. 
  • Remember not to cover the pan. While it is easy to assume that extra heat will thicken the potatoes quickly, we need to get rid of the excess moisture, so leave the pot uncovered.

How To Thicken Mashed Potatoes – Heat In An Oven 

Next in the list, you can bake your runny potatoes in the oven and let the adding heat does the rest. It will cause the extra liquid and moisture to evaporate or dissolve. 

To rescue your mashed potatoes, follow the steps below: 

  • Set your oven to 300F and get ready to bake. 
  • Place the mashed potatoes in an uncovered bowl or pan once the oven is preheated.
  • Leave them in the oven for at least 15 minutes or until all the extra liquid is dried out. 

Heat In A Microwave 

In case you don’t have so much time left, heating your runny potatoes in the microwave is a fast and simple way. To thicken your mashed potatoes, just leave them in the microwave for a few minutes. 

Heating in the microwave is a way to thicken smashed potatoes – Source: Thyme & Love

The process is simple: 

  • Put your potatoes in an uncovered bowl and heat them in the microwave for one minute at a high temperature. Don’t forget to use a microwave-safe container. 
  • Afterward, take the bowl out and gently stir it. This helps you see if the excessive moisture is still there. 
  • Repeat these steps until you are satisfied with the outcome. 

This is the quickest and most convenient way among the 7, but be aware that it’s only suitable to thicken a small number of mashed potatoes. 

How To Thicken Mashed Potatoes – Strain 

Another quick method to take out the excessive moisture in soggy mashed potatoes is to strain them. 

To do this, get yourself a strainer and a cheesecloth, then follow these steps below: 

  • Pour the runny potatoes into the cheesecloth. 
  • Make a ball of potatoes by tying the end of the cheesecloth together tightly. This will help squeeze off the liquid. 
  • Place the cheesecloth over a strainer and leave for up to an hour.
  • Remove your strainer and get ready to serve your thick potatoes!

How To Thicken Mashed Potatoes – Add More Potatoes 

My personal favorite way to thicken mashed potatoes is to add more potatoes. In case you have spare ones, you can give it a try: This method doesn’t only improve the texture but also the flavor as well! 

How to fix failed smashed potatoes?

Here is how I do that: 

  • Prepare the extra potatoes by grating or shredding them. 
  • To soften the potatoes, boil them in a pan. 
  • Once softened, let them rest and cool down, then use a cheesecloth and strainer to drain the potatoes. 
  • Using a fork, mash the potatoes together. 
  • Add this to the sloppy mashed potatoes and mix them thoroughly. 
  • Depending on the amount of potato you add, you might have to reheat the mixture. 

Another tip from Cheryl Malik, the owner of the well-known food blog Easy Healthy Recipes, is to add dehydrated potatoes to the dish. According to her, dehydrated potatoes are faster to thicken your runny potatoes and also better at enhancing the flavor. 

Add Parmesan Or Hard Cheeses

Last but not least, here is a method that will please every cheese lover. Cheese is a powerful thickening agent because it doesn’t only improve the texture but also the taste as well. Adding some parmesan or hard cheeses and the end result will definitely blow you away! 

Cheese doesn’t only improve the texture but also the taste – Source: Delish

Parmesan is perfect for the job. Thanks to its versatile taste that goes well with many other foods including mashed potatoes, it makes a wonderful thickening agent. Or, if you are seeking a cheese with an even stronger, more savory flavor, pecorino is a fantastic choice. 

Make sure you have grated the cheese beforehand to get the perfect thick yet smooth texture. Also, using cheese means adding a considerable number of calories to the dish, so watch out for your diet! 

How Long Can Mashed Potatoes Sit Out? 

Can smashed potatoes be stored in the fridge? – Source: Kitchn

Now that you have cooked the best-mashed potatoes of your life, you might want to know how to store them correctly. According to the United States Department Of Agriculture, we have a general rule of thumb: Hot foods can only be exposed for 2 hours and need to be at 135 degrees F and above to avoid bacteria. 

The same is applied to mashed potatoes. If you leave them exposed for a longer time, it will grow microbes and create bacteria that can cause diarrhea and vomiting.

But, what if you want to leave them for a few days? When stored properly, mashed potatoes can stay in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Before putting them in the fridge, though, you should make sure that they have cooled to at least 140°F. Also, don’t forget to seal your food in a container or cover it with plastic wrap to prevent bacteria from entering from other contaminants.

You Can Never Get Enough Of It! 

Good old mashed potatoes are everyone’s favorite for a reason. Not only does it make the perfect accompaniment (or main dish, in my case), but the warmth and fulfilling sense it brings remind us of home. Nothing can match the joy of tasting this creamy, fluffy starch and using this guide on how to thicken mashed potatoes, you will never go wrong anymore!

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