How to Choose the Right Potato For Your Dish

Written By: Christina Newberry

Reviewed By: Gloria Tsang, RD

Title: Registered Dietitian

Last Updated on:

February is Potato Lover’s Month. What better time to focus on this sometimes under-appreciated vegetable? (Yes, vegetable.) Potatoes are surprisingly nutritious – they are a good source of both Vitamin C and potassium – and can be a very healthy addition to any meal.  Did you know that there are officially seven types of potatoes? Let’s explore which types of potato work best for different dishes.

Seven Potato Varieties: Seven Dishes

Russet Potatoes

If you’ve ever cooked a potato, you’ve probably cooked a russet potato – they’re the most commonly eaten potatoes in the United States. These potatoes are medium to large in size and have that familiar oblong “potato” shape. Their skin is chewy when cooked, and their flesh is very light and fluffy, without too much of its own flavor.

Best use: Baking

Russets are the stereotypical baked potatoes, and with good reason. The contrast of light, grainy baked flesh with the hearty, chewy baked skin can’t be matched by any other potato type.

Recipe: Salsa Baked Potatoes

Red Potatoes

Red potatoes get their name from their red skin, which is thin enough to include in most dishes. Their flesh is white and stays firm when cooked. These potatoes are small to medium in size and have a fairly round shape.

Best use: Potato salad

These potatoes have flesh firm enough to be cooked, chilled, and tossed with dressing, and the flesh is thin enough that they don’t have to be peeled. Their red color gives potato salad a festive flair.

Recipe: Zesty Dill Potato Salad

White Potatoes

Like reds, white potatoes have delicate skin that you can include in most dishes, but they have a somewhat starchier texture and they’re not as sweet. They’re small to medium in size and can be round or oblong. Their skin is actually tan in color, and they have white flesh.

Best use: Mashed potatoes

Leaving the skin on mashed potatoes makes the dish much more nutritious, and white potatoes have a skin that adds texture without overwhelming the creamy texture of the dish.

Recipe: Chipotle Mashed Potatoes

Yellow Potatoes

These potatoes range from tiny to quite large, and vary in shape from round to oblong. What they have in common is a sweet, buttery taste that makes them perfect for lighter dishes – since they don’t need as much help from butter or other fatty toppings to taste great. Their skin and flesh are both yellow to golden, and the skin can stay on for most dishes.

Best use: Grilling

These potatoes are large and firm enough to hold up to cooking right on the grill, and their flavor means they’re great with just a little olive oil and rosemary.

Recipe: Grilled Yellow Potato Planks

Purple/Blue Potatoes

These unusual potatoes are really quite dramatic! Their flesh and skin ranges from deep blue to dark purple, and they are small to medium in size. The flesh can change color when cooking, so if you’re cooking for company, be sure to do a test run on your dish!

Best use: Salads

Purple potatoes have a nutty flavor that’s unique among the potato family. They’re great in regular potato salads, but they really shine when mixed with spinach, arugula or other greens.

Recipe: Blackened Blue Potato Salad

Fingerling Potatoes

Fingerlings seems to be getting more and more popular on restaurant menus. So what are they? They’re simply potatoes two to four inches long that are oblong in shape (kind of like a finger!). They come in all colors and have subtle variations in flavor from nutty to buttery to a little sweet.

Best use: Pan frying

Their thin shape makes fingerlings perfect for pan frying without too much prep work.

Recipe: Pan Fried Fingerling Potatoes with Wild Mushroom Sauce

Petite Potatoes

These potatoes are exactly what their name suggests: Small! They can actually be any variety of potato that’s under a certain size. You may also see them called marble or gemstone potatoes. They’re bite-sized potato treats!

Best use: Roasting

Petites are small enough that you can roast them without cutting them up at all, and they don’t need to be peeled – talk about easy prep.

Recipe: Oven roasted potatoes (Note: Don’t cut the potatoes, and check on them for doneness each time you toss to avoid overcooking.)


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