Sometimes? You just need some mashed potatoes. Yet the process of peeling, boiling, and mashing taters can be tedious ... which is where instant mashed potatoes come into play. These boxes and pouches of dehydrated potato flakes -- usually conveniently located near instant gravy products in many grocery stores -- are shelf-stable, sold in a wide range of flavors, and surprisingly versatile. With the right brand, you can even create a batch that's as good as scratch-made mashed potatoes (without the added labor).
Now, if you're wondering how the various instant mashed potato products on grocery store shelves stack up against each other, you're hardly alone. On that note, we decided to round up some of the more popular instant mashed potato brands on the market and put them to the test. We focused solely on original or plain varieties for our ranking -- saving any garlicky, cheesy, or loaded flavors for another day -- and ensured each brand we sampled included potatoes (in some form) as the first ingredient.
Based on a variety of factors -- including (but not limited to) taste, ease of preparation, and ingredient list -- we ranked 10 well-known instant mashed potato brands. After preparing each product precisely as directed by the label (to maintain fairness) and trying each of these brands, here's our list of instant mashed potato brands ranked worst to first.
10. Great Value
The appeal of instant mashed potatoes (aside from the cozy nostalgia factor, that is) comes from the approachable price point, quick cooking process, and long-lasting shelf life. After all, you can keep dried potato flakes on hand for a while and whip up a creamy side whenever the mood strikes -- which is true of Walmart's Great Value Instant Mashed Potatoes.
Great Value Instant Mashed Potatoes are both super affordable and easy to find (they can be found at any Walmart location, after all). The brand offers several flavors (including plain, Buttery Homestyle, and Roasted Garlic), and its instant potatoes are available in microwaveable cups, pouches, and three different-sized boxes. Unfortunately, all that convenience wasn't enough to move these potatoes from the bottom spot as Great Value fell drastically short when it came to flavor.
The brand's plain mashed potatoes were incredibly bland -- perhaps a result of the instructions calling for a mere ⅛ teaspoon of salt for every ⅔ cup of flakes. Once prepared, the potatoes were dry, thick, and lumpy, as well, with an almost doughy mouthfeel. Since Great Value Instant Mashed Potatoes also lacked any noteworthy potato flavor and tasted more like the cardboard box it was sold in, it comes in last place on our list.
9. Amazon Fresh
The only thing easier than ordering a box of instant mashed potatoes online would be having a freshly made dish delivered to your door. Now, Amazon Fresh Instant Mashed Potatoes may not come hot and ready, but they are a great value (and it's hard to beat the option of same-day or overnight delivery in major markets). However, do those pros outweigh the cons? Not really.
For one thing, Amazon Fresh only appears to offer one variety of instant mashed potatoes. While you can always add your preferred seasonings or cheeses, that also means you'll have to add items to your grocery list. Additionally, Amazon's brand of instant mashed potatoes is only available in one huge package (read: 26.7 ounces). The enormous box was somewhat unwieldy -- making pouring and measuring flakes for a smaller batch rather difficult -- and took up a ton of space in our pantry. More than that, the instructions led to a wet, grainy, and relatively flavorless product.
Though the Amazon Fresh brand called for the same ratio of water, milk, butter, salt, and potato flakes as Great Value's version, its saving grace was the potato flavor. A pot of Amazon Fresh Instant Mashed Potatoes will still need a good amount of doctoring, but at least you'll be starting with a product that actually tastes like potatoes.
8. 365 By Whole Foods Market
The 365 by Whole Foods brand of instant mashed potatoes may be a little harder to come by given it's sold exclusively at Whole Foods (or online via Amazon). But these potatoes do have some perks. In particular, the instant mashed potatoes sold by the Whole Foods brand only contain a single ingredient: dehydrated potatoes. With no emulsifiers, preservatives, or added seasonings, this brand makes an excellent blank canvas if you're looking to spruce up your instant potatoes.
Additionally, 365 by Whole Foods Instant Mashed Potatoes seems perfect for thickening a soup or as an ingredient in mashed potato rolls (since there are no added ingredients to throw off the recipe). So why is this brand near the bottom of our list? Simple: If you follow the instructions on the box, you'll wind up with an incredibly boring bowl of mashed potatoes.
The lack of salt in the box itself or the directions -- it only calls for water, butter, and milk in addition to potato flakes -- meant the mashed potatoes were largely devoid of flavor. While the true potato taste and nice texture (which could pass for homemade) saved 365 by Whole Foods Instant Mashed Potatoes from the bottom two spots, we still can't rank it any higher.
7. Signature Select
The Signature Select instant mashed potato product brings us to the middle of the pack. Signature Select offers five different instant mashed potato flavors -- Original, Four Cheese, Roasted Garlic, Loaded, and Buttery -- and though none of these varieties are terrible, none really wowed us, either.
Like several other brands we taste-tested, the Signature Select regular instant mashed potato flavor calls for a 1:1 ratio of liquid-to-potato flakes. As a result, the potatoes appeared dry as soon as we mixed the ingredients and had an almost chewy mouthfeel when tasted (anyone who prefers a dryer mashed potato to a creamier product will enjoy the texture). Additionally, we were surprised by the savory flavor and almost chicken-like taste, given the lack of flavor-contributing ingredients.
Overall, we felt Signature Select Instant Mashed Potatoes were a middle-of-the-road option -- not spectacular, but decent enough that no one will complain if we serve it for dinner. If you choose to grab this brand of instant mashed potatoes on your next shopping trip, try serving the spuds topped with gravy or alongside something saucy like beef stroganoff.
Kroger-brand products are widely available and sold at numerous grocery stores operating under the Kroger umbrella. That makes this brand of instant mashed potatoes one of the easiest to get your hands on -- though we often find the box is easy to miss or overlook on the shelf alongside the grocery chain's massive Idahoan display.
Now, unlike many other brands we tried, Kroger Instant Mashed Potatoes includes the mysterious "natural flavor" among its ingredients (in addition to emulsifiers and preservatives absent from several other varieties on the market). And though it's not listed as an ingredient, the box notes the product contains milk, as well -- which may be why the flavor of this product slightly edged out the instant mashed potato brands ranked lower.
Still, the texture left a lot to be desired, and Kroger's instant mashed potatoes were a bit goopy and glue-like with a grainy mouthfeel. This was also the only brand we tested that wasn't dairy-free (something to keep in mind if you're lactose intolerant or plan to use vegan butter to make your mashed potatoes). The prepared potatoes had a nice salt level, though, so we're placing Kroger Instant Mashed Potatoes in sixth.
5. Mountain Harvest
Mountain Harvest Instant Mashed Potatoes fall right in the center of our rankings. Though you may be able to find this brand at major supermarket chains around the U.S., including Safeway, Walmart, and ShopRite, you'll find one thing (and one thing only) sold under the Mountain Harvest instant mashed potato label: Original mashed potatoes.
Right off the bat, we noticed these potato flakes were more yellow than other varieties we tested. The finished potatoes looked the most like homemade mashed potatoes in our estimation -- in part, we suspect, because of the potato flakes' butter-tinted appearance, along with the greater number of potato skin flakes we found in the box. We were actually surprised butter wasn't an ingredient in the potato flakes, and that lack of inherent butter (and salt) taste meant the homemade look didn't translate to its final flavor.
Additionally, the greater portion of liquid called for by the directions created a wetter mashed potato texture which wasn't our favorite. That being said, while we didn't love the results made straight from the box, we felt this brand of mashed potatoes would be a fantastic starting point to dress up and elevate into something gourmet -- and are comfortable placing it right in the middle of our list.
4. Bob's Red Mill
We may have had to go out of our way to get our hands on Bob's Red Mill Potato Flakes ... but it was worth the effort. These potatoes are usually only available at organic or higher-end grocery stores, and we had to visit multiple locations to find the brand's instant mashed potatoes in stock. Thankfully, the company's website has a store locator that can be used for individual products (which greatly aided our search), and the brand may be available for purchase on Amazon, as well.
Like 365 by Whole Foods, the only ingredient in Bob's Red Mill Potato Flakes is dehydrated potatoes. These flakes come in a resealable bag instead of a box, too, which makes for really easy measuring. Additionally, the flakes themselves are huge -- much larger than any other brand we tested -- and the resulting mashed potatoes were smooth and fluffy, with a nice, authentic flavor. Plus, unlike the 365 by Whole Foods brand, the directions for Bob's Red Mill Potato Flakes called for salt (though it could absolutely use more). It may not crack our top three, but the simple flavor and fantastic texture earned Bob's Red Mill a high spot on this list.
Haddar Instant Idaho Mashed Potatoes kept popping up in our research, so we decided to give this popular Kosher-certified brand a try. Simply put? We're so glad we did.
What puts Haddar so close to the top? First, the ease of measuring. Because these flakes are packed in a canister, you won't make a mess trying to pour them out (as often happens with a box). Second, the flavor and aroma. The instructions recommend ½ teaspoon of salt for every ⅔ cup of potato flakes, which is a higher portion of salt than any other brand we tested. These potatoes were well seasoned as a result and smelled delicious while resting before our taste test. They could have used more butter, as the recipe only called for 2 teaspoons, but the final product was smooth, fluffy, and a little bit thick.
The only downside -- and what kept Haddar out of the top two -- was the price and availability. This instant mashed potato brand was available on Amazon, but we weren't able to confirm whether or not it could be purchased at any brick-and-mortar stores. Haddar Instant Idaho Mashed Potatoes were also substantially more expensive than the other varieties we tried (roughly two to three times more on average). Since the ingredients are extremely similar to most of the other instant mashed potato brands we tested, if you don't require a Kosher-certified brand? You might prefer the price and availability of our top two brands instead.
2. Betty Crocker
Coming in at number two is Betty Crocker. With nine different flavor varieties -- plus an unflavored, 100% Real version (which we tried for this article) -- there are a lot of choices. This includes Butter & Herb, Roasted Garlic & Cheddar, and Sweet Potato (which combines Russet and sweet potatoes with brown sugar).
This instant mashed potato brand is available at virtually every major grocery store and sold at an affordable price. The unflavored variety is a little trickier to find than the pouches of flavored potatoes, but this flavor is well worth a look. When making our batch at home, we noticed the unflavored flakes were a little smaller than other brands, and we loved the way this resulted in a soft, creamy, and fluffy final product.
To be sure, Betty Crocker instant mashed potatoes could use a little more seasoning than what's suggested on the box. But the Betty Crocker 100% Real Mashed Potatoes would also make a great base to add some extra cream and butter. You can even go wild and transform a batch into loaded mashed potatoes with cheese and crispy bacon. Frankly, our potato-loving taste testers ranked Betty Crocker as a very close second to the top brand -- labeling it a runaway winner alongside our number one-ranked instant mashed potato brand.
Idahoan isn't the only instant mashed potato brand available. But when you're standing in certain grocery stores? It might just seem like it. It's been dehydrating potatoes since 1951, so there's a pretty good chance you've eaten these mashed potatoes before. All Idahoan products are made with 100% real Idaho potatoes, as well; and if you're wondering how an official Idaho potato is different from a generic russet potato grown anywhere else? Think of it like sparkling wine and Champagne -- to be classified as an Idaho potato, it has to be grown in Idaho.
Idahoan has nearly 20 flavors of instant mashed potatoes and offers microwavable single-serving cups of their most popular flavors (a convenient choice if you're not feeding a crowd). This product's fluffy texture was immediately clear. The mashed potatoes were soft and smooth but not heavy and were easily the closest thing to eating real mashed potatoes among the brands we tested.
If what you're craving is authentic potato flavor, a light texture, and just the right amount of dryness from an instant mashed potato brand? You can't go wrong with the classic Idahoan Original Mashed Potatoes -- and you won't find a better brand out there.
We taste-tested and ranked these instant mashed potato brands based on flavor, texture, ease of preparation, availability, and price. Multiple Midwestern folks tried the varieties side-by-side to compare each element, and each tester provided an overall score before we compiled our results. Additionally, while a wide range of flavors are available for many of these brands, we chose the most basic variety of each (original, plain, or homestyle) to compare and ensure accuracy.
To keep things fair, each instant mashed potato brand was prepared according to the package instructions. Potato flakes, water, unsalted butter, whole milk, and Diamond Crystal kosher salt were measured accurately and properly (no eyeballing here), and no additional seasoning was used during the taste test (no matter how much we wanted to sneak in another pinch of salt or a bit of cream). Consequently, this ranking is based solely on the packaged product and manufacturer's instructions.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.