The Ultimate Guide to Perfectly Boiled Potatoes


Learn the secrets to boiling potatoes to perfection! With a few handy tips, you’ll be able to make delicious boiled potatoes in record time – just 12 minutes on the stovetop or 6-8 minutes in the microwave. Whether you’re making a potato salad, soup, casserole, or any other dish, we’ve got you covered.

Comparison of different boiled potatoes with their corresponding boiling times

How Long to Boil Potatoes

Perfectly boiled potatoes should maintain their shape with a smooth texture and easily removable skin.

Do you want to know the secret to perfect boiled potatoes every time? On the stovetop, boil them for 12-30 minutes depending on their size. Or, if you’re in a hurry, you can use a microwave for a shortcut and have them ready in just 6-8 minutes!

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Boiled potatoes can be served on their own or added to various dishes. Boiling is a healthy cooking method that requires no added fats, and they only contain 87 calories per 100 grams according to the USDA. Plus, cleanup is a breeze!

How to Boil Potatoes

Follow these simple steps to achieve perfectly boiled potatoes for your recipes:

  • Gently scrub the potatoes under running water to remove any dirt.
  • Place the potatoes in a medium-to-large pot.
  • Cover them with 1 inch (2.5 cm) of cold water, and add optional salt for flavor.
  • Place the pot on high heat and bring the water to a boil.
  • Boil the potatoes for 12-30 minutes, depending on their size.
  • Once boiled, remove the potatoes from the pot and let them cool on a plate for 5-10 minutes before using.

Round white potatoes in a medium pot before adding water for boiling

Types of Potatoes for Boiling

While you can boil almost any potato, certain types are better suited for specific recipes:

  • Baking Potatoes: Starchy potatoes like Russets, Idahos, Purple potatoes, Yams, and Sweet Potatoes have a floury texture that easily disintegrates, making them ideal for mashed potatoes.
  • All-purpose Potatoes: Medium-starch potatoes like Yukon Gold and Red Gold hold their shape and have yellow flesh, making them suitable for potato salads, soups, casseroles, and more.
  • Waxy Potatoes: Low-starch potatoes such as Round White, Round Red (Red Bliss), and Fingerling retain their shape and have white flesh, making them perfect for potato salads, soups, casseroles, and more.

Various sizes and types of potatoes suitable for boiling

When shopping for potatoes, look for firm ones with smooth skin and no sprouts. Avoid using potatoes that are getting soft with dark spots. Also, choose potatoes of similar size to ensure they cook evenly.

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Should I Peel Potatoes Before Boiling?

No, it’s not necessary to peel the potatoes before boiling. Leaving the skin on will help them absorb less water, preserving their starch. If you prefer not to eat potato skins, you can peel them after boiling. However, make sure to let them cool down first.

Closeup of peeling the skin off a boiled potato with fingers

How Long Does It Take to Boil Whole Potatoes?

The cooking time for whole potatoes depends primarily on their size. Naturally, larger potatoes will require more boiling time.

Refer to the table below to determine the approximate boiling time for whole potatoes:

Potato Type Potato Size Boiling Time*
Baby potatoes 1 inch (2.5 cm) 12 minutes
Small potatoes 2 inches (5 cm) 15 minutes
Medium potatoes 3 inches (7.6 cm) 20 minutes
Large potatoes 4 inches (10 cm) 25 minutes
Extra-large potatoes 6 inches (15 cm) 30 minutes

*Note: The times listed reflect once the water has started to boil.

Cutting a raw white potato into quarters with a chef

How Long to Boil Potatoes for Mash?

The boiling times mentioned above work well whether you’re making mashed potatoes, potato salad, or any other dish. However, if you’re making potato salad, it’s best to let the boiled potatoes cool slightly for the best texture. You can speed up the cooling process by using an ice water bath.

How to Tell When Potatoes Are Done?

To check if the potatoes are done, simply insert a fork into the center. The fork should go in easily, and the potato should have the texture of a ripe pear – firm but not mushy.

How to Boil Potatoes Faster on the Stove?

To expedite the boiling process on the stove, cut the potatoes into smaller 1-inch chunks. This will reduce the cooking time to approximately 15 minutes. Another tip is to pre-boil the water to save a few extra minutes, though the potatoes may have a slightly different texture compared to starting with cold water.

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How Long to Boil Potatoes in a Microwave (Fastest Method)

You can boil large whole potatoes in a microwave in just 6-8 minutes. Simply place two potatoes in a microwave-safe dish, add two tablespoons of water, cover, and microwave on high. Let them rest for 2 minutes before serving.

Freshly boiled potatoes served with butter and fresh parsley

Ways to Use Boiled Potatoes

Boiled potatoes are versatile and can be enjoyed in various ways. You can eat them whole with butter and fresh herbs, use them to make mashed potatoes, potato salad, potato casserole, mashed potato balls, or potato pancakes.

Boiling Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes and yams can be boiled using the same method as regular potatoes. When cut into chunks, sweet potatoes usually cook in 15-20 minutes, becoming soft and fork-tender.

Tips for Perfect Boiled Potatoes

Here are some tips to ensure your potatoes come out perfectly boiled every time:

  • Select high-quality potatoes suitable for boiling. Waxy potatoes like red or new potatoes hold their shape better, while starchy potatoes like Russet potatoes become fluffy when boiled.
  • Cut the potatoes into evenly sized pieces to ensure they cook uniformly.
  • Always start with cold water. Placing the potatoes in cold water from the beginning ensures even cooking throughout.
  • Avoid overcooking the potatoes, as they can become mushy and lose their flavor.
  • To check for doneness, insert a fork into the potatoes. They should feel tender but not mushy.

Best Potatoes for Mashed Potatoes

If you’re making mashed potatoes, the best choices are starchy potatoes like Russet or Yukon Gold. These potatoes have a high starch content, resulting in a fluffy and easily-mashed texture. Their mild flavor allows other ingredients like butter, milk, and seasonings to shine through.

  • Russet potatoes are the most common choice for mashed potatoes, as they turn light and fluffy when cooked.
  • Yukon Gold potatoes are also a good option due to their slightly waxy texture, resulting in creamy and smooth mashed potatoes.
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Other potatoes, such as red or new potatoes, are not recommended for mashed potatoes as they have a lower starch content and can produce a gummy or gluey texture when mashed.


Do You Cover Potatoes When Boiling?

In most cases, it’s best to cover potatoes while boiling them. This helps them cook faster and prevents excessive dryness. However, some recipes may call for leaving the potatoes uncovered, such as when making mashed potatoes or potato salad, as this can help them dry out slightly and make them easier to work with.

Are Boiled Potatoes Healthy?

Absolutely! Boiled potatoes are a healthy source of carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They are a healthier alternative to fried potatoes, as no unhealthy oils or fats are added during boiling. Boiling also helps retain more of the potatoes’ nutrients compared to frying.

Do You Add Potatoes to Cold Water to Boil?

Yes! Adding potatoes to already boiling water can result in uneven cooking, with the outsides cooking faster than the centers. Starting with cold water ensures even cooking throughout the potatoes.

Is It Better to Boil Potatoes Whole or Cut Them into Pieces?

If you plan to serve the potatoes as a side dish or are cooking baby potatoes, boiling them whole is better. This way, they retain their shape and texture, without becoming mushy. However, if you’re making mashed potatoes, it’s best to cut them into smaller pieces before boiling. This allows for quicker and more even cooking, making them easier to mash later on.

Can You Boil Potatoes Too Long?

Yes, potatoes can be overcooked if boiled for too long. Overcooked potatoes become mushy and lose their texture.

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How Long Does It Take to Boil Potatoes for Potato Salad?

The boiling time for potatoes in a potato salad depends on their size and your desired texture. For small to medium-sized potatoes, we recommend boiling them for 15-20 minutes. Larger potatoes may require 25-30 minutes. After boiling, drain and rinse the potatoes with cold water to stop the cooking process and cool them down before using in your potato salad recipe.

How Long Does It Take to Boil Sweet Potatoes?

The cooking time for sweet potatoes can vary depending on their size and thickness. On average, it takes around 20-30 minutes to boil sweet potatoes until they are fork-tender.

How Long Does It Take to Boil Red Potatoes?

Boiling red potatoes usually takes 15-20 minutes until they are tender when pierced with a fork.

How Long Does It Take to Boil Potatoes Before Frying?

To prepare potatoes for frying, boil them for 15-20 minutes. Once boiled, drain and allow them to cool slightly. Alternatively, some people prefer parboiling the potatoes for 5-10 minutes, draining them, and then frying them until golden and crispy.

For more delicious side dish recipes, visit Family Cuisine.

Recipe Tools: Medium pot, Kitchen timer, Paring knife

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