Potatoes are the ultimate comfort food and one of my favorite things to eat when I want something hearty. But if you've ever found your mashed potatoes grainy and soups too mushy, then you might be using the wrong type of potatoes! Read on to understand the best potato for soups and stews (and other recipes) and get it right the first time! I've also included a handy infographic that you can print for reference.
Types of Potatoes
There are more than 150 different types of potatoes in the US. However, for simplicity, potatoes can be grouped into three broad categories: starchy, waxy, or all-purpose. These are based on the potato's texture when cooked and influence the best way to use them.
- Starchy potatoes (e.g., Russet potatoes, Idaho potatoes, most sweet potatoes) are high in starch content and low in moisture. They are "fluffy" and low moisture, making them great for baking, frying, boiling, or a thick, creamy soup on a cold day, but don't hold shape once cooked.
- Waxy potatoes (e.g., Red Bliss or fingerling potatoes) are the opposite of starchy potatoes, because they have low starch content, are high in moisture, and hold shape well. They typically have smoother texture and are great for things where you might want potato slices (e.g., a gratin or potato salad).
- Multi-purpose or all-purpose potatoes (e.g., Yukon Golds or Maris Piper potatoes) are the best all round potatoes because they are less starchy but hold shape better than starchy potatoes but still fluffier than the waxy potatoes. So when in doubt, these are a "works for all" option!
Best Potato for Soups and Stews
The type of soup you're making (i.e., creamy versus chunky) will dictate if you should use Russets, Yukon golds, or red potatoes.
Best Potato for Creamy Soups
You want potatoes that break apart easily in a thicker, creamy soup or rich gravy, I suggest using one of the following potatoes the next time:
- Russet potatoes (also called Idaho potatoes or Burbank potatoes) are large, have a rough brown skin, and fall apart easily when cooked or boiled (but are great once you whip them). So if you're looking for a creamy texture (say a creamy mashed potato soup), this one is great.
- Yukon Gold potatoes, white potatoes, and yellow potatoes are also great multi-purpose options. Yukon Gold (or Maris Piper) potatoes have more moisture than Russet potatoes, and make a great base for soups.
- Sweet potatoes and yams can also be used in creamy soups if you want a sweet flavor (yams are less sweeter than sweet potatoes).
I don't recommend using red potatoes or purple potatoes in creamy soups due to their waxy texture.
Best Potato for Chunky Soups and Stews
On the other hand, if you want to retain the integrity of the potatoes (say in a delicious broth-based soup with simple ingredients), then one of the following potato types works better (in rough order of shape retention).
- Red potatoes (e.g., Red Bliss or Red Pontiac) - also called new potatoes - hold their shape really well and are great when simmered in soups, especially when you want a bit of color from the skin.
- Purple potatoes (e.g., Purple Majesty)have medium-starch and are great when used cubed in soups (worth the bit of extra prep work). Their purple color actually has anti-oxidant properties thanks to anthocyanins!
- Fingerling potatoes are great in soups because they are small, bite-sized and have a unique shape. They can also be eaten with skin on.
- Yukon Gold potatoes make a special appearance here as well because they tend to hold their shape quite well in soups (since they have a bit more moisture!) and have the best texture for creamier soups!
- Sweet potatoes, especially when they're cubed, can also hold their shape well, add a sweet note, and a pop of color to soups and stews!
Best Potato for Other Dishes
I figured I might as well include what each of these potatoes can be used for, in addition to the best potatoes for soups and stews.
- Goes without saying, but Russet potatoes and Yukon Gold are great for mashed potatoes. I tend to use mostly Yukon gold potatoes to optimize for starchiness and fluffiness in my cheesy mashed potatoes.
- Russet potatoes are also great for making potato wedges (or anything skin on that needs to keep it's shape, e.g., for roasting)
- Red potatoes, fingerling potatoes, or baby gold potatoes are great for making roasted potatoes or my crispy air-fryer smashed potatoes!
Other Potato FAQs
I like potatoes are heavy for how they look with a clean skin and minimal indents. Avoid any potatoes with a green tinge, too many "eyes" or sprouts. This is due to solanine, a toxin that can make you sick, or make the potatoes really bitter.
Store potatoes in a cool, dry place (they're underground veggies!) Do not throw your potatoes in the fridge (they'll convert the starch in potatoes into sugar, and make them burn more easily).
Uncooked potatoes last anywhere between a week to a month! Storing them at the right temperature and humidity helps improve their shelf life. Cooked potatoes will last a couple of days in the fridge when stored in an airtight container.
Potatoes are underground vegetables, so they'll have dirt on their skin (some more so than others, like the Russet potatoes). At a minimum, give them a light scrub and rinse or fill a large pot with water, and soak the potatoes for a bit before cooking. I also suggest keeping peeled potatoes under water until you cook them to prevent discoloration.
Best Potato Soup Recipes
Okay, now that you've narrowed down the best potato for soups and stews, here are a list of my favorite potato soup recipes from some amazing food bloggers I follow:
- Easy potato soup recipe with cheddar cheese and sour cream - this recipe is a great base recipe for most soups. I typically like adding green onions on top, and also make this a potato and leek soup. Don't have leeks on hand? Check out these common leek substitutes to get the same flavor profile! .
- If you liked the idea of adding leeks, then this creamy potato leek soup might also become your best friend.
- Healthy potato soup without heavy cream, using milk and broth to create a hearty and creamy base without being too decadent!
- Vegan potato soup with coconut milk that gives you all the creaminess of traditional potato but without the dairy
- Crockpot potato soup (made in a slow cooker) that is a great set-it-and-forget-it recipe (but also happens to be meatless!)