14 Ways To Elevate A Box Of Instant Mashed Potatoes

When it comes to mashed potatoes, everyone has their secret method to make them sing. Yukon golds, reds, or russets. Skins on or skins off, with or without lumps. Butter, cream, or olive oil. But the truth is when it comes to the fluffiest, smoothest mashed potatoes around you can always turn to a good old box of instant potatoes. Yes, we are talking about the cardboard box filled with white feathery flakes, and boy do they taste good. If you're hesitant to give them a try because you've grown up on the real thing, then it's time to broaden your horizons and experiment with these 14 ways to elevate a box of instant mashed potatoes. From instant to gourmet in just minutes, there is nothing like the convenience of instant mashed potatoes mixed with a few magnifico top-chef touches that will have your guests drooling for more.

Forget all the boiling, straining, and mashing, and use boxed potatoes because not only are they convenient, but they taste delicious. These ingredients will seriously upgrade your mashed potato game. After all, instant mashed potatoes are simply made from potato flour, which is cooked, mashed, and dehydrated potatoes. Don't discriminate, they're potatoes too!

Whip up potato pancakes

Just because the box tells you that your instant potatoes make mashed potatoes in minutes doesn't mean that you have to follow the instructions exactly. And while potatoes are potentially one of the most versatile vegetables, instant potatoes have just as much range.

Consider using potatoes to make potato pancakes, combining two of America's favorite breakfast food into one. Savory pancakes are a huge game-changer for those who are serious about brunch. Potatoes are starchy and make a fantastic binder. Just mix your potato flakes with milk and eggs before pan-frying the batter in a little butter or olive oil. Consider folding in green onions, garlic powder, and a touch of cheese before letting the cakes sizzle on the stovetop. For a chunkier pancake, add freshly grated potato or frozen potato hash. Top with sour cream, bacon, apple sauce, salsa, or aioli. If you're feeling experimental, load on the veggies like cooked peppers and onions, avocado, and diced tomato.

Add sour cream and chives

There's nothing like going out to eat and getting a heaping pile of sour cream and chive mashed potatoes alongside your entree. While this may seem like a fancy ask from a box of flakey dehydrated potatoes, we can assure you that it's possible to go from instant to gourmet in a matter of seconds.

We believe that you should use sour cream in your mashed potatoes because not only is it a low-fat way to add creaminess but there is a slight element of tartness that can bring your creation to a whole new level. This sharp acidic flavor is often lacking in mashed potato dishes but is an important element when trying to create a balanced mouthfeel. Chives are sour cream's best friend, and they not only taste wonderful when mixed with creamy, fluffy potatoes but also give the dish a little aesthetic appeal. Let's face it, mashed potatoes aren't the prettiest dish in the world, but a little sprig of green can go a long way. Chives are a nice addition to the universally loved side dish because it contains both onion and garlic flavors. Voila, you've just turned your favorite potato chip flavor into a gourmet side dish that took just minutes to make.

Blend up potato leek soup

Classic potato leek soup is an all-time favorite because it's creamy, hearty, smooth, and, let's face it... who doesn't love the potato-onion combination? With just a few ingredients, it's easy to pull together in a pinch, and it's actually quite difficult to ruin. A few surprise ingredients are sometimes added to enhance the flavor, like apples or celery, but all-in-all with a few potatoes, leeks, broth, garlic, and oil, we are off to the races.

While potatoes don't take terribly long to prep and cook, it's still quite a process, especially if you intend to peel them. Make life easier and consider sautéing those leeks and garlic in a little olive oil and then mixing in your instant mashed potatoes and broth before blending. Get fancy and make vichyssoise, which is a chilled potato soup. It typically contains quite a few herbs, spices, creams, aromatics, and acids, so it's not as simple to make, but using instant potatoes certainly saves a few steps.

Create a crunchy coating

Everybody loves that crispy, crunchy coating that comes with our favorite breaded or deep-fried dishes. Seriously, what's better than biting into a layer of breadcrumbs that have been toasted or fried until they reach that heavenly golden brown color? Well, we maybe have just found something that could give breading a run for its money. You should consider substituting breadcrumbs with instant mashed potatoes in your next deep fry, air fry, or oven-baked adventure.

Simply use your favorite breadcrumb-coated recipe, but use your trusted potato flakes instead. Dip tofu, meat, fish, or vegetables in a liquid batter, dust with your dry mix of instant potatoes and spices of choice, back into the vat of liquid, and then once more coat with the dry mix. Use an air fryer, deep fryer, or oven to achieve the ultimate crispy coating. Keep in mind that this is an incredible substitute for those with gluten intolerance and is a top-tier way to elevate your box of instant mashed potatoes.

Bake potato rolls

For the bakers out there, and bread enthusiasts, the superiority of potato rolls is quite obvious. Their slightly sweet, flakey, and fluffy goodness is enough to elevate any burger. There's nothing better than a hot potato roll with melted butter, and we're here to give you the baking hack of the century. Instead of using mashed potatoes in your mashed potato rolls recipe, try using instant potato flakes. Because they are a flakey solid, they distribute beautifully. No more whipping out those pesky lumps hiding on the edges of the bowl! Baking just got easier.

This carb-filled, light-as-a-feather roll will become an instant favorite among your family members and guests. Go one step further and use the ingredient in all of your savory baking. Add it to cornbread, pizza crusts, garlic knots, and savory pie crusts. It adds a light richness that goes unmatched and is quite mild in flavor, so it won't run the show.

Don't use water

Now, if you're an instruction follower, this one might be difficult to execute. And while we know the instructions on your box of instant mashed potatoes say "just add water," this is your opportunity to take some creative liberty. While just adding water can produce some fluffy, delicious mashed potatoes, we've decided you deserve better. It's time you take it to the next level by adding the secret ingredient that will upgrade your instant mashed potatoes into the best-ever creamy, dreamy side dish. That secret ingredient is actually quite simple, it's anything but water.

That's right, water is a bit of a life-suck when it comes to potatoes, so consider using milk, cream, plant-based milk, or broth instead. If you're hoping to keep the fat and sodium content low, then try using half water and half another liquid. Don't forget to mix in a little butter, sour cream, pepper, garlic powder, or whatever ingredients you typically add to your from-scratch mashed potatoes.

Include some fat

While the average person might not categorize potatoes as a healthy food, we are here to set the record straight. Potatoes actually contain very little fat and quite a bit of fiber and nutrients, especially in the skins. For our instant potato fans, keep in mind that the mix typically contains quite a bit more sodium but is still just made up of potatoes. Potatoes get a bad rap because they are typically deep-fried or mixed with excessive amounts of butter, cream, or cheese. The reason for this is that the combination of potatoes and fat is unmatched when it comes to flavor and mouthfeel.

Butter is typically the fat of choice when it comes to potatoes. But butter does more for mashed potatoes than just adding flavor. The fat actually insulates the potatoes from other dairies like milk, so be sure to mix it in first. Consider taking the path less traveled, and experiment with options like olive oil. Try using both, or go full Midwestern and mix in a big glop of mayonnaise. Get fancy and use duck fat or bacon fat. Aioli is another good option, but be wary that because true aioli is whipped oil, it will melt if mixed into hot potatoes. Even a touch of truffle oil can make all the difference. Adding an element of fat is by far the absolute best way to save dry mashed potatoes.

Mash in roasted garlic

This is your wake-up call if you've never tried roasting a full head of garlic in the oven. Simply cut off the top of a full head, exposing the cloves slightly, and douse with olive oil. Leave the papery skin on. Place cut-side down or wrap it in aluminum foil, and cook it in the oven at 375 for about 45 minutes. Once the garlic head cools, simply use your fingers to squeeze the cloves from the head, and you'll notice they will slip out in the consistency of butter. Once you have the roasted garlic paste, blend it into your bowl of hydrated instant mashed potatoes. The texture of mashed roasted garlic is already extremely creamy, so it will be a welcome addition to your favorite side dish. It should distribute nicely, but if you're worried about getting a mouthful of garlic, mash it into a smooth paste before incorporating it into the potatoes.

For an added savory element, consider mixing in a tablespoon of miso and going easy on the salt. Miso is a fermented, salty Asian condiment with a strong umami flavor that pairs beautifully with garlic and you guessed it, mashed potatoes. These simple additions will surely elevate your box of instant mashed potatoes into gourmet status.

Mix in cheese

When it comes to almost any savory dish when in doubt, add cheese to the mix. And what pairs better with cheese than potatoes? There are many possibilities out there, so take your time when deciding which direction you'd like to go in while making cheesy mashed potatoes from your instant box mix.

Adding cream cheese can produce an unforgettably creamy yet mild side dish. Adding parmesan will give your spuds a slightly sharp umami flavor. Aged cheddar cheese can have quite a nip to it but can produce an ooey-gooey stretchy mashed potato with a sharp flavor. Crème fraîche is another lighter option that is a cross between a solid and a liquid. It has a fresh cream flavor. If you enjoy the flavors of unique cheese, try gouda or even blue cheese. Add in moderation, and enjoy with a crumbling on top as well.

Go one step further and make pommes aligot with your instant mashed potatoes. For those of you who haven't had the joy of experiencing it, it can be best described as a cheesy glob of potatoey goodness.

Load it up

Calling all potato skin fans! If you love a loaded baked potato, you're in luck. The only thing better than a loaded baked potato is loaded mashed potatoes. And with a box of instant mashed potatoes, all your dreams can come true in a matter of minutes. Make your mashed potatoes per the instructions on the box, and feel free to add your own flairs like butter, milk, or broth. Then, create a toppings bar with foods like chopped bacon, scallions, chives, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, diced tomatoes, chopped red onion, cilantro, chili, or really any popular baked potato toppings.

Consider adding cheese first, so it has a chance to melt, and fresher foods like cilantro or green onion last on top of a heap of cold sour cream to preserve their structure. Who says you have to wait hours to stuff toppings into a baked potato when you could upgrade your box of instant potatoes in just minutes?

Use it as a thickener

If you've ever used potato starch to thicken gravy, then you already know how incredibly helpful in the kitchen it can be. Although potato flakes aren't quite as concentrated as potato starch, they still do the trick and add an element of potato goodness along the way. For recipes that couple well with potatoes, use instant potatoes instead of flour or other thickeners.

You should always have instant potatoes in your pantry because they do much more than simply make quick and easy mashed potatoes. Use the potato flakes to thicken corn or clam chowder, pot pie filling, or use it in gravy. You can even go as far as to use it to thicken chili or a shepherd's pie base. This versatile ingredient is easy to incorporate and adds a potato flavor that everyone loves. Next time you're reaching for the corn starch, think twice and give that box of instant mashed potatoes a chance.

Layer in some french onion dip

Although a main appeal to the whole instant mashed potatoes ordeal is the convenience of just adding water, it may make sense to take a couple of extra seconds to add one more ingredient. For those who can't resist the oniony goodness of french onion dip, add that game-changing ingredient to your mashed potatoes to make them extra irresistible.

French onion dip is no stranger to the potato, as potato chips and the dip have been coupled for decades. The sour cream creates a refreshing base for the caramelized onion, garlic, and herbs. Follow the recipe on the instant potato box, mix in a small dollop, and add more to taste as you go. The dip can have quite a strong flavor and is certainly worth the extra step. You've just met your new secret ingredient for irresistible mashed potatoes!

But beware, French onion dip is not recommended for those about to walk into a job interview, first date, or dentist's office.

Make a meal out of it

Don't get us wrong, mashed potatoes make an incredible side dish. They are usually mild, go well with savory sauces, give our palate a nice break from the intensity of the entree, and are loved by all. It's crazy that potatoes are overlooked when it comes to the main entree. Try incorporating instant mashed potatoes into the center of your plate by using them as a base for foods like chili, french stew, bolognese, or even fried chicken with gravy. These are some of the absolute best toppings for mashed potatoes, and using the instant version makes your job all the less complex and time-consuming.

Starches like potatoes or rice act as a vehicle for flavor, so when you're ready to show off those braised short ribs you spent hours on, pile them over a heap of instant mashed potatoes and let the sauce trickle down the sides like a volcano. Why should you spend all day boiling and mashing when you've already put hours into braising?

Top with crushed potato chips

The only thing that can truly elevate mashed potatoes, is more potatoes. We can't get enough of the dehydrated spuds, so after your potato flakes have been properly hydrated, crumple potato chips on top for added crunch and salt. Adding potato chips to your mashed potatoes may sound a tad redundant in theory, but the truth is that one of the important elements home cooks often overlook is a variety of textures. Crisp lasagna edges, the burnt cheese from your pan-fried sandwich, toasted sesame seeds, and that golden brown breading on your chicken all carry that unforgettable crunch that people can't resist.

Mashed potatoes are otherwise the perfect food, but they are typically not very interesting texture-wise. Luckily, it doesn't have to be that way. By adding crushed potato chips, you are turning your mashed potato side dish into a creamy crunch hybrid. Simply keep fresh potato chips in their bag, make a small hole to deflate the air, and use a rolling pin to smash the chips to smithereens. Leave a few big chunks in there for extra crunch, and sprinkle a light dusting over your rehydrated, instant mashed potatoes to elevate them to a whole new level.

Incorporate some texture

The heated Thanksgiving debate over creamy or lumpy potatoes shouldn't dissuade you from grabbing a box of instant potatoes from the shelf. For those who believe mashed potatoes should contain lumps, we have a quick fix that has the ability to take your instant potatoes to a whole new level. It's probable that you reached for a box of instant potatoes because time is of the essence, so it's important to spring for another shelf-stable, ready-made ingredient to add. This canned ingredient adds texture to smooth instant potatoes and is inexpensive and easy to find.

What could possibly enhance potatoes more than... more potatoes? Add canned potatoes to your next instant mash to make sure to please all the lump lovers in your family. Simply heat the canned potatoes in a little milk or broth until they begin to soften. They are pre-cooked, so this shouldn't take very long. Then, mash them to your preferred lumpiness and fold them right into your bowl of hydrated instant mashed potatoes.