What Are Instant Mashed Potato Flakes Made Of?

Instant mashed potatoes have a bad reputation, like many instant or dried ingredients. Flaky, powdery, and reminiscent of panko breadcrumbs, this pantry staple somehow dissolves into a soft, chunk-less mashed potato. But how does it actually work? What gives instant mashed potatoes that characteristically smooth, pomme puree mouthfeel? Sure, instant mashed potatoes lack the rustic appearance and texture of mashed potatoes with pieces of skin and even whole chunks of potato left intact. Yet this shelf-stable item is reliable and tastes like potatoes that have been thoroughly mashed. Somehow, the flakes magically turn into a fully-cooked mashed potato puree when combined with water.

Most instant mashed potato packages call for the addition of a few essentials: liquid and butter. The liquid can be plain water, or even beef broth or chicken stock for a richer flavor. What leaves many wondering is how seamlessly the flakes turn into a homogenous paste, free of lumps and oh-so-smooth. While you might assume that instant mashed potatoes contain numerous additives or stabilizers, they are actually made from something quite simple.

Instant mashed potatoes are made from dehydrated potatoes

It's really all natural: Instant mashed potato flakes are made from dehydrated potatoes. To be more specific, they're dehydrated potatoes that have already been cooked and mashed. This is why the potatoes are ready to eat once they're mixed with liquid. Instant mashed potatoes are usually made from mashed russet potatoes or Idaho potatoes, which are characteristically starchy, leading to a smooth texture that's absorbent of flavor and fat. It makes sense since these are the standard potatoes used for mashing, although some prefer more buttery variants like Yukon gold or baby reds.

Like garlic powder, instant mashed potatoes have an undeserved reputation for being low-quality or simply not as good as the real thing. But in truth, these dehydrated ingredients are useful and easy to use when you're in a pinch. Dishes like shepherd's pie, where mashed potatoes play only a supporting role, can come together in half the time with instant mashed potatoes. Even croquettes, which require a lengthy filling and deep-frying process, will come together much quicker thanks to these mashed potato flakes. If you want to stick to basic mashed potatoes, there are ways to jazz up instant mashed potatoes, like adding sour cream or herbs. All in all, this versatile ingredient should not be overlooked on your next trip to the grocery store.