12 Best Ways To Use Canned Potatoes

Canned foods had a revival during the pandemic due to the fact that they have such a long shelf life and could limit trips to the grocery store. While this is one of the best things about canned foods, there are plenty of other benefits to using these often looked down on food items. They may have a bad reputation, but there are so many great canned food items out there and multiple ways to use them to make your cooking tasty, affordable, and more convenient. Plus, they're a way to include more fruit and vegetables in your cooking without having to waste fresh food that may go off before you're able to cook or eat them. 

Different canned foods have their loyal fans and customers like canned beans, spam, or things like cranberry sauce — canned potatoes, however, are not as well known or loved. That's a shame because canned potatoes are totally underrated and can often be better than using fresh potatoes. Everyone knows how long potatoes take to cook, often longer than the other ingredients you're cooking with, meaning they can hold up a meal. Potatoes are also quite a hassle to prepare, from scrubbing the skins clean or peeling them. Canned potatoes are already washed and peeled, and they're often pre-cooked or par-cooked, making them a cinch to throw into your weeknight recipe. These are some of the best ways to use them.

Potato salad has never been easier

Everybody loves potato salad, but it can be a laborious dish to make. Many people take the shortcut of buying store-bought potato salad, but that lacks the magic of homemade, and often you have to dress it up anyway to make it taste the way you like it. This is where canned potatoes come in. They make it so much quicker and easier to make potato salad, that you'll be making this crowd favorite so much more, especially in summer when you might be feeling less inclined to turn on heat and cook.

Make sure you buy canned potatoes that are fully cooked (as opposed to par-cooked), then drain them from their water. The potatoes will be perfectly soft, not too mushy, and not undercooked — which can sometimes happen when you boil potatoes yourself. You can get whole potatoes and cut them up yourself, or you can get the diced ones and save a whole other step. All you have to do is dress them up with your favorite potato salad dressing and toppings and it's ready to be enjoyed with no fuss at all.

Warm up with creamy potato soup

As the weather starts getting colder and the days get shorter, curling up with a bowl of warming, thick potato soup can be just what the doctor ordered. Potato soup is comforting and versatile — you can make it spicy or mellow, dress it up with bacon bits, cheese, roasted garlic, or curry paste — the choices are endless. It's a vegetable that can easily pair with different flavors and blend into a velvety, rich soup once cooked.

This is where using canned potatoes becomes the perfect shortcut. All you have to do is drain them and add them to your stock, then blend them up. This might be the way to get you converted to canned potatoes because people are usually most put off by the fact that the potatoes come in water. Adding canned potatoes into soup and blending them is not only the most forgiving method, but it makes perfect sense in a soup, from one liquid to another. You can also forego the blending if you're making a chunky potato soup, just use canned diced potatoes, and let them do all the work.

Add texture to instant mashed potatoes

Mashed potatoes are one of those side dishes that often take up more time than a main dish. But being the ultimate, creamy, comfort food, you might prefer to open up a packet of instant mash, rather than let the inconvenience of making it stop you, and there's no shame in that. We all have busy lives and mouths to feed, and there are days when we simply don't have the energy. Using instant mashed potatoes doesn't mean you have to skimp on texture and flavor.

Canned potatoes are the ingredient that adds texture to your instant mash. They can elevate it to a dish that rivals one that's made from scratch. With instant mash, all you have is softness, but sometimes we want a little bit more bite in our mashed potatoes. Adding canned potatoes allows you to get that desirable thickness into your mash, and all it takes is mashing them to the consistency you prefer while keeping in some chunky bits. Dress them up with some parsley, butter, and seasoning and this will taste like the real deal.

Make shepherd's pie

Shepherd's pie is one of the most foolproof ways to use canned potatoes — especially if you're a skeptic. Also known as cottage pie, it is a comforting casserole of ground meat (usually lamb or beef) and mixed vegetables topped with a creamy layer of mashed potatoes. While a simple, homey dish, it can be a pain to make because of all the steps, the biggest one being the mashed potatoes.

Using canned potatoes takes a fraction of the time and helps you focus on the flavor of your shepherd's pie, without needing to add peeling, cutting, and boiling potatoes to the mix. Simply mash up and season (and add some milk or cream if desired) your drained potatoes until fluffy and layer the silky mixture on top of your meat base. For extra texture, run your fork over the top of your mash to create lines all over, this will help catch more browning in the oven. Bake until your pie is bubbling hot and has gone nicely golden brown on top. The fact that the texture or taste of the potatoes is not center stage in this dish means that it's a forgiving way to get used to using canned potatoes, and paired with the flavorful meat is a welcome creamy addition.

Roast them in your air-fryer

A common misconception about canned potatoes is that you can only use them in wet dishes like soups and stews because they're probably soggy from being in the water of a can. This isn't the case, and you can make delicious, crispy, roasted potatoes using canned potatoes. One of the most effective ways to do so is by using an air fryer. The reason air fryers are so loved is that they can seamlessly crisp up most foods in no time, with minimal oil required.

Canned potatoes should definitely be cooked in the air-fryer, and actually might work better than using fresh potatoes because you don't have to worry about getting them cooked. All you want is to get them nicely roasted and browned on the outside and warmed through on the inside — something that air fryers do brilliantly. All you need to do is drain your potatoes and pat them dry with a paper towel. Then season them with the spices and herbs you prefer and spray them with a little oil. Bake them in your air fryer at 400 F for about 15 minutes and you'll have crispy, golden-roasted potatoes. It's so convenient, that you might never look back.

Use them to thicken soup

Potatoes have long been one of the go-to methods to add thickness to soups of all kinds. Their neutral taste means they don't alter the flavor of your soup while adding body. They also blend into a cloudy, silky concoction when cooked, and so can be a way to add creaminess without dairy, especially for people who are lactose intolerant, vegan, or prefer to eat plant-based. They also add richness without the heaviness of adding cream, so you can feel satisfied without feeling sluggish after eating.

Keeping some cans of potatoes in your pantry will be the easiest trick you have for elevating your soups. Usually, if you're cooking potatoes to add thickness, you're either cooking them separately first or trying to perfect the cooking timing in your soup. Because potatoes take so long to cook compared to everything else, this means you might overcook other ingredients in order to get your potatoes soft. Using canned potatoes takes out the guesswork of cooking times, and you can add them in without needing ages to cook them. They also work great in chunky soups like chunky vegetable soups or even clam chowder. Buy them diced and all you have to do is drain them and toss them in.

Add them to beef stew

Hearty stews can be a treat to have for lunch or dinner, especially during winter, but the time it requires to cook one up can mean that it's relegated to a weekend meal rather than something you can whip up any day. This is the canned shortcut you should be using for weeknight stews because it gets your stew bubbling in a quarter of the time. Stews require chopping onions, carrots, and leeks, among other things. Potatoes are the biggest pain to prep for when it comes to stews on top of all the other vegetables. Not to mention that cutting up raw potatoes is a skill on its own. Canned potatoes cut down prep time drastically, adding them near the end rather than having them be one of the first things you have to get in the pot.

When it comes to stews you have options of which canned potatoes to choose depending on your priorities. For the quickest shortcut, you can use already cooked, diced potatoes. If you want to have your potatoes cooked in the stew for a while in order to soak up the flavors, you can buy par-cooked ones. These will still cook in much less time than raw potatoes while absorbing the stew juices. Or, you can opt for baby potatoes that are canned whole and keep their integrity really well, making for a more rustic and textured stew.

Fry them up with garlic and herbs

The beauty of potatoes is just how versatile they are, and fried potatoes may be one of the most indulgent and delicious ways to enjoy them. You might be surprised to learn that canned potatoes are actually good for frying. Buying par-cooked canned potatoes works best because they'll fry up and get crispy while being fluffy inside. If you buy fully cooked ones, they will still work, but might not hold shape very well, or get mushy inside.

Making sure to pat them dry after you've drained them is the best way to ensure a crispy exterior, and it's especially important to do so for your own safety because water droplets in hot oil will splash and burn you if you're not careful. You can shallow fry or deep fry them, either way, give them enough time to brown on all sides. In this case, using whole potatoes will allow you to cut them in the shape you prefer for frying, slicing them, dicing or cubing them, cutting them into wedges, or skinny fries.

Impress with a potato au gratin

There are few dishes in the world that can compete with the decadence of a creamy, cheesy dish of potatoes au gratin. This French classic is more than a winter warmer — it's an indulgence that will do something near impossible — impressing dinner guests while winning over picky children too. Making this dish from scratch can take up to two hours to make, and while it's worth all the effort, you'll appreciate any shortcuts you can get, and canned potatoes will help with that.

Using par-cooked canned potatoes is best since you want them to cook in your creamy sauce and come together. As the dish usually calls for potato slices, you'll need to choose whole potatoes that you slice yourself. But there's nothing stopping you from making it with potato cubes, or chunks too, it will still taste amazing regardless of how you cut up your spuds. Then layer the potatoes in a casserole dish with your cream sauce, and bake in an oven at 400 F for 30 minutes uncovered, or until bubbling with a golden brown top. Cover with grated cheese and place back in the oven for about 5 minutes or until cheese has melted completely.

Slice them into a Greek moussaka

There are different variations of moussaka, and many countries have their unique way of preparing it. In Egypt, it's layers of fried eggplant and a spiced tomato meat sauce (sometimes without meat). in Lebanon, you might include chickpeas too. In Greece, layers of aubergine and tomato sauce (with or without meat) are topped with a creamy layer of bechamel. Sometimes, sliced potatoes are added to the layers too. In the Balkans, moussaka resembles the Greek one but features more potatoes instead of eggplants.

Making any of these moussaka dishes — especially the Greek version — will benefit from using canned potatoes. As you'll be spending a lot of time prepping the other layers, like the eggplants which have to be sliced and baked or fried first, bechamel sauce, and tomato sauce, you'll be thankful that you have the option of using canned potatoes that you only have to drain and slice. Baked into moussaka, par-cooked canned potatoes are a dream, going well with the other flavors without overpowering them, and getting soft quicker than fresh potatoes do, so that you can focus on getting the right consistency of the eggplant and bechamel without stressing about undercooked potatoes.

Whip up the quickest hash browns

Hash-browns are another recipe where canned potatoes shine. This tasty fried potato and onion pancake gets nice and crispy on the outside with a soft fluffy interior. The texture of the potatoes needs to be soft and cooked through, but otherwise, your priority is on the crunchy crust. Instead of having to boil potatoes first, just use them straight out of a can. All you need to do is drain them, pat them dry, and then grate them into your hash brown batter mix. It doesn't really matter what type of canned potato you go for, because all of them will work well.

Especially eaten at breakfast, you don't want to spend 40 minutes making hash browns, especially when you can use canned potatoes and cut that time down to 15 minutes, or less depending on your kitchen prowess. You may need to fry them for a minute or two longer to get the desired level of crispiness, but a little bit of patience here will save you much more patience that's needed when using raw potatoes.

Go old-school with scalloped potatoes

Similar to potatoes au gratin, canned potatoes work great with this old-fashioned scalloped potato recipe. There's much debate about the difference between the two dishes, but what it essentially comes down to is the cheese. While cheese is a key ingredient in potatoes au gratin, it's not in scalloped potatoes (even though many people still add cheese to scalloped potatoes anyway). Another difference is that scalloped potatoes sometimes contain a flavorful stock as well as cream. And while potatoes au gratin can have a variety of potato shapes, to make traditional scalloped potatoes, you need to thinly slice potatoes into rounds.

When using canned potatoes in this dish, try to go for whole potatoes that you can slice yourself, and definitely choose par-cooked, rather than fully cooked canned potatoes, as you'll want to bake your potatoes with the sauce to ensure the best flavor. While using fresh potatoes would take a minimum of an hour to bake, you can halve the time, and bake this dish for 30 minutes, or until you reach the desired level of browning on the top layer.