The Absolute Best Ingredients For Vegan Mashed Potatoes

While the name mashed potatoes implies a vegan-friendly recipe, anyone who has made mashed potatoes knows how much the dairy ingredients contribute to the dish's silky texture. When Thomas Keller, for example, shared his puréed potato recipe with MasterClass, the ingredients included butter, unsalted butter for finishing, optional clarified butter, and cream. All of that fatty dairy works to smooth what would otherwise be a chalky mash. 

But mashed potatoes should not belong to non-vegan eaters alone. Insider suggests as a hack that you could simply switch out the dairy ingredients with water. Of course, other ingredients can pick up the flavor, but water lacks many of the qualities of butter and cream. This just plays into the idea that vegan dishes have to feel like a step down. Similarly, switching out cream, butter, or milk with any milk alternative may not be the easy solution that some expect, either. The Minimalist Baker notes that using almond milk in mashed potatoes results in mashed potatoes that smack of almond milk. The ideal vegan mashed potato ingredients will capture what it is that makes mashed potatoes brilliant without recourse to easy dairy options.

You could just use water

As mentioned, Insider suggests swapping in water for cream and milk. While Insider does not elaborate on why water is an ingredient worth considering, The New York Times explains that reintroducing the water used to boil the potatoes also helps making the mash fluffier and creamier. In fact, Little House Living quotes this advice from the Little House on the Prairie series: "Leave a very little of the boiling water in, and after you mash them, beat them extra hard with a big spoon."

Little House Living goes on to explain that when mixed with water, potato starch develops a consistency similar to milk or water mixed with flour. Other uses for potato water include substituting flour, thickening soups, and adding a different texture to your bread. However, water is definitely portrayed as a substitute for when you don't have milk. This is seen in the Little House recipe for mashed potatoes which simply assumes you have milk or butter at hand that you will use. However, if you don't like the flavor of alternative milks, water and vegan butter can be combined for a fluffy and creamy vegan mashed potato.

You could use vegan butter

Another simple option is to use vegan butter. Vegan butter is, in fact, the option that The Minimalist Baker goes for. In its recipe, you can use water as your liquid while making up for it with vegan butter, roasted garlic, and black pepper. 

The most famous would be margarine, which sometimes suffers from a bad reputation. For non-vegans, All Recipes states more water and fat than margarine. Moreover, as the Harvard Medical School comments that while margarine does contain less saturated fat than butter, but has more of the dreaded trans fats. In fact, the piece suggests using olive oil, albeit sparingly. It is also important to note that not all margarines are considered vegan so it is important to read the package before purchasing. 

However, these days vegan butters have proliferated to the point where Food52 and Clean Green Simple offer lists of the 10 best types of vegan butter. Common ingredients for these include cashews and coconut oil. That said, palm oil is used for many so you will want to check the ingredient list. Experimenting with so many brands could daunt. Fortunately, both lists hold up Miyoko's Cultured Vegan Butter and Melt Organic Butter as widely loved vegan butter brands. Miyoko is made from coconut oil, sunflower oil, and cashews while Melt is made from coconut, sunflower, canola, and Rainforest Alliance Certified palm oils. If using these, though, keep in mind that vegan butter doesn't brown (per Georgeats).

Olive oil is a healthy alternative

Following the advice given by the Harvard Medical School, one could always opt for oil-based mashed potatoes. Olive oil contains mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which are good for you.

More importantly for these purposes, though, there are mashed potato recipes that only call for olive oil. Feel Good Foodie recommends an extra-virgin olive oil for the best flavor and most luxurious texture. To avoid an overly oily dish, you should keep the water in which you first boil the potatoes. The water that will have the starch of the potatoes in it can be used during the mashing process. The recipe recommends keeping at least 1 cup handy, but states that you could use more to find your desired consistency. This recipe manages to stick solely to olive oil. However, most, like the Simply Vegan Blog, turn to some kind of plant-based milk or other dairy alternative. It could be that Feel Good Foodie enjoys the texture of potatoes only with olive oil, but others consider it lacking in that dairy-like oomph. 

Non-dairy milks are

Despite protestations from the Minimalist Baker that almond milk adds too much of an almond flavor, one really has to consider using a non-dairy milk alternative.

Which one to use, however, is complicated. Soy milk, for example, is lauded by The Ladders as the healthiest alternative. But, as CNET notes, soy milk overpowers with its divisive flavor. So, if almond milk may be too nutty, soy milk may make the potatoes too soy. CNET notes the same for oat milk and LEAFtv echoes the sentiment when suggesting that you could use coconut milk for mashed potatoes, but many are turned off by the flavor. "Each plant-based milk brings its own flavor, and the potatoes will taste more earthy or nutty, depending on your choice," the piece states.

This is the reason behind the Minimalist Baker and The Kitchn's disavowal of non-dairy milks. None of the alternatives, the outlet claims, will compare favorably to mashed potatoes made from dairy milk. However, many aren't turned off by alternative milks. Texanerin uses coconut milk, olive oil, and plant-based milk. Making Thyme for My Health tosses in vegan butter along with the coconut milk. Oatsome uses vegan butter with oat milk. Just like every other substitution, then, simply using vegan ingredients in place of non-vegan ones is a valid course of action. The main consideration, according to Georgeats who uses soy milk, is that creamier milks are preferable as they make richer mashed potatoes.