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What are Some Different Kinds of Potatoes?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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Solanum tuberosum, known more commonly as the potato, is a delicious edible tuber which has been cultivated in South America for thousands of years. Native Americans discovered it approximately 7,000 years before the birth of Christ, and proceeded to cultivate and breed numerous varieties, which were later imported to Europe by early explorers. Although the potato was not an instant success in Europe, ultimately the tubers became popular in many regional cuisines, and today they are grown and sold all over the world. Sadly, potato biodiversity has suffered in the 20th century, and many unique, exotic, and delicious varieties have been lost forever.

Most markets have potato displays offering several different varieties to choose from. All types break down into two basic categories: starchy, and waxy. Starchy potatoes are highly suited to baking and mashing, while waxy ones hold their shape well when boiled and fried. If you are unsure about whether one is starchy or waxy, a starchy potato will always sink in a brine solution.

The classic potato is the Russet or Idaho, a roughly ovoid brown tuber with starchy white flesh. Numerous varieties of Russets are cultivated around the world, and the durable tuber stores well as long as it is kept in a cool, dark place. Most of those grown in Idaho are Russets, because they hold up well through processing and shipping, and because there is high consumer demand for them.

Another common variety of potato is the Yukon Gold. These are roughly spherical in shape, with dull brown to gold skin. Yukon Golds are usually waxy, and highly delicious in soups, although they will start to break down if cooked for too long. Another similar potato, the Red Bliss, has red flaky skin instead of a smooth yellow outer layer, but also has white flesh. It can sometimes be difficult to discern between Red Bliss and Round Reds, which are waxy boiling potatoes; Round Reds usually have smooth skins.

When it comes to exotic looking options, the natural choice is the Peruvian Purple. Purple potatoes have dark purple skins and pale purple flesh, and the color will be retained through cooking. They are fun when mashed, but are also excellent in roasts, and make an exotic base for potato gratin. The popularity of this distinctive variety began to soar in the 1990s, and most grocery stores and farmers' markets now offer them.

Finally, some potatoes are sold as fingerling or new potatoes. These are exactly what they sound like: potatoes which have not fully matured. They tend to be smaller, and are often used whole in vegetable roasts. New potatoes also have a more delicate flavor, and since waxy varieties are the most common type, they can be used in a variety of dishes, such as roasts, soups, and hashes. They can also be used with their skins, which are thin, delicate, and flavorful.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By turquoise — On Sep 01, 2012
@ankara-- Yea, both Yukon Gold and russet is good for mashed potatoes because it's very easy to smash them. You can also combine one of these with red potatoes if you want.

I don't have a preference between potatoes but I always eat young potatoes because I have type two diabetes. Mature potatoes have the highest amount of starch which increased blood sugar very quickly. So young potatoes are the best potatoes for people who have to keep their blood sugar under control.

By bluedolphin — On Aug 31, 2012

@myharley, @Oceana-- What kind of potatoes are best for making mashed potatoes?

I thought it was Yukon Gold because it breaks down very easily when it's fully boiled. But I'm not sure if this is the most flavorful potatoes for mashed potatoes. Russet potatoes are flavorful, but they take longer to cook than Yukon Gold.

There are so many kinds of potatoes at the grocery store, I get confused about which to buy.

By fify — On Aug 30, 2012

I don't know if they have a special name but my favorite type of potatoes are red potatoes. I love that they're small and they have thin skin.It's so easy to cook them.

What I usually do is I just cut them up into quarters, put them in a pan and drizzle with olive oil and spices. I just cook it in the oven after that. I think these are the easiest potatoes to prepare. I've had russet potatoes too but I don't like those as much. They take much longer to cook and you always have to peel the skin because it's too thick.

By Oceana — On Aug 30, 2012

@myharley – If the mashed potatoes on the menu contain garlic and the potato skins, then chances are they were made from scratch. Loaded mashed potatoes are also often the real thing.

My favorite restaurant offers mashed potatoes and gravy as a side item. They have a real potato flavor that is enhanced by the presence of the skins. I can definitely taste the garlic, and the salt and pepper are just right.

So, if you are having a hard time getting an answer from the waitress on whether or not the potatoes are instant or fresh, just try asking her if they come with the skins or if they have garlic in them. I've only been served instant potatoes as totally plain mush.

By kylee07drg — On Aug 29, 2012
I like to slice and bake russet potatoes as an alternative to french fries. I cut them into discs, and then I halve those to make bite-sized pieces.

I cut them about an eighth of an inch thick. That way, they bake all the way through before the edges can burn.

I toss them in olive oil and sprinkle parsley and salt on top of them. I bake them at 375 degrees for thirty minutes, or until they become golden brown and blisters start to form on the surface. I love eating these with a burger or a chicken sandwich, because they are good for me and they satisfy my french fry craving.

By LisaLou — On Aug 29, 2012

We like to grow our own potatoes and look forward to harvesting them every year. If I keep them in a cool, dark place they will last for several months.

We also like to eat sweet potatoes which have more nutrition than the white, starchy potatoes. If you add a lot of brown sugar and butter they might not be so healthy, but this is sure a tasty way to prepare them.

By John57 — On Aug 28, 2012

For special occasions at our house I like to make twice baked potatoes. These take some time, but are well worth the effort. They can also be put in the freezer and used at a later date.

I have found that Russet potatoes work best for this because you can find big ones and they are firm. I bake the potatoes in the oven, and when they are cooled, scoop out the inside.

I add good things like cheese, sour cream and seasonings to this, and place them back in the skins and bake until the cheese melts.

By Kristee — On Aug 27, 2012

In my opinion, new potatoes make the best boiled potatoes. They are so small and tender that they don't take long at all to cook.

Some recipes say it only takes five minutes, while others say it takes ten. It totally depends on their size. I always stab them with a fork first to make sure they are done.

I boil them with garlic, salt, and pepper, and I cut them in half and smother them in butter before serving them. I also add a bit more salt and pepper after I have buttered them, because a lot of it drains off when you pour out the water.

By honeybees — On Aug 27, 2012

I often get tired of eating just a plain potato and like to spice it up a bit. My family loves cheesy potatoes and this has become a staple at our house.

You can buy box mixes of cheesy potatoes, but they aren't nearly as good as the ones you make yourselves. As long as you have time for them to bake in the oven, it doesn't take very long to prepare them.

I slice them up and add some milk, cheese, salt and pepper and it doesn't get much easier than that.

By myharley — On Aug 26, 2012

I am not too picky when it comes to the type of potato I am eating. I love the taste of all of them as long as they are a real potato and not instant.

I like to eat everything from boiled potatoes, to mashed, baked and even fried. If I had to choose a favorite way of eating potatoes, it would have to be mashed.

It is getting harder to find mashed potatoes served at a restaurant that are the real thing. I always specifically ask before ordering, but even then have been served instant potatoes when they were not supposed to be.

The only sure way of getting real mashed potatoes just the way I like them is to make them at home.

By StarJo — On Aug 26, 2012

@ivanka – I love making sweet potato fries! They are sweet yet salty at the same time, and baking them with a little salt on top brings out the best of both worlds.

The great thing about sweet potatoes is their versatility. They taste great as fries or as baked potatoes, but they also taste wonderful in desserts.

My mother makes sweet potato casserole with pumpkin pie spice for Thanksgiving, and it is so delicious. She also makes candied yams, which are coated in brown sugar and honey.

By dautsun — On Aug 25, 2012

@starrynight - I thought that was interesting too. However, the thing that struck me most about this article was the loss of biodiversity in potatoes. I find that really depressing.

I think we're really doing ourselves a disservice by cultivating only a few kinds of potatoes. What if something happens to wipe out those strains of potatoes, like some kind of pest? Then we'll be out of luck. If there were more varieties, it would probably be a lot better.

Plus, I think it would be cool to have more options at the grocery store than just the standard red and white potatoes.

By starrynight — On Aug 24, 2012

I had no idea that potatoes had been around for so long! It's pretty amazing when you think about it. People have been growing potatoes for literally thousands and thousands of years!

By Pharoah — On Aug 24, 2012

@Azuza - I usually have a lot more luck finding strange and "exotic" things at either a health food store or a farmer's market. I bet if you look around you can find some Peruvian Purple potatoes in your area.

I personally always keep some Russet potatoes around for snacking. This sounds a little weird, but when I'm feeling lazy I sometimes microwave potatoes.

I wash the potato off and score the outside like I would if I was making a baked potato in the oven. Then I throw it in the microwave for a few minutes (depending on how big the potato is) and it comes out just like a baked potato!

By Azuza — On Aug 23, 2012

I love potatoes. They are probably among my top five favorite foods.

However, I have never seen or heard of a Peruvian Purple potato, and I would really like to try one. I know my local grocery stores don't carry it, so I may try the farmers market. Purple mashed potatoes just sound like so much fun!

By anon281320 — On Jul 23, 2012

@ynot8u: Yes, but with white flowers and berries can vary from green to purple. You have to be careful though, especially with children as all parts of potato plants except from tubers are poisonous!

By ivanka — On Nov 30, 2008

There are also sweet potatoes with loads of vitamin A, and they taste so good.

All varieties of potatoes are an excellent source of carbohydrates, fiber and protein, and without fat. They also contain plenty of vitamin C and potassium. When eaten plain, baked or mashed, potatoes are the healthiest.

They should be paired with some lean protein though to slow down absorption since they have high glycemic index.

By ynot8u — On Jun 30, 2008

Do potato plants grow a dark bluish/purple berry when it is flowering ?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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