Markets and grocery store shelves are filled with different types of potatoes. Although they can vary widely in flavor and texture, potatoes fit into three groups: waxy, starchy, and all purpose.
When choosing a potato for your meal, the type must be suitable for the dish you have in mind. They behave differently when cooked, some remaining intact when boiled, others falling apart.
- waxy potatoes contain lower starch levels and have a firmer texture.
- starchy potatoes have a lot of starch which bursts open during cooking, providing a softer texture.
- all purpose potatoes contain more starch than the waxy variety and work well in most potato dishes.
Having a busy day? Download our super-handy, free pdf document and read later: Guide To Potato Varieties
What are the different varieties of potatoes?
We’ve pulled together some popular types of potatoes that are loved for their flavor profile and texture. They are delicious when used for the right application. Using a waxy Nicola with low levels of starch for mashing won’t make for a pleasant dish.
1. Waxy potatoes
A waxy potato is high in sugar and moisture while containing low levels of starch. They often have waxy skin and flesh that’s firm and creamy. Waxy potatoes are often smaller than the starchy variety.
Best uses: waxy potatoes won’t break apart once roasted, baked, fried, microwaved, or boiled. They are perfect for chopping into cubes and using in potato salad, casseroles, and soups.
Limitations: in most cases waxy potatoes aren’t ideal for mashing as they hold their shape, resulting in lumpy mashed potatoes.
Dutch Creams are large potatoes with thick skin and yellow flesh. Their buttery, rich taste makes them ideal for a niçoise salad of slicing up and frying.
The French Fingerling provides an earthy, nutty taste and has a firm, dense texture. They have a unique-looking pink marbling through the flesh and can be baked, steamed, or roasted.
Charlottes are a type of potato that grow quite long. They have thin skin that doesn’t need to be peeled. Its light yellow flesh holds its shape well and is delicious boiled and then sautéed in olive oil. The Charlotte is suitable for eating hot or cold.
The Russian Banana is a waxy fingerling potato that has yellow skin and a golden inside. They are rich-tasting with a nutty undertone and are well-suited as a salad potato. They can also be steamed, grilled, baked, or fried.
Rose Finn Apple
Another fingerling potato, the Rose Finn Apple is a small finger-shaped tuber that has pinkish skin. Its flesh is yellow and waxy, with a flavor that is hard to beat. It is an ideal potato for roasting and eating like finger food.
Red Thumbs are creamy-white potatoes with pink marbling and a delicious buttery flavor. A popular use for this type of potato is to par-boil then slightly smash them, before roasting to crisp the skin.
Kiplers are small, waxy potatoes that have shallow eyes and smooth flesh that is golden yellow. Roast or bake these spuds to bring out their creamy texture and buttery flavor.
Nicola potatoes are a waxy variety that is light yellow, offering a buttery flavor. It’s this flavor that makes them perfect for gnocchi although they’re also delicious added to casseroles and potato salads.
The Anya is a firm, fingerling potato that provides a mildly nutty flavor. They’re a small, golden-brown potato with creamy white flesh. Use Anya potatoes for boiling, roasting, steaming, or sautéing.
Red Bliss potatoes have white flesh and bright red skin. They are extremely waxy which makes them a challenge to mash, but they’re excellent for most other uses. Whether your friends and family prefer scalloped potatoes, French fries, or baked potato, Red Bliss will work well.
Quick Tip: If you don’t enjoy peeling potatoes then be sure to check out our review of the best electric potato peelers. With this appliance, you can sit back and watch it do the tedious work for you.
2. Starchy potatoes
Starchy potatoes are low in moisture but high in starch content, resulting in a whiter-colored flesh and a floury texture. This potato type is often larger and has thicker skin than the waxy variety.
Best uses: Starch potatoes are ideal for mashing thanks to their soft, fluffy texture. They are also commonly used to make hash browns, hot chips, potato cakes. Baked, roasted, or fried, they’re delicious cooked into crispy potatoes with olive oil and seasoning.
Limitations: Starchy potatoes don’t hold their shape well so they aren’t the best option for potato salads, casseroles, or gratins.
Russet potatoes are a popular variety that has a mild, earthy flavor combined with a dry, floury texture. They’re large enough to slice into wedges or planks that can be baked or fried until golden and crispy. Russets are an excellent choice for mashing as they have a delicious fluffy texture once cooked. Their rough brown skin is perfect for peeling and frying!
Common varieties of russet include Goldrush, Idaho, Ranger, Centennial, and Burbank.
The Maris Piper is a fluffy, creamy white potato with white flesh. It is a versatile potato which makes it a popular variety. Excellent roasted, baked, or for making the perfect chip.
The Vitelotte potato is a lesser-known variety but is an excellent potato if you can get it. They are purple potatoes that hold their color when cooked making them popular for boiling or turning into a vibrant mash.
Sweet potatoes come in many shapes and sizes, but they are mostly classified as a starchy potato variety. Their low levels of moisture and absorbent, fluffy texture make them ideal for mashing, boiling, baking, and frying.
Common types of sweet potato include the Jewel yam, Japanese sweet potato, and Hannah sweet potato.
The King Edward potato has tan skin with pink blushes. Its flesh is cream-colored and, once cooked, has a fluffy starchy texture. This potato can be mashed and scooped onto the top of a Shepherd’s Pie. It is also excellent for stews, gnocchi, and potato cakes.
3. All purpose potatoes
All purpose potatoes are a versatile option that can be used in any recipe that calls for potatoes. Their starch levels are in between waxy and starchy varieties.
Best uses: All purpose potatoes have higher levels of moisture so they can hold their shape well once boiled. They are suitable for stewing, soups, pan-frying, roasting, and boiling.
Limitations: The all purpose potato will work in any dish, but if you’re after a deliciously fluffy mashed potato, a starchy potato is a better option.
Desirees are common red potatoes that have a firm, waxy texture and a very white interior. They are popular due to their versatility – mashing, salads, roasted, or wedges are all good options.
Yukon Golds have a natural butter flavor and its yellowy-gold flesh is moist, firm, and waxy. They are rich and buttery with a subtle sweet flavor. Use these potatoes for sautéing, frying, roasting, mashing, or boiling.
Kennebec potatoes are full of nutty flavor and are also rich and earthy. Their white flesh contains low levels of water content, good for almost any application in the kitchen.
All Blue potatoes have vibrant purple skin and blue flesh that dulls once cooked. These medium-sized potatoes are full of flavor and provide pleasant meaty flesh.
Purple Majesty potatoes have deep purple flesh with the occasional white marbling. They have a sweet, nutty flavor and a dense texture, even once cooked.
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How to cook different types of potatoes
|Food Type||Best Potatoes|
|Mashed||Starchy potatoes like Russets provide the fluffiest mash.|
|French fries||Starchy potatoes provide a crispy exterior with a soft inside.|
|Potato salad||Waxy potato varieties hold their shape best once boiled.|
|Scalloped potatoes||Waxy potato varieties hold their shape best and offer a pleasant firm texture.|
|Potato pancakes||Starchy potatoes like Russets and Yukon Golds help bind the other ingredients together best.|
|Hash Browns||Starchy potatoes like Russets and Yukon Golds hold together best.|
|Baked or Roasted||Any variety of potato is suitable for these cooking methods.|
|Chowders, Stews, and Soups||Waxy potato varieties hold their shape best when slow-cooked in liquid.|
Frequently asked questions
Are potatoes healthy?
Potatoes are considered a healthy vegetable when eaten in moderation. They are an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of potassium, iron, magnesium. A medium-sized potato contains 100 calories, 3 grams of protein, and no fat.
How many types of potatoes are there?
Around the world, there are around 5000 potato varieties; however, in the United States, there are roughly 200 types of potatoes commercially available.
What are new potatoes?
New potatoes are any variety of potato that have been harvested before reaching maturity. Their sugar hasn’t yet fully converted into starch so they are sweeter and hold their shape well once cooked.
Quick tips for storing potatoes
- Potatoes should be stored in a cool, dry position away from light to avoid greening. For best results, avoid refrigerating.
- To avoid flavor transfer, store potatoes away from other produce like onions, garlic, pears, and apples.
- Potatoes are best eaten within one week, but they will store for several weeks before they need to be discarded.
- Once potatoes are sliced up, transfer them to a bowl of cold water for up to 2 hours to keep them from browning.
4 facts about potatoes
- They are the most popular vegetable in the U.S with consumption increasing from 316 million tonnes in 2002 to 377 million in 2016¹.
- They’re a popular vegetable thanks to their ease of growing but also because they are extremely versatile in the kitchen and easy to store.
- Potatoes have high levels of starch but contain fewer calories than rice and pasta.
- Green potatoes contain solanine and should not be eaten in large quantities as they can cause headaches, cramps, and diarrhea.
The ultimate guide to cooking potatoes [infographic]
Potatoes are a popular vegetable around the world thanks to their mild flavor, versatility, and ease of storing.
Most of us have had a failed potato story, particularly when it comes to mashing them. The most likely reason for an unpleasant mash is that a waxy potato was used that held its shape and remained lumpy.
Use a suitable potato variety and your next potato dish is sure to be a success.