Making Instant Mashed Potatoes Taste Better

published by Brian Vandenbroek on Sep 8, 2010

Just because they’re instant, doesn’t mean these mashed potatoes have to be bland. In this article I offer some suggestions for making instant mashed potatoes taste beter.

As a bachelor, I’m always looking for ways to make meals quick and easy to prepare. But I also want them to taste good. Until recently, I had a real love-hate relationship with instant mashed potatoes. On one hand, easy to make. On the other, somewhat lacking in flavor. In an attempt to resolve my issues with instant mashed potatoes, I figured out a few ways to make them tastier.

1) Caramelized onions

Caramelized onions add flavor to the mashed potatoes going beyond the onions themselves. Caramelizing brings out their natural sugars as well as a nuttiness that’s always nice. All you need to do is heat 1 Tbsp canola oil over med-hi heat. Add one finely chopped onion and cook, stirring occasionally until the onions brown. If the onions stick to the pan add a splash of water or broth to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Then stir the onions into your mashed potatoes and serve.

2) Roasted garlic

Roasted garlic is another easy way to add flavor to instant mashed potatoes. Just peel the outer skin off a head of garlic. Cut the top of the head off, leaving individual cloves of garlic exposed. Coat the outside of the garlic in oil and wrap the head in tin foil. Bake at 400F for 30-35 minutes or until the head feels soft to the touch. Remove from the oven, remove the garlic from the cloves and mix into your potatoes.

3) Chicken or beef broth

Using chicken or beef broth is arguably the easiest way to flavor up your instant mashed potatoes. All you have to do is follow the package instructions for preparing your mashed potatoes. And instead of using water, use broth. Of course if you’re a vegetarian you can use vegetable broth instead of beef or chicken. I often use those boxes of broth but if you have a favorite recipe that you make and store in the freezer, use that instead.

4) Herbes de Provence

Okay, this is my excuse for convincing myself that I can actually kick it up a bit in the kitchen. Basically herbes de Provence is a mixture of herbs and seasonings used in French cooking. There are different recipes for this mixture of herbs. Typically, the mix can start with savoury, fennel, basil and thyme and become varied from there. What follows is the mixture I like to use. Feel free to use or adjust the recipe as you see fit.

3 Tbsp dried marjoram

3 Tbsp dried thyme

3 Tbsp dried savoury

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried rosemary

½ tsp dried sage

½ tsp fennel seeds

5) Tex-Mex your potatoes

Over the years I’ve become a fan of Tex-Mex cooking. I often find myself adding southwestern seasonings to my cooking. I’ll often use a combination of chile powder, cumin, and oregano. I’ll mix up 2 Tbsp chile powder and 1.5 tsp each of cumin and oregano and then season my potatoes to taste. But sometimes, I like to get some chipotles en adobo. I’ll take one or two chiles out of the can, finely dice them and add a teaspoon or so of the sauce. Just mix it in with the boiling water before adding the potato flakes and you’re good to go.

Try these little tricks for yourself and see how well they work. It’s amazing how easy it is to make instant mashed potatoes taste good. Sometimes I’ll even cook up a strip of bacon or two and crumble that into the potatoes. Or add a little bit of wine to the broth. These tips should be enough to get you started making these potatoes taste better. After all, just because instant mashed potatoes come out of a box, doesn’t mean they can’t taste good.

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