Potatoes 101: A Guide to the Most Common Varieties

This handy guide will help you choose the right potato every time.

By Reader's Digest Editors
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    What’s the difference between a Yukon gold and a new red? Which is best for mashing or roasting? This handy guide will help you choose the right potato every time.

    New Potatoes

    Technically, any potato picked before the height of maturity—generally in the spring or early summer—is a new potato. New potatoes tend to have a “waxy” texture, meaning they’re low in starch, high in water and hold together well. For this reason, even mature waxy potatoes are often referred to as “new.” Their thin skins make new potatoes excellent for eating unpeeled, and they’re best boiled or roasted and in soups and salads.

    Idaho or Russet Potatoes

    Larger in size and thicker skinned than new potatoes, russets have a “flaky” texture thanks to their high starch and low moisture content. This quality allows them to easily absorb milk and melted butter, making them the perfect potato for baking, mashing, and making gnocchi.

    Yukon Golds

    Famous for their yellow hue and rich flavor, Yukon golds are in many ways the best of both worlds. Starchier than new potatoes, they make tasty mashes and, unlike Idahos, they’re great for boiling, steaming, and adding to soups.

    Fingerlings

    Recognizable by their thin, finger-like shape, fingerlings are basically an elongated variety of new potatoes. Fingerlings’ waxy texture makes them ideal for roasting, puréeing, or using in salads with or without the skin.

    Purple Peruvian or Blue Potatoes

    Like Yukon golds, these purple or blue-fleshed spuds have a medium starch content, making them equally delicious mashed, roasted, or in salads. This variety tends to be slightly less rich in flavor than some of the others, but their unusual color lends dishes an exotic appeal.

    Sources: GrillAChef.com, MarthaStewart.com, TheCook'sThesaurus.com

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