The essential guide on how long to boil potatoes! With some simple tips, you can make perfect boiled potatoes faster – in as little as 12 minutes on the stovetop or 6-8 minutes in the microwave. We cover how to boil potatoes whether for salads, soups, casseroles or other dishes.
How long to boil potatoes
Perfect boiled potatoes hold their shape after cooking with a smooth texture and skin that comes off easily.
Do you know how to make perfect boiled potatoes every time? Boil them on the stovetop for 12-30 minutes depending on the size of your potatoes. Or if you’re in a hurry, there’s a shortcut for getting them ready in just 6-8 minutes in a microwave!
You can serve boiled potatoes on their own or add them to other dishes. Boiling is a healthy option with no added fat and only 87 calories per 100 grams according to the USDA. Plus, there’s virtually no cleanup!
How to boil potatoes
- Scrub the potatoes gently under running water to remove any dirt.
- Place potatoes in a medium-to-large pot.
- Cover with 1-inch (2.5 cm) of cold water, adding optional salt for flavor.
- Place on high heat and bring to a boil.
- Boil for 12-30 minutes according to size chart below.
- Remove potatoes to a plate to cool for at least 5-10 minutes before use.
Types of potatoes for boiling
While almost any potato can be boiled, you’ll find that some potatoes are best suited to certain types of recipes:
- Baking Potatoes: Starchy potatoes like Russets, Idahos, Purple potatoes, Yams and Sweet Potatoes have a floury texture that disintegrates easily and is suitable for mashed potatoes only.
- All-purpose Potatoes: Medium-starch potatoes like Yukon Gold and Red Gold will hold their shape and are suitable for use in potato salads, soups, casseroles etc. They typically have yellow flesh.
- Waxy Potatoes: Low-starch potatoes such as Round White, Round Red (Red Bliss) and Fingerling are classic boiling potatoes that will retain their shape and are also suitable for use in potato salads, soups, casseroles etc. They usually have white flesh.
Boiled red potatoes are called for in many recipes, while Russets and Idahos are top picks for mashed potatoes. Here are a few tips when you’re shopping for potatoes:
- Look for firm potatoes with smooth skin and no sprouts. If they’re getting soft with dark spots appearing, they’re too old and should not be used.
- Choose similar-sized potatoes so they cook in the same amount of time.
Should I peel potatoes before boiling?
No. Potatoes with skin on will absorb less water while being boiled, therefore preserving the starch. If you don’t like eating potato skins, you can peel them AFTER boiling. Just make sure to let them cool down first before peeling.
How long does it take to boil whole potatoes?
When you’re boiling whole potatoes, cooking time depends mainly on the size of the potatoes. It goes without saying that bigger potatoes require more boiling time!
Follow the table below to determine how long to boil whole potatoes:
Potato Type Potato Size Boil Potatoes Time* Baby potatoes 1 inch (2.5 cm) 12 minutes Small potatoes 2 inches (5 cm) 15 minutes Medium potatoes 3 inches (7.6 cm) 20 minutes Large potatoes 4 inches (10 cm) 25 minutes Extra-large potatoes 6 inches (15 cm) 30 minutes
Notes: Times listed reflect once the water has started to boil.
How long to boil potatoes for mash? The boiling times above will work whether you’re making mashed potatoes, potato salad or other dishes. However, plan on some cooling time after boiling when making potato salad for the best texture (using an ice water bath will speed up this cooling process).
How to tell when potatoes are done? Simply insert a fork into the middle of the potato. The center should be fork-tender and have the texture of a ripe pear, or firm but not mushy.
How to boil potatoes faster on the stove?
To boil potatoes quickly, cut them into smaller, 1-inch chunks and they cook within 15 minutes. You can also pre-boil the water to save a few extra minutes, although the texture of the potatoes will be slightly inferior to starting with cold water.
How long to boil potatoes in a microwave (fastest method)
It takes 6-8 minutes to boil large whole potatoes in a microwave. Just place 2 potatoes in a microwave-safe dish and add 2 tablespoons of water. Cover and microwave on high. Let them rest for 2 minutes before serving.
Ways to use boiled potatoes
You can eat boiled potatoes whole with butter and fresh herbs, or use them to make mashed potatoes, a potato salad or potato casserole. Other ideas include mashed potato balls and potato pancakes.
Boiling sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes and yams are boiled the same way as other potatoes. If cut into chunks, they’ll usually be done in 15-20 minutes and will be soft and fork-tender when done.
Tips for perfect boiled potatoes
- Use the right high-quality potatoes: Waxy potatoes such as red or new potatoes tend to hold their shape better when boiled, while starchy potatoes like russet potatoes tend to break down and become fluffy.
- Cut them into evenly sized pieces: This ensures that they cook evenly and finish cooking at the same time.
- Start with cold water: Place the potatoes in a pot and cover them with cold water. Starting with cold water ensures that the potatoes cook evenly all the way through.
- Don’t overcook your potatoes: If boiled too long, potatoes can become mushy and lose their flavor.
- Check doneness by piercing them with a fork: If the fork goes in easily and the potato feels tender, they are done.
Best potatoes for mashed potatoes
If you plan to boil potatoes to make mashed potatoes, the best potatoes to use are starchy potatoes like Russet or Yukon Gold. These types of potatoes have a high starch content, which makes them fluffy and easy to mash. They also have a mild flavor, which allows other ingredients like butter, milk, and seasoning to shine through.
- Russet potatoes are the most common choice for mashed potatoes, as they are very starchy and produce a light and fluffy texture.
- Yukon Gold potatoes are also a good option, as they have a slightly waxy texture that makes them creamy and smooth when mashed.
Other types of potatoes, such as red or new potatoes, are not recommended for mashed potatoes as they have a lower starch content and tend to be more waxy, resulting in a gummy or gluey texture when mashed.
Do you cover potatoes when boiling?
In most cases, it’s best to cover potatoes when boiling them, as this can help them cook faster and prevent them from becoming too dry.
That being said, some recipes may call for leaving the potatoes uncovered, such as when making mashed potatoes or potato salad, as leaving the potatoes uncovered can help them dry out a bit and make them easier to work with.
Are boiled potatoes healthy?
Yes, boiled potatoes are healthy and are a good source of carbs, fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Boiling potatoes is a healthier cooking method than frying, as it does not involve adding unhealthy oils or fats to the potatoes. Boiled potatoes also retain more of their nutrients compared to fried potatoes, which can lose some of their nutritional value during the cooking process.
Do you add potatoes to cold water to boil?
Yes. If you place potatoes in already boiling water the outsides will cook first resulting in unevenly cooked potatoes that are more likely to break down.
Is it better to boil potatoes whole or cut them into pieces?
If you want to serve the potatoes as a side dish or you are cooking baby potatoes, it’s better to boil them whole. This is because boiling them whole helps to retain their shape and texture, and prevents them from becoming mushy.
On the other hand, if you plan to use boiled potatoes in a mashed potato recipe, it’s better to cut them up before boiling, which allows them to cook more quickly and evenly, and it also makes them easier to mash later on.
Can you boil potatoes too long?
Yes, it is possible to overcook your potatoes if you boil them for too long. Overcooked potatoes are mushy and will lose their texture.
How long does it take to boil potatoes for potato salad?
The boiling time depends on the size of the potatoes and your personal preference for the texture of the potato in the salad.
We recommend boiling small to medium-sized potatoes for 15-20 minutes. Larger potatoes may require 25-30 minutes. After boiling, drain the potatoes and rinse them with cold water to stop the cooking process and cool them down. Then, you can use them in your potato salad recipe.
How long does it take to boil sweet potatoes?
The cooking time can vary depending on the size and thickness of the potatoes. It takes around 20-30 minutes to boil sweet potatoes until they are fork-tender.
How long does it take to boil red potatoes?
It takes 15-20 minutes to boil red potatoes until they are tender when pierced with a fork.
How long does it take to boil potatoes before frying?
It takes 15-20 minutes to boil potatoes before frying. Once the potatoes are cooked, you can drain and cool them slightly.
Alternatively, some people prefer to parboil the potatoes for 5-10 minutes, drain them, and then fry them until they are golden and crispy.
More side dish recipes
- Medium pot
- Kitchen timer
- Paring knife