Instantly Thicken Mashed Potatoes With One Easy Ingredient

Whether you're an experienced home chef or a complete novice in the kitchen, whipping up a Thanksgiving meal is no easy undertaking. Between the stuffing, the mashed potatoes, the veggie dishes and casseroles, the pie or other dessert, and the behemoth that is the turkey, you usually can't get everything exactly right on the first try, and tricks for fixing dishes that don't turn out ideal can be invaluable. So what do you do if you finish mashing up those ever-so-important potatoes, only to find that they're too thin, liquidy, and runny?

This is a common mistake, and luckily, it's one with an easy solution. When you need to thicken up a batch of mashed potatoes, one simple ingredient can do the trick: potato flakes. Adding these flakes, which are found in boxes of instant mashed potatoes, can save your too-runny mash by thickening up the consistency without altering the overall flavor of the dish.

How to thicken mashed potatoes with potato flakes

If you take pride in a homemade Thanksgiving spread, instant mashed potatoes might seem counterintuitive at best (and blasphemous at worst). The truth is that even pro chefs like Ina Garten use store-bought shortcuts for Thanksgiving mashed potatoes, so don't be afraid to reach for a little help if you need it.

To incorporate potato flakes into your batch of mashed potatoes, the process is easy: Simply mix the potato flakes into your mash one tablespoon at a time, until the consistency thickens to your liking. Just make sure to add the flakes to your mashed potatoes while they're warm, but not hot.

The reason why the flakes from a box of instant mashed potatoes work so well is twofold. First, the dehydrated pieces of potatoes absorb excess liquid as they expand, acting as an effective thickener. Secondly, unlike adding cornstarch, flour, or another substance that might take away from the flavor of your mashed potatoes, you're simply adding more potatoes, keeping the flavor pure.

Tips for preventing runny mashed potatoes

Runny mashed potatoes are the result of simple mistakes, like boiling the potatoes for too long so that they absorb too much water while they cook, or adding too much liquid like milk or cream into the potatoes while you mash them.

To avoid potatoes that are water-logged or soggy — thus bringing excess liquid into the final mash — be sure to drain your potatoes well once they're cooked. You can even pat them dry with a paper towel or kitchen towel to remove any additional moisture.

The type of potato you use is also important in order to achieve your preferred texture, since some varieties make thick and creamy mashed potatoes, while others are best for lighter, fluffy mashed potatoes. If you're going for a thick and rich texture, choose waxy varieties like Yukon Golds, or better yet, use a blend of potato varieties (like Yukon Golds and Russets, for example) to achieve a balanced consistency that is thick yet fluffy.