Potatoes are considered America’s favorite starch, a role that is due mainly to their versatility and ability to act as an all-purpose accompaniment to many different proteins. Mashed potatoes are one of the more popular options when it comes to potato-based sides. Unfortunately, mashed potatoes also have a reputation for blandness in some quarters. Another way to look at it is that they serve as a blank slate upon which a variety of seasonings can shine. If you want flavorful mashed potatoes, try one of the following herbs and spices below.
Garlic’s strong sulfurous, umami flavor profile adds an intense and savory quality that can make mashed potatoes a more appealing side dish. Also important is the fact that garlic complements almost everything, so you can use your garlic mashed potatoes alongside a range of different preparations. Garlic can be added to mashed potatoes in the form of a compound butter or you can roast cloves of garlic and mash them with the potatoes.
Chives are another traditional seasoning option from the Allium family. Like other strongly flavored Alliums, chives work particularly well with subtly flavored foods. In addition to bringing a savory and herbaceous onion note to mashed potatoes, This herb has the benefit of being visually attractive. The flecks of vibrant green from finely chopped fresh chives are great for offsetting the plain yellowish white color of mashed potatoes.
Like chives, parsley can be used to improve the visual appeal of mashed potatoes while also adding a mild herbaceous quality to its flavor profile. The herbaceousness can help to offset the richness of the cream and butter that are usually added to help give it a creamy texture.
The mild heat and earthiness of white pepper help to make mashed potatoes a great partner for most proteins and other vegetables. White pepper is also the preferred option for lighter colored dishes like mashed potatoes since it does not stand out the way the dark specks of black pepper will. The uniform pale color is preferred for some applications. White pepper is a versatile spice that will work alongside all of the other seasoning options on this list.
Horseradish adds a mild, savory heat to mashed potatoes and does so without affecting the color. Use horseradish along with any of the other spices suggested in this list.
While it may seem that any type of salt will work with mashed potatoes, kosher salt can actually provide certain benefits. The main benefit is precision. Kosher salt’s large crystals allow you to gauge exactly how much salt you are adding to your food. The finer crystals of table salt are difficult to pinch precisely. While it is often recommended that you salt the water used to cook the potatoes, adding the salt directly to the cooked potatoes before mashing them is actually more precise. You won’t have to take dilution into account when measuring out your salt.
Bonus: Parmesan cheese (though not a spice)
While the status of Parmesan cheese as a spice may be very debatable (it’s not), there is no question that it offers a strong flavor boost to mashed potatoes. Parmesan cheese offers a richness and sharpness that stand out in a complementary way against the relatively blank profile of the potato. In addition, it is a great source of glutamates that provide the meaty umami note.