Potatoes are a wonderous and ancient food; there are over 5,000 different varieties! Originally cultivated in the Andean highlands thousands of years ago, the potato traveled to Europe and Asia-Pacific regions from South America with Spanish conquistadors, and have been embraced globally since.
From roasted, to boiled, to fried, to mashed, there are so many ways to prepare them, and they are considered a staple of every kitchen. We’ve put together a short guide to help you make sense of it all and hope you find it useful!
You can also check out our article on New Crop Potatoes to learn about the difference between potatoes in the spring, and potatoes the rest of the year.
- Appearance: Finger-sized and finger-shaped, these potatoes grow to about 3 inches in length and 1 inch wide depending on variety and maturity.
- Texture: Their skin is very thin, and their flesh has a smooth and buttery flavor.
- Description: Many colors have been developed, but all are low starch and thin skinned. Flesh and skin color vary with each variety.
- Uses: Pan-fried, baked, roasted.
- Familiar varieties: Purple Peruvian, Russian Banana, Ruby Crescent, Ozette, Rose Finn, Red Thumb.
- Appearance: The skin and flesh are both purple or dark blue. These potatoes retain their striking color after being cooked, so they’re perfect for jazzing up any dish, and are a great conversation starter.
- Texture: They’re medium-sized, low in starch, and can be used for a variety of dishes.
- Description: Purple potatoes bring a healthy dose of antioxidants in the form of anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid also found in blueberries, which give them their unusual color, and subtle berry-like flavor.
- Uses: Roasted, baked, grilled, or steamed; a fun addition to potato salad.
- Familiar varieties: Purple Stokes, All Blue, Okinawan, Ube, and Purple Peruvian Fingerling.
- Fun fact: The Okinawan has beige skin and purple flesh and is known in Hawaii as Uala or Hawaiian sweet potato.
- Appearance: Small to medium-size, they can be 1 to 4 inches in diameter; they are round and slightly oblong with smooth red skin and white flesh. Skin color can be bright or dull, depending on variety, but high color does not indicate best flavor or texture.
- Texture: Their texture is waxy, moist, and smooth, with a creamy experience.
- Description: They are subtly sweet with a mild sugar content, and have a low to medium starch level.
- Uses: An extremely versatile potato, they are good baked, roasted, grilled, steamed, or served in soups, stews, and are favorite in potato salads the world over.
- Fun fact: Potato farmers usually name reds as the ‘’flavor winner” of all potatoes they grow.
- Appearance: Large and oblong shaped, with mottled skin and white to pale-yellow flesh.
- Texture: Rough brown skin that feels hearty when chewed. Flesh is floury, fluffy, and dry.
- Description: Russets’ cells break down easily, so they don’t have to be cooked too long or mashed too thoroughly to take on a smooth consistency.
- Uses: They are low in moisture and high in starch, so they’re suited for frying, roasting, mashing, and sautéing, and especially in the classic ‘baked potato with fixings.’ Potato skins are another favorite way to enjoy Russets.
- Fun fact: The best-known Russet variety was developed by Luther Burbank in 1875, and is the dominant potato used for fast-food French fries world-wide.
- Appearance: Can be round or oblong in shape, and have thin skin that is very light-tan in color. White flesh.
- Texture: They are creamy when baked, but they retain their texture when boiled.
- Description: They have a medium to low starch content, making them an all-purpose potato. They have very thin and delicate skin, which is not generally removed when preparing. White potatoes grow well in warm weather, and are most popular in the Southeast part of the USA. ‘Thick skin’ varieties do better in cooler climates, such as Idaho.
- Uses: Mashed, in salads, steamed, boiled, fried, or sautéed.
- Fun fact: High end chefs are particularly fond of the Kennebec variety, which has a cult reputation for rendering the best textured & crispest French fries.
- Appearance: The skin is smooth, thin, and is pale yellow to a deep golden bronze in color. Round to slightly oblong-shaped, they run 1 to 3 inches in diameter when fully mature.
- Texture: The flesh has a buttery flavor with a creamy texture. They hold their firmness when cooked due to their waxy quality and high moisture content.
- Description: Lower in starch than other baking potatoes. They fall into the all-purpose potato category, making them extremely versatile
- Uses: Baked, mashed, roasted, grilled, or in potato salads.
- Familiar varieties: Yellow Finn, German Butterball, Yukon Gold, and Bintje
- Fun fact: Yellow varieties have traditionally been more popular in South America and Europe than in North America. Over the last 30 years, however, they have successfully given the well-known Russet some competition in popularity.