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I Tried 5 Instant Mashed Potatoes & There's Only One I'd Buy Again

You'll find plenty of boxed mashed potato brands on supermarket shelves, but which is the absolute best?
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There's a mountain of mouthwatering ways to cook a simple potato: fried, scalloped, baked, boiled, roastedI could probably go on just as long as the beloved Forrest Gump sidekick Bubba went on about shrimpOne of the most mouthwatering and universally loved dishes you can make with those starchy tubers, however, has got to be mashed potatoes.

That buttery, starchy side is the perfect accompaniment to all sorts of comfort foods, from fried chicken to braised short ribs. But let's face it, making mashed potatoes from scratch can be a very time-consuming and tedious task. So, when you want to get a platter of spoonable spuds onto the table with minimal time and effort, that's when you might consider a decidedly easier alternative: instant mashed potatoes.

Instant mashed potatoes typically consist of dehydrated potatoes granules or flakes that you combine with boiling water, though some varieties also call for milk and butter. Nowadays, customers have several different instant potato brands to choose from, but is one superior to all the rest? I recently set out to answer that question by trying all of the brands I could find at several different grocery stores near me: Idahoan, Betty Crocker, Mountain Harvest, Great Value (a Walmart store brand), and Chef's Cupboard (an Aldi house brand).

Some of these brands offer a mind boggling range of different mashed potato flavors, but I opted for the most basic versions to rate them as accurately as possible. I prepared all of them on the stovetop, according to the package directions and judged each product on its flavor and consistency.

I've always much preferred homemade mashed potatoes, so I didn't really love any of the instant options. Still, there was one brand that was undeniably better than the rest. Read on for my thoughts on each brand, starting with my least favorite and ending on my favorite!

Chef's Cupboard Buttery Mashed Potatoes

Chef's Cupboard Buttery Mashed Potatoes
Zoe Strozewski / Eat This, Not That!
Per serving (about 1/2 cup of prepared potatoes): 110 cal, 2.5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 450 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (1 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 2 g protein

These private label Aldi instant mashed potatoes only call for boiling water. A four-ounce package cost me $1.05.

The look: Chef's Cupboard mashed potatoes started out as a plethora of small potato granules, almost like finely ground parmesan cheese. Once combined with boiling water, however, they became quite smooth and lump free.

The taste: Intensely buttery, and not in a good way. To be clear, I'm usually a big fan of buttery mashed potatoes, but the flavor in these was way too strong and overwhelmed the taste of the actual potatoes. And despite the overpowering buttery taste, the potatoes were weirdly bland otherwise and absolutely begging for a couple extra pinches of salt and pepper. Even the texture, while somewhat smooth, was a little gummy.

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Idahoan Classic Mashed Potatoes

Idahoan Classic Mashed Potatoes
Zoe Strozewski / Eat This, Not That!
Per serving (about 3/5 cup prepared potatoes): 110 cal, 2.5 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 490 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (2 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 2 g protein

Idahoan's Classic Mashed Potatoes only call for one added ingredient: hot water. A four-ounce bag cost me $1.69.

The look: Like the Chef's Cupboard potatoes, these instant potatoes also came in very fine granules that I rehydrated in boiling water. Once finished, they looked surprisingly thick and the closest to real homemade mashed potatoes out of all the options I tried. Time, however, was Idahoan's greatest enemy. The texture became progressively drier and lumpier the longer they cooled.

The taste: A lot of the issues I had with the Chef's Cupboard potatoes were also very present in the Idahoan potatoes. They had an overly strong buttery flavor while also being woefully underseasoned. And while the consistency was actually pretty close to homemade mashed potatoes, I wished these were creamier. The slightly improved consistency is what led me to rank Idahoan above Chef's Cupboard, but I still don't see myself buying these again unless I'm pretty desperate for a speedy side dish.

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Great Value Instant Mashed Potatoes

Great Value Instant Mashed Potatoes
Zoe Strozewski / Eat This, Not That!
Per serving (about 1/2 cup prepared potatoes): 140 cal, 7 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 230 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 3 g protein

Great Value's Instant Mashed Potatoes are prepared with water, milk, optional salt, and margarine or butter. A nine-ounce box cost me $1.32.

The look: Unlike the finer potato granules I got from Idahoan and Chef's Cupboard, Great Value's dried spuds came in bigger, visually distinguishable flakes. I wondered if the flakes would make for lumpier mashed potatoes, but they actually combined pretty smoothly with the hot liquids.

The taste: Acutely bland and gummy. I thought that the fresh butter, milk, and salt would make these extra flavorful, but they actually ended up being one of the most tasteless options from the entire taste test. I even tried adding a couple of extra pinches of salt to spruce up the flavor but it didn't do the trick. Despite all of my complaints, I felt compelled to rank these in the middle just because I prefer bland mashed potatoes over ones that taste unpleasantly buttery. Just be prepared to doctor them up with your own seasonings and flavor boosters if you ever opt for Great Value brand instant mashed potatoes.

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Mountain Harvest Mashed Potatoes

Mountain Harvest Mashed Potatoes
Zoe Strozewski / Eat This, Not That!
Per serving (about 1/2 cup prepared potatoes): 150 cal, 7 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 370 mg sodium, 19 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 3 g protein

Mountain Harvest's Mashed Potatoes are prepared with water, salt, milk, and butter or margarine. A 13.75-ounce box cost me $2.99.

The look: Prior to rehydrating them, Mountain Harvest's instant potato flakes looked nearly identical to the Great Value flakes. Once combined with the water, milk, salt, and fat, they turned into a creamy, very spoonable mash with a slightly shiny top.

The taste: At first bite, these tasted almost identical to the Great Value potatoes. And unfortunately, that means they were pretty bland when prepared according to the package directions. I ended up ranking them higher than the Great Value version simply for the fact that an extra pinch of salt vastly improved the flavor. So, even though they aren't very tasty as is, they were easier to doctor up than the Great Value version.

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Betty Crocker's Creamy Butter Mashed Potatoes

Betty Crocker Creamy Butter Mashed Potatoes
Zoe Strozewski / Eat This, Not That!
Per serving (about 2/3 cup prepared potatoes): 190 cal, 10 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 510 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 3 g protein

Betty Crocker's Creamy Butter Mashed Potatoes can be made with just water or, alternatively, a mix of water, milk, and butter. I went the milk and butter route. A four-ounce bag cost me $1.39.

The look: Betty Crocker's instant dried potatoes came in finer granules, very similar to the Idahoan and Chef's Cupboard potatoes. After combining them with water, milk, and butter, the resulting mash was smooth, creamy, shiny, and somewhat fluffy.

The taste: Not amazing, but undeniably superior to the rest. While the other instant mashed potatoes either lacked seasoning or tasted unpleasant, I thought Betty Crocker's version was decently creamy, buttery, and well seasoned. I did have an issue with the consistency of the mash, which was a little gummy and granular. However, I still thought these were pretty serviceable for something that cost me less than $1.50 and only took a few minutes to prepare. So, even though homemade mashed potatoes will always have my heart, Betty Crocker will be my go-to from now on if I ever need instant mashed potatoes in a pinch.

Zoe Strozewski
Zoe Strozewski is a News Writer for Eat This, Not That! A Chicago native who now lives in New Jersey, she graduated from Kean University in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Read more about Zoe