Learn About Potatoes

Author: Chef Toby

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What are potatoes?

Potatoes are a variety of root vegetables, or tubers, that grow in the ground.  They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and textures. There are over 4000 domestic varieties of potatoes and more than 200 types of wild potatoes. Different varieties of potatoes work best with different recipes and applications. The three categories of potatoes are all-purpose, starchy, and waxy potatoes. 

What are the types of potatoes?

Potato Infographic
There are 3 categories of potatoes: starchy, waxy, and all-purpose.

Waxy Potatoes

Examples of these types of potatoes include Fingerling and Red Bliss. When cooked, these potatoes retain their shape, so proper cooking applications include high heat methods like roasting and boiling. 

Starchy Potatoes

When cooked, these potatoes are light and fluffy on the inside. Starchy potatoes are ideal for frying, mashing, and baking. Common potatoes of this category include Russet, Idaho potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams. 

All-Purpose Potatoes 

As their name suggests, these potatoes are great for various cooking methods, such as pan-frying, adding to stews, and roasting. These types of potatoes include Yukon gold, red gold, blue potatoes. 

What do potatoes taste like?

Depending on the variety, the flavor of potatoes varies. They are mostly mild and starchy. Some potatoes, like sweet potatoes, have notes of sweetness and caramel when they are cooked.

Red Gold and Yukon Gold potatoes in a basket.

What are the common ways to eat potatoes?

Because of their versatility and mild flavor, potatoes are popular in different cuisines around the world. To cook potatoes, you can boil, saute, fry, bake, roast, stew, and even microwave them! Mashed potatoes are a common American side dish made with salt, pepper, and butter. French Fries are popular in Europe and the Americas, which are made by frying potatoes cut lengthwise into strips or wedges. Italians use potatoes to make gnocchi, a small potato dumpling paired with a sauce. Many varieties of grated potatoes are popular as well, like diner-favorite hashbrowns or Jewish potato pancakes, or latkes. 

Where can you buy potatoes?

Potatoes are available at grocery stores year-round, with less common varieties cycling through when they’re in season. You can find fresh potatoes in the produce section. Potato products like french fries, tater tots, and hashbrowns are found in the grocery store’s freezer section. 

Fun Fact:

Potato plants are actually poisonous! While the potatoes we consume are grown under the surface of the soil, there is a green plant that flowers and produces berries above ground. However, both the leaves and the berries are poisonous!

Did you know?

Potatoes originate from South America and were first cultivated in Peru between 8000 B.C. and 5000 B.C. Potatoes were then taken back to Europe and spread around the globe.

Our Recipes Using Potatoes

Tortilla Española – Video Recipe Lesson

In this recipe for Tortilla Española, or Spanish Omelette, we use diced potatoes and fry them in butter before adding scrambled eggs.

how to make tortilla espanola video cooking lesson recipe

Baked Potato – Video Recipe Lesson

To make a baked potato, we use Russet potatoes and bake them in the oven until they are soft and fluffy.

how to make yummy baked potato

Other recipes using potatoes


Hashbrowns are easy, fun to make, and only require 1 ingredient – russet potatoes! To make them, start by grating the potatoes using a cheese grater. Place the shredded potato in some cheesecloth and wring out as much liquid as possible. Season the dried potatoes with salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder. In a large skillet, add in some avocado oil and place the potatoes in the skillet. Brown the potatoes for 3-4 minutes on each side until the potatoes are soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. Serve them with scrambled eggs and a side of ketchup.

Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes

These potatoes are rich and creamy, perfect for a nice dinner or holiday meal. To make them, start by slicing Yukon gold potatoes into thin slices, either with a mandolin or a knife. In a saucepan, make a roux by combining butter and flour and letting it brown. Add in milk and season with salt and cayenne pepper, whisk on high heat until the sauce thickens, and add shredded sharp cheddar. In a greased baking dish, add 1 layer of sliced potatoes and cover with a thin layer of cheese sauce. Repeat until you’ve used all of the potatoes and sauce. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour until the potatoes and soft and the top is brown. You can add fun ingredients like diced jalapenos, garlic, or fresh herbs to add more flavor!

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