Creamy (No-Cream) Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
A few weeks ago I was flipping through Yotam Ottolenghi’s Simple and came across a stunning photo of mashed potatoes. They swooshed across the platter, creating peaks and valleys, an herby olive oil pooled all around. The recipe was titled “aromatic olive oil mash”.
Photos of mashed potatoes typically don’t get my juices flowing, but this one did. And while I’m sure the recipe, which called for making a garlicky oil infused with thyme, mint, and lemon zest, is delicious, I decided to go a different route: I would make Sally Schneider’s tried-and-true buttermilk mashed potatoes from A New Way to Cook and top it with the scallion-cilantro “sizzle” I use in this homemade ranch dip.
As Ina says: How bad can that be?
Friends: these potatoes! I don’t think I’ll be able to serve mashed potatoes any other way. Not only are they visually very appealing, but they’re also just so darn tasty, creamy and tangy thanks to the buttermilk, and bright and spicy thanks to the herb-and-chili infused olive oil.
Because I’ve never shared Sally’s mashed potato recipe, let me tell you a little bit about it. True to many of Sally’s recipes, this one calls for very few enrichments, relying on big flavor ingredients and techniques instead.
In this recipe she uses whole milk buttermilk because it has a natural creaminess yet is far lower in fat than milk or cream. She also uses some of the reserved potato-cooking liquid to thin the mash as needed. And finally, only after the potatoes have absorbed the liquid, Sally adds a single tablespoon of butter. By adding the butter at the end, she says, “the butter stays on the surface of the potatoes, its flavor readily discernible, imparting a truly rich finish.”
Every time I make these potatoes I am astonished there is no cream and very little butter — they taste far richer than they actually are. And, as I noted above, while this herb-infused oil will be a must for me from here on out, I only spoon it over half of the potatoes, keeping the remaining half ungarnished for the children and any other mashed potato purists in attendance.
In the recipe box below, you’ll also find a recipe for another favorite variation of these potatoes: roasted garlic. For this one, you roast two heads of garlic; then you squeeze the soft, buttery, caramelized cloves into the purée. It’s a subtle touch, but one that adds a nice earthiness and slight sweetness, too.
But before we get to the recipe, can we talk mashing gear?
Best Tools for Mashed Potatoes
The above-pictured potato masher is a new tool in my arsenal, and I am super impressed by how well it works and very happy to have it because it has streamlined the mashed potato-making process for me.
Prior to buying it, I always used the below-pictured food mill or the ricer for mashed potatoes, and while both of those tools make for especially smooth purées, I don’t love the experience of using either: each requires using an additional bowl, each is a little awkward to use as the potatoes get stuck in various crevices, and each is kind of a pain to clean. (There’s also always the initial problem of locating them 🤣)
A potato masher to a food mill is not unlike what an immersion blender is to a food processor — a tool that gets the job done, maybe not as perfectly but still very effectively and definitely more efficiently.
Final note: I’m sure most of you know this, but using a food processor is not a good idea for mashed potatoes because the intense whipping process gives the potatoes a gummy texture.
How to Make Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes, Step by Step
Gather your potatoes. I’m using Yukon Golds here.
Peel and roughly chop the potatoes.
Place them in a pot and cover them with cold water.
Bring them to a simmer and boil for 45 minutes. Before draining, reserve some of the cooking liquid.
Drain them; then return them to the pot over low heat and let them cook for a few minutes to dry out.
Add buttermilk, reserved cooking liquid, salt, and pepper.
Then mash until mostly smooth. I love this potato masher.
Once mostly mashed, add a tablespoon of butter, and beat further. You can switch to a spoon or spatula at this point.
You can stop right there, or… jazz them up:
Herby “Ranch” Mashed Potatoes
This is my favorite way to eat mashed potatoes. If you’ve made this homemade ranch dip, the process will feel very familiar. Gather scallions and cilantro. (Omit the cilantro if you hate it.)
Slice the scallions, chop the cilantro, and transfer them to a small skillet with olive oil and crushed red pepper flakes.
Cook over medium heat until the herbs begin to soften and sizzle.
Transfer mashed potatoes to a serving dish; then spoon the herby oil over top. (Note: I only garnish half the potatoes with this herby dressing and I leave half plain for the kids.)
How to Make Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
To make roasted garlic mashed potatoes, trim away the tops of two heads of garlic.
Place each head on a small sheet of foil. Drizzle with olive oil. Curl up the sides of the foil to make an enclosure. Pour a tablespoon of water into the pouch. Close the foil sides to make a tight pouch; then transfer to a 425ºF oven for 35-45 minutes.
Open the pouches to find nicely caramelized, butter-soft cloves — these are heavenly spread over toast.
Squeeze out the cloves; then transfer to your mashed potatoes, and stir to combine.
You can combine the roasted garlic mashed potatoes with the herby dressing if you wish:
As noted above, the base recipe for the mashed potatoes as well as the roasted garlic variation comes from Sally Schneider’s A New Way to Cook, which was my cooking bible for many years.
I truly could eat this whole bowl:Print
Creamy Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
- Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
- Yield: Serves 4
- Diet: Vegetarian
Adapted from Sally Schneider’s A New Way To Cook.
Potatoes: If possible use something like Yellow Finns or Yukon Golds, which become extremely creamy when mashed. If made with baking potatoes, the result will be grainy and watery.
Gear: For the smoothest potatoes, pass the potatoes through a food mill or a ricer before adding the buttermilk and reserved cooking liquid in step 2. As noted in the post, I love this Zyliss Potato Masher.
Buttermilk: Use whole milk buttermilk if possible. Low-fat buttermilk won’t impart the same creaminess and richness, and it might impart more tartness as well. The original recipe calls for warming the buttermilk, but I find as long as I measure it and leave it at room temperature when I start boiling the potatoes, it works just fine.
Herby garnish: As noted in the post, I spoon the garnish over only half of the potatoes, and I leave half of the potatoes plain for the children. If you like the idea of using this garnish over all of the potatoes, I would double it, and use a larger skillet.
Roasted Garlic Variation: After the potatoes are mashed, add two heads of roasted garlic cloves to the pot. Stir to combine.
For the buttermilk mashed potatoes:
- 1 3/4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks (you’ll have about 1 1/2 pounds of potatoes post peeling)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature, see notes above
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Flaky sea salt, if you have it
For the herby garnish (see notes above before making):
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 scallions, thinly sliced, to yield a heaping half cup or so
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 to 4 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
- Place the potatoes and the 2 teaspoons of the salt in a medium saucepan, add enough water to cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to moderate and simmer until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 45 minutes. Drain, reserving at least 1/4 cup of the cooking water — I like to reserve at least a cup of the cooking liquid.
- Return the potatoes to the pan and set over low heat, uncovered, for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, to let the potatoes dry out a little. (See notes above if using a ricer or food mill.) Add the buttermilk, ¼ cup of the reserved cooking liquid, pepper to taste, and a pinch of sea salt. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher until you have a coarse purée. Add the butter and mash again. Once the potatoes are as mashed up as possible you can switch to a wooden spoon or spatula and beat them further. Taste. Add more sea salt and pepper to taste. Thin with more reserved cooking liquid if desired.
- To make the herby sizzle: Heat the oil, scallions, crushed red pepper flakes, and cilantro in a small skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling occasionally, until the scallions and red pepper flakes start to visually and audibly sizzle. Season with a pinch of sea salt and remove from the heat.
- To serve: Transfer half of the potatoes to a serving dish. Use the back of a spoon to swoosh the potatoes around a bit, creating peaks and valleys. Spoon the herby oil over top, allowing the oil to pool in the crevices. Crack more pepper over top and, if you wish, season with another pinch of sea salt.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour
- Category: Side Dish
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: buttermilk, low-fat, roasted garlic, Yukon Golds
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
24 Comments on “Creamy (No-Cream) Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes”
I love using a ricer and used to use the white one you showed here. Not long ago I upgraded to:
Chef’n FreshForce Potato Ricer Press, 12.75 long – 102-157-001,Black
Visit the Chef’n Store
4.7 out of 5 stars 1,359 ratings
List Price: $34.99 Details
Price: $28.45 (it used to cost $5 less). It is SO MUCH BETTER than that white one. I’ve already given 2 as gifts.
That does look very nice! I think it’s time to toss the white one 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣 I really like that Chef’n brand — I have a few random tools from them, and they’re great. Adding a link to the potato ricer you like here in case anyone is interested: Chef’n Potato Ricer. Thanks so much for writing!
Love the video directions, so easy to follow.
So nice to hear, Claire 🙂 🙂 🙂 Thank you.
Now I’m tempted to buy the fancy ricer! It kills me that I’ve been cooking for over 5 decades and only in the last few years learned that yes, the right tools can make a difference.
My mother always used the basic hand masher, then often whipped potatoes with a mixer.
I remember making gluey potatoes once with a mixer and so for a long time was afraid of mashing potatoes!
Your potatoes look great — although I never eat cilantro and will substitute Italian parsley.
I’ve made them with parsley, and they’re great!
And I hear you: I had the same experience at one point with a food processor that turned my potatoes gluey/gummy, and for years I shied away from making them. But they’re really quite simple! I’m eyeing that fancy ricer now, too 🙂 Thanks for writing.
Thanks for plugging one of my favorite cookbooks and jogging me to try something new. When I pulled it out, she gives TEN riffs on this mashed potato recipe which is so helpful when your husband is deathly allergic to garlic and his tastebuds register cilantro as soap! I usually make her fantastic Warm Potato Salad with Olives, Lemon Zest and Thyme (pg 438, in index under potato salad and not under potatoes!) using oil-cured olives which can be served hot or cold. Back to the mashed ‘taters…her recipe doesn’t specify whole milk buttermilk, has therefore no advice on how to modify if one only has access to low fat buttermilk. Hawaii Island has no dairy so I feel blessed to find any buttermilk at all and grateful it lasts way beyond best used by dates. Thinking powdered buttermilk is low fat? Love your sizzles…every time I buy broccoli for salad it somehow gets the broiled with sesame-scallion sizzle treatment.
Hi Nancy! So great to hear from a fellow Sally Schneider fan — she truly is my Julia Child. That book taught me SO much. I can’t believe it but I still haven’t made the Warm Potato Salad with Olives, Lemon Zest and Thyme — adding it to the list to make ASAP.
Great to hear you like the sizzles 🙂
OK, regarding buttermilk, low-fat might be fine, and as I understand it, all buttermilk is essentially “low fat”. But apparently there are buttermilk that have been made to be even lower fat or nonfat. If you can get your hands on buttermilk, just go for it. Otherwise, I’ve heard powdered buttermilk is wonderful, so definitely use it if you can’t find fresh.
Thanks for writing!
Another variation is to use fresh dill in addition to the scallions and omit the garlic, it’s a classic Slavic variation. Super delicious!
That sounds amazing!! Will try.
I absolutely love your videos. So simple & soothing. + They give me confidence to try new things! I just ordered the book you recommended and I will be giving this recipe a try tonight. Can’t wait!
So nice to hear this, Caroline 🙂 🙂 🙂 Thanks for writing.
I use an electric grater to mash the potatoes. I love the texture and it’s super easy !
Great tip! Thanks so much for writing and sharing 🙂 🙂 🙂
The recipe looks amazing but am wondering why you only finish with 1/2 of the potatoes?
Hi! I like to leave half of the potatoes plain for the kids. Half of the potatoes I dress with the herby topping for any adults in attendance 🙂
these WERE dreamy, ali. i used low fat buttermilk because that’s what i had on hand and it worked perfectly. so quick, so easy, so dreamy. thank you again and always love the videos!
So nice to hear this, Jude 🙂 🙂 🙂 Great to hear low fat buttermilk worked well. Thanks for writing!
If you bake your potatoes instead of boiling, you can then prepare them in t he stand mixer without them getting gummy. I’m going to try th e buttermilk next time and just finish with butter as you indicate. I usually use sour cream and butter.
Interesting! Thanks so much for writing and sharing this. Will try the baking method next.
These look amazing! Any way to make them dairy-free? Vegan homemade buttermilk? What non-dairy milk would you rec? thanks!
I like your vegan homemade buttermilk idea. I have never made these with non-dairy milk so I’m not sure how to advise. So many non-dairy milks have flavors (like coconut, almond, cashew), and I wonder how those flavors would work here.
Hi Ali, would this taste odd with almond milk? I have to keep it dairy free. Thank you.
Hi Michelle, I don’t know as I’ve never tried with almond milk… not sure how to advise because I feel like so many alt milks have a flavor — like coconut or cashew — and I don’t know how that will work with the potatoes… I’m sorry. I might google “dairy free mashed potatoes” and see what others do.