Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes

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Learn how to make mashed potatoes ahead of time this Thanksgiving! This Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes recipe combines buttery-tender Yukon Gold potatoes, half & half, cream cheese, & butter, to create classic mashed potatoes with the best creamy texture. Prep up to 2 days in advance, then simply reheat in the oven or in a slow cooker before the big meal. The ultimate holiday dinner side dish!

4+ easy recipe variations included.

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Featured In Make Ahead Thanksgiving
Make ahead mashed potato is served in a large white scalloped serving bowl atop a light peach colored textured surface. The mashed potatoes have been garnished with pats of butter that have begun to melt and freshly snipped chives. A wooden serving spoons rests across the top of the bowl. The serving bowl is surrounded by two amber colored drinking glasses, a small wooden pinch bowl filled with kosher salt, a muted red linen napkin, red and orange Fall florals, and a stack of two white plates with two gold forks resting on top.

Make-Ahead Thanksgiving

This recipe is part of PWWB’s Make-Ahead Thanksgiving series, a complete resource for time-saving holiday dinner prep. No one needs the stress of cooking a multi-course meal all in one day! Whether you’re a savvy home cook or a first-time dinner host, these make-ahead recipes will help you tackle your Thanksgiving prep little by little for a completely stress-free holiday meal. Learn more about Make-Ahead Thanksgiving!

The BEST Recipe for Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes – Always Creamy, Never Dry!

Stuffing is delicious & gravy is a treat too…but in my opinion, no Thanksgiving dinner is complete without a big bowl of fluffy, creamy mashed potatoes. 🤤 A holiday dinner table MUST-have!

This recipe for make ahead mashed potatoes is a huge Thanksgiving Day time-saver & the result is just as irresistible as any version made the day of. Combining naturally creamy Yukon Gold potatoes with decadent ingredients like butter, cream cheese, & half & half ensures the potatoes never lose their classic smooth & creamy texture. Plus, their simple & buttery flavor pairs perfectly with everything else on your Thanksgiving menu!

And the best part? You can prep this recipe up to 2 days ahead of the big meal. Before dinner, simply top them of with bits of cubed butter & pop them in the oven (or slow cooker if your oven is filled). The butter slowly melts into the potatoes as they cook, bringing them back to life. It’s the best way to pre-cook mashed potatoes & reheat them later!

Make Ahead Mashed Potato Recipe Highlights

You’ll love prepping make ahead mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving or any holiday dinner! They’re…

CREAMY DREAMY. Decadent butter, cream cheese, & half & half give the make ahead mashed potatoes a silky smooth texture that just begs to be doused in gravy. The ultimate comfort food!

SIMPLE TO MAKE AHEAD. You only need 4 main ingredients & less than 1 hour to prep this recipe for make ahead mashed potatoes! Store in the fridge & easily reheat them at dinnertime. Directions for reheating in a slow cooker or the oven provided below!

A TOTAL CLASSIC. No Thanksgiving table is complete without a bowl of classic, buttery mashed potatoes. If you want to go even bigger on flavor, be sure to check out our easy recipe variations, too!

Fluffy, creamy, & SUPER easy?! No one will ever guess they’re made ahead! ♡ Read on to learn more about how to make these Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes, or jump straight to the recipe & get cooking!

Key Ingredients

Note: Full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.

You only need a few staple ingredients to make the creamiest make ahead mashed potatoes…

  • Yukon Gold potatoes – Our go-to choice for mashed potatoes with next-level buttery flavor! Check the Ingredient Spotlight, below, to learn more about why they’re the best.
  • Creamy Goodness – A blend of cream cheese & half & half creates the perfect mashed potatoes: seriously smooth & creamy, with the slightest tangy flavor.
  • Unsalted butter – I often keep standard unsalted butter in my fridge but, especially for a simple dish like buttery mashed potatoes, I’ll sometimes splurge on richer European-style butter. Both are delicious – use whatever you love most.
  • Salt & pepper – If you prefer the look of mashed potatoes without specks of black pepper throughout, use ground white pepper instead!
Ingredient Spotlight

Yukon Gold Are the Best Potatoes for Mashed Potatoes, Hands-Down!

The key to perfectly smooth & light mashed potatoes is to choose a potato with high starch content. Yukon Gold potatoes are always my #1 choice!

Yukon Golds have an insanely tender & buttery texture, which makes them perfect for mashing. They’re naturally creamy all on their own – it’s amazing! They also have very thin & tender skin, so if you like a bit of texture in your mashed potatoes you don’t even have to peel them.

Russet potatoes are another popular option for making mashed potatoes. They yield a great light & fluffy texture too, but I find that they’re not as naturally flavorful as Yukon Gold. If you swear by Russet potatoes, go for it, just know you might need to add some extra seasoning.

I encourage you to give Yukon Golds a try though – I think you’ll be converted!

How to Make Mashed Potatoes Ahead of Time

Prepping these potatoes ahead of time is the best Thanksgiving prep hack! They come together with less than 30 minutes of hands-on prep time, & they really couldn’t be easier to make.

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

1

Cook the potatoes. Place the potatoes in a large pot & cover them with generously salted cold water such that the potatoes are completely submerged. Simmer the potatoes for about 30 minutes, until they’re nice & tender, then carefully drain. Tip! ⇢ Don’t forget to generously season the water! A few heaping teaspoon salt helps season the potatoes as they cook!

2

Peel the potatoes for a super smooth mash, though you can skip this step if you like the little bit of added texture of the peel. Tip! ⇢ When peeling, keep in mind that the potatoes will be HOT. The easiest way to handle the hot potatoes is to pierce them with a fork, which holds them in place as you slice the peel away from the spud with a paring knife.

3

Warm the half & half & cream cheese. While you cook & peel the potatoes, simmer the cream cheese & half & half in a small saucepan. You can also use your microwave if you prefer. Why? ⇢ Combining these two ingredients makes it nice & easy to fold them into the potatoes without overworking, which ensures the mashed potatoes stay light & fluffy.

4

Mash! Pour the cream cheese mixture over the warm peeled potatoes, adding in pieces of butter. Use a potato masher to mash everything until smooth & creamy. Alternate Mashing Methods. ⇢ For extra smooth & creamy  mashed potatoes, run the potatoes through a potato ricer or food mill. Resist the temptation to use a hand mixer or stand mixer, which easily overworks potatoes, resulting in a gummy or gluey mash – no good!

Easy Recipe Variations

Garlic & Herb Mashed Potatoes ⇢ Infuse the half & half with crushed garlic cloves & fresh herbs like rosemary & thyme as you heat it with cream cheese. Or, swap out cream cheese with garlicky herbed Boursin – delicious!

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes ⇢ Roast a whole head of garlic, then fold the roasted garlic cloves right into the potatoes. SO good! For a step-by-step walkthrough, check out this Roasted Garlic Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes recipe.

Cheesy Mashed Potatoes ⇢ Add your favorite melty cheese like freshly grated cheddar, smoked gouda, or gruyere. Goat cheese is a great option too! For best results, gently fold the cheese into the potatoes once they’re already mashed.

Blue Cheese Mashed Potatoes ⇢ Another cheesy mashed potato worth a separate callout! If you love blue cheese, fold your favorite crumbled bleu into the mashed potatoes. For a next-level funky, pungent flavor, add try gorgonzola cheese!

How to Store For Later

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

Once they’re completely cooled, transfer the mashed potatoes to a casserole dish that’s been greased with cold butter. Dot cubed cold butter across the surface of the potato casserole, gently pressing them into the potatoes. Cover the baking dish, then put the make ahead mashed potatoes in the fridge for later, up to 2 days.

How far ahead can you make mashed potatoes? ⇢ Feel free to prep this recipe up to 2 days in advance. It’s an easy way to cut down on your list of last minute to-dos for Thanksgiving Day, & as a bonus, it also saves you room on your stovetop!

Can make ahead mashed potatoes be frozen? ⇢ Yes! You can definitely prep the make ahead potatoes & keep them in the freezer until you’re ready to reheat. Frozen make ahead mashed potatoes are also great to have on hand for any other holiday dinner or Sunday supper – feel free to prep a double batch!

Reheating Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes on Thanksgiving Day

When testing what is the best way to reheat mashed potatoes we found not 1, but 2 awesome options: Reheating the potatoes in the oven is our preferred method for this recipe, but the slow cooker is another convenient option, especially when you already have a lot going on in the kitchen!

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

How to heat make ahead mashed potatoes:

Reheating mashed potatoes in the oven ⇢ Let the baking dish of potatoes come up to room temperature before baking, then pop it in the oven. Bake the make ahead mashed potatoes for about 30 minutes, then stir the melted butter throughout, & return to the oven until they’re warmed through.

Reheating mashed potatoes in a slow cooker or Crockpot ⇢ Making use of a slow cooker or Crockpot is a great option if you’re low on oven space on Thanksgiving Day! Transfer the potatoes to your slow cooker & reheat with the low setting for 3-4 hours. Check the Recipe Notes, below, for more guidance!

Make Ahead Mashed Potato FAQs

How to make ahead mashed potatoes for a crowd?

This recipe generously feeds up to 12 & is easy to scale up or down, so it’s perfect for feeding a big crowd on holidays special occasions like Thanksgiving! Cooking, peeling, & mashing your potatoes in advance eliminates tons of day-of prep time. Store the potatoes in the fridge, then all you have to do is reheat them in the oven before the big dinner.

What is the best way to reheat mashed potatoes?

I like reheating the make ahead mashed potatoes in the oven, but you can also use the slow cooker method! Both results are fantastic.

How do you reheat mashed potatoes so they are not dry?

Dotting cubed butter into the top of make ahead mashed potatoes helps a ton! The butter melts as the potatoes reheat, infusing them with even more creaminess that brings them back to life.

Should you cover mashed potatoes when reheating?

Yes! This traps heat in the baking dish so the thick & creamy mashed potatoes re-heat all the way through.

Serving the Ultimate Thanksgiving Side 🤤

If desired, transfer the potatoes to a large serving bowl. I love to serve these potatoes right out of the baking dish for less clean-up (there are enough dishes to wash after a holiday dinner!). Either way, I love to finish them off with some freshly snipped chives & a little more butter on top so it melts a bit into the potatoes.

Don’t forget the gravy! Our Easy Turkey Gravy recipe is delicious on mashed potatoes & super simple to make once the turkey finishes roasting.

Serve the potatoes & gravy alongside your Spatchcock Turkey or Thanksgiving Chicken with other classic sides like Sourdough Stuffing with Sausage or Green Bean Casserole Bundles.

Pretty much the perfect Thanksgiving plate, if you ask me!

We can’t wait for you to try these Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes! They have the best classic flavor & creamy-dreamy texture – exactly the kind of mashed potatoes you want on your Thanksgiving table. We think you’ll love them as much as we do!

If you do give them a try, be sure to let us know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. We LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations! ♡ Happy Thanksgiving!

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Make ahead mashed potato is served in a large white scalloped serving bowl atop a light peach colored textured surface. The mashed potatoes have been garnished with pats of butter that have begun to melt and freshly snipped chives. A wooden serving spoons rests across the top of the bowl. The serving bowl is surrounded by two amber colored drinking glasses, a small wooden pinch bowl filled with kosher salt, a muted red linen napkin, red and orange Fall florals, and a stack of two white plates with two gold forks resting on top.

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 1 review
  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Reheating Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: serves 1012 1x
  • Category: Side Dish Recipes, Thanksgiving Recipes
  • Method: Stovetop, Oven, Slow Cooker/Crockpot
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

If you’re wondering whether you can make mashed potatoes ahead of time for Thanksgiving or any other holiday dinner, this Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes recipe is perfect for you! 

Naturally creamy & buttery Yukon Gold potatoes are mashed with decadent ingredients like butter, half & half, & cream cheese, resulting in the best classic mashed potatoes with dreamy creamy texture. 

In true make-ahead fashion, you can prep these mashed potatoes up to 2 days in advance, reheating them in the oven jut before dinnertime. (If your oven is short on space, you can also reheat them in a slow cooker – check the Recipe Notes, below, for more guidance!)

While we love this classic mashed potato recipe as-is, it’s also an awesome blank canvas – there’s an endless number of ways that you can zhuzh it up to add even more flavor. Check out the blog post, above for some easy recipe variations to get you started – cheesy mashed potatoes, garlic herb mashed potatoes, & more. 

We’re pretty sure everyone at your Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving, or holiday dinner table will love them! Be sure to check out the blog post, above, for plenty more tips & tricks, & if you love the idea of a make-ahead Thanksgiving, be sure to check out our complete Make-Ahead Thanksgiving guide. ♡ Happy holidays!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
  • kosher salt & ground white pepper, to season
  • 1 ¼ cup half and half
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, cut into 4 pieces
  • ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick, 8 tablespoons), cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
  • for reheating: ¼ cup cold unsalted butter (1/2 stick, 4 tablespoons), cut into small cubes & divided
  • for serving, as desired: extra butter, freshly snipped chives

Instructions

  1. Cook the potatoes: Place the potatoes in a large pot or Dutch oven. Cover with cold water, enough to completely submerge the potatoes by 1 inch. Season with 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Place the pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a steady simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork-tender. Carefully strain the potatoes.Boiled Yukon Gold potatoes that have been drained sit inside a gray double handled ceramic pot. The pot sits atop a light peach colored textured surface with a red muted linen napkin resting alongside.
  2. Carefully peel the potatoes: Carefully peel the potatoes. Since the potatoes are quite warm, I suggest piercing a potato with a fork to hold it steady against a cutting board as you use a small knife to work away the peel. Discard the potato peels & transfer the peeled potatoes to a large bowl.Cooked & peeled Yukon Gold potatoes fill a large clear glass mixing bowl, for make ahead mashed potatoes. The bowl sits atop a light peach colored textured surface with a red muted linen napkin resting alongside.
  3. Warm the half and half & cream cheese: Meanwhile, as you cook & peel the potatoes, warm the half and half & cream cheese. Place the half and half in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once simmering, add the cream cheese & remove from the heat. (Alternately, you can combine the two in a microwave safe bowl or liquid measuring cup. Microwave 2 minutes, stirring the mixture after each minute.)Warmed half and half and cream cheese for make ahead mashed potatoes for a crowd fill a large stainless steel saucepan. The pan sits atop a light peach colored textured surface with a red muted linen napkin resting alongside. A gold spoon rests inside the saucepan.
  4. Mash the potatoes: To the large bowl of warm peeled potatoes, add the warm half and half & cream cheese mixture & the 8 tablespoon-sized pieces of butter. Season with 2 teaspoons kosher salt & 1 teaspoon ground white pepper. Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes until as smooth & creamy as desired. (Alternately, for exceptionally light & fluffy mashed potatoes, run the potatoes through a potato ricer or food mill, then fold in the remaining ingredients. Do not use an electric mixer, as doing so results in gluey mashed potatoes.) Taste & season with additional salt or ground black pepper as desired. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
  5. Store for later: Generously grease a 9×13 baking dish by rubbing half of the cold butter against the entire surface of the bottom & sides. Transfer the cooled mashed potatoes to the prepared baking dish, pressing the remaining cold butter cubes into the surface with even spacing. Tightly cover the baking dish with plastic wrap then foil. Refrigerate up to 2 days.Partially assembled make ahead mashed potatoes fill a large white ceramic baking dish that sits atop a light peach colored textured surface. The baking dish is partially covered with plastic wrap and aluminum foil and the words mashed potatoes have been written on the outside of the foil in black permanent marker. The baking dish is surrounded by a black Sharpie marker, a small wooden pinch bowl filled with kosher salt, red florals, and a red muted linen napkin.  
  6. Reheating: Remove the baking dish from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour before you’d like to finish them in the oven. Remove the foil & plastic wrap, then tightly recover with the foil. Transfer to 350 degree F oven & reheat for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the foil & stir the mashed potatoes to incorporate the melted butter. Return to the oven for 10 minutes longer, or until warmed through. (See Recipe Notes, below, for directions on how to reheat make ahead mashed potatoes in a slow cooker or Crockpot.) Taste & season with additional salt & ground black pepper as desired.Make ahead mashed potatoes for a crowd fill a large white ceramic baking dish that sits atop a light peach colored textured surface. A red muted linen napkin rests alongside the baking dish at center.
  7. Serving: If desired, transfer the warm mashed potatoes to a large bowl or serving dish. Top with a little more butter & freshly snipped chives as desired, then serve alongside your roast turkey or roast chicken, stuffing, & gravy. Enjoy!A make ahead thanksgiving dinner is served atop a white dinner plate with a gold fork resting atop. The plate is filled with make ahead sweet potato casserole, make ahead thanksgiving stuffing, make ahead mashed potatoes with make ahead gravy, make ahead green bean casserole, and a few slices of carved turkey. The plate is surrounded by a red muted linen napkin, red and orange Fall florals, a small wooden pinch bowl filled with kosher salt, two amber colored drinking glasses, a white ceramic gravy boat, and a clean white dinner plate with a gold fork resting atop.


Notes

  • Alternate Reheating Method: Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes: If your oven space is a limited, you can also reheat your make ahead mashed potatoes in a slow cooker or Crockpot with a couple of small tweaks to this recipe. Once cooked & mashed (Steps 1 – 4 of Recipe Directions), transfer the potatoes to a large airtight container. To reheat, generously grease the bottom & sides of your slow cooker insert with butter & transfer the potatoes to the slow cooker, dotting the surface with cold butter as described in Step 5, above. Cover & slow cook on low for 3-4 hours, stirring once or twice as the potatoes reheat. Serve as described in the Recipe Directions, above.
  • Storage & Reheating: Leftover reheated make ahead mashed potatoes (i.e. prepared through Step 6 of Recipe Directions above), will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave until warmed through.

Recipe by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by KJ & Company, Kate Poskochil

Follow along with Plays Well With Butter on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Pinterest for more unfussy recipes that pack a big punch of flavor!

Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

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Comments

  1. 12.24.23
    Josephine Smith said:

    I’ve made this recipe twice now – once with the crockpot method and the other with the oven method for reheating. I think the oven worked better. I love this recipe and I’m about to make it again ahead of time for my Christmas meal. It is so nice to make ahead of time, and it is a delicious and easy recipe. Thank you!

    • 12.25.23

      Wonderful, I’m so glad that you enjoy them so much. Merry Christmas, Josephine!

      Jess

  2. 11.28.22
    Mara Mamerow said:

    I made these ahead of time for my family’s Thanksgiving. I was skeptical at first … mashed potatoes seem like one of those easy “make right before dinner is on the table” dishes, so it seemed… silly? to make ahead of time. But I found myself in a “no dishwasher” kitchen situation and decided it was KEY to make as much ahead of time as possible to avoid the mountain of dishes on the day of.

    They. Were. Amazing!! I’ve always use russet for my standard-issue potatoes, but you convinced me to use Yukon Gold. Loved them, never going back. I kept the skins on, and mixed in a generous handful of chives and caramelized onions. I think would have been great even without it but thought these added some extra flavor boosting. Creamy, smooth, and most importantly, stayed moist and A+ through the reheat. You’d never know they weren’t made “fresh”!.

    I froze about a week ahead of time and started thawing the night before. Ended up needing to put my pan in a larger pan of hot water to speed up the defrosting process when I realized how little progress had been made. Once they were actually thawed it was super easy to pop in the oven with the rest of my make-aheads. I also made PWWB’s wild mushroom stuffing, with some tweaks for make-ahead friendliness, and PWWB make-ahead gravy that needed reheating on the stovetop. I made The Kitchn’s green bean casserole but used PWWB tips to make my make-ahead day go smoothly.

    Thanks Jess, everything was a huge hit!






    • 11.29.22
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Mara! We are thrilled to hear that you loved these make-ahead mashed potatoes and that they could help make your family’s Thanksgiving prep that much easier. Plus, your additions of chives & caramelized onions sound amazing! 🙂