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Types of Potatoes

Types of Potatoes

Last updated on 11/06/2020

Potatoes are one of the most versatile ingredients in a commercial kitchen. In fact, many diners don't consider a meal to be complete if it doesn't include a hot baked potato. With so many potato varieties to choose from, it can be difficult to match the right potato with the correct cooking method. Below you'll find a list of the most popular potato types, our tips for identifying them, and suggestions for the best cooking methods.

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Potato Types

Potatoes can be categorized into seven different types based on their color and shape. Each of these potato types contains countless different varieties that have been cultivated over time. Here in the US, we classify potatoes as one of these seven types:

  • Russet Potatoes - Russets are large potatoes with rough brown skin and pale flesh.
  • Yellow Potatoes - Yellow potatoes have thin gold skin and yellow flesh.
  • White Potatoes - White potatoes have thin beige or tan skin with pale flesh.
  • Red Potatoes - Red potatoes have thin red skin and pale flesh.
  • Purple or Blue Potatoes - Blue potatoes have dark purple or blue skin with matching purple flesh.
  • Fingerling Potatoes - Fingerling potatoes have a small, tubular shape and have a variety of skin and flesh characteristics.
  • New Potatoes - New potatoes are young potatoes that have been harvested early. They have thin, delicate skin and creamy flesh. Also called baby potatoes, they come in a variety of colors.

Potato Uses

Potatoes are also categorized by the texture of their flesh and the best way to prepare them. These are the three classifications of potato texture:

    Starchy Potatoes

    Starchy potatoes have a high starch content with dry, mealy flesh. The dry texture of the potato's interior causes it to crumble and break down easily, which makes it ideal for making mashed potatoes or using as a baked potato. Dry flesh also soaks up liquids like a sponge, so any dairy or butter that's added to the potato will absorb quickly and evenly. Potatoes with a high starch content are also the best candidates for frying into french fries. The exterior absorbs oil and becomes deliciously crispy, while the interior remains fluffy.

    Waxy Potatoes

    Waxy potatoes contain very little starch and have creamy flesh with a high moisture content. These potatoes usually have thin skin and don't need to be peeled before cooking. Unlike starchy potatoes that fall apart when cooked, waxy potatoes hold their shape. This makes them ideal for simmering in soups and stews, boiling for potato salads, or baking in casseroles.

    All-Purpose Potatoes

    All-purpose potatoes are the best of both worlds. They contain a medium amount of starch, which gives them fluffy texture when mashed or baked. But they also have a medium water content, which helps them to hold their shape when simmered, roasted, or pan fried. Choosing an all-purpose potato provides the most options when it comes to preparation.

Potato Varieties

There are thousands of potato varieties grown worldwide, but only a fraction of that number are grown commercially in the US. Each variety has been cultivated over time to enhance characteristics like size, texture, and skin type. To help you choose the right potato for your menu, we've made a list of the most popular potato varieties and their uses.

1. Russet Potato

Russet Potato

Russet potatoes are highly recognizable for their ruddy, dark brown skin and large size. Reach for this potato when you want to make baked potatoes. The thick skin of a Russet crisps up while baking and the interior becomes light and fluffy, perfect for holding toppings like butter, cheese, or sour cream. Russets are also great for mashing, as long as the skins are peeled first. This starchy potato is ideal for cutting into french fries because the large size produces a high yield and the potato texture crisps up when deep fried.

  • Russet Texture: Starchy
  • Russet Skin Color: Medium to dark brown skin
  • Russet Flesh Color: Pale white flesh
  • Best Uses for Russets: Baking, mashing, or deep frying
  • Other Names for Russets: Idaho Russet

2. New Potatoes

New Potatoes

New potatoes aren't actually a potato variety. These small potatoes are the young, early harvested potatoes of several varieties. They're collected shortly after the potato plant has flowered, and they have thin, delicate skin with creamy flesh. Best eaten within a few days of the harvest, baby potatoes are not good candidates for long-term produce storage. New potatoes fall under the waxy category and can be roasted whole without removing the skins.

  • New Potatoes Texture: Waxy
  • New Potatoes Skin Color: Assorted skin colors
  • New Potatoes Flesh Color: Assorted flesh colors
  • Best Uses for New Potatoes: Boiling, roasting, or steaming
  • Other Names for New Potatoes: Baby potatoes, Petite potatoes

3. Yukon Gold Potatoes

Yukon Gold Potatoes

The Yukon Gold potato is one of the most popular potato varieties because it falls into the all-purpose category. Yukon Golds have thin gold skin that doesn't need to be peeled before mashing, and their creamy flesh has a sweet, buttery flavor. Use just about any cooking method for these gold potatoes and you won't be disappointed with the results. Because they're so versatile, Yukons are a popular option for restaurants and commercial kitchens.

  • Yukon Gold Texture: All-purpose
  • Yukon Gold Skin Color: Golden tan skin
  • Yukon Gold Flesh Color: Yellow flesh
  • Best Uses for Yukon Gold: Boiling, baking, mashing, frying, roasting
  • Other Names for Yukon Gold: Yukons, Golden Potatoes

4. Kennebec Potatoes

Kennebec Potatoes

Many chefs consider the Kennebec potato to be the best frying potato. They feel so strongly about it that it's common to see the Kennebec name called out on their menu. Instead of french fries, you might see Kennebec fries listed with a description that highlights the qualities of the potato. Rightly so, because Kennebecs have a unique, nutty flavor and the perfect balance of starchiness and moisture that results in a crispy, golden fry.

  • Kennebec Texture: All-purpose
  • Kennebec Skin Color: Light tan or beige skin
  • Kennebec Flesh Color: Pale white flesh
  • Best Uses for Kennebec: Deep frying, chipping

5. All Blue Potato

All Blue Potato

Blue potatoes like the All Blue variety have dark purple skin and purple flesh that comes from a high concentration of the antioxidant, anthocyanin. This healthy flavonoid is also present in other dark purple produce, like blueberries, red onion, or eggplant. All Blue potatoes are classified as all-purpose, which makes them useful for a variety of cooking methods. They do have a higher starch content than other blue potatoes, so reach for this potato to make a vibrant blue mash. All Blues can be easily identified from other blue varieties by a pale ring in their purple flesh.

  • All Blue Potato Texture: All-purpose
  • All Blue Skin Potato Color: Dark purple skin
  • All Blue Flesh Potato Color: Lavender to purple flesh with a pale ring around the edge
  • Best Uses for All Blue Potato: Boiling, baking, mashing, frying, roasting

6. Adirondack Blue Potato

Adirondack Blue Potato

The Adirondack Blue potato is a purple variety that features brightly colored skin and flesh that keeps its violet hue after cooking. Other purple potato varieties lose some of their pigment and turn a grayish color when cooked, which makes the Adirondack Blue a great choice when you want to showcase the vibrant color. These potatoes are often combined with red and white varieties to make a red, white, and blue potato salad. Even though they are classified as all-purpose, Adirondack Blue potatoes tend to be waxy and hold their shape when boiled or roasted.

  • Adirondack Blue Potato Texture: All-purpose
  • Adirondack Blue Potato Skin Color: Dark purple skin
  • Adirondack Blue Potato Flesh Color: Dark purple flesh
  • Best Uses for Adirondack Blue Potato: Boiling, roasting, or steaming

7. Red Bliss Potatoes

Red Bliss Potatoes

The Red Bliss potato is a waxy potato, which means it has a high moisture content and keeps its shape while cooking. Normally this type of potato isn't the best choice for mashing, but Red Bliss potatoes have a tradition of being used as a mashing potato despite their texture. You won't achieve a smooth, creamy mash with Red Bliss, but the thin red skins require no peeling and the sweet, buttery flesh is complemented by garlic, herbs, and lemon.

  • Red Bliss Potato Texture: Waxy
  • Red Bliss Potato Skin Color: Red skin
  • Red Bliss Potato Flesh Color: Pale white flesh
  • Best Uses for Red Bliss Potato: Boiling, baking, mashing, roasting

8. German Butterball Potato

German Butterball Potato

The German Butterball variety is a yellow potato with a medium round shape. You can differentiate a German Butterball from other yellow varieties like Yukon Gold by the texture of its skin. German Butterballs have thin skin with a flaky texture and the appearance of fine webbing that covers the whole potato. A great all-purpose potato with a buttery flavor, you can use a German Butterball potato for almost any application.

  • German Butterball Potato Texture: All-purpose
  • German Butterball Skin Potato Color: Golden tan or beige skin
  • German Butterball Flesh Potato Color: Yellow flesh
  • Best Uses for German Butterball: Boiling, baking, mashing, frying, roasting

9. Red Thumb Potatoes

Red Thumb Potatoes

The Red Thumb potato is a fingerling potato with red skin and creamy pink flesh. Fingerlings, just as the name implies, have a finger-like shape that's long and tubular. Their unique shape and small size makes them ideal for roasting whole and serving alongside an entree or salad. Because of its attractive, pink marbled flesh, the Red Thumb is a popular choice in gourmet settings. Red Thumb fingerlings are not a good choice for mashing or deep frying because of their size and shape.

  • Red Thumb Potato Texture: Waxy
  • Red Thumb Potato Skin Color: Rosy red skin
  • Red Thumb Potato Flesh Color: Marbled pink and white flesh
  • Best Uses for Red Thumb Potato: Roasting, grilling, boiling, pan frying

10. Russian Banana Potatoes

Russian Banana Potatoes

The Russian Banana potato is a fingerling potato that gets its name from its yellow flesh and curved, crescent-like shape. Like other fingerlings, this waxy potato doesn't need to be peeled and can be roasted whole or boiled for potato salads. It's a popular culinary choice due to its sweet, buttery flavor and unique shape. Russian Banana fingerlings are not the best candidates for making mashed potatoes or deep frying.

  • Russian Banana Potato Texture: Waxy
  • Russian Banana Skin Potato Color: Golden tan or beige skin
  • Russian Banana Flesh Potato Color: Yellow flesh
  • Best Uses for Russian Banana Potato: Roasting, grilling, boiling, pan frying

11. Purple Peruvian Potatoes

Purple Peruvian Potatoes

Fingerling potato varieties can be cultivated with the same characteristics of other varieties, as displayed by the Purple Peruvian potato. This potato has the purple skin and flesh of a blue potato and the small, slender shape of a fingerling. While most other fingerlings are waxy, this violet tuber has dry, starchy flesh that's sometimes compared to a Russet potato. Because of this, Purple Peruvians can be used for mashing or deep frying.

  • Purple Peruvian Potato Texture: Starchy
  • Purple Peruvian Potato Skin Color: Dark purple skin
  • Purple Peruvian Potato Flesh Color: Solid or marbled purple flesh
  • Best Uses for Purple Peruvian Potato: Mashing, baking, roasting, chipping

12. Japanese Sweet Potatoes

Japanese Sweet Potatoes

This variety of sweet potato has dark red or purple skin with pale flesh that turns buttery yellow as it cooks. Considered starchier than other sweet potatoes, the Japanese sweet potato crisps up when roasted or fried but remains soft in the middle. It has a sweet, nutty flavor similar to a roasted chestnut and a dense texture that's compared to thick pudding. A popular variety in Japan, this sweet potato is a favorite street snack sold by vendors during the fall and winter.

  • Japanese Sweet Potato Texture: Starchy
  • Japanese Sweet Potato Skin Color: Dark red or purple skin
  • Japanese Sweet Potato Flesh Color: Pale flesh that turns yellow when cooked
  • Best Uses for Japanese Sweet Potato: Baking, mashing, roasting, deep frying
  • Other Names for Japanese Sweet Potato: Satsuma-imo, Japanese White Yam

13. Hannah Sweet Potato

Hannah Sweet Potato

Hannah sweet potatoes have a firm, dense texture similar to a white potato and will hold their shape better than other sweet potato varieties. They can be diced or cubed and used in soups, stews, or stir fries. Because they are so firm, they require longer cook times than softer, orange sweet potato varieties. For a unique presentation, try the Hasselback cooking method with Hannah sweet potatoes.

  • Hannah Sweet Potato Texture: All-purpose
  • Hannah Sweet Potato Skin Color: Tan skin
  • Hannah Sweet Potato Flesh Color: Yellow or cream-colored flesh
  • Best Uses for Hannah Sweet Potato: Pureeing, mashing, baking, deep frying, roasting, simmering
  • Other Names for Hannah Sweet Potato: Yellow Hannah, Sweet Hannah

14. Jewel Yams

Jewel Yams

Don't be confused by the name of this sweet potato. It's actually not a true yam at all. In this case, yam is just a nickname for a softer variety of sweet potato. The Jewel yam has starchy flesh that becomes very soft and moist when cooked. Use this sweet potato for baking and mashing but avoid applications that require the tuber to keep its shape, like dicing for stir fries or soups.

  • Jewel Yam Texture: Starchy
  • Jewel Yam Skin Color: Copper-colored skin
  • Jewel Yam Flesh Color: Deep orange flesh
  • Best Uses for Jewel Yam: Baking, mashing, roasting, pureeing
  • Other Names for Jewel Yam: Jewel Sweet Potato

When forming your recipes, make sure to choose the right potato for the job. Each variety of potato has unique qualities that make it more suited for certain cooking methods.

Printable Version Types of Potatoes Infographic

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