Fresh vs instant mashed potatoes—which is better?

Amanda Ngo, Production Editor

Turkey, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, stuffing. Each family has a different way of making these iconic foods. They’re all hallmark classics of Thanksgiving, a holiday characterized by thankfulness, family reunions, and—perhaps most importantly—family debates.

From politics to the weather, there’s nothing that a good Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t touch upon. And so, in the spirit of the holidays, I decided to crack into an age-old debate: between instant and fresh mashed potatoes, which is better?

Enlisting the help of my friend and fellow Blockbuster member, Sarah Quick, we set to work. Our procedures were simple: we would create a batch of instant and fresh mashed potatoes. Each version would have the same ingredients (for the purpose of our experiment, we omitted the gravy). Then, we would have people taste each sample and see which one they preferred.

For the instant batch, we bought the Idahoan Original Mashed Potatoes — which, according to Sarah, was the best brand for instant mashed potatoes — and for our fresh batch, we opted to use Yukon Gold potatoes.

Making both of the batches took less than an hour. Following the directions on the back of the box, we finished making the instant mashed potatoes in under ten minutes. Naturally, the fresh batch took longer—around 25 minutes. Each had butter, milk, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

During our initial taste test, we agreed that the fresh batch was better in terms of taste and texture, but we decided to get others’ opinions also. Mashed potatoes in hand, Sarah and I searched for taste-testers.

We stopped by Burroughs High School to meet our Newswriting teacher, Susan Burgess, and retired English teacher Vickie Levack. The two split the vote on their preferred mashed potatoes, ultimately coming down to their preference for the texture: Ms. Burgess preferred the bites of potatoes in the fresh batch whereas her friend preferred the smoother instant mashed potatoes.

Burgess said, “In terms of taste, the fresh and instant mashed potatoes taste similar if you season them identically. Personally, I was only able to tell the difference based on their texture.”

Our second and final stop was senior Zoe Stanford’s house. We asked her to try our potatoes, and she came up with a similar reaction.

“You can taste the binding agent in the instant mashed potatoes, but there isn’t a big difference,” she said. “They’re similar enough that if I had a lot of people over to eat, I would use the instant potatoes.”

There you have it. The texture is the deciding factor between fresh and instant mashed potatoes. Perhaps some diehard potato fans can tell the difference, but for the average person, the difference in taste is not significant.

If this is the argument that comes up at your Thanksgiving table this year, consider yourself fortunate, dig in, and have a delicious debate!