How to Boil Potatoes

Mashed potatoes in a bowl with raw potatoes.
The Spruce / Diana Rattray
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Total: 30 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Yields: 2 1/2 pounds

Versatile and nutritious, potatoes are one of America's favorite vegetables, with per capita usage in the U.S. topping 113 pounds in 2018. It has become the fifth most crucial crop globally after wheat, corn, rice, and sugar cane.

Whether for mashed potatoes, potato salad, or a casserole, you likely have to boil potatoes from time to time. You can cook the potatoes peeled or scrubbed, depending on preference and how you plan to use them. You can cube the potatoes, cut them into quarters, or leave them whole.

When they're ready-- toss hot boiled potatoes with some butter and herbs, or make classic mashed potatoes or savory garlic mashed potatoes. Or whip up a picnic potato salad or German potato salad with cubed potatoes. If you have leftovers, use them to make skillet fried potatoes for a fabulous breakfast or dinner side dish.


  • 2 1/2 pounds potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for boiling potatoes.
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  2. Scrub the potatoes and peel them, if desired. Cut them into cubes or large chunks, or leave them whole.

    Cutting potatoes into cubes.
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  3. Put the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Add about 1 tablespoon of salt, or about 1 teaspoon per quart of water.

    Add salt to the potatoes and water.
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  4. Bring the potatoes to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a gentle boil and place a lid on the pan. Lower the heat more if the water begins to boil over.

    • Cubed and very small potatoes: 12 to 15 minutes
    • Quartered potatoes and whole medium potatoes: 15 to 20 minutes
    • Whole large potatoes: 25 to 30 minutes

    Test the potatoes with a fork or skewer inserted into the largest pieces; it should go all the way through with no resistance.

    Potatoes on a burner, cooking.
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  5. Transfer the potatoes to a colander to drain thoroughly. Mash the potatoes or use them in potato salad or other dishes.

    Potatoes in a colander.
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

The Best Potatoes for Boiling

Not all potatoes should be boiled. Starchy baking potatoes are fine to boil if you're making mashed potatoes but they tend to break down when boiled so they won't be good for any dish calling for firm potatoes, such as a potato salad or casserole. The lower starch "waxy" potatoes and all-purpose varieties are ideal because they hold their shape much better.

  • Starchy Potatoes: Russets, Idaho
  • Low Starch Waxy Potatoes: Red Bliss, fingerlings, new potatoes, baby potatoes, Russian Banana
  • All-Purpose Potatoes: Yukon Gold, purple potatoes, white potatoes


  • Potatoes may be boiled ahead of time. Cool the potatoes and store them in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • To cool potatoes quickly, drain them in the colander and rinse with cold water or dip in an ice water bath.

Recipe Variations

  • For easy garlic mashed potatoes, add 4 to 6 whole peeled garlic cloves to the pan with the potatoes. Boil until tender, drain potatoes and garlic, and mash with 4 ounces of butter and warm milk, as desired. Season with salt and pepper.