Red Skin Mashed Potatoes with Caramelized Onions

These red skin mashed potatoes with caramelized onions are one of our favorite side dishes recipes. Thin skinned red potatoes are mashed with sour cream, butter, and sweet caramelized onions, then topped with melted cheddar and chopped bacon for a show stopping mashed potato recipe.

Bowl of red skin mashed potatoes with melted cheese and bacon pieces on top

The recipe also separates the caramelized onions from the potatoes (until you mix them in), so it’s easy to skip them if you don’t want the onions.

Before we jump into the recipe, I’m going to answer some common questions I’ve had in cooking classes when I’ve taught a recipe using red skin potatoes.

We will also troubleshoot some common mashed potato struggles (no one wants gluey mashed potatoes!), and go over freezing, reheating, and using up leftover mashed potatoes.

What are red skin potatoes good for?

Red skin potatoes are actually my favorite potato variety. There are a few different types of red potatoes. Some, like French Fingerling potatoes and Red Thumb potatoes are Waxy Potatoes. 

Waxy Potatoes are lower in starch, and high in moisture. This means they have a firm flesh and hold their shape after cooking. 

There are also Red New Potatoes, which hold their shape well and are great for boiling or roasting. We love them in this Easy New Potatoes recipe.

Other red skin potatoes, like Red Gold potatoes or Norland Red potatoes, are All Purpose potatoes. This means they have medium starch, and medium moisture content. Like the name suggests, they are good for all kinds of potato recipes. 

More red potato recipes

I like to buy All Purpose red potatoes because they can be used for a variety of recipes.

Red Potato Salad with Greek Yogurt
Red Potato Salad with Greek Yogurt

Some of our favorites are red potato salad, potato quesadillas, white bean chicken soup (where the potatoes hold their shape), and sausage leek and potato soup (where the potatoes are blended for a creamy dairy free texture).

Do you need to peel red potatoes?

One of the best things about red potatoes is that the skin is thin and edible. I rarely peel red potatoes. I like the small amount of texture and color added by including the skin, but I LOVE the added nutrition.

Potato peels are packed with iron. While a whole potato can give you 1/4 of your daily iron, 88 percent of that iron is from the potato skin. The potato skins also contain fiber and protein, along with a variety of vitamins and nutrients.

Are red skin potatoes good for mashing?

All purpose red skin potatoes are also good for mashing. While they have less starch than the starchy potato varieties like Russets, they still have enough to fluff up and absorb moisture. We LOVE red skin mashed potatoes!

plate of cheesey red skin mashed potatoes piled next to cranberry stuffing

Do you put red potatoes in the fridge?

One question I get regularly is how to store red potatoes? Do you put red potatoes in the fridge? Do you store red potatoes in the pantry? And is it okay to store red potatoes with apples or onions?

The most important thing about storing potatoes is that you should NOT store your red potatoes in the fridge.

Storing potatoes in the fridge can increase the amount of sugar they contain, and then lead to higher levels of acrylamide when the potatoes are fried or roasted. Acrylamide is believed to possibly be carcinogenic (cancer causing), and even though the studies on this were done in animals and not humans, it is better to play it safe.

If you are certain you will only be boiling your red potatoes, it isn’t as big of a concern. Boiling and steaming do not produce acrylamide. But I still choose to store my potatoes in the pantry area.

Pile of red skin potatoes

Storing potatoes with onions can cause them to sprout eyes at a faster rate. There is mixed evidence that storing potatoes with apples can actually slow down the rate of sprouting.

If I just have one or two loose potatoes, I will toss them in our apple basket. But usually they are in a netted bag in the cupboard.

Are red potatoes still good if they are soft?

It is definitely okay to bake or boil slightly soft red potatoes. If they have any eyes on them, just knock those off. 

How can you tell if red potatoes are bad?

If your red potatoes have dark or mushy spots, or a bad smell (think urine smell, not the earthy musty smell of fresh potatoes), you should just compost them.

How to make red skin mashed potatoes

While you can definitely make traditional mashed potatoes with red skinned potatoes, we really like these red skin mashed potatoes with caramelized onions.

Overhead photo of a bowl of red skin mashed potatoes with melted cheddar and chopped bacon on top

There is such an incredible depth of flavor, and the added texture is great for those who have trouble with the texture of traditional mashed potatoes. This is a big bonus for those of us with sensory kids!

Ingredients For the Caramelized Onions

  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil
  • 2 large red onions, sliced ⅛” thick
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Ingredients For the Red Skin Mashed Potatoes

  • 1 ½ pounds medium red potatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • ⅓ cup sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh black pepper

Ingredients for the Toppings

  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • ½ cup shredded cheddar
  • 2 slices cooked and crumbled bacon

Instructions

  1. Start by cooking your onions. Heat the avocado oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium heat.
  2. Add the sliced onions and sprinkle with salt.
  3. Cook and stir the onions for 15 minutes, until the moisture evaporates and the onions are soft and wilted.
  4. Reduce the heat to low and cook 30-40 minutes, stirring regularly until the onions are a caramel colored brown.
  5. While the onions are caramelizing, chop your clean red potatoes into quarters, and peel and half your garlic cloves.
  6. Place your potato chunks into a colander and rinse well with cold water (this is to get the initial starches rinsed off the surface).
  7. Place the rinsed pieces of potato and the garlic into a large saucepan or pot, and cover with water. Add ½ teaspoon of salt.
  8. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, and cover the pot. Let them simmer for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and easily pierced with a fork.
  9. Drain the potatoes in a colander, and then rinse well with hot water.
  10. Again, drain the potatoes well, then place them in a large bowl and lightly mash them with a potato masher until they are just smoothed out.
  11. Add sour cream, milk, melted butter, remaining ½ teaspoon of salt, and pepper, then gently fold them in with a spatula.
  12. Finally, fold in the caramelized onions, and transfer the red skin mashed potatoes to your serving bowl.
  13. Drizzle the potatoes with the additional melted butter, then sprinkle with cheddar cheese and bacon pieces.

Tips and tricks for perfect red skin mashed potatoes

Caramelizing onions can be daunting if you’ve never done it before. But don’t be intimidated by the long cook time, or try to turn up the heat. This low and slow cooking is how you get the sweet caramel flavor without any hint of bitterness from burning the onions.

And don’t worry, I’ve also got a few tips to help you avoid the dreaded gumminess of gluey mashed potatoes!

How to keep onions from sticking to the pan while caramelizing

If your onions are starting to stick to the pan during the caramelization process, add a tablespoon of water or broth to the onions. You can continue doing this, one tablespoon at a time, until the onions are done.

Adding a bit of water or broth to caramelized onions also deglazes the pan and helps the onions absorb all the wonderful flavors that were sticking to the pan!

Close up of sliced red onion on wooden cutting board.

It’s also important to not slice your onions too thinly. That’s why the red skin mashed potato recipe specifies to cut your onions into ⅛ inch thick slices

Any thinner than ⅛ inch and the onions will dry out too quickly, then stick and burn.

What makes mashed potatoes like glue?

If you’re worried about getting gluey mashed potatoes, make sure to follow the recipe instructions closely, and rinse your potatoes before and after cooking. Potatoes are full of starch, which expands and becomes sticky in hot liquids. This is why I rinse my rice before cooking. You’re rinsing off the starch to avoid a gummy texture.

In the red skin mashed potatoes recipe, we use cold water to rinse off the excess starches right after cutting, then hot water to rinse starches off right after cooking.

Another way to prevent gluey mashed potatoes is to add fat in the mix. The fat of the sour cream and butter help to coat the starches and prevent them from thickening into a gluey consistency. This is why it’s important to use full fat sour cream and milk, or half and half, when making red skin mashed potatoes.

What makes mashed potatoes lumpy?

While I actually like some lumps and texture in my mashed potatoes, most people want them fluffy and lump free.

The first thing to prevent lumpy mashed potatoes is to never use cold water to rinse your cooked potatoes. This can cause lumps when you mash the potatoes because the outer part of the potato will be a different temperature than the inner.

Red Skin Mashed Potatoes with flecks on melted cheddar and cooked bacon piled on a plate

It’s also important to start cooking your potatoes in cold water. Potatoes take a long time to cook, and starting them in boiling water can make the outside of the potato chunks overcooked and mushy before the inside is done.

What to do with leftover mashed potatoes

There are a lot of different ways you can use leftover mashed potatoes. Fun recipes like potato croquettes, salmon patties, or leftover mashed potato muffins repurpose mashed potatoes into something new.

You can also simply switch up the main dish and serve them as a side again later in the week. I’ve got some main dish ideas for you below if you’d like to do that.

Can you freeze mashed potatoes?

Yes! Mashed potatoes freeze pretty well, and are simple to reheat for an easy side dish a few weeks or months down the road. To freeze, just put them into a resealable freezer bag and squeeze out the excess air. You can also use glass food storage containers if you want to skip the plastic.

If you’d like to freeze your mashed potatoes in individual portions, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and pile single serve scoops of potatoes onto the paper. Stick in the freezer until frozen solid, then transfer to a bag in the freezer.

How to reheat mashed potatoes

If you’re reheating frozen mashed potatoes, I recommend thawing them in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.

If they’re in a plastic bag, you may get some extra moisture in the bag. You can just pour this off before reheating mashed potatoes. Put the potatoes in a shallow casserole dish and heat in the oven for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees, until the water is evaporated and potatoes are warmed through.

You can also reheat thawed mashed potatoes in a pot on the stove. Heat on medium heat, just stirring lightly a couple of times, for 5-10 minutes.

What to serve with red skin mashed potatoes

If it’s the holiday season, we also have roast turkey with our red skin mashed potatoes. We have everything you need to know about how to roast a turkey, and a really amazing recipe for a maple butter roasted turkey.

Overhead view of Thanksgiving meal on white tablecloth with hands serving food

An easy pressure cooker ham recipe is another great holiday pairing for mashed potatoes.

For the rest of the year, there’s nothing better over mashed potatoes than these easy pressure cooker short ribs. You can also go with good pork chop, lamb chop, or pan fried steak recipe.

More side dish recipes

Bowl of mashed potatoes with text Red Mashed Potatoes with Caramelized Onions
Yield: 6 servings

Red Skin Mashed Potatoes With Caramelized Onions

Bowl of cheesy bacon topped red skin mashed potatoes

Thin skinned all purpose red potatoes are mashed with sour cream, butter, and sweet caramelized onions, then topped with melted cheddar and chopped bacon for a show stopping mashed potato recipe. Adapted from Food.com.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour

Ingredients

CARAMELIZED ONIONS

  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil
  • 2 large red onions, sliced ⅛” thick
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • water or broth as needed

MASHED POTATOES

  • 1 ½ pounds medium red potatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • ⅓ cup sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh black pepper

TOPPINGS

  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • ½ cup shredded cheddar
  • 2 slices cooked and crumbled bacon

Instructions

  1. Start by cooking your onions. Heat the avocado oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium heat.
  2. Add the sliced onions and sprinkle with salt.
  3. Cook and stir the onions for 15 minutes, until the moisture evaporates and the onions are soft and wilted.
  4. If your onions are starting to stick to the pan during the caramelization process, add a tablespoon of water or broth to the onions. You can continue doing this, one tablespoon at a time, until the onions are done.
  5. Reduce the heat to low and cook 30-40 minutes, stirring regularly until the onions are a caramel colored brown.
  6. While the onions are caramelizing, chop your clean red potatoes into quarters, and peel and half your garlic cloves.
  7. Place your potato chunks into a colander and rinse well with cold water (this is to get the initial starches rinsed off the surface).
  8. Place the rinsed pieces of potato and the garlic into a large saucepan or pot, and cover with water. Add ½ teaspoon of salt.
  9. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, and cover the pot. Let them simmer for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and easily pierced with a fork.
  10. Drain the potatoes in a colander, and then rinse well with hot water.
  11. Again, drain the potatoes well, then place them in a large bowl and lightly mash them with a potato masher until they are just smoothed out.
  12. Add sour cream, milk, melted butter, remaining ½ teaspoon of salt, and pepper, then gently fold them in with a spatula.
  13. Finally, fold in the caramelized onions, and transfer the red skin mashed potatoes to your serving bowl.
  14. Drizzle the potatoes with the additional melted butter, then sprinkle with cheddar cheese and bacon pieces.

Notes

  • The fat of the sour cream and butter help to coat the potato starches and prevent them from thickening into a gluey consistency. This is why it’s important to use full fat sour cream and milk, or half and half, when making red skin mashed potatoes.
  • The first thing to prevent lumpy mashed potatoes is to never use cold water to rinse your cooked potatoes. This can cause lumps when you mash the potatoes because the outer part of the potato will be a different temperature than the inner. It’s also important to start cooking your potatoes in cold water. Potatoes take a long time to cook, and starting them in boiling water can make the outside of the potato chunks overcooked and mushy before the inside is done.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 267Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 31mgSodium: 735mgCarbohydrates: 30gFiber: 3gSugar: 5gProtein: 8g

Nutrition information is an estimate only.


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