These Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes are the creamiest potatoes you’ll ever taste. Rich and indulgent, they are perfect for Thanksgiving or any holiday dinner. Make ahead and reheat over simmering water for easy entertaining.
Growing up, we always had large holiday gatherings. The table was beautifully-set, and my mother would bring out dish after dish of our favorite foods, including these Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes. Then and now, she always seems to pull off everything effortlessly when she entertains.
I learned everything I know about elegant entertaining from my mother. Even when something went wrong, our guests never knew it.
Easy Thanksgiving Side Dish: Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
Mashed potatoes are one of the easiest side dishes to make ahead for a big holiday meal. Mom had made the potatoes ahead so she could turn her attention to the turkey. One of my jobs was to reheat and plate them. Simple enough, right?
When I was given the signal that the turkey was just about ready, I put the the potato pot on the back burner of the stove and turned on the flame. I thought the highest possible direct heat setting would be the best way to bring them up to serving temperature.
One thing lead to another, and I got busy helping with other tasks.
My mother and I, who had been bustling back and forth to the dining room, returned to the kitchen after a short while. We both took a deep breath and asked each other, “What’s burning?!”
It was the potatoes. The entire bottom of the pot had scorched to black.
If there was a camera on me at that moment, it would’ve captured my finest “deer in the headlights” look. Had I really just ruined my mother’s mashed potatoes, one of our family and friends’ favorite Thanksgiving sides?
Mom and I each took a taste of them. They didn’t taste burned at all. In fact, they had taken on a subtle smoky flavor that was pretty good. Mom carefully scooped the potatoes from the top of the pot to avoid the scorching at the bottom, and our Thanksgiving feast was served.
As we ate dinner, our guests started remarking on how delicious the mashed potatoes were. They were going back for seconds and thirds.
“Thank you,” my mother said, as she passed the turkey platter, “I tried a new recipe this year for Hickory-Smoked Mashed Potatoes.” She never misses a beat.
Want to try a recipe for intentionally-smoked mashed potatoes? Check out this one from New York Times Cooking.
Take the Stress out of Holiday Entertaining
Holiday entertaining isn’t always easy. Cooking multiple dishes with a houseful of guests and a myriad of distractions can sometimes cause snafus. While I don’t recommend burning the mashed potatoes (it isn’t a tradition we ever repeated), Mom taught me to make the best of every situation.
A consummate hostess isn’t perfect. No one is perfect. Part of the art of entertaining is knowing how to roll with whatever is thrown your way.
The Secret Ingredient: Cream Cheese
So, what made these (non-burned) mashed potatoes such a longtime family favorite? Cream cheese. I’m not exaggerating when I say that these are the creamiest mashed potatoes you will ever eat.
When mixed with melted butter, milk (or half and half), and tender Yukon Gold potatoes, cream cheese gives these mashed potatoes a slight tang and a luxurious, velvety texture.
These are indulgent potatoes, that are completely worthy of a holiday feast.
Mom has always whipped the potatoes with a hand mixer, but you can also use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, a hand masher, or a potato ricer. If using mixers, just be careful not to over-beat because potatoes that have been whipped for too long or on too high a speed can turn gluey.
And, remember, if making ahead and reheating, the best method is to heat them over a pot of simmering water and stir frequently. No risk of burning!
Looking for more Thanksgiving sides? Check out these reader favorites from my blog archives:
Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes
- 5 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, halved, and cut into ½-inch pieces
- 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
- 8 ounces block-style cream cheese, room temperature
- ½ to 1 cup milk or half and half, warmed
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground white pepper
- Place potatoes in a large pot and add enough cool water to cover by 1-inch. Add a pinch of kosher salt and bring to a boil. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are tender and a knife can be inserted into the center of the wedges easily. Drain potatoes into a colander and return them to the hot pot.
- Add butter, cream cheese, ½ cup milk or half and half, kosher salt, and pepper. Use a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment to gently combine until smooth, adding additional milk as needed to reach your desired consistency. (I often use the full cup; keep in mind that potatoes will thicken upon standing.) Don't over-whip, or potatoes will become gluey.
- (Alternatively, I often use a potato ricer to rice the potatoes and then stir in the rest of the ingredients by hand, heating the potatoes on the stove as needed to fully combine the cream cheese.)
- Season to taste with additional salt and pepper and serve.