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.
Like, one Thanksgiving of my early teenage years when I almost ruined the mashed potatoes.
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.
“Hickory Smoked” Mashed Potatoes
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:
Cornbread, Sausage, and Chestnut Stuffing
Apple-Orange Cranberry Sauce
Caramelized Shallot and Cheddar Mashed Potatoes
Buttermilk Sweet Potato Casserole
Parmesan Duchess Potatoes
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.
Kristine S says
These potatoes are excellent!
I couldn’t find Yukon Gold, but I used “Gold”, which was the closest thing. I left the skin on because we like it that way in our house. I have learned not to over whip them and they were just delicious! No changes made.
Thanks for a great recipe!!!
Every time I make these people LOVE them. They are now my go to mashed potato recipe!
I love this recipe! My Thanksgiving nightmare was when my daughter put WAY too much liquid in the potatoes when she mashed them. Too late to boil more so my neighbor ran home and got a box of instant potato flakes that we added, but by bit, til we got the right consistency. Not one person noticed!
This is how my mother made them! They turned out smooth and delicious! I made them the day before and they were even better the next day heated up!
Mmmmm! Thanks for reminding me that it is mashed potato season! I can’t wait for Thanksgiving. Yum!!!
Shadi Hasanzadenemati says
Love the story Amanda, I’ve had some of these “accidents” in the kitchen too when I helped my mom, it’s all the fun, right? :D I can’t wait to try this recipe of yours with cream cheese, even though I’ve never tried making mashed potatoes with cream cheese, it just sounds so right!Family recipes never disappoint, in fact, they’re always the best!
Sarah @ Champagne Tastes says
My grandma always made the most amazing mashed potatoes! To this day, mashed potatoes are one of my favorite comfort foods. I love sneaking cheeses into my mashed potatoes, but I’ve never tried cream cheese! I’ll try this next time! And your momma is one cool customer- I hope I’m that calm the next time I have an almost party disaster! :D
Give me all the mashed potatoes!! So good. Pairing them with everything right now, so would love to try out your recipe!
Claire @ The Simple, Sweet Life says
For YEARS I made Thanksgiving dinner all by myself… Turkey, 3 sides, 2 appetizers and 2 desserts. In order to get it all done, I’d do as much ahead of time as possible, but could never seem to figure out how to streamline the mashed potatoes. THANK YOU for making Thanksgiving a little easier this year!
Abby @ WinsteadWandering says
I love the idea of making recipes ahead to take some of the stress out of Thanksgiving! These mashed potatoes are the perfect place to start.
I have tried sour cream with mashed potatoes but not cream cheese. This is really interesting and so easy, count me in!
Nicoletta @sugarlovespices says
Your pictures are so beautiful and the mashed potatoes look fantastic. Love the addition of the cream cheese, we sometimes do it like that. NIce story about the hickory mashed potatoes ;-) !
Jenni LeBaron says
These look so decadent and creamy! I love a good pot of mashed potatoes with butter – yum!
Oh yeah! A big heaping serving of those for me please! Your mom is brilliant! This sounds amazing. Going to try it.
hmmmm, thats an interesting trick there! One that I will definitely be trying. We always say the secret to our family mashed potatoes is a little fresh nutmeg, but I think the cream cheese is a way to make them even better!
Kristen R. says
I have never thought of putting cream cheese in mashed potatoes – brilliant! I can only imagine it’s utterly delicious. Great idea, delicious recipe.
Elaine @ Dishes Delish says
Yummy! I bet these mashed potatoes are so good with the cream cheese! Your photos are beautiful and I can imagine how they taste, just by looking at them. I loved reading your story about burning the potatoes one year. We all have so many great stories over the holidays, don’t we? Here’s something that is known about me, I can’t mash potatoes for the life of me. I can’t get them smooth even if I stand there for 1/2 hour. It’s weird. So, when I make your recipe, My hubby will be mashing them instead of me. ;)