There are more than 100 varieties of potatoes sold throughout the United States. Each variety fits into one of seven potato-type categories: russet, red, white, yellow, blue/purple, fingerling, and petite. Learn more about the characteristics and cooking recommendations for each type below.

Russet Potatoes

Russets-sign-sm-150x150Appearance: medium to large, oblong or slightly flattened oval, light to medium russet-brown, netted skin, white to pale yellow flesh.

Texture: floury,dry; light and fluffy; hearty skin that is chewy when cooked.

Flavor: mild; earthy; medium sugar content

Preferred uses: baking, frying, mashing, roasted

Russets are ideal for light and fluffy mashed potatoes. They also fry up crisp and golden brown, and they are the potato of choice for baking. Baked russets’ delicate flavor and fluffy texture go well with all kinds of toppings, from traditional sour cream and chives to spicy and bold Mediterranean or Latin flavors. Try cutting into planks or wedges to make hearty oven-roasted “fries.”

Red Potatoes

Red-pot-150x150Appearance: small to medium; round or slightly oblong; smooth, thin red skin; white flesh

Texture: waxy, moist and smooth; creamy

Flavor: Subtly sweet; mild, medium sugar content

Preferred uses: Roasting, mashing, salads, soups/stews

Because of their waxy texture, the flesh of red potatoes stays firm throughout the cooking process, whether they are being roasted or cooked in a stew. Their thin yet vibrant red skin adds appealing color and texture to side dishes and salads. Reds are frequently used to make tender yet firm potato salad, add pizazz to soups and stews, and be served baked or mashed. Round reds are often referred to as “new potatoes,” but “new” technically refers to any potato harvested before reaching maturity.

White Potatoes

White-pot-150x150Appearance: small to medium; round to long shape; white or tan skin; white flesh

Texture: medium starch; slightly creamy, slightly dense; thin, delicate skin

Flavor: subtly sweet; mild; low sugar content

Preferred uses: mashing, salads, steaming/boiling, frying

White potatoes hold their shape well after cooking. Their delicate, thin skins add just the right amount of texture to a velvety mashed potato dish without the need for peeling. Grilling whites brings out a more full-bodied flavor. To create signature potato salads, just toss cooked white potatoes with dressings and ingredients “borrowed” from other salads, e.g., Caesar dressing and grated Parmesan or Ranch dressing, chopped egg, and bacon crumbles.

Yellow Potatoes

Yellow-pot-150x150Appearance: marble to large size; round or oblong shape; light tan to golden skin; yellow to golden flesh.

Texture: slightly waxy, velvety, moist

Flavor: subtly sweet; rich; buttery; medium-sugar content

Preferred uses: grilling, roasting, mashing, salads

Grilling gives yellow potatoes a crispy skin that enhances the dense flesh, creating a slightly sweet caramelized flavor. The creamy texture and golden color of yellow potatoes mean you can use less or no butter for lighter, healthier dishes. The naturally smooth and buttery texture also lends itself well to lighter versions of baked, roasted, or mashed potatoes. Simmer yellow potatoes until fully cooked, then drain, chill, and gently “smash” into flat disks. Brown these in oil or clarified butter and serve as a side or appetizer topped with sour cream, chives, or other garnishes.

Purple/Blue Potatoes

Purple-Pot-150x150Appearance: small to medium-size; oblong to fingerling; deep purple, blue, or slightly red skin; blue, purple lavender, pink, or white flesh

Texture: moist, firm flesh. Note–all blue and purple Peruvian varieties have higher starch content and a floury texture

Flavor: earthy, nutty, low sugar content

Preferred uses: roasting, grilling, salads, baking

Most blue/purple potatoes have moist, firm flesh that retains shape while adding rich, vibrant color and luscious taste to salads. The purple color is preserved best by microwaving, but steaming and baking are also great ways to cook blue/purple potatoes. Because of their mild yet distinctly nutty flavor, blue/purple potatoes naturally complement green salad flavors. Red, White and Blues—Combine blue potatoes with whites and reds in salads or roasted medleys to make all three colors “pop”.

Fingerling Potatoes

Fingerling-Pot-150x150Appearance: 2 – 4 inches long; finger-shaped or oblong; red, orange, purple, or white skin; red, orange, purple, yellow, or white flesh–sometimes streaked with veins of color.

Texture: waxy, firm, try

Flavor: buttery; nutty; earthy; medium sugar content

Preferred uses: Pan-frying, roasting, salads

Fingerling color and shape are a welcome visual addition to any dish. Pan-frying and roasting enhance their robust flavor and showcase their wonderful nutty or buttery tastes. Consider fingerlings as a change-of-pace foundation for a unique potato salad. Split fingerlings lengthwise and oven-roast to serve as a small-plate or side-dish alternative to fries, with a flavor dipping sauce, like spicy ketchup, romesco, or sriracha mayo.

Petite Potatoes

Petite-Pot-150x150These small, bite-sized potatoes are a grade standard based on size (“C-size” and smaller, often referred to as pearls or marble-size). They have the same skin and flesh color as their larger-sized cousins, as well as the same shape, texture, and sugar content. Their flavor profile is similar but more concentrated to that of their larger-sized cousins.

Preferred uses: salads, roasting, frying

Petites make a great substitute for pasta and add nutritional value as well. Roast a combination of colors for an eye-catching side dish. Their concentrated flavors and quicker cooking time make petites a good choice for potato salads. Toss petites in olive oil, rosemary, salt, and pepper to make colorful, delicious, and fun roasted potatoes. They save you prep time because they can be prepared and served whole without slicing or chopping.