Ride on the wild side this Thanksgiving with Pesto Mashed Potatoes. These are the perfect spin on classic mashed potatoes if you want something a little more upscale and different than typical Thanksgiving mashed potatoes. These ultra creamy mashed potatoes are silky-smooth and packed with the most delicious pesto flavor. Oh, and there’s only three ingredients!
Pesto Mashed Potatoes
I’m kind of obsessed with making mashed potatoes. Which is ironic because I’ve never really been a mashed potato lover. That is, until I made the most perfect, flavorful mashed potatoes on the planet. Now, I’m forever in love.
If you’re not a mashed potato lover, I dare you to try any one of our mashed potato recipes, and you too, will be a convert. Our cream cheese mashed potatoes are also a worthy side to just about any saucy main dish you can think of.
Today’s version of mashed potatoes is so simple and only requires three ingredients (a part of our Friday 5-ingredient series), which we love.
Pesto mashed potatoes aren’t traditional by any means, but they’ll for sure the prettiest side amongst the green bean casserole, stuffing, and turkey, trust me.
Pesto mashed potatoes are not only stunningly gorgeous, but they’re so darn tasty. However, making them taste delicious, is the easy part. The key to making them beautiful, is to only whip up half of the pesto with the potatoes, cream, and salt. Just before serving, I swirl in the rest of the pesto, so it almost looks like there’s pesto ribbons throughout the mashed potatoes. This way, there isn’t a big pile of green mashed potatoes, and instead there’s a bit of movement and texture happening.
I can’t stop staring at it.
As mentioned, there’re only THREE ingredients in pesto mashed potatoes, so they are also a super cost-effective and easy side dish to make. Win win.
Best Potatoes for Mashed Potatoes
I’ve said it before, but I truly believe the best potatoes for mashed potatoes are russet potatoes, and I’ve stuck with that theory in these pesto mashed potatoes. Russet potatoes have a very high starch content, so the chances they end up gummy or lumpy are a lot less likely than some other varieties of potatoes.
I also find russet potatoes yield the fluffiest mashed potatoes, which is what we all want when making mashed potatoes, right?
The Rest of the Ingredients
Heavy Cream. Even though russet potatoes yield the smoothest, fluffiest potatoes, they do need a little help in achieving a super creamy state. Because there isn’t any butter in this recipe, I have no guilt in using heavy cream for the liquid. Plus, you really can’t mimic the luxurious mouthfeel of heavy cream with anything else. If you really want to swap out something else, see my substitutions and tips and tricks section below.
Pesto. This is obviously the magic ingredient in pesto mashed potatoes, but for more reasons than you’d realize. First and foremost, pesto adds the most delicious flavor throughout the mashed potatoes. But because pesto also has a high concentration of olive oil, it also adds a little bit of extra fat you miss when you leave out butter.
I use store-bought pesto here because all of my basil died with the most recent freeze, but if you’re interested, you can use our perfect basil pesto recipe instead. If you do buy store-bought our favorite brand is Rana. To me, it mimics homemade pesto more than any other brand out there – so good!
Because pesto has several ingredients in one pretty little package, you also get hints of parmesan and garlic in the mashed potatoes, which are obviously completely scrumptious.
Salt. Even though pesto has a good amount of salt in it, you still need a little bit extra. I like to season the water the potatoes cook in. I also like to a good amount of salt to the mashed potatoes with the pesto and the heavy cream.
How to make Pesto Mashed Potatoes.
Peel and cook the potatoes.
Cook the potatoes. Use a potato peeler to peel the potatoes and then cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Add the potatoes to a large stock pot and then cover with cold water. Bring the pot to a rolling boil and season with salt. Boil the potatoes until they are fork-tender, about 20 minutes.
Drain the potatoes. Transfer the potatoes to a colander and let them dry out for a few minutes. One of the keys to creamy mashed potatoes is to make sure the potatoes don’t have any excess moisture from water. You want the cream and pesto to be the only sources of moisture.
Make the mashed potatoes
Rice the potatoes. This is the single most important step in achieving the smoothest mashed potatoes. Once the potatoes are dry, add the potatoes a little bit at a time to a ricer. We use this one. Push the potatoes through the ricer and back into the (dry) pot you cooked them in. Continue to do this until all of the potatoes are riced.
If you’re not familiar, a ricer is an essential tool in making the creamiest mashed potatoes. The mashed potatoes get pushed through tiny little holes in the bottom of the ricer, so they’re ready to go when you add in the rest of the ingredients. It’s a very inexpensive, small gadget to buy, and I promise, if you love mashed potatoes, you won’t regret the purchase.
Whip the potatoes. Another key to making mashed potatoes is to handle them as little as possible, which is why a ricer is so great. Almost all of the work is done for you. However, I do also like to use a hand mixer to whip up the potatoes a little bit more and add in the remaining ingredients.
Add in the cream, salt, and 1/2 of the pesto. Use a hand mixer to whip the potatoes JUST until everything is incorporated, then stop.
Finish them off
Check for seasoning. Seasoning to taste is also a very important step in pesto mashed potatoes. Because mashed potatoes themselves have zero seasoning, you really need to use a heavy hand with the salt. Take a taste and see if you need any more salt to suit your palate. Remember, you are also going to fold in more pesto, which will add a touch more salt to the pesto mashed potatoes.
Fold in the pesto. The last step is to fold in the rest of the pesto. You want to see ribbons of pesto throughout, so only fold in the pesto until you see that. Otherwise, you’ll just have green potatoes, which will taste delicious, but they won’t be as pretty.
Can I make Pesto Mashed Potatoes in advance?
Yes. However, I would leave out the last bit of pesto to swirl in just before serving. The reason pesto mashed potatoes are so beautiful is because only a portion of the pesto is throughouly mixed into the mashed potatoes. The rest of the pesto is swirled throughout the mashed potatoes just before, making them irresistibly beautiful.
Make the pesto potatoes up until you swirl the pesto in. Cool and store in an airtight container or in the pot you made the potatoes in (with a lid). When you’re ready to serve, gently re-heat the potatoes over a medium-low heat, stir every minute or so until they are hot. Fold in the pesto as instructed.
What if I don’t have a ricer?
Even though I HIGHLY recommend getting a ricer, if you don’t have one, you can also use a good ol’ potato masher. Just make sure you don’t over-mash the potatoes. And be aware, you won’t get that silky-smooth texture you would with a ricer.
Substitutions and Tips and Tricks for Recipe Success
- While I don’t recommend swapping out the heavy cream, if you really want to, you can use whole milk instead.
- A little bit of sour cream would add a great hint of tanginess to the potatoes and would compliment the pesto wonderfully.
- If you want a little bit of a garlic mashed potato flair, add in a few teaspoons of garlic powder.
- Go even further with the garlic mashed potato idea and buy roasted garlic in the olive section and the grocery store. Send it through a garlic press and add it to the potatoes with the first round of pesto and heavy cream.
What to serve with Pesto Mashed Potatoes
- Pesto potatoes would be PERFECT nestled under this Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken.
- They would also make a great side to our favorite 5-Ingredient Chicken Piccata. Because the pesto only has three ingredients, you’re looking at a total of eight ingredients for a complete meal. Pair it with our Everyday Kale and Brussels sprout salad for an extra dose of green.
- Another great 5-ingredient meal to pair pesto mashed potatoes with is this Faux Roasted Chicken. Instead of roasting a whole bird, we use breasts and thighs to cut the cooking time in half.
Pesto Mashed Potatoes
- 2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 7 oz basil pesto
- stock pot
- Hand mixer
- Add potatoes to a large pot. Fill with cold water. Make sure the water covers the potatoes completely. Season with salt. Bring the potatoes to a rolling boil. Continue to boil until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 18-20 minutes.
- Drain potatoes in a colander. Let them dry for a few minutes. While the potatoes are still hot, and working in batches, pass the potatoes through a ricer and back into the pot you cooked the potatoes in.
- Once all the potatoes are riced, add the heavy cream, salt, and half of the pesto. Use a hand mixer to mix the potatoes just until they are whipped and all the ingredients are incorporated. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
- Just before serving, while the potatoes are hot. Fold in the rest of the pesto so there are ribbons of pesto throughout the potatoes.
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