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How to Make Instant Mashed Potatoes Taste Better

Instant mashed potatoes are so easy and convenient. You don't need any special tools, and there's no peeling potatoes! Even better, they don't have to taste like they came from a box if you follow these methods for how to make instant mashed potatoes better. 

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Mashed Potatoes with Butter on a Wooden Tablepamela_d_mcadams/Getty Images

Use Good Butter

The easiest way to make instant mashed potatoes better is to top them with some good fat. Butter, of course, is the first choice for mashed potatoes. Just make sure to choose one of the best butter brands (you can’t go wrong with a rich Irish butter—here’s more on the different types of butter). You can also drizzle a few splashes of extra-virgin olive oil on the potatoes if you don’t want to go the butter route.

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mashed potaoes with fresh herbsOksana Ermak/Getty Images

Mix in a Handful of Herbs

Fresh or dried herbs give instant mashed potatoes a flavor boost. Reach for chives if you want to add a slightly oniony taste, or try parsley for freshness. Dill, thyme or herbs de Provence all work, too. You could even make a homemade herb butter to dollop on the potatoes before serving, or simply sprinkle on something like chopped tarragon or rosemary, which looks great and adds a nice herby layer.

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Freshly chopped garlic next to knifeTeQui0/Getty Images

Chop Some Garlic

Garlic instant potatoes make a super simple and dreamy side dish. Give those instant potato flakes a boost with fresh garlic, garlic powder or the jarred stuff—it all works. Don’t forget the butter!

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Small Crock of Cheddar, Chive Mashed PotatoesPam Susemiehl/Getty Images

Make Your Mashed Potatoes Cheesy

Cheese makes everything better, right? Mix in shredded cheddar or Parmesan cheese for an easy way to make instant mashed potatoes better, or go beyond the basics with blue cheese, Manchego, Gruyere, goat cheese or even cream cheese. They all bring something delicious to the table and add a new spin on basic boxed potatoes.

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Still Life With Spicesoksix/Getty Images

Sprinkle in Spices and Gourmet Salts

Fancy salts or other spices add a bit of depth to instant potatoes. Instead of kosher or table salt, try pink Himalayan or any of these other types of salt. Want to make it more gourmet? Use truffle or smoked salt. Spice options run the gamut, too: A few dashes of chile powder, onion powder, turmeric, paprika or wasabi can all turn humdrum instant potatoes into a “wow” side dish.

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Mashed Potato with GravyJoeGough/Getty Images

Pour on Homemade Gravy

Mashed potatoes and gravy are a match made in heaven. If you have homemade gravy kicking around the fridge or freezer, this is the time to use it. It will help mask that from-the-box flavor of instant mashed potatoes. Here’s a great make-ahead gravy to keep on hand for any occasion. Only have time to use jarred gravy? You can easily jazz up gravy, too.

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mashed potatoes with brothIhor Bulyhin/Getty Images

Substitute Broth for the Water

Potato flakes are generally reconstituted with water, but broth is so much better. Chicken broth won’t make the instant potatoes taste chicken-y, but it will add more oomph. Want to keep it vegetarian? Use vegetable broth instead.

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High angle view of food in bowl on tablesan isra/Getty Images

Add Heft with Dairy

Heavy cream can make instant mashed potatoes taste indulgent. Half and half or even regular milk (whole is better than skim, but 2% will do) adds extra creaminess. To give your mashed potatoes a light tanginess, go with buttermilk or sour cream. If you don’t want to go all in, try half water and half dairy.

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mashed potato with beef sauce, food closeupOlha_Afanasieva/Getty Images

Make Meaty Mashed Potatoes

Throw in some cooked bacon, pancetta or diced ham. Not only will the meat add flavor to the instant mashed potatoes, but now it’s practically a meal! Combine with other ingredients to really show off. We like bacon and cheddar cheese, ham and fresh thyme, or olive oil mashed potatoes with pancetta.

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Shepherd's Pierudisill/Getty Images

Take Inspiration from Your Favorite Mashed Potato Recipe

Just because you’re using a box doesn’t mean you can’t recreate the best mashed potato recipes. Add any combination of the above, or use your favorite savory flavors to make your instant mashed potatoes so much better. Have an extra box of instant mashed boxes on hand? Use them up in these recipes with potato flakes.

Lesley Balla
As an associate editor at Taste of Home, Lesley helps track food and cooking trends, and writes and updates digital content. When not at her desk, you'll find her whipping up something with finds from the farmers market, discovering new restaurants, or hiking and roadtripping with her husband and pup Pucci.