Potatoes: The starchy ingredient that goes with everything. After all, you can’t have a deli sandwich without a bag of chips, a burger without a side of fries or a hearty stew without some potatoes in the mix. Yep, potatoes are a big part of our lives, so it’s a crying shame that we haven’t taken the time to get to know them better. What’s there to know, you ask? Well, it turns out that different varieties of potatoes are pretty distinct in terms of texture (starchy, waxy, moist, floury) and flavor (sweet, vegetal, nutty)—and both factors ultimately affect how best to use your tubers. Here’s a complete guide to the most noteworthy types of potatoes, plus some tips on what to do with them.
From Fingerling to Russet, Here Are 16 Types of Potatoes Worth Knowing
The russet—a large starchy potato with rough, brown skin and white flesh—is the most popular variety in the United States. These guys break down easily, so they’re ideal for baking and mashing alike—just be aware that they can become gluey when overworked.
2. Yukon Gold
These medium to large-sized potatoes have rough skin (albeit not quite as coarse the russet) and a golden-yellow interior that’s savory, pleasantly vegetal and particularly versatile. Use ‘em for mashing, frying, boiling and just about anything else.
3. Japanese Sweet Potato
Nope, they’re not yams: These purple-skinned tubers belong to the potato family and their starchy, white flesh is more subtly sweet than other sweet potato varieties, with a hint of nuttiness that works well with savory dishes of all sorts. They’re also especially delicious when grilled or roasted whole.
4. Red Gold
The golden flesh of these medium-sized potatoes boasts a silky texture and mild, nutty taste. Much like the Yukon Gold, they stand up well to all types of cooking—and one could argue that they look even better on a dinner plate. (Thanks to their red skin, of course).
5. All Blue
As the name suggests, these guys are all blue—not just the skin, but the flesh to boot. Preserve the color of these tubers by baking or steaming them—just be sure to hit them with a generous amount of butter before serving, ‘cause the flesh here is somewhat firmer and drier than other varieties.
Kennebec potatoes are big suckers with tan skin and white flesh. They can withstand boiling and longer cooking times—scenarios in which other more delicate varieties might go to pieces—and their firmer flesh also makes them ideal for grating. (Hash browns, anyone?)
7. French Fingerling
This fingerling variety has a smooth, rose-colored exterior and waxy yellow flesh with hints of pink. The skin of these potatoes is delicate enough that they needn’t be peeled, and most any preparation suits these nutty-tasting gems (but they’re extra dreamy when roasted).
8. Purple Majesty
These gorgeous tubers get their deep purple skin and flesh from the high level of health-boosting antioxidants (anthocyanin and carotenoids) they contain. They’re also prized for their rich flavor when roasted or baked and work well when tossed into potato salads, soups or curries.
9. Russian Banana
A waxy potato with light yellow skin and similarly colored flesh, the Russian Banana is a gourmet fingerling potato with firm flesh that holds its shape and is easy to slice. The rich, nutty flavor of the flesh shines when slow-roasted and tossed into potato salad or drizzled with butter and enjoyed as a stand-alone side.
10. Red Thumb
Yet another fingerling variety, this potato is named for its smooth red skin and flesh (and its shape, of course). The red thumb is slightly sweeter than its yellow cousin, the Russian Banana, and takes kindly to roasting.
11. German Butterball
These medium- to large-sized tubers are a golden heirloom variety with rich, moist and exceptionally tender flesh—an ideal all-purpose potato that stands up well to deep-frying and will melt in your mouth when added to a hearty stew.
12. La Ratte
A favorite among chefs, this thin-skinned fingerling potato boasts a creamy texture and rich, buttery flavor, with toasty notes of hazelnut and chestnut. This sought-after variety is native to Denmark and France—but if you can get your hands on some of these (pricey) potatoes stateside, we suggest you boil and serve them on their own with herb butter or mix them into a lightly-dressed salad.
An ancient potato native to the Andean valleys in South America, the phureja variety (also known as the Mayan potato or papa criolla) is a creamer potato with a superior, mild flavor and smooth texture. Phureja potatoes can be red or light-skinned (both delicious) and have the added benefit of cooking twice as quickly as other popular potatoes.
14. New Potatoes
New potatoes can belong to numerous different varieties, because they’re simply potatoes that have been harvested early in the season. What makes these young spuds so special is that they have paper-thin skins and incredibly moist, waxy flesh—a combination that’s hard to come by in a more mature potato. Enjoy them during the spring and summer in any and every way you can.
15. Jewel Yam
Don’t be fooled by the name, these guys aren’t yams, either: The jewel yam is actually a sweet potato—and also a supermarket staple. This common variety is easy to recognize—rust-colored skin and bright orange flesh—and hard to pass up, since it’s irresistibly sweet and packed with nutrients to boot.
16. Red Bliss
On the outside, these guys look a lot like Red Gold potatoes—but the flesh here is milky white, not golden. Red bliss potatoes are great candidates for boiling, since they’re firm enough to be sliced after and creamy enough to be pureed into a soup. (Note: Roasting and baking works fine, too, but they’re a bit too gummy for mashing.)