The Best Potatoes for Soups and Stews

Published Categorized as Food
The Best Potatoes for Soups and StewsBrent Hofacker /Depositphotos

There are many varieties of potatoes in the supermarket, and some are more suited for boiling than others. Which are best for soups and stews?

A page titled Potato Facts and Figures on the website of the International Potato Center (yes, there is such a thing, and it has been a leader in tuber research since 1971) states that there are more than 4,000 varieties of native potatoes and 180 varieties of wild potatoes out there.

Try putting all of these on a plate!

When it comes to cooking, though, all potatoes can be divided into just three categories: All-purpose potatoes, floury potatoes, and waxy potatoes. So let’s talk about what these categories of potatoes are—and what they have to do with the family dinner you’re cooking tonight.

The Categories of Potatoes (Any Why They Matter)

When most people buy potatoes at the supermarket, they randomly grab whatever net looks good to them and put it in the cart. (Most of the time, “good” means the spuds are yellow, red, or purple, and they don’t ooze liquid or stink bad.)

But you’ve read this guide. And you know better! You know, in fact, that you need to look for a specific category of potato, depending on what you want to accomplish with the mouthfeel of your meal.

  • All-purpose potatoes are exactly as they sound. They’re cheap, sold in every grocery store, and good enough for most cooking methods and recipes. You can’t go wrong with using these in a soup or stew.
  • Floury potatoes are high in starch and low in moisture. They’re fluffy and mealy, and they break apart and dissolve into the cooking water when cooked. Use them for a soup or stew if you want to give it body and thickness.
  • Waxy potatoes are low in starch and high in moisture. They’re buttery and creamy, and they hold their shape very well during cooking. Add them to your soup or stew if you still want chunks of potato in it when you take it off the stove.

Now that you’ve taken Potato Selection 101 and passed it (with flying colors, may I say), see below for our roundup of the best potato varieties for soups and stews.

Which Potatoes Are Best for Soups and Stews?

Yukon Golds

Yukon Gold potatoes

Type: All-purpose potato

Recipe to try: Potato soup (Two Peas and Their Pod)

Picture a potato, and you will most probably think of the Yukon Gold. This all-purpose potato has a thin, smooth skin that peels off easily and a golden-yellow flesh that can be cooked down into the creamiest soups and thickest stews.

White Potatoes

White potato

Type: All-purpose potato

Recipe to try: Creamy Potato Soup (Inspired Taste)

If Goldilocks were to eat potato soup rather than porridge in the House of the Three Bears, she would choose the one made from white potatoes because it would taste “just right.” These all-purpose potatoes are firm, and yet creamy. If you cook them less, they’ll keep their shape. If you cook them longer, they’ll fall apart.

Purple Majesty

Purple Majesty potatoes

Type: All-purpose potato

Recipe to try: Purple Potato Soup (Better Homes & Gardens)

Her Majesty, the Purple Majesty, has a wine-colored skin and firm flesh that retains its color and holds its shape when cooked, even for long periods of time. If you’re making beef Burgundy, Hungarian goulash, or any other stew with red wine sauce, add them to the pot and they’ll turn out delicious.

French Fingerlings

Fingerling potatoes

Type: Floury potato

Recipe to try: Fingerling and Sausage Soup (Cooking on the Ranch)

These long and stubby potatoes have a lot of starch and can be cooked down into the fluffiest and creaminess of soups or stews. Since they’re a floury potato variety, they break down and disappear into the cooking water, so use them accordingly. You can even pair them with a waxy potato if you still want bits and pieces in your soup.

Jewel Yam

Jewel Yam potatoes

Type: Floury potato

Recipe to try: Sweet potato beef stew (Damn Delicious)

Don’t let the name fool you: The Jewel Yam is actually a sweet potato, not a yam! It’s the most common variety of sweet potatoes on the market, and it makes for a wonderfully sweet and hearty fall soup with carrots, pumpkin, and a generous spoonful of butter.

Red Bliss

Type: Waxy potato

Recipe to try: Beef stew with potatoes and carrots (Epicurious)

If you like a soup or stew where the potatoes stay intact and don’t cook down into the liquid, use Red Bliss potatoes. These waxy potatoes have a red skin that peels without hassle and firm flesh that makes for chunky—but not necessarily creamy—potato dishes.

How to Select Potatoes at the Supermarket

Nets are convenient, but somebody else has already chosen the spuds for you. Whenever you have the option, reach for potatoes sold in bins so you can choose them yourself.

When you buy potatoes in the supermarket, select those that are firm and heavy for their weight, without being green, which means they’ve had too much sunlight and taste bitter, or sprouted, which means they’re past their prime.

Black spots, which unfortunately can only be seen on potatoes with lighter skins, are a sign that the potatoes have been mishandled and bruised.

How to Prep the Potatoes for Boiling or Stewing

Wash potatoes under cold running water immediately before cooking them. If they’re dirty or covered with stubborn clay dirt, scrub the dirt off with a vegetable brush. Take your time and do it well; a sandy potato soup is a soup that doesn’t get eaten.

If you’re making a soup, peel the potatoes and cut them into thick cubes so they keep their shape but also cook quickly and evenly. If you’re preparing a stew, it’s a matter of preference whether you peel the potatoes or not, because the skins will soften by the time the stew is ready. Cut the potatoes into coarse pieces, like thirds, quarters, or fifths depending on their size.

Remember: Floury potatoes will break apart and dissolve in the cooking water, waxy potatoes will hold their shape when cooked, and all-purpose potatoes lie in the middle. You can mix and match by adding floury potatoes for body and waxy potatoes for mouthfeel.

The Bottom Line

The best potato varieties for soups and stews are Yukon Golds, white potatoes, the Purple Majesty, French Fingerlings, and Jewel Yams. For best results, match your choice of potato to your goals for the dish. Floury varieties fall apart and add thickness, waxy varieties retain their shape and stay firm, and all-purpose potatoes are right in the middle.

By Jim Stonos

When Jim isn't in the kitchen, he is usually spending time with family and friends, and working with the HCW editorial team to answer the questions he used to ask himself back when he was learning the ropes of cooking.

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