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?
If you think a potato is just a potato, think again.
The International Potato Center, the frontrunner in tuber research since 1971, has a page on their website dedicated to “Potato Facts and Figures.”
According to the page, there are over 4,000 different types of native potatoes and a staggering 180 varieties of wild potatoes in existence. Can you imagine trying to pile all of these spuds on a single plate?
When it comes to cooking soups and stews, choosing the right potatoes can be the difference between a meal that gets left over and one that doesn’t have enough seconds for everybody.
But with so many potato varieties out there, how do you know which type to choose?
The Three Types of Potatoes
Potatoes can be grouped into three main categories:
- All-purpose potatoes are good enough for most uses, but not outstanding for any.
- Starchy potatoes are dry and starchy, and tend to fall apart and dissolve in the water when boiled.
- Waxy potatoes are moist and firm, and hold their shape even with prolonged boiling.
In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of each potato type in detail, so you can make an informed decision for tonight’s dinner.
Why the Type of Potato Makes a Difference
Let’s be real, when it comes to buying potatoes at the supermarket, most of us are guilty of just grabbing whatever bag looks good and throwing it in the cart.
Typically, we’re on the hunt for potatoes that are yellow, red, or purple, and don’t have any obvious defects like softness, liquid oozing, or a funky smell.
But now that you’ve read this guide, you know better!
You know that choosing the right type of potato can make all the difference in the texture and flavor of your meal.
Whether you want a creamy and buttery taste, a sweet and nutty flavor, or a firmer texture, there’s a potato variety out there for you.
Let’s go over the three types of potatoes — all-purpose potatoes, starchy potatoes, and waxy potatoes — in greater detail.
All-Purpose Potatoes: The Workhorse Potato
If you’re looking for a versatile potato that can handle most cooking methods and recipes, all-purpose potatoes are the way to go.
All-purpose potatoes are widely available in grocery stores and, compared to other varities, are inexpensive. They can be boiled, baked, roasted, mashed, and more, making them a great choice for soups and stews.
While all-purpose potatoes may not have the distinct flavor or texture of other potato types, they are a reliable and easy option that won’t let you down in the kitchen. If you’re short on time and need a potato that will work in a pinch, all-purpose potatoes are the way to go.
Starchy Potatoes: Great for Adding Thickness
If you’re looking to add body and thickness to your soup or stew, starchy potatoes are a great option.
These potatoes are high in starch and low in moisture, giving them a fluffy and mealy texture. When cooked, they tend to break apart and dissolve into the cooking water, creating a thick and hearty base for your dish.
Starchy potatoes are not recommended for dishes that require the potatoes to hold their shape, such as potato salad or roasted potatoes. However, they are perfect for creamy soups, mashed potatoes, and other dishes where you want a thick and velvety texture.
Waxy Potatoes: The Spuds That Stay Chunky
If you’re looking for a potato that will hold its shape during cooking and give your soup or stew some texture, waxy potatoes are the way to go.
These potatoes are low in starch and high in moisture, giving them a buttery and creamy texture. Unlike starchy potatoes, waxy potatoes hold their shape very well during cooking, making them a great choice for dishes that require chunks of potato.
Waxy potatoes are not ideal for dishes that require a smooth texture, such as mashed potatoes or creamy soups. However, they work well in dishes like potato salad, roasted potatoes, and stews where you want the potatoes to hold their shape and add some texture to the dish.
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.
Best Potatoes for Soups & Stews
Yukon Gold Potatoes
Type: All-purpose potato
Recipe to try: Potato soup at 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.
Type: All-purpose potato
Recipe to try: Creamy Potato Soup at 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 Potatoes
Type: All-purpose potato
Recipe to try: Purple Potato Soup at 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 Fingerling Potatoes
Type: Floury potato
Recipe to try: Fingerling and Sausage Soup at 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 Potatoes
Type: Floury potato
Recipe to try: Sweet potato beef stew at 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 Potatoes
Type: Waxy potato
Recipe to try: Beef stew with potatoes and carrots at 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
If you want to ensure that you’re getting the best quality potatoes for your next meal, it’s important to know how to select them at the supermarket.
While nets of potatoes are convenient, they also mean that someone else has already chosen the spuds for you. Whenever possible, opt for potatoes that are sold in bins so that you can choose them yourself.
When selecting potatoes, look for those that are firm and heavy for their weight. Avoid potatoes that are green, as this means they’ve been exposed to too much sunlight and may have a bitter taste. Sprouted potatoes are also a no-go, as they’re past their prime and won’t have the best flavor.
Be sure to inspect the potatoes for any black spots, which can be a sign that they’ve been mishandled and bruised. Unfortunately, these spots are often only visible on potatoes with lighter skins.
How to Prepare Potatoes for Boiling And Stewing
If you’re planning to boil or stew potatoes, it’s important to properly prepare them first to ensure the best texture and flavor.
Start by washing the potatoes under cold running water immediately before cooking them. If the potatoes are covered in dirt or clay, use a vegetable brush to scrub it off thoroughly. This step is important to prevent any grit or sand from ending up in your soup or stew.
For chunky soup, it’s best to use waxy potatoes. Peel and cut them into thick cubes so that they keep their shape while cooking quickly and evenly. If you’re making a creamy soup, on the other hand, you should use starchy potatoes and dice them into small cubes to help them dissolve in the water.
When it comes to making a hearty beef stew, whether or not to peel the potatoes is a matter of personal preference, as the skins will soften during cooking. Cut the potatoes into coarse pieces, like thirds, quarters, or fifths depending on their size, to ensure they cook evenly with the other ingredients.
The best potato varieties for soups and stews are Yukon golds, white potatoes, her Purple Majesty, fingerling potatoes , and jewel yams.
For best results, match your choice of potato to your goals for the dish. Starchy potatoes fall apart and add thickness, while waxy potatoes hold their shape and stay firm. All-purpose potatoes are somewhere in the middle.