A classic baked potato may be one of the world’s most perfect side dishes: easy, affordable, hearty, and versatile. Add the works—like butter, chives, sour cream, bacon bits, or other favorite toppings—and you can make a full meal of a baked potato all on its own.
Here’s everything you need to know about the best potatoes for baking and why the variety even matters.
What’s the Best Potato for Baking?
The ideal potato for baking is low in moisture with a high starch content. These qualities allow a potato to bake up with a delightfully fluffy center and crispy skin.
Because it has all of these features, Russet potatoes are the ideal potato for baking and the most commonly used choice.
Can I Use Any Potatoes for Baking?
While Russet potatoes are the best potatoes for baking, there’s no rule requiring you to use this type. Other potatoes that are low in moisture or high in starch, such as Idaho potatoes, are also good for baking and often used. (These types of potatoes are also ideal for frying for the same properties.)
If you use potatoes with a waxier skin, such as red-skinned potatoes or Yukon Golds, you’ll get a buttery, rich flavor. But don’t expect fluffy results after baking despite a high starch content; these will be denser and cut cleanly with a knife.
And of course baked sweet potatoes are a great alternative to the traditional white spuds. When selecting sweet potatoes to bake, look for ones that are similar in size and shape. Smaller ones may cook and shrivel up before the larger ones are tender.
What Is the Most Popular Potato?
Not just the most popular potatoes for baking, Russet potatoes are also the most preferred potato in the United States overall.
Which Potatoes Are Best for What?
Baking: Opt for Russets when it’s a baked potato you crave.
Mashing: High-starch, low-moisture potatoes like Russet and Idaho are best not just for baking but also for mashing. Idaho potatoes are most commonly used for French fries.
Smashing: Although baking waxier-skinned potatoes won’t result in a fluffy center, these types are ideal for use in recipes that require potatoes to hold their shape, like these Smashed Potatoes.
Roasting: Reach for Yukon Gold potatoes if roasted pieces of potato are what you’re craving. These waxy, starchy potatoes turn tender while the crust becomes delicately crisp. They also reheat well without drying out.
Potato Salad: We like thin-skinned red potatoes or yellow potatoes for potato salad because they are waxy and toothsome. They stand up to stirring, where Russets break down fairly quickly.
For inspiration, check out our roundup of 60 potato recipes to take you from breakfast to dinner.