There are eight types of potatoes, and within that, over 100 varieties. If you’re a clueless cook, those numbers can make this vegetable look like quite the intimidating staple.
But because it is a staple, and because it is such a versatile veggie, there’s no reason to avoid it.
In this guide, we’ll go over all seven types of potato, defining characteristics of each, and the best ways to prepare the individual types.
Types of Potatoes
Potatoes are starchy, tuberous vegetables from the nightshade family. They can’t be eaten raw, but luckily, there are tons of ways you can prepare them.
Let’s start with the most familiar type first.
1. Russet Potatoes
These are the medium to large, light brown skinned potatoes that most people use to make baked potatoes and mashed potatoes.
Russet ones have skin that is dry to the touch, and have an earthy smell. If you buy them fresh and unwashed, they are usually caked with dirt.
Which you need to scrub off before you start to prepare them. If they are sprouting, or the inside of the potato is green, dispose of it.
Russet potatoes are great for baking whole, frying in strips to make french fries or potato chips, mashing, or roasting in quarters and wedges.
2. Red Potatoes
Red potatoes are smaller than russets, with smoother, almost waxy skin that is a – as its name suggests – red color, almost like a light or dull burgundy.
Unlike russet potatoes, they do not fluff up as lightly when cooked, remaining firm and making them great for soups or stews.
Red potatoes are usually used in potato salads, but they can also be baked or fried.
If you’re bored of regular country potatoes at breakfast, for example, red potatoes are a good alternative.
Potatoes are great in vegan and vegetarian diets.
3. Yellow Potatoes
Yellow potatoes come in extremely varying sizes, from very small to medium-large.
They are usually round like red potatoes, and have the same kind of waxy skin, only they are a very light, dull yellow, almost the same color as the flesh of most potatoes.
Yellow potatoes are creamier than most, and are best grilled or roasted, though they can be mashed as well.
Potatoes are cheap, making them a great budget food.
4. White Potatoes
White potatoes are a few shades lighter than yellow ones, and don’t come as small, usually. They’re starchier than yellow potatoes, and not as creamy.
Because of the thin, sweet skin of white potatoes, they don’t need to be peeled before a mashing, which is what they’re best for.
Most potato salads use white or red potatoes.
5. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes have a creamy texture and a sweet-spicy flavour that makes them ideal for savoury dishes.
There are two types, one with bright orange flesh, the other with pale cream flesh.
Sweet potatoes are native to the tropical Americas and are sometimes referred to as ‘yams’ in the USA.
These tubers are rich in fibre, vitamins A, C and B6, and an excellent source of carbohydrates. The orange-fleshed variety are also rich in betacarotene.
Sweet potatoes have traditionally been baked, roasted or mashed, but they can also be added to risotto, pasta or curry.
6. Purple Potatoes
Some people think these potatoes are purple. Others think they’re blue. Whatever color you see, these are the darkest potato, and probably the most unusual.
It isn’t often you see purple (or blue) potato chips, or purple mashed potatoes.
For one reason or another, most people tend to avoid these when cooking, simply because they don’t know much about them.
Purple ones are an extremely starchy variety that come in all sizes small to medium, with an almost marbled mix of white, lavender, and purple flesh.
The flesh will lighten when grilled or roasted, which is how they are best prepared. They have an earthy flavor that is nuttier than most other types of potato, and less salty.
7. Petite Potatoes
Petite potatoes are the same variety of red, yellow, white, and purple potatoes, but much smaller! Really small.
They’re great if you want small, easily roasted, bite-size potatoes in a stew or soup, and are best roasted.
8. Fingerling Potatoes
Like petite, fingerlings are the same variety of the potatoes listed above, it’s only their shape that’s different. Unlike petites, though, fingerlings are known for their long, skinny shape.
They can be purchased altogether, as a medley, and are great for adding some visual variety of dishes.