The holidays are approaching quickly and that means we need to start grabbing recipes to bring to family dinners. My favorite part about any meal are the potatoes — I don't even care what kind of potatoes or how they are cooked. But I think we all know that mashed potatoes are the actual essential for Thanksgiving dinner.

Nothing puts a damper on the holiday mood like bad mashed potatoes. Family gatherings can be rough, so at least let us have the mashed potatoes be perfect (and maybe a few leftovers after everyone leaves).  

Here's are a few ways to make your mashed potatoes perfect.

1. Cheese... 

...And I mean any kind of cheese. Cream cheese is going to make your potatoes creamier than shredded cheese. But, picking your favorite cheese will add tons of flavor and still make your mashed potatoes creamy. (My favorite cheese to use is pepper jack.)

2. Cream

Just like cheese, using a few different types of cream will help make your potatoes creamier and fluffier. Most people use half-and-half or heavy whipping cream. The fat content in these creams, which are higher than milk, will make your mashed potatoes thicker.

3. Milk

cream, dairy product, milk, mashed potatoes, ravioli, dumpling, dairy, sweet
Helena Lin

If you don't want the added fat with your mashed potatoes, you can still use regular milk — just don't go overboard. Pour a little into your potatoes when you start mashing. You want just enough to make them smooth but not too much to make them watery.

4. Make it vegan

mashed potatoes
Megan Tang
In case you're the vegan in the family — or if someone else in your family — you can still enjoy creamy mashed potatoes.  The holiday season can be rough for some vegans when it comes to meal time. This recipe is simple because it just uses vegan butter and no liquids.

5 PART ONE: Baking soda

milk, cream, dairy product, mashed potatoes, butter, dairy
Caitlin Shoemaker

I know what you're thinking, you don't want to put baking soda in your beloved mashed potatoes. I get it, but you'll be amazed at what happens when you do. When you bake with baking soda so that your cake rises, right? So, if you use just a dash of baking soda and add buttermilk, instead of regular milk, your potatoes will be fluffier than ever. And again, don't go overboard.

PART TWO: Vegan baking soda trick

In the mashed potato hack above, the buttermilk cancels the possibility for vegans to enjoy the fluffy potatoes. But, you can easily turn that recipe into a vegan-friendly one. Since acid is needed to complete the reaction and produce air, swap out the buttermilk for a spritz of lemon, it'll be enough acid to make your mashed taters fluffy. 

6. Hand mashing

This is my personal favorite trick! When using a mixer to mash your potatoes it's easy to overdo the mash and end up with "potato paste." (I have been guilty of making "potato paste" in the past... lesson learned.)

For those that don't know what I mean by this, it's when you completely over mash/beat the potatoes and burst all the cells in the starchy vegetable. This creates a sticky mess that is not enjoyable for anyone. Hand mashing allows for you to feel the potatoes better and you can add a little more milk if needed to mix them.

7. Double cooking your potatoes

vegetable, potato
Helena Lin

Another one of my favorite ways to make mashed potatoes is when I boil the potatoes and mash them as usual, then put them in a Crock Pot or slow cooker. Normally, I add some other things, such as bacon, cheese, scallions, and whatever else I'm feeling at the time. 

8. Cook them in the microwave

Liam Kennison

Cooking potatoes in the microwave cuts down on precious time and stove top space during the holiday meal prep. The potatoes can bake in the microwave for a few minutes until they are done. And, if you don't want the skins in your mashed potatoes, they're easier to peel after cooked.  

When they potatoes are done, you can proceed with your favorite mashed potato method. The potatoes will be creamier because they have not been boiled in water, therefore, they didn't take on the extra water during cooking.

9. The type of potato matters more than you think

Every potato has a purpose. Some are better for frying, some are better for baking, and some are better for mashing. The top two potatoes best for making mashed potatoes are Russets and Yukon Golds. These potatoes are higher in starch and they absorb flavor more easily. The higher starch content will make your mashed potatoes creamier and fluffier.  

Waxy potatoes (such as Red Skins) will require more mashing to get perfect creaminess, which could lead the "potato paste."

Take these mashed potato hacks and impress your family this Thanksgiving and Christmas. You will be amazed how a little switch of ingredients can create the most wonderful mashed potatoes. Happy holidays!