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Food & Recipes

Chef Reveals the $1 Swap That Makes Mashed Potatoes Extra-Rich and Creamy

Plus, the easy step that keeps spuds from turning pasty


It doesn’t get better than a pile of mashed potatoes to go along with succulent turkey or meaty roast beef. And if you’ve been searching for the secret to a perfectly creamy mash, check your pantry and see if you’ve got a can of evaporated milk on hand. This type of milk is more concentrated than whole milk, which creates a fluffier mash when combined with the spuds. And while the results taste rich, the upgrade is actually super-cheap as a 5 oz. can of evaporated milk only costs about $1. Keep reading for chef’s tips on how you can use evaporated milk in mashed potatoes to make them more delicious than ever!

The basics of mashed potatoes

Mashed potatoes at their core are just boiled, tender spuds that are mashed with butter, milk or heavy cream and seasonings. With this in mind, there’s a lot of room for ingredient swaps that make the mash even tastier. One substitution worth trying is evaporated milk for dairy as it enhances the mash’s flavor and texture.

How evaporated milk helps create tasty mashed potatoes

Evaporated milk is made by heating dairy milk to the point where 60% of its water content is removed. This process creates a more concentrated milk with a subtle sweetness and thick texture that works well in sweet or savory dishes. In fact, Southern chefs have boasted about this “secret ingredient” in mashed potatoes for generations now. According to Christy Jordan, author of Southern Plate (Buy on Amazon, $20.88), evaporated milk became a popular choice in those hotter climates because it wouldn’t spoil as quickly as regular milk or cream.

It’s also super budget-friendly to buy a popular brand like Carnation (Buy at Walmart, $1.07) and use it to enrich your mash. “Pretty much any time you are making a recipe that calls for milk, substituting evaporated milk will make it just a little bit richer and, like most things in life, richer is better,” Jordan says. It’s hard to argue with her there, and our test kitchen reveals the substitution tip that produces velvety evaporated milk mashed potatoes. (Click through to learn how to make 1-ingredient evaporated milk in a pinch.)

The amount of evaporated milk you should use

When making the mash, Woman’s World Food Director Julie Miltenberger says to swap the full amount of regular milk or heavy cream in the recipe for evaporated milk. This way, the potatoes achieve the desired level of creaminess with an added luscious flavor. Another trick for achieving an extra-smooth mash? Melt the butter and mash it in the potatoes before adding milk. The reason: The butter’s fat coats the starch and prevents the spuds from getting pasty, which can happen if you add the milk first. This results in a perfectly fluffy, lump-free mash that will steal the show at the dinner table!

2 creamy and fluffy mashed potato recipes

Once your pantry is stocked with evaporated milk, try these two mashed potato recipes from our test kitchen. One recipe uses standard Yukon Gold potatoes, while the other calls for sweet potatoes. However, both are equally delicious and showcase the versatility of evaporated milk — whether you’re making a sweet or savory mash! (To take this simple side to the next level, here’s how to make a mashed potato bar for a crowd.)

Smashed Garlic Potatoes

Smashed Garlic Potatoes

This extra-creamy side can be made up to two days ahead and reheated just before serving.


  • 2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes 
  • ¾ cup evaporated milk
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • ¼ cup minced scallion
  • Chive sprigs (optional)


  • Active: 15 mins
  • Total time: 50 mins
  • Yield: 6 servings
  1. In pot, combine potatoes with enough salted water to cover. Over high heat, bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium. Cook until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain and return to pot.
  2. Roughly mash potatoes. Add butter and mash again before finishing with evaporated milk, garlic powder and scallion. Sprinkle with ¼ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. pepper. Transfer to serving bowl. If desired, garnish with chives.

Slow-Cooker Sweet Potato Mash

Sweet potato mash served in a bowl

You’ll never go back to stovetop spuds — our clever technique means this side cooks up fuss-free.


  • 3 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 4 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ cup packed light brown sugar 
  • ¼ cup evaporated milk
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ⅓ cup glazed pecans, chopped


  • Active: 20 mins
  • Total time: 4½ hrs
  • Yield: 6 servings
  1. Coat 4-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Cut potatoes into 1-inch pieces.
  2. Place potatoes in bottom of slow cooker; add 1 cup water. Cover; cook on high until tender, 4 hours. Drain.
  3. Return to slow cooker; mash. Stir in butter until combined, then brown sugar, evaporated milk, cinnamon and ½ tsp. salt.
  4. Transfer to serving bowl. Top with glazed pecans.

For more delicious potato recipes, check out the stories below:

This Simple Hack Makes the Crispiest Pan-fried Potatoes You’ve Ever Tasted

11 Baked Sweet Potato Recipes That Will Light Up Your Fall With Nutritious Flavor

This 10-Second Hack Will Make Your Baked Potatoes Crispier and Even More Delicious

Click through for more Thanksgiving tips, recipes and other stories.

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