Red Potatoes 101 – The Basics
About Red Potatoes
Botanically, red potatoes are classified as Solanum tuberosum. This is a broad category of plants including many different varieties belonging to the Solanaceae, or nightshade family. Tomatoes, eggplant, and bell peppers are among the plants that fall within this category. Red potatoes are sometimes called “new potatoes.” However, that term only refers to those potatoes that are harvested early and are small in size. That may or may not apply to red potatoes.
Red potatoes are small to medium in size, with a round or oval shape. The smooth skin is thin with a ruby to deep red color, with some light brown speckles, spots, and indentations. The flesh of red potatoes is crisp, white, and firm. Also, the flesh is lower in starch and has a higher moisture content than other potatoes. When cooked, these properties give red potatoes a waxy, dense texture with a mild flavor.
Red potatoes were first cultivated in the mountains of Peru. Spanish explorers took potatoes home with them and introduced them to Europe in the 1560s. The potatoes became popular and were carried across Europe, and eventually to the United States. Today, red potatoes are available year-round in most markets in South America, the United States, and in Europe.
Nutrition and Health Benefits
Like other potatoes, red potatoes have nutritional value beyond what we would imagine. A baked red potato is high in Vitamin C, potassium, Vitamin B6, fiber, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese, Vitamin B1, niacin, pantothenic acid, folate, calcium, and it even has some protein. For the most nutritional value, bake red potatoes with the skin on. Then, of course, eat the skin along with the flesh of the potato.
When comparing the nutritional aspects of 100 grams of fresh banana with 100 grams of baked red potato, the red potato surpasses the banana in potassium. That’s an interesting fact we don’t often hear about when looking for food sources of potassium!
As a “white” food, potatoes are often included with white bread and pasta and are “off the list” when people are trying to eat healthier. However, potatoes are filled with nutrients (as listed above) that promote health and wellness. Red potatoes are especially healthy to eat since we are more likely to eat their skins, which are full of fiber, B vitamins, iron and potassium.
The red color of the skin of red potatoes is due to the presence of anthocyanin pigments. Anthocyanins are strong antioxidants with many important health benefits. Red potatoes are also high in quercetin, a flavonoid with very strong anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.
Antioxidants. Free radicals are produced in the body through normal metabolism and also through other factors like smoking. Free radicals attack healthy cells making them more prone to disease. Antioxidants help to protect cells against free radicals by stopping their destructive chain reactions. Red potatoes are high in antioxidants, such as Vitamin C and anthocyanins found in the red skin. Eating red potatoes on a routine basis can help to ward off serious diseases such as atherosclerosis, heart disease, cancer, and vision loss, among others. Furthermore, researchers have found that antioxidants function optimally when consumed packaged naturally in foods rather than when taken in supplement form. This is because they tend to work best in combination with other nutrients, plant chemicals, and even other antioxidants, as found in whole foods.
Lower Blood Pressure. Consider eating more red potatoes if you need to lower your blood pressure. One medium baked red potato supplies 943 milligrams of potassium. Potassium reduces the effects of sodium and may help to lower blood pressure, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Most Americans don’t meet the recommended 4,700 milligrams a day of potassium, so red potatoes can help meet that need. As stated earlier, when comparing gram per gram, baked red potatoes have more potassium than bananas.
Iron Absorption. It is well established that Vitamin C in a meal helps the body to absorb more iron from the foods in that meal. Since red potatoes contain both Vitamin C and iron, eating them can help to increase your iron status, helping to build the blood and ward off iron deficiency.
Heart Health. The fiber (in the skin), potassium, Vitamins C and B6, coupled with the lack of cholesterol in red potatoes all support heart health. Researchers in the NHANES study found that a higher intake of potassium along with a lower sodium intake reduced the risk of all-cause mortality along with heart disease. The high level of niacin in red potatoes helps to lower LDL (low-density-lipoprotein) cholesterol, the type of cholesterol we need to keep down to help prevent heart disease. Niacin also helps to support healthy skin and nerves. That’s all the more reason to enjoy red potatoes.
Brain and Nervous System Health. Vitamin B6 is important for maintaining our neurological health. It is used in creating chemicals in the brain including serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. This means that eating potatoes may help with the management of depression, stress, and possibly attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Also, the ample carbohydrates in potatoes can help to maintain healthy levels of glucose in the blood. Glucose is the brain’s preferred food and is important for proper brain functioning. A 1995 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that modest increases in glucose can help to enhance learning and memory. The high potassium in potatoes helps ensure your brain gets enough blood, since it promotes the relaxation (widening) of blood vessels.
Immunity. All potatoes are high in Vitamin C, which is well-known for supporting a healthy immune system. One medium baked potato provides a substantial amount of this critical vitamin.
How to Select Red Potatoes
Choose potatoes that are firm, smooth, and without sprouts. Avoid those with wrinkled skins, soft dark areas, cuts, bruises or with green areas. Any green areas should be cut away before using potatoes.
How to Store Red Potatoes
Store red potatoes unwashed in a cool, dry, dark place with good ventilation. They should keep well for about two weeks. Do not store potatoes in the refrigerator. The cold temperature causes the starch in potatoes to convert to sugar, which will cause the potato to darken when cooked. Also, do not store potatoes near onions. Both vegetables release gases that can cause the other to age and decay faster than they normally would.
How to Prepare Red Potatoes
Gently scrub red potatoes under cool water with a vegetable brush. The skin of red potatoes is very thin, so it’s good to leave the skin on the potato, if possible, when preparing, cooking, and handling them. If needed, the skin can be removed with a vegetable peeler or paring knife.
Red potatoes may be cooked in many ways, but are especially delicious when cooked with moist heat. They may be boiled, steamed, sautéed, grilled, and roasted. They are excellent in potato salad since they hold their shape well when cooked. They can be added to soups, stews, casseroles, gratins, and salads. They can also be made into potato hash, scalloped potatoes, and mashed potatoes.
How to Preserve Red Potatoes
Like other potatoes, red potatoes can be preserved either through freezing or dehydrating. It is not a difficult process, but does take some time and effort. There is a growing trend to freeze vegetables without first blanching them. This should not be done with potatoes because they will turn dark in the process. This is very undesirable and will lead to results you won’t be happy with. So, if you have an overabundance of red potatoes, allow enough time to prepare them properly and in the long run, you’ll be glad you did!
Freezing Red Potatoes. Wash, peel the potatoes, then dice or slice them, as desired, or leave them whole. As you are preparing your potatoes, place them in a bowl of water to keep them from turning dark. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Place the prepared potatoes into the boiling water and immediately set the timer for 3 minutes (for diced or sliced potatoes), or 5 minutes (for small whole potatoes) or 8 minutes (for larger whole red potatoes). The potatoes should be partially, but not completely cooked. When they feel “al dente” or just barely soft enough for a knife to poke through, they are ready. When the time is up, immediately transfer the potatoes to a bowl of ice water. Allow the potatoes to cool for about the amount of time they were in the hot water. Drain them well and spread them out on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Place them in the freezer until frozen, then transfer the frozen potatoes to a freezer container or bag. For best quality, use them within 1 year.
Dehydrating Sliced Red Potatoes. Dehydrating potatoes is not hard, but of course, does take some preparation and time. Wash and peel the potatoes. Slice them into 1/8 to ¼ inch thick slices. Place them in a bowl of water to keep them from turning dark. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Place the potatoes in the boiling water and boil them for about 5 minutes, until they are barely fork-tender. When the time is up, immediately transfer the potatoes to a bowl of ice water. Allow them to cool completely. Drain them well, then arrange them in a single layer on mesh drying trays. Set the dehydrator for 135°F, or the manufacturer’s recommended temperature for drying vegetables. Allow them to process until they feel dry, are crisp, and have no sign of moisture inside when broken open. This can take anywhere from 10 to 24 hours, depending upon how many potatoes are in the dehydrator, and the dehydrator itself. Once they are dry, allow them to cool, then transfer them to air-tight containers. Their shelf life will be prolonged if an oxygen absorber is placed in the container and as much air as possible removed from the container before storage. Mylar bags or glass mason jars work well for this application. Keep the potatoes in a cool, dry, dark environment. Dehydrated potatoes should keep well for 5 to 10 years.
Dehydrating Cubed Red Potatoes. Prepare potatoes as above (Dehydrating Sliced Red Potatoes), except cut them into ½-inch cubes. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the prepared potatoes and allow them to remain in the boiling water until they are barely fork-tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Immediately transfer them to a bowl of ice water. Allow the potatoes to completely cool, then drain them. Spread them in a single layer on a mesh dehydrator tray. Set the temperature according to the manufacturer’s recommendations (usually 135°F), and allow them to process until they feel dry, are crisp, and have no sign of moisture inside when broken apart. This can take anywhere from 12 to 24 hours, depending upon how many potatoes you are drying and your dehydrator. When they are ready, allow them to cool, then transfer them to air-tight containers. For the longest shelf life, place an oxygen absorber inside the container and remove as much air as possible. Mylar bags or glass mason jars work especially well for preserving dehydrated food. Store your containers in a cool, dry, dark environment. Dehydrated potatoes should keep well for 5 to 10 years.
Dehydrating Potatoes for Hash Browns. Potatoes for hash browns should be washed, then peeled. They can be left in large pieces and cooked about 2/3 of the way, until just barely fork-tender, then cooled and shredded. Or they may be shredded first, blanched in boiling water for 30 seconds, then immediately transferred to a bowl of cold water. Allow them to cool completely. Drain them well to remove excess water. Spread the cooked, cooled, and shredded potatoes on a mesh dehydrator tray, breaking up any large clumps of potatoes. Set the dehydrator for the temperature recommended by the manufacturer (usually 135°F) and allow them to dry until crisp, translucent, and have no moisture inside when broken apart. This may take 3 hours or more, depending on the volume of potatoes and the dehydrator itself. When they are dried, remove them from the dehydrator trays to a shallow dish or baking tray to cool completely. If they are left on the dehydrator trays, they may stick as they cool down. Store them as you would other dehydrated foods, preferably in Mylar bags or glass jars with an oxygen absorber inside. Remove as much as air as possible for the longest shelf life. Store in a cool, dry, dark environment. Potatoes prepared in this way and stored properly can keep well for 5 to 10 years.
To Use Dehydrated Potatoes. For hash browns, soak the dehydrated shredded potatoes in hot water for 15 minutes, drain, and pan fry as usual.
Dried potato slices or cubes, may be added in their dry state to casseroles, soups, or stews. You will need to add extra fluid to recipes when adding them dehydrated. You could also rehydrate them first by placing them in a bowl and covering them with hot water. Allow them to rest for about 30 minutes or more, until they become rehydrated. Drain off any extra water and add them to recipes as needed.
Conversion Rate. As a general rule, dried potatoes will double in size once rehydrated. For example, 1 cup of dried potatoes will yield 2 cups when rehydrated.
Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Red Potatoes
* Red potatoes are high in moisture and low in starch. This combination makes them excellent for roasting, pan frying, and smashing.
* The skin of red potatoes is thin and tender, so they can easily be eaten. Save some time and add color to your dish by using unpeeled red potatoes.
* Red potatoes are an excellent salad potato because they hold their shape well when cooked.
* Try red potatoes in soups, stews, casseroles, and curries, or serve them baked or mashed.
* Red potatoes are excellent when diced and sautéed. Try including them in a breakfast hash.
* Do not store potatoes around onions. Both vegetables release gases that cause the other to age and decay faster than they normally would.
* When baking or roasting red potatoes, cook extras at the same time. Grate them and make hash brown potatoes with them in the next day or two. If that’s not convenient, grate them, then spread them on a tray and freeze them. When frozen, store them in an airtight container in the freezer for easy hash browns later.
Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Red Potatoes
Basil, bay leaf, capers, caraway seeds, cardamom, cayenne, celery seeds, chervil, chicory, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry powder and curry spices, dill, fenugreek, garam masala, garlic, ginger, horseradish, lavender, lovage, marjoram, mint, mustard powder, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, rosemary, saffron, sage, salt, savory, sorrel, tarragon, thyme, turmeric
Foods That Go Well with Red Potatoes
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Bacon, beans (in general), beef, cashews, chickpeas, eggs, green beans, lamb, lentils, meats (in general), peas (including split peas), pine nuts, pork, poultry, sausage, seafood, tahini, walnuts
Vegetables: Arugula, asparagus, bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, celery root, chard, chiles, chives, eggplant, fennel, greens (all types), kale, leeks, mushrooms, okra, onions, parsnips, root vegetables (in general), rutabagas, scallions, shallots, spinach, squash (winter), sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips, watercress
Fruits: Coconut, lemon, olives
Grains and Grain Products: Corn, grains (in general), pasta, quinoa, spelt
Dairy and Non-Dairy: Butter, buttermilk, cheese (esp. cheddar, goat, Gruyère, mozzarella, Parmesan, pecorino, Swiss), coconut cream, cream, crème fraiche, milk (dairy and non-dairy), sour cream, yogurt
Other Foods: Mayonnaise, mustard (prepared), oil (esp. olive), pesto, stock, vinegar, wine (i.e., dry white)
Red potatoes have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Baked goods (i.e., breads, cakes), casseroles, curries, French cuisine, frittatas, gratins, Indian cuisine, omelets, potato cakes/pancakes, quiche, salads (i.e., egg, green salads, potato salads, cold or hot), skordalia, soups and bisques, stews, stuffed baked potatoes/twice-baked potatoes, tortillas
Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Red Potatoes
Add red potatoes to any of the following combinations…
Butternut Squash + Sage
Cauliflower + Leeks
Cheddar Cheese + Chiles + Corn
Chives + Lemon + Olive Oil
Cider Vinegar + Dill + Horseradish + Olive Oil
Cream + Garlic + Thyme
Crème Fraiche + Dill
Dill + Olive Oil + Parsley + Milk of Choice [in mashed potatoes]
Fennel + Garlic + Leeks
Fennel + Lemon + Yogurt
Garlic + Herbs (i.e., oregano, rosemary, sage)
Garlic + Lemon + Mustard
Garlic + Olive Oil
Garlic + Shallots + Tarragon + Vinegar
Herbs (i.e., oregano, rosemary, thyme) + Lemon
Horseradish + Mustard + Scallions + Yogurt
Leeks + Nutmeg + Onions + Parsley
Tonight It’s All Meat and Potatoes https://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/slideshow/can-eat-salad-tomorrow-tonight-meat-potatoes
Five Ingredient Crock Pot Rosemary Lemon Red Potatoes https://www.runninginaskirt.com/crock-pot-rosemary-lemon-red-potatoes/
Southwest Roasted Red Potato https://www.aberdeenskitchen.com/2016/05/southwest-roasted-potato-salad/
Healthy No Mayo Potato Salad https://oursaltykitchen.com/no-mayo-potato-salad-basil-vinaigrette/
Roasted Potato Cups with Loaded Guacamole https://www.shelikesfood.com/roasted-potato-cups-filled-loaded-guacamole-gfv/
Tamarind Chickpea Curry Recipe http://treataweek.blogspot.com/2007/05/tamarind-chickpea-curry-channa-bateta.html
Red Hasselback Potatoes https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/red-hasselback-potatoes-51230610
Warm Garlic Herb Red Potato Salad https://www.potatogoodness.com/recipes/warm-garlic-herb-red-potato-salad/
Ginger Turmeric Mashed Potatoes https://www.potatogoodness.com/recipes/ginger-turmeric-mashed-potatoes/
Air Fryer Garlic Parmesan Potatoes https://www.potatogoodness.com/recipes/air-fryer-garlic-parmesan-potatoes/
Thai Lettuce Cups with Red Curry Potatoes https://www.potatogoodness.com/recipes/thai-lettuce-cups-red-curry-potatoes/
56 Ways to Use Red Potatoes https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/red-potato-recipes/
Green Goddess Vegan Potato Salad https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/green-goddess-vegan-potato-salad/
Roasted Red Potatoes https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/a29787990/roasted-red-potatoes-recipe/
15 Red Potato Recipes https://www.acouplecooks.com/red-potato-recipes/
67 Smashed, Mashed, and Roasted Red Potato Recipes to Transform the Baby Spud https://parade.com/1209630/felicialim/red-potato-recipes/
Garlic Parmesan Roasted Red Potatoes https://breadboozebacon.com/garlic-parmesan-roasted-red-potatoes/
Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia. (1993) So Easy to Preserve. Bulletin 989. Athens, GA: Cooperative Extension Services, The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences/Athens.
MacKenzie, Jennifer, Jay Nutt, and Don Mercer. (2015) The Dehydrator Bible. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Robert Rose, Inc.
Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.