Spice up your favorite side dish with a delicious pour of tempered spices in ghee over classic buttery and fluffy mashed potatoes! These Tadka Mashed Potatoes are topped with an Indian twist of tempered aromatics and spices to add a punch of flavor. Serve 'em up as a side dish for a weeknight dinner or add them to your Thanksgiving Day spread!
Potatoes are such a versatile ingredient that absorbs so much flavor. They also make an excellent vessel for layering condiments and sauces! I absolutely love them mixed into sabjis and curries for a hearty dish. That's why I'm obsessed with a good old-fashioned tadka to top a bowl of traditional buttery, fluffy mashed potatoes!
The tadka adds an extra punch of spicy, warm, familiar desi flavors to an already delicious side dish! I love these Tadka Mashed Potatoes as an addition to my Thanksgiving spread or as a side dish for a simple weeknight dinner.
Not to mention, the garlic chips and crispy scallions not only infuse the ghee but also add a crispy element to the otherwise silky smooth texture.
Why this Recipe?
Masala and Chai is a huge fan of fusion recipes! We loved mashed potatoes, we love a burst of flavor from a dang good tadka in our dal. Here are some reasons to try this recipe:
- The Tadka Mashed Potatoes make a great side to any meal! I've enjoyed them alone, as a Thanksgiving side, and as a side to a simple weeknight dinner of honey glazed chicken and roasted carrots.
- I've been told by one of my taste testers that these mashed potatoes reminded them of their mom's tadka dal. Boy, what a compliment that is. The tadka will be familiar for those that grew up in desi homes.
- The tadka is super easy and only takes an additional 5 minutes to prep and temper the spices. You can also comfortably include spices that you favor or omit spices you don't have. It's an extra burst of flavor that will unquestionably compliment potatoes!
What is a Tadka?
There's a few ways of working with Indian spices: using them raw, dry roast and grind into a powder, or tempering in oil.
A tadka is blooming, or tempering, spices in fat like ghee or oil in a very small pan, called a tadka pan. It's also known as chhonk or phodni in various regions of India, but is commonly known as tadka to most. Adding spices to hot oil or ghee is a popular technique in Indian cooking that extracts flavor.
You only need a few teaspoons to a few tablespoons of oil based off of the volume of food you're cooking and the spices you're using. The small tadka pan allows the spices to be completely covered by the oil.
The oil used should be at a high smoke point which is why mustard oil, vegetable oil, or ghee are popular picks. It's important to be cognizant of the order of ingredients added into the hot oil to prevent burning.
Ingredients - Notes and Substitutions
There are two set of ingredients for these mashed potatoes - the mashed potatoes itself and the tadka. Nothing too complicated or heavy on ingredients though!
These are all of your classic ingredients to make mashed potatoes. I think they're best when rich, creamy, and fluffy.
- Potatoes - Use Russet potatoes or Yukon Gold potatoes for the best mash. Peeled or unpeeled potatoes are a personal preference.
- Butter - I prefer unsalted butter, but salted butter works as well. Ghee can also substitute in for the butter, but the flavor of ghee is stronger. The tablespoon with the tadka is more than enough.
- Dairy - Substitute heavy cream with half and half or additional whole milk.
- Garlic - If you like garlicky mash, adding minced garlic to the sauce pan as the butter melts enhances the taste of garlic throughout the mash.
- Ghee - This is the cooking fat of choice for our tadka. Nothing is better than buttery mashed potatoes! However, you can also use a neutral oil.
- Garlic - Again, big garlic people over here! Sliver up a few cloves to make garlic chips to top the mashed potatoes. It's delicious and adds a bit of crunchy texture. Substitute with a small pinch of asafoetida.
- Scallions - Crispy scallions in the tadka are a highlight for me, but they're also great for a pop of color to garnish the mashed potatoes. Substitute with chives or cilantro to garnish.
- Seeds - We are using cumin seeds and mustard seeds. Fenugreek seeds and/or ajwain seeds would be equally delicious.
- Garam Masala - Instead of using a few ground spices, a bit of garam masala is perfect since it's a blend of several spices. It keeps the spice mixture simple yet flavorful. Otherwise, I'd add a pinch of ground cumin, coriander, cloves, and cinnamon.
- Kashmiri Chili Powder - Lastly, a bit of kashmiri chili powder gives a bold color to the tadka. Kashmiri chili powder isn't too spicy and adds just the smallest amount of heat. Substitute with a small pinch of cayenne or paprika.
I also think urad dal would make a great addition to the tadka if you're looking for additional crispy texture!
How to make Tadka Mashed Potatoes
How to make Mashed Potatoes
I seriously love how simple this recipe is! You can skip the tadka and just use this section to make plain mashed potatoes.
Fill a heavy bottom pot with water. Start to bring the water to a boil on a high flame. Salt the water.
While the water comes to a boil, start prepping the potatoes. If you're leaving them unpeeled, be sure to scrub them clean. Otherwise, peel the potatoes. Then, cut the potatoes into 1" cubes. Cutting them into smaller chunks significantly reduces the boiling time.
Transfer the potatoes to the boiling water and allow them to cook for 10-15 minutes. You'll know they're tender when you can easily stick a fork all the way through one of the cubes.
Fully drain the water from the pot and transfer the potatoes to a mixing bowl. Use a potato masher or ricer to mash the potatoes. Add salt and freshly cracked black pepper according to taste.
Pro Tip: Immediately mash the potatoes while they're hot for the fluffiest texture.
While the potatoes are boiling, get started on the milk, cream, and butter mixture. If you're adding garlic, finely mince up to two cloves.
Add the milk, cream, minced garlic, and pat of butter into a saucepan on a low flame. There's no need to bring this up to a simmer or boil, we're just looking for the butter to melt all the way.
Pro Tip: The low flame is to allow the garlic plenty of time to infuse with the mixture as the butter melts.
Pour the cream and butter mixture into the mixing bowl with the mashed potatoes in 3 parts. This gives the potatoes time to absorb the liquid. Mix in between each pour using a spatula or whisk to fully incorporate the liquids into the potatoes.
How to make the Tadka
Once the mashed potatoes are ready, cover it with a lid to keep it nice and warm. The tadka needs all of your attention to prevent anything from burning within the few minutes you're tempering spices.
Start by prepping the scallions and garlic. Slice 1-2 scallion stems at a bit of an angle and reserve some for garnish. Then, peel 3-4 large cloves of garlic and cut each clove into thin slivers.
After about a minute, the seeds will start popping and sputtering. Add the garlic slivers and scallions at this point. Start stirring the mixture constantly to prevent any of the seeds or aromatics from burning.
Once the garlic chips begin browning and getting crispy, add the garam masala and kashmiri chili powder. Mix the spices in super well, they only need 30 seconds to a minute in the hot ghee to bloom. Then, remove the tadka pan from heat.
Immediately pour the tadka over the mashed potatoes in a circular motion. Garnish the mashed potatoes with the reserved scallions and the mash is ready to serve!
Tips and Tricks
Goopy mashed potatoes. If your mashed potatoes are loose or runny, you'll want to add the cream and butter mixture in slowly next time. It'll continue to thicken up as the potatoes release steam and absorb the liquid and the butter hardens up.
If you have more potatoes on hand, you can cut a single potato into cubes and place them into a bowl with a teaspoon of water. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and microwave the potatoes for 5 minutes, or until fork tender. Drain any excess water.
Mash up the tender potatoes really well. Whisk small amounts into the mashed potatoes until you get the thick, fluffy texture you're looking for.
The tadka. The order in which you add the spices and aromatics into the hot ghee is extremely important. Don't go rogue here, otherwise you'll have burnt spices.
Start with the seeds, then the garlic and scallions, and lastly the ground spices. Note the key indicators mentioned in the previous section to know when to add the next round of ingredients. The ground spices only need 30 seconds to a minute in the hot ghee.
And be sure to keep stirring!
Store the mashed potatoes in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 or 4 days.
Mashed potatoes can also be frozen! To freeze:
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Allow the mashed potaotes to cool completely. Use a cookie scoop or ice cream spoon to scoop the mashed potatoes on to the baking sheet in a single layer.
- Freeze the mashed potatoes in the freezer for 3-4 hours, or until solid.
- Transfer the scoops of mashed potatoes into a freezer bag. Remove as much air as possible.
- Freeze for up to a month. Be sure to label the expiration date!
Thaw the potatoes in a microwave for 2-3 minutes at a time or on a stovetop. Add a bit of butter or cream to "refresh" the potatoes.
More Thanksgiving Recipes to try
Tadka Mashed Potatoes
- 2.25 lbs Yukon Gold or Russet Potatoes
- 100 ml whole milk
- 100 ml heavy cream
- 6 tablespoon butter
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- Start by prepping the potatoes. Peel the potatoes with a peeler. Then, cut the potatoes into 1” cubes.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add the cubed potatoes in. Cook the potatoes for 10-15 minutes, or until fork tender.
- Fully drain the water from the pot and transfer the potatoes to a mixing bowl. Mash the potatoes using a potato masher or a ricer. Add salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste.
- Add the milk, cream, minced garlic, and butter to a saucepan and bring the flame to a low setting. Allow the butter to melt without bringing the mixture to a simmer or boil.
- Once the butter has fully melted, pour the mixture into the bowl with the mashed potatoes in three parts. Whisk together the liquids with the potatoes until combined in between each pour so that the potatoes can absorb the liquid. You want the mashed potatoes to stay thick and fluffy, instead of goopy or runny.
- Once the potatoes are ready, cover the bowl with a lid or cling wrap to keep it warm.
- Prep the scallions and garlic for the tadka. Slice 1-2 scallion stems at an angle. Reserve some scallions for garnish. Then, peel 2-3 large garlic cloves and cut them into thin slivers.
- Melt the ghee in a tadka pan. Once hot, add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds. After a minute or two, they’ll start to sputter and dance in the ghee. Now, add the garlic slivers and scallions. Stir the seeds and aromatics in the hot ghee until the garlic browns into crispy garlic chips. Then, add the Kashmiri chili powder and garam masala. Allow the spices to bloom for 30 seconds to a minute.
- Remove the tadka pan from heat. Immediately pour the tadka over the mashed potatoes.
- Garnish with the reserved scallions and serve the Tadka Mashed Potatoes warm.