Potatoes: a Classic and Colorful Kitchen Staple

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Potatoes have been unjustly handed a bad reputation due to their high carbohydrate content. They’re actually a highly nutritious food packed with fiber, vitamin C, B6, potassium and magnesium. And it’s hard to get bored with them because there are so many types and varieties of potatoes, all unique in their own way. In honor of National Potato Month, here are some fun facts and cooking tips!

There are three potato categories:


Starchy potatoes have a high starch and low moisture content. Also called “floury” because after cooking they yield a light and creamy texture. They tend to lose their shape quickly after cooking so they are ideal for mashing or frying.


These potatoes have a low starch content lending a firmer texture to their flesh. After boiling, steaming or roasting, they tend to hold their shape, making them the ideal choice for ingredients in larger dishes.

All Purpose

Due to their medium starch content, these are the true multitaskers of the kitchen. They are versatile and turn out well using almost any cooking method.

Here are the potato types commonly found in the United States:

Russet (starchy)

Russet potatoes are one of the most common and popular types of potatoes in the U.S. A high starch content yields a pillowy-but-creamy texture, making them destined for beloved dishes like wedge cut French fries, baked potatoes or old-fashioned mashed potatoes.

Red (all purpose)

With their beautiful red skins they are firm and creamy with a slightly sweeter taste and medium starch content. They are exceptionally versatile and can be cooked using any cooking method — as an ingredient in larger dishes or served on their own.

New (waxy)

New potatoes or baby potatoes actually refer to the age when the potato is picked. When they are harvested at a young age, there is less time for the sugar in them to convert to starch, therefore they are sweeter and waxier than other potatoes. They hold their shape well and are often used in potato salads.

Yellow (all purpose)

Known for a buttery and rich taste, these potatoes are loved for their decadent flavor. They are all-purpose so they are rather versatile, but watch how long you cook them. Prolonged cooking can lead to a mushy, falling-apart potato instead of a nice firm one.

Fingerlings (all purpose)

Grown in a variety of colors, these fun potatoes resemble the shape of fingers. Similar to new potatoes, they are lower in starch and waxier than other varieties. They should be used within three days of purchase to avoid rotting.

Blue/Purple (all purpose)

These potatoes are eye-catching and a fun conversation starter. There are a variety of colors available, both skins and flesh color may vary from light yellow to deep purple, and are usually available in the late fall. They get their blue color from anthocyanins, an antioxidant that helps fight free radicals and boosts the immune system. They are an all-purpose potato, so they can be substituted for many types of dishes without a problem for an striking effect and antioxidant punch!

Sweet Potato (all purpose)

Often confused with yams (which come from Southeast Asia and Africa), these really range in colors that include pale white, purple, magenta and orange. Orange varieties get their color from beta-carotene, another immune-boosting antioxidant. They are most known for their sweet flavor and versatility.

Colorful or classic, get excited to celebrate National Potato Month this September!

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Kelli Shallal
Kelli Shallal, MPH, RD, is a Phoenix-based registered dietitian, personal trainer, nutrition counselor and communications specialist. Read her blog, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.