How many potatoes are needed for 3 cups?

Making mashed potatoes is a common cooking task that many home cooks take on. When looking at a recipe that calls for 3 cups of mashed potatoes, it can be unclear exactly how many potatoes are needed to yield that amount. There are a few factors that determine potato yield, including the size and type of potato. In this article, we’ll break down how to estimate the number of potatoes needed to end up with 3 cups of mashed potatoes.

Quick Answer

As a quick estimate, you’ll need about 3 medium russet potatoes, weighing approximately 1 pound total, to yield 3 cups of mashed potatoes. However, potato yield can vary quite a bit depending on the exact size and type of potato used. Continue reading for more details on how to more precisely determine potato amounts.

Determining Potato Yield

The main factors that determine how much mashed potato you get from potatoes are:

Potato Type

Different types of potatoes have different starch and moisture contents, which affects their yield.

Russet potatoes are starchy, fluffy potatoes that make light, airy mashed potatoes. They also absorb liquid during cooking. This means russets yield more cooked volume than other types of potatoes.

Yukon Gold and red potatoes have moderate starch content. They yield a creamier, smoother mashed texture than russets but with less fluffiness.

White or yellow potatoes have a low starch content. They yield dense, creamy mashed potatoes but less overall volume per pound compared to other types.

Sweet potatoes yield a completely different texture and flavor than white potatoes when mashed. Due to their moisture content, 3 cups of mashed sweet potatoes requires about 1 extra pound compared to russets.

Potato Size

Larger potatoes tend to have a higher starch content and also often have a higher moisture content. Both of these factors mean larger potatoes yield more cooked volume compared to smaller potatoes of the same type.

As a very rough guideline:

Small potatoes (1-3 oz) yield approximately 3/4 cup mashed per pound
Medium potatoes (4-7 oz) yield approximately 1 cup mashed per pound
Large potatoes (8-12 oz) yield approximately 1 1/4 cups mashed per pound

However, this can vary significantly depending on the specific crop and growing conditions of the potatoes. Whenever possible, it’s best to weigh your potato rather than relying on these size categories.

Cooking Method

How the potatoes are cooked impacts how much they break down and absorb liquid, changing the yield.

– Boiling whole potatoes yields less volume as the potatoes stay firmer.
– Cutting potatoes into smaller pieces before boiling allows more starch to leach out into the water, resulting in a greater cooked volume.
– Baking or roasting may caramelize some of the potato’s sugars, concentrating the flavor but slightly reducing the volume.
– Steaming whole potatoes gently liquefies more of the starch compared to boiling, producing a greater volume.

In most cases, the differences are fairly minor, but they can impact yield by about 1/4 to 1/3 cup per pound.

How Many Potatoes for 3 Cups?

Based on typical potato yields, here are some guidelines for how many pounds of potatoes are needed for 3 cups of mashed potatoes.

Russet Potatoes

For russet potatoes, the standard baking potato, you’ll need about 1 pound, or 3 medium potatoes, to yield 3 cups mashed.

Russets produce light, fluffy potato texture while also absorbing liquid. This results in greater volume per pound but still substantial density and richness from their starch content.

To maximize yield when cooking russets:

– Peel and cut into 1-inch chunks before cooking
– Use a steaming or boiling method
– Cook until fork-tender then mash thoroughly

Yukon Gold or Red Potatoes

For Yukon gold or red potatoes, you’ll need about 1 1/4 pounds, or 4 small or 3 medium potatoes.

These waxier potato varieties yield a creamy, smooth texture but with a bit less fluffiness than russets. Their moderate starch content produces great potato flavor and richness.

To maximize yield with Yukon gold or reds:

– Peel and cut into chunks or slices before cooking
– Gently boil until tender
– For red potatoes, leave the skins on for color contrast

White or Yellow Potatoes

With white or yellow potatoes, you’ll need about 1 1/2 pounds, or 4 to 5 medium potatoes, for 3 cups yield.

Low-starch white/yellow potatoes create dense, creamy mashed texture while absorbing relatively little liquid. Their yield is modest compared to starchy russets.

For best yield with white/yellow potatoes:

– Peel and cut into small pieces before cooking
– Start sliced potatoes in cold water then simmer until soft
– Mash thoroughly while still hot

Sweet Potatoes

For mashed sweet potatoes, you’ll need about 1 3/4 to 2 pounds, or 3 to 4 large sweet potatoes.

Sweet potatoes have a different texture and flavor profile than white potatoes when mashed. Their high moisture content creates a smooth puree but they yield less cooked volume per pound.

To get the best sweet potato texture:

– Peel and cut into 1-inch cubes
– Roast in the oven with a touch of oil until very tender
– Mash with butter and seasonings


When making 3 cups of mashed potatoes, start with about 1 pound of russet potatoes, 1 1/4 pounds of Yukon gold or red potatoes, or 1 1/2 pounds of white or yellow potatoes. Sweet potatoes will require 1 3/4 to 2 pounds for the same 3 cup yield.

Potato yield can vary based on the size, type, and cooking method used. In general, larger russet potatoes provide the greatest cooked volume. Smaller white or yellow potatoes yield less. Testing a few potato varieties in your preferred cooking method provides the most accurate results for portions.

Potato Yield Tables

For a quick visual on potato yield estimates, refer to these handy tables:

Yield from 1 Pound of Potatoes

Potato Type Cups Cooked
Russet 3 cups
Yukon Gold 2 1/4 cups
Red 2 1/4 cups
White 2 cups
Yellow 2 cups
Sweet Potato 1 1/2 cups

Pounds Needed for 3 Cups

Potato Type Pounds Needed
Russet 1 pound
Yukon Gold 1 1/4 pounds
Red 1 1/4 pounds
White 1 1/2 pounds
Yellow 1 1/2 pounds
Sweet Potato 1 3/4 to 2 pounds

Follow these guidelines on pounds of potatoes needed and adjust the quantity as needed based on the size and variety of your potatoes. With some simple testing and observation in your own kitchen, you’ll have potato yields figured out in no time!

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