What are Duchess Potatoes?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

Duchess potatoes are an elegantly displayed mashed potato dish. They are dollops of mashed potatoes that are shaped in such a way that they resemble a meringue. Depending on the exact manner in which duchess potatoes are shaped, they can even look like a rose. As these potatoes can be sculpted to form such artful creations, it is no surprise that they are given such an elegant, royal name.

Yukon gold potatoes can be used to make mashed potatoes.
Yukon gold potatoes can be used to make mashed potatoes.

One of the delicious aspects of duchess potatoes is the variation in texture within the dish. In most cases, once the mashed potatoes have been shaped to the chef's satisfaction, they are baked. Although the interior of the potatoes remains soft and creamy, the edges of the textured top become crispy. Once they are finished baking, duchess potatoes are often served as a side along with a protein such as fish, steak, or chicken and a vegetable of some sort as well. Before serving, duchess potatoes are often topped with just a dusting of chopped parsley for both aesthetics and flavor.

Duchess potatoes features mashed potatoes.
Duchess potatoes features mashed potatoes.

The size of the duchess potatoes and the desired level of crispiness on the edges will indicate the amount of time that they should be baked. There are a number of methods, however, for baking the potatoes. They can either be baked on a baking sheet or in muffin tins. Some chefs even bake each individual serving of duchess potatoes in its own pot, which will be served right from the oven to the table.

Potatoes are a natural source of copper, potassium, fiber and carbohydrates.
Potatoes are a natural source of copper, potassium, fiber and carbohydrates.

There are a number of ways to create the textured edges of duchess potatoes. Some chefs simply shape the mashed potatoes into a mound with a spoon and then use a fork or similar instrument to shape the edges. Others use the kind of pipe used by pastry chefs to shape icing on cakes in order to get the perfect shape for the potatoes. An icing pipe, however, is not necessary as long as the chef has a steady hand and a bit of patience to shape each serving of the potatoes.

There are a number of recipes for duchess potatoes that include various kinds of flavoring. The plainest recipes simply call for butter and salt. Other more elaborate recipes, however, call for paprika or white pepper. The flavoring of the potatoes is entirely up to the chef and can be adjusted to complement different entrees. Some recipes, for example, call for an inclusion of cheddar or Parmesan cheese in the mashed potatoes that are shaped into the duchess shape.

Some recipes for duchess potatoes call for yellow cheddar or another mild cheese.
Some recipes for duchess potatoes call for yellow cheddar or another mild cheese.
Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for wiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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Discussion Comments


@turquoise-- It's a personal preference, but I like to keep it in the oven for about 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees. I don't want the outside to get too crispy. It should just be slightly hard and golden.

About your garlic comment, I put my potatoes through a blender first before putting it in a icing sieve for shaping. It gets rid of all the chunks that inevitably get in if you're mashing the potatoes with a fork.

It's also great if you're adding other ingredients in the potatoes like vegetables. The blender makes everything smooth and even. It's much easier to shape it that way too. That's why I recommend you do as well.

Oven cooked potatoes are definitely good for making duchess potatoes. But microwave potatoes really work just as well. You're going to end up putting it in the oven anyway, so why waste more time boiling it? The oven adds a lot of of flavor to the mashed potatoes no matter how they've been boiled.


All of these comments are making me hungry! And I love all of the tips!

I just have a few questions. How much are the duchess potatoes supposed to stay in the oven? Are the potatoes supposed to be slightly brown on the outside?

@Iluviaporos-- I love garlic potatoes too! I think I'm going to do the same with my oven duchess potatoes but I think I will add garlic flakes or powder instead of actual garlic. I think fresh garlic has a really strong scent and I don't want it to overcome the potatoes' flavor.

And you know when a big chunk of the garlic comes in your potatoes and all you taste is garlic? I hate that!


@indigomoth-- I know olive oil is better, but potatoes taste amazing with butter. I don't think duchess potatoes would be as good with olive oil. Even a little bit of butter makes a big difference in the taste. I'm thinking of maybe adding half butter and half olive oil. This way, I'll be cutting down on the calories but will still have the buttery flavor.


If anybody thinks potatoes are a boring, bland food they have never had duchess or dauphine potatoes.

These are two of my favorite ways to make potatoes for guests or my family. My kids love the different shapes I make when I make duchess potatoes, and I don't ever have any left over.

Making dauphine potatoes is a little bit more work, but is also a great way to fix potatoes. After I mash them I wrap them in a pastry and deep fry them.

This really gives them a crisp outside with a soft center. My family likes to call them potato puff balls. These have become a family tradition with some of our holiday meals.


If you are going to the work of making mashed potatoes, making duchess potatoes is a lot of fun. It is your chance to be creative with your food, and yet it ends up tasting wonderful as well.

Being a lover of cheese, garlic and bacon in my potatoes, I always include these in my duchess potatoes. I also sprinkle a bit of paprika on each one for the perfect touch.

Whether I make duchess potatoes or baked mashed potatoes, I love the slightly crispy outside with the soft, creamy center that just melts in your mouth.

We eat a lot of traditional meat and potatoes meals at our house. Adding a little flair by making duchess potatoes is something I like to do from time to time for a special touch.


@myharley - That is interesting that you bring up eating real mashed potatoes at a restaurant instead of the instant ones. I do the same thing when eating out, and some waitresses don't seem to even know what I am asking.

I have also had situations where the mashed potatoes are real, but the gravy is not! The best way to get potatoes the way you like them is to make them yourself.

I don't even like cooking potatoes in the microwave, but prefer to use the oven.

There is something special about duchess potatoes. That is one fun way to really add an elegant touch to a meal and make your guests feel special.

I like to add just a little bit of nutmeg to my duchess potatoes. That is the one ingredient they can't quite figure out, but adds just the right touch.


I have eaten duchess potatoes at a fancy restaurant before, but didn't realize that is what they were called. I have really never thought of mashed potatoes as being elegant before.

My husband loves any kind of potatoes, but mashed potatoes are always his favorites. I don't think he cares how much trouble I would go to in order to make them look fancy. As long as they taste good, he would eat them and be happy.

That also means as long as the potatoes are real and not instant. He does not like instant potatoes and when ordering at a restaurant will always ask them how they are made.

I always like adding cheese to my potatoes, but my husband likes them with just a little bit of salt, pepper, butter and maybe some gravy.


@indigomoth - Duchess potatoes are really good for guests, although they can't really be used for a vegetarian dish unless the guests are able to eat egg yolk in their diets.

And I quite like adding a bit of bacon to the mix, either as a garnish or even in the mashed potato "batter".

Cheesy potatoes can do just as well though, if your guests are vegetarian but don't mind eating milk products. There are several cheeses that will do very well, depending on the kind of flavor you want.

I like using goat cheese when I'm making them for guests and I have to confess that half the reason I use it is because it sounds impressive when I tell them what the dish is (and it tastes good too!).


@Iluviaporos - If you want to cut a bit of saturated fat from your diet you can use olive oil in place of the butter.

It doesn't quite taste the same, although if you use extra light olive oil it's not a bad comparison, particularly with a bit of added salt. If you use extra virgin, it will taste more strongly of the oil, which might be to your preference.

I would also suggest whipping the potatoes (and garlic, or whatever you want to add) in order to get a really smooth mash to make Duchess shapes with.

Personally, I prefer hand mashed potato if I'm going to have it as a pile of potatoes, since whipped potato feels too smooth to my palate, but for Duchess potatoes it's just easier to use a food processor, rather than hand mashing to get a good consistency.

You might also want to add a little bit of something to the center of the swirls to make them look prettier.


My absolute favorite flavoring for mashed potatoes is dill. You can find all kinds of dill mixtures and most of them will work well.

I particularly like dill with garlic though. The best way to cook the garlic is to bake it in an oven first, while you are boiling the potatoes. Then, when it is thoroughly cooked (be careful not to burn it, burned garlic has a disgusting flavor and smell and it will permute your kitchen) you should be able to mash it up as easily as you mash the potatoes.

Duchess potatoes are a good recipe for dried dill because if you add the dried herb before you do the shaping and baking, you'll give the herb time to soften and blend into the potato.

Don't forget to add butter as well. It's really delicious if you manage to get all the ingredients balanced just right. And doing it with the Duchess swirls makes it kind of cute and versatile as well.

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