43 Ice Cream Flavors You Won’t Believe Exist

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Deagreez/iStock via Getty Images

Chocolate and vanilla are so passé. These days, ice cream shops are delving into far more adventurous flavor territory. Here are 43 of the weirdest ice cream flavors you can try today:

1. Lobster

You can get a lot of odd lobster products in New England, not least lobster-laced desserts. Ben and Bill’s Chocolate Emporium, a line of sweets shops in Maine and Massachusetts, began serving lobster ice cream as a way to prove to their customers that their ice creams were really made in-house. The butter-flavored ice cream is blended with chopped bits of cooked lobster meat. You can buy it by the bucket, and yes, they ship.

2. Potato chips and Cap'n Crunch

At Beenie’s Ice Cream in Morristown, New Jersey, you can satisfy your cravings for salty, sweet, and children’s cereal all at once. "Midnight Snack" is a flavor that combines vanilla ice cream with chocolate-covered potato chips and Cap’n Crunch pieces. Note: The shop, which is named after the owner’s dog, is very pup-friendly.

3. Almond charcoal

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Little Damage in Los Angeles is an ice cream shop with a goth soul. It colors its house-made cones and ice creams with activated charcoal, resulting in flavors like Almond Charcoal and Black Roses. Mmm, tastes like darkness.

4. Squid ink

Ikasumi, or squid ink, is a sought-after ice cream flavor in Japan. If you can’t make it to Tokyo, you can make your own with wasabi sprinkles. It’s a little briny and a lot photogenic. Squid ink is becoming a hot trend in cocktails and food, though, so squid ink desserts could become a lot more common in the U.S. soon.

5. Prosciutto

Humphry Slocombe in San Francisco is known for its incredibly innovative flavors, some of which tend toward the meaty. The pink ice cream, made with the help of the local pork supplier Boccalone, sold so fast the first time it appeared on the menu in 2011 that the shop immediately decided to whip up some more for the next weekend. While it's not an everyday item, if you visit at just the right time, you might see it on the menu.

6. Absinthe

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At Prague’s Absintherie Bar and Museum, you can try 60 different kinds of absinthe, and not all of them in cocktail form. The bar also serves up an ice cream made with its eponymous spirit.

7. Juniper & lemon curd

Inspired by the late American writer James Thurber, this flavor that once made its way onto Jeni’s ice cream menu was designed to taste like a martini with a twist. It’s cool juniper berry notes get a little zing from the lemon curd.

8. Yam

The purple yam Ube is a popular dessert ingredient in the Philippines and Hawaii. The tuber-flavored ice cream makes for a subtle, addictive flavor. You can buy Purple Yam ice cream at the grocery store from Magnolia, which makes a host of tropical-flavored ice creams. Oh, and it’s very Instagram-friendly. Magnolia has several scoop shops in California and can be found in specialty stores across the country.

9. Corn on the cob

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Since opening Max & Mina’s in Queens, New York in 1998, brothers/owners Bruce and Mark Becker have created more than 5000 one-of-a-kind ice cream flavors, many of them adapted from their grandfather’s original recipes. Daily flavor experiments mean that the menu is ever-changing, but Corn on the Cob (a summer favorite), Horseradish, Garlic, Pizza, and Jalapeño have all made the lineup.

10. Pig’s blood & koji

Blood sausage? Meet blood ice cream. Blood can be used as a substitute for eggs in recipes, and in 2014, the expert chefs at the nonprofit Nordic Food Lab developed a recipe for blood ice cream using koji, a fermented barley, instead of cocoa for flavor. But if you do have chocolate, it’s a classic pairing for pig’s blood, used in Italian desserts like sanguinaccio dolce.

11. Caribou fat

Traditionally, "eskimo ice cream," or akutaq, is made with caribou or another animal fat that’s whipped up with berries. These days, some substitute in Crisco, and it can also be made savory by mixing in ground meat instead of berries. Either way, it’s a frothy dessert that has been a favorite in Alaska for centuries. The recipes vary from family to family and place to place, so you should probably try a lot of it.

12. Mushrooms

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Coolhaus’s Candy Cap Mushroom ice cream has hints of maple, vanilla, and naturally, earthy mushroom. It’s made by soaking sweet Candy Cap mushrooms in the Coolhaus ice cream base to achieve a potent, foresty taste.

13. Carrot ginger

Carrot ginger ice cream is like eating a very creamy smoothie. At Sweet Action Ice Cream in Denver, it’s made with real carrot juice and fresh-grated ginger to give it a little zing. You're welcome to pretend it's part of your juice cleanse.

14. Garlic

Garlic ice cream is a must-have at the annual Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California. At The Stinking Rose, an L.A.- and San Francisco-based restaurant where the motto is "we season our garlic with food," you can top off your meal with Gilroy garlic ice cream drizzled with caramel mole sauce. Or you can make your own garlic-tastic ice cream at home.

15. Burnt sage

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Morgenstern’s in New York City recently debuted Burnt Sage, an herby ice cream made with sage that has been charred over an open flame then soaked in cream. The savory delicacy is then dipped in chocolate.

16. Ranch dressing

Little Baby’s Ice Cream in Philadelphia debuted its Ranch ice cream in 2015, and it’s now on steady rotation. The ice cream base is loaded up with buttermilk, garlic, chives, and dill to give it that cool salad taste.

17. Grape nuts

New Englanders sing the praises of Grape-Nuts-laced ice cream, a regional specialty. The Grape-Nuts (a wheat and barley breakfast staple) are blended into vanilla ice cream, creating a delicious dessert you can justify as being at least somewhat fibrous. Try it at Grass Roots Creamery in Granby, Connecticut.

18. Beet greens

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The Portland-based shop Salt & Straw is turning beets into frozen treats. Previously, Salt & Straw's Los Angeles outpost used discarded beet greens to create Top of the Beet, a beet jam and beet-leaf sugar brittle flavor. In August 2017, the Portland store debuted Aquabeet, a bright pink flavor that combines locally grown beets with Aquavit, the Scandinavian-style spirit.

19. Earl Grey Sriracha

If you’re a Sriracha addict, it’s not difficult to get your favorite hot sauce onto your dessert spoon. At Glacé Ice Cream in Kansas City, they've been known to mix Sriracha with the cool bergamot of Earl Grey tea to create an ice cream that’s a perfect mix of sweet, creamy, and spicy.

20. Lox

At Max and Mina’s Ice Cream in Queens, New York, ice cream is an appropriate brunch food. Their lox flavor consists of vanilla ice cream mixed with bits of Nova smoked salmon, cream cheese, and salt for that perfect bagel-and-lox taste.

21. Cheddar cheese

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If you’re going to eat your apple pie with ice cream and cheddar cheese, you might as well just eat it with cheddar cheese ice cream. That’s what Joy Williams, the pastry chef at Wednesday’s Pie in Denver, was thinking when she began testing out her frozen cheese dessert. She ended up using a cheddar cheese powder instead of fresh cheese to retain the smooth texture of the ice cream, but the bright orange dessert was still a huge hit. You can keep an eye out for the off-menu special on the shop’s Instagram page.

22. Miso

OddFellows Ice Cream in New York City has come up with hundreds of wacky and original flavors since it opened its first location in 2013, and they haven’t shied away from using miso, the popular Japanese soy paste. They've recently had Miso Cherry on rotation, which combines the salty, earthy flavor of miso with more traditional dessert tastes. If you want to make your own miso ice cream, most recipes suggest using white miso, a more subtle variety that pairs well with fruits, caramel, and more.

23. Goat cheese cashew caramel

Black Dog Gelato in Chicago is famous for its goat cheese-cashew-caramel ice cream, which is the only flavor on the rotating menu that you’re guaranteed to find every time you visit. The goat cheese gives it a flavor similar to a cheesecake, and the sweet-savory combo is a huge hit.

24. Port wine and fig

Why kick back with a glass of wine after a hard day's work when you can grab a cup of port wine and fig ice cream from Missouri's Glacé Artisan Ice Cream? Seems like a fair tradeoff.

25. Kale lime

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Kale lime leaf: healthy salad or delicious dessert? At Frankie & Jo’s in Seattle, it’s definitely the latter. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the shop is all vegan, and the kale-flavored ice cream—which is a specialty item—is made with coconut oil and cocoa butter rather than dairy.

26. Durian

Durian—the world's smelliest fruit, which has had its odor mistaken for a gas leak on more than one occasion—is also a key ingredient in the Snowdae at C Fruit Life, a Hong Kong-based cafe and tea shop which has opened locations in Boston, Chicago, and Portland, Oregon. The dessert is a mix of durian and mango ice cream topped with chewy mochi balls, fresh chunks of mango, and mango "bubbles" that pop in your mouth. With all of that sweet fruit, diners swear the durian flavor is downplayed.

27. Cardamon black pepper

Since 1945, Sonny's Ice Cream in Minneapolis has been churning out small batches of artisanal ice cream, gelato, and sorbet using some fascinating and exotic flavors. Among some of their most interesting varietals: Organic Cucumber Pinot Grigio, Black Licorice, and Cardamom Black Pepper.

28. Black licorice

Frost—a gelato shop with locations in New Mexico, Texas, California, Arizona, and Virginia—has been creating gelato the old-fashioned, Roman way since 2005. Part of what sets the mini-chain apart is its willingness to take chances on unique flavors, like green tea, cioccolato al perperoncino, lotus cookie, Guinness, and black licorice.

29. Goat cheese with red cherries

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As one of the country’s most decorated ice cream makers, Jeni Britton Bauer—proprietor of Ohio-based Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams—is constantly pushing the boundaries of unique treats, as evidenced by her lineup of innovative flavors, including Goat Cheese With Red Cherries.

30. Coconut lime jalapeno

Juneau, Alaska's Coppa prides itself on preparing an innovative menu of fresh foods daily, including a regularly rotating lineup of homemade ice cream that has a tendency to get experimental on occasion. They've used turmeric in past iterations, and have found a large fan base for their sweet-meets-sour-with-a-kick coconut cream jalapeno flavor.

31. Foie gras

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New York City's OddFellows takes the "odd" in its name seriously, and has become synonymous with experimental flavors. Since opening their doors in 2013, they've concocted hundreds of different kinds of the cold stuff—including a foie gras varietal.

32. Old Bay caramel

Anyone who has ever scarfed down a helping of Boardwalk fries or grew up in the Maryland area no doubt knows the distinctive taste (and smell) of Old Bay seasoning. The Charmery, a beloved ice cream shop with two Maryland locations, has an Old Bay and caramel flavored ice cream as part of their regular rotation of flavors.

33. Sriracha

Like a little heat with your ice cream? Mason's Creamery in Cleveland, Ohio has a range of unique sauces to pair with your ice cream choices, with a sweet vanilla and Sriracha sauce cream being one of the most (surprisingly) popular combos.

34. Pear and Blue Cheese

“Salty-sweet” is the preferred palette at Portland, Oregon-based Salt & Straw, where sugar and spice blend together nicely with flavors like strawberry honey balsamic strawberry with cracked pepper and pear with blue cheese, a well-balanced mix of sweet Oregon Trail Bartlett pears mixed with crumbles of Rogue Creamery's award-winning Crater Lake Blue Cheese. Yum?

35. Cheetos

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Big Gay Ice Cream started out as an experimental ice cream truck and morphed into one of New York City’s most swoon-worthy ice cream shops, where the toppings make for an inimitable indulgence. One of their most unique culinary inventions? A Cheetos-inspired cone, where vanilla and cheese ice cream is dipped in Cheetos dust.

36. Fruitcake

Fruitcake is the dessert that keeps on giving ... mostly because it seems to last forever, and a lot of them remain unopened. But at Leopold's Ice Cream in Savannah, Georgia, has been serving up a delicious version of the holiday treat for 100 years now: Their Tutti Frutti is a delightful dish of rum ice cream with candied fruit and fresh roasted Georgia pecans mixed in.

37. Horse flesh

There are two dozen attractions within Tokyo’s indoor amusement park, Namja Town, but it would be easy to spend all of your time there pondering the many out-there flavors at Ice Cream City, where raw horse flesh, cow tongue, salt, Yakisoba, octopus, and squid are among the flavors that have tickled (or strangled) visitors' taste buds.

38. Sweet avocado cayenne

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Avocado may be one of the world's most popular superfoods, but spreading it on a piece of toast or dropping it into a salad is the way it's most often consumed. However, that's not the case at Rococo Artisan Ice Cream, a popular spot with a handful of locations in Maine. There, you'll find the green stuff churned into a deliciously soft ice cream, then given a little kick of heat with some cayenne pepper. It's a shock to the taste buds—but in a good way.

39. Ghost Pepper

“Traditional” isn’t the word you’d choose to describe any of the 100 ice cream varieties at The Ice Cream Store in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. They don’t have vanilla, they have African Vanilla or Madagascar Vanilla Bean. But things only get wilder from there, and the shop’s proprietors clearly have a penchant for the spicy stuff. In addition to their Devil's Breath Carolina Reaper Pepper Ice Cream—a bright red vanilla ice cream mixed with cinnamon and a Carolina Reaper pepper mash—there's also the classic Ghost Pepper Ice Cream, which was featured in a Ripley's Believe It or Not book in 2016. Just be warned: you'll have to sign a waiver if you plan to order either flavor.

40. Honey and roasted garlic

If our previous mention of a garlic ice cream didn't entice you, maybe this sweeter take on the frozen stuff—which features a little kick of honey—will. It's one of the many unique flavors you'll find at Denver's Sweet Action Ice Cream, which makes fresh batches of ice cream using all sorts of unexpected ingredients daily.

41. Bourbon and Corn Flake

You never know exactly which flavors will appear as part of the daily-changing lineup at San Francisco’s Humphry Slocombe, but they always make room for the signature Secret Breakfast. Made with bourbon and Corn Flakes, you’d better get there early if you want to try it; it sells out quickly and on a daily basis.

42. Fig and fresh brown turkey

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The sweet-toothed scientists at New York City’s Il Laboratorio del Gelato have never met a flavor they didn’t like—or want to turn into an ice cream. How else would one explain the popularity of their Fig & Fresh Brown Turkey gelato, a popular selection among the hundreds flavors they have created thus far. (Beet and Cucumber are just two of their other fascinating flavors.)

43. Creole tomato

The philosophy at New Orleans’ Creole Creamery is simple: “Eat ice cream. Be happy.” What’s not as easy is choosing from among their dozens of rotating ice creams, sorbets, sherbets and ices. But only the most daring of diners might want to swap out a sweet indulgence for something that sounds more like a salad, as it the case with the Creole Tomato.

10 of the Best Indoor and Outdoor Heaters on Amazon

Mr. Heater/Amazon
Mr. Heater/Amazon

With the colder months just around the corner, you might want to start thinking about investing in an indoor or outdoor heater. Indoor heaters not only provide a boost of heat for drafty spaces, but they can also be a money-saver, allowing you to actively control the heat based on the rooms you’re using. Outdoor heaters, meanwhile, can help you take advantage of cold-weather activities like camping or tailgating without having to call it quits because your extremities have gone numb. Check out this list of some of Amazon’s highest-rated indoor and outdoor heaters so you can spend less time shivering this winter and more time enjoying what the season has to offer.

Indoor Heaters

1. Lasko Ceramic Portable Heater; $20

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This 1500-watt heater from Lasko may only be nine inches tall, but it can heat up to 300 square feet of space. With 11 temperature settings and three quiet settings—for high heat, low heat, and fan only—it’s a dynamic powerhouse that’ll keep you toasty all season long.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Alrocket Oscillating Space Heater; $25

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Alrocket’s oscillating space heater is an excellent addition to any desk or nightstand. Using energy-saving ceramic technology, this heater is made of fire-resistant material, and its special “tip-over” safety feature forces it to turn off if it falls over (making it a reliable choice for homes with kids or pets). It’s extremely quiet, too—at only 45 dB, it’s just a touch louder than a whisper. According to one reviewer, this an ideal option for a “very quiet but powerful” heater.

Buy it: Amazon

3. De’Longhi Oil-Filled Radiator Space Heather; $79

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If you prefer a space heater with a more old-fashioned vibe, this radiator heater from De’Longhi gives you 2020 technology with a vintage feel. De’Longhi’s heater automatically turns itself on when the temperatures drops below 44°F, and it will also automatically turn itself off if it starts to overheat. Another smart safety feature? The oil system is permanently sealed, so you won’t have to worry about accidental spills.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Aikoper Ceramic Tower Heater; $70

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Whether your room needs a little extra warmth or its own heat source, Aikoper’s incredibly precise space heater has got you covered. With a range of 40-95°F, it adjusts by one-degree intervals, giving you the specific level of heat you want. It also has an option for running on an eight-hour timer, ensuring that it will only run when you need it.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Isiler Space Heater; $37

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For a space heater that adds a fun pop of color to any room, check out this yellow unit from Isiler. Made from fire-resistant ceramic, Isiler’s heater can start warming up a space within seconds. It’s positioned on a triangular stand that creates an optimal angle for hot air to start circulating, rendering it so effective that, as one reviewer put it, “This heater needs to say ‘mighty’ in its description.”

Buy it: Amazon

Outdoor Heaters

6. Mr. Heater Portable Buddy; $104

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Make outdoor activities like camping and grilling last longer with Mr. Heater’s indoor/outdoor portable heater. This heater can connect to a propane tank or to a disposable cylinder, allowing you to keep it in one place or take it on the go. With such a versatile range of uses, this heater will—true to its name—become your best buddy when the temperature starts to drop.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiland Pyramid Patio Propane Heater; Various

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The cold’s got nothing on this powerful outdoor heater. Hiland’s patio heater has a whopping 40,000 BTU output, which runs for eight to 10 hours on high heat. Simply open the heater’s bottom door to insert a propane tank, power it on, and sit back to let it warm up your backyard. The bright, contained flame from the propane doubles as an outdoor light.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Solo Stove Bonfire Pit; $345

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This one is a slight cheat since it’s a bonfire pit and not a traditional outdoor heater, but the Solo Stove has a 4.7-star rating on Amazon for a reason. Everything about this portable fire pit is meticulously crafted to maximize airflow while it's lit, from its double-wall construction to its bottom air vents. These features all work together to help the logs burn more completely while emitting far less smoke than other pits. It’s the best choice for anyone who wants both warmth and ambiance on their patio.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Dr. Infrared Garage Shop Heater; $119

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You’ll be able to use your garage or basement workshop all season long with this durable heater from Dr. Infrared. It’s unique in that it includes a built-in fan to keep warm air flowing—something that’s especially handy if you need to work without wearing gloves. The fan is overlaid with heat and finger-protectant grills, keeping you safe while it’s powered on.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Mr. Heater 540 Degree Tank Top; $86

Mr. Heater/Amazon

Mr. Heater’s clever propane tank top automatically connects to its fuel source, saving you from having to bring any extra attachments with you on the road. With three heat settings that can get up to 45,000 BTU, the top can rotate 360 degrees to give you the perfect angle of heat you need to stay cozy. According to a reviewer, for a no-fuss outdoor heater, “This baby is super easy to light, comes fully assembled … and man, does it put out the heat.”

Buy it: Amazon

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A Brief History of Mashed Potatoes

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mphillips007/iStock via Getty Images Plus

During the Seven Years War of the mid-1700s, a French army pharmacist named Antoine-Augustin Parmentier was captured by Prussian soldiers. As a prisoner of war, he was forced to live on rations of potatoes. In mid-18th century France, this would practically qualify as cruel and unusual punishment: potatoes were thought of as feed for livestock, and they were believed to cause leprosy in humans. The fear was so widespread that the French passed a law against them in 1748.

But as Parmentier discovered in prison, potatoes weren’t deadly. In fact, they were pretty tasty. Following his release at the end of the war, the pharmacist began to proselytize to his countrymen about the wonders of the tuber. One way he did this was by demonstrating all the delicious ways it could be served, including mashed. By 1772, France had lifted its potato ban. Centuries later, you can order mashed potatoes in dozens of countries, in restaurants ranging from fast food to fine dining.

The story of mashed potatoes takes 10,000 years and traverses the mountains of Peru and the Irish countryside; it features cameos from Thomas Jefferson and a food scientist who helped invent a ubiquitous snack food. Before we get to them, though, let’s go back to the beginning.

The Origins of the Potato

Potatoes aren’t native to Ireland—or anywhere in Europe, for that matter. They were most likely domesticated in the Andes mountains of Peru and northwest Bolivia, where they were being used for food at least as far back as 8000 BCE.

These early potatoes were very different from the potatoes we know today. They came in a variety of shapes and sizes and had a bitter taste that no amount of cooking could get rid of. They were also slightly poisonous. To combat this toxicity, wild relatives of the llama would lick clay before eating them. The toxins in the potatoes would stick to the clay particles, allowing the animals to consume them safely. People in the Andes noticed this and started dunking their potatoes in a mixture of clay and water—not the most appetizing gravy, perhaps, but an ingenious solution to their potato problem. Even today, when selective breeding has made most potato varieties safe to eat, some poisonous varieties can still be bought in Andean markets, where they're sold alongside digestion-aiding clay dust.

By the time Spanish explorers brought the first potatoes to Europe from South America in the 16th century, they had been bred into a fully edible plant. It took them a while to catch on overseas, though. By some accounts, European farmers were suspicious of plants that weren’t mentioned in the Bible; others say it was the fact that potatoes grow from tubers, rather than seeds.

Modern potato historians debate these points, though. Cabbage’s omission from the Bible didn’t seem to hurt its popularity, and tulip cultivation, using bulbs instead of seeds, was happening at the same time. It may have just been a horticultural problem. The South American climates potatoes thrived in were unlike those found in Europe, especially in terms of hours of daylight in a day. In Europe, potatoes grew leaves and flowers, which botanists readily studied, but the tubers they produced remained small even after months of growing. This particular problem began to be remedied when the Spanish started growing potatoes on the Canary Islands, which functioned as a sort of middle ground between equatorial South America and more northerly European climes.

It’s worth pointing out, though, that there is some evidence for the cultural concerns mentioned earlier. There are clear references to people in the Scottish Highlands disliking that potatoes weren’t mentioned in the Bible, and customs like planting potatoes on Good Friday and sometimes sprinkling them with holy water suggest some kind of fraught relationship to potato consumption. They were becoming increasingly common, but not without controversy. As time went on, concerns about potatoes causing leprosy severely damaged their reputation.

Early Mashed Potato Recipes

A handful of potato advocates, including Parmentier, were able to turn the potato's image around. In her 18th-century recipe book The Art of Cookery, English author Hannah Glasse instructed readers to boil potatoes, peel them, put them into a saucepan, and mash them well with milk, butter, and a little salt. In the United States, Mary Randolph published a recipe for mashed potatoes in her book, The Virginia Housewife, that called for half an ounce of butter and a tablespoon of milk for a pound of potatoes.

But no country embraced the potato like Ireland. The hardy, nutrient-dense food seemed tailor-made for the island’s harsh winters. And wars between England and Ireland likely accelerated its adaptation there; since the important part grows underground, it had a better chance of surviving military activity. Irish people also liked their potatoes mashed, often with cabbage or kale in a dish known as colcannon. Potatoes were more than just a staple food there; they became part of the Irish identity.

But the miracle crop came with a major flaw: It’s susceptible to disease, particularly potato late blight, or Phytophtora infestans. When the microorganism invaded Ireland in the 1840s, farmers lost their livelihoods and many families lost their primary food source. The Irish Potato Famine killed a million people, or an eighth of the country’s population. The British government, for its part, offered little support to its Irish subjects.

One unexpected legacy of the Potato Famine was an explosion in agricultural science. Charles Darwin became intrigued by the problem of potato blight on a humanitarian and scientific level; he even personally funded a potato breeding program in Ireland. His was just one of many endeavors. Using potatoes that had survived the blight and new South American stock, European agriculturists were eventually able to breed healthy, resilient potato strains and rebuild the crop’s numbers. This development spurred more research into plant genetics, and was part of a broader scientific movement that included Gregor Mendel’s groundbreaking work with garden peas.

Tools of the Mashed Potato Trade

Around the beginning of the 20th century, a tool called a ricer started appearing in home kitchens. It’s a metal contraption that resembles an oversized garlic press, and it has nothing to do with making rice. When cooked potatoes get squeezed through the tiny holes in the bottom of the press, they’re transformed into fine, rice-sized pieces.

The process is a lot less cumbersome than using an old-fashioned masher, and it yields more appetizing results. Mashing your potatoes into oblivion releases gelatinized starches from the plant cells that glom together to form a paste-like consistency. If you’ve ever tasted “gluey” mashed potatoes, over-mashing was likely the culprit. With a ricer, you don’t need to abuse your potatoes to get a smooth, lump-free texture. Some purists argue that mashed potatoes made this way aren’t really mashed at all—they’re riced—but let's not let pedantry get in the way of delicious carbohydrates.

The Evolution of Instant Mashed Potatoes

If mashed potato pedants have opinions about ricers, they’ll definitely have something to say about this next development. In the 1950s, researchers at what is today called the Eastern Regional Research Center, a United States Department of Agriculture facility outside of Philadelphia, developed a new method for dehydrating potatoes that led to potato flakes that could be quickly rehydrated at home. Soon after, modern instant mashed potatoes were born.

It’s worth pointing out that this was far from the first time potatoes had been dehydrated. Dating back to at least the time of the Incas, chuño is essentially a freeze-dried potato created through a combination of manual labor and environmental conditions. The Incas gave it to soldiers and used it to guard against crop shortages.

Experiments with industrial drying were gearing up in the late 1700s, with one 1802 letter to Thomas Jefferson discussing a new invention where you grated the potato and pressed all the juices out, and the resulting cake could be kept for years. When rehydrated it was “like mashed potatoes” according to the letter. Sadly, the potatoes had a tendency to turn into purple, astringent-tasting cakes.

Interest in instant mashed potatoes resumed during the Second World War period, but those versions were a soggy mush or took forever. It wasn’t until the ERRC’s innovations in the 1950s that a palatable dried mashed potato could be produced. One of the key developments was finding a way to dry the cooked potatoes much faster, minimizing the amount of cell rupture and therefore the pastiness of the end-product. These potato flakes fit perfectly into the rise of so-called convenience foods at the time, and helped potato consumption rebound in the 1960s after a decline in prior years.

Instant mashed potatoes are a marvel of food science, but they’re not the only use scientists found for these new potato flakes. Miles Willard, one of the ERRC researchers, went on to work in the private sector, where his work helped contribute to new types of snacks using reconstituted potato flakes—including Pringles.