I Tried 4 Fast-Food Mashed Potatoes & the Best Was Creamy and Craveable (2024)

Can you think of anything more comforting than a warm bowl full of mashed potatoes? Versatile, affordable, and filling, it's a dish that nearly everyone can agree on—which is likely why you can find a version of it in many different cultures around the world.

Mashed potatoes often appear in European fare from countries like Germany, Ireland, and England. India and other Asian countries also incorporate them into their meals and recipes, and they even pop up in some areas of Africa.

Here in the United States, mashed potatoes appear on our tables typically during Thanksgiving and the holidays, but they can be enjoyed any time of year. One of the best and quickest ways to get your fix on any given day is to order them from a fast-food chain. Multiple chicken chains and other quick-serve establishments serve an iteration of the side dish—four of which can be found right here in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio. Of course, I had to test them out. So, I grabbed a cup of the good stuff from each joint, all topped with gravy, to find out which is the most smashing success.

Here's how they compared, ranked from my least favorite to the best mash of all.

KFC

I Tried 4 Fast-Food Mashed Potatoes & the Best Was Creamy and Craveable (1)

Nutrition: (Per Serving):
Calories: 130
Fat: 4.5 g (Saturated Fat: 1 g)
Sodium: 520 mg
Carbs: 20 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 3 g

You know that KFC spins up some "finger-lickin' good" chicken, whether it's drums, thighs, breasts, wings, or in the form of saucy nuggets. But, no southern-style meal is complete without a couple of flavorful and filling entremets. That's why the Colonel also has quite a few sides up his sleeve, including secret recipe fries, mac and cheese, extra buttery biscuits, coleslaw, and of course, mashed potatoes with gravy—debatably the best accompaniment for a piece of greasy and crisp fried chicken. At KFC, the potatoes always come smoothly mashed and the dressing of choice is a signature brown gravy. An individual portion of the side (not the monstrous family size) cost me $2.99 at the drive-thru.

The look: The light brown gravy covers almost the entire plastic container of potatoes, spread on top in a manner that's similar to icing on a cake. Underneath, the squashed spuds are thin and pretty close to stark white.

The taste: The entire dish is about as bland as mashed potatoes and gravy can get. Runny with no trace of butter or seasonings, the potatoes reminded me of the instant kind you buy at the store. They have that same sort of puréed texture and a taste that's just a little bit off. Pouring the gravy on top isn't really an improvement on this dull base either. It gives off a faint beefy (or maybe chicken-like?) flavor, but again spices seem to be slim—hardly any salt or pepper even. Like any starchy side, I think KFC's rendition could make for a good filler. However, it's not the epitome of good old-fashioned down-home cooking.

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Culver's

I Tried 4 Fast-Food Mashed Potatoes & the Best Was Creamy and Craveable (2)

Nutrition: (Per Medium Order):
Calories: 130
Fat: 1.5 g (Saturated Fat: 0.5 g)
Sodium: 410 mg
Carbs: 25 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 4 g

Mashed potatoes are a bit of an unorthodox side choice for a quick-serve burger joint. But, Culver's gets away with it since it already stands in a class of its own when it comes to fast food—and because it's just so darn good. I mean, seriously, Butterburgers, cheese curds, and fresh frozen custard all in one place? It's just unfair. With all that going on, the mashed potatoes and gravy are certainly a lesser-known and less frequently ordered side. If you ever have given them a shot, though, you know they are made from Russet potatoes mixed with milk and seasonings and topped with a homestyle gravy. A medium-sized order will run you about $2.79.

The look: The potato mash itself here is more promising than KFC's with at least a tiny bit of a yellow butter-like tint. Meanwhile the gravy pools to the sides of the container in a translucent light tan color that's most similar to chicken gravy with black speckles of pepper mixed in.

The taste: The smell of this one immediately transported me to Thanksgiving Day with everyone gathered around the dining table. It has a very classic, nostalgic aroma. The potatoes follow suit with an authentic texture like mom just finished peeling and mashing them in the kitchen. However, the taste is, unfortunately, subpar. The gravy is almost sweet. But, similar to KFC's, it's hardly seasoned and awfully similar to jarred gravy. The worst part, though, is the strange bitter aftertaste, which I discovered was coming from the potatoes themselves. I couldn't put my finger on exactly what it was, but I didn't appreciate the fact that every bite ended in this displeasing manner.

Church's Texas Chicken

I Tried 4 Fast-Food Mashed Potatoes & the Best Was Creamy and Craveable (3)

Nutrition: (Per Serving):
Calories: 110
Fat: 1 g (Saturated Fat: 0 g)
Sodium: 650 mg
Carbs: 24 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 2 g)
Protein: 2 g

Unlike LongHorn Steakhouse or Texas Roadhouse, Church's Texas Chicken isn't masquerading as a Lone Star state-based chain. It was actually founded in San Antonio right across the street from the Alamo in 1952—which happens to be the same year KFC was officially founded as well. Church's shares a similar strategy and menu as its competitor, touting bold-tasting fried chicken, family-sized meals, and classic country-style side dishes. Along with fried okra, ears of corn, and Jalapeño Cheese Bombers, mashed potatoes covered in a rich gravy also make this list. The dish is sold in two sizes: regular and large. Somehow, I accidentally ended up with a large in my to-go bag. It cost me $4.49 (conversely, the regular was priced at $2.99).

The look: This so-called "rich gravy" appears to be a brown-based gravy. It's on the thinner side, though, to the point where it almost looks like a cup of French onion soup just with scoops of smooth off-white potatoes at the center.

The taste: A more pronounced flavor from the gravy really won me over here, especially following a couple of duds. It's warm, peppery, and comforting, with just a hint of robust meatiness. It's also not as diluted as it looks, allowing it to pair well with the smooth spuds. Speaking of which, the potatoes taste real here. They're not exceedingly lively. But they're also not liquified like KFC's or plagued by an inescapable bite at the end like Culver's. And that's really all I can ask from fast food mashed potatoes.

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Popeyes

I Tried 4 Fast-Food Mashed Potatoes & the Best Was Creamy and Craveable (4)

Nutrition: (Per Regular Size):
Calories: 110
Fat: 4 g (Saturated Fat: 2 g)
Sodium: 590 mg
Carbs: 18 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 1 g)
Protein: 3 g

Popeyes spices up its mashed potatoes with a special Cajun gravy. I would expect nothing less from the Louisiana-style eatery. This savory side dish joins others on the chain's menu such as homestyle mac and cheese, Cajun fries, red beans and rice, coleslaw, and a la carte buttermilk biscuits. All make for great supplements to the chain's signature bone-in chicken meals or its famous chicken sandwich—the one that started an all-out fast-food brawl back in 2019. As I spun through my local Popeyes drive-thru, I stuck to just a lonely side of mashed potatoes and gravy, however, which rang up at $3.19 for a regular order.

The look: Finally something well-spiced and with the quintessential ratio of gravy to mashed potatoes. Colorful specks can be seen all throughout the dressing and even tiny bits of what looks like ground meat. I also love that it comes with a spork to eat it with—a touch that immediately transported me back to my elementary school cafeteria.

The taste: I don't ever think I've had gravy quite like this and I have to say, I'm a fan. The consistency lands somewhere between too thick and too thin, helping it to adhere well to the pile of potatoes. Similar to a southwest seasoning, hints of cayenne and garlic stick out in the mix and it hits you with a tiny bit of spice at the back of the throat. After some quick Googling, I also discovered that there are, in fact, segments of pork and chicken gizzards added in which I think just give the dish a more diverse flavor and texture. As for the potatoes, they're creamy as can be, although they do have a few mini chunks throughout.

Based purely on style and originality alone, I had a feeling that Popeyes would win this starchy contest, and the chain followed it up with a truly craveable recipe.

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I Tried 4 Fast-Food Mashed Potatoes & the Best Was Creamy and Craveable (2024)
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