My mashed potatoes are always bland. I’ve googled recipes and a lot of them say to put a teaspoon or so of salt in the water to boil them. I’m a bit worried about using so much salt.

What I’d like to know is how much of that salt actually goes into the food, and how much is left in the water?

Thanks. 🙂


2 Answers 2


From the linked question on pasta absorption, When cooking pasta in salted water how much of the salt is absorbed?, which basically says "the more salt you put in, the more will be absorbed".

However, one thing I've always thought to be true is that if you don't put enough in when cooking, you seem to have to add a whole lot more afterwards to lift the flavour to desired levels than you would have if you'd added it whilst cooking.
So the overall cooked vs table-added levels may in fact be lower if you add it early.

As it's cropped up in another answer - if you boil them with no salt whatsoever, the smell & flavour are really quite different & no amount of salt added after mashing can properly rescue them.
I can smell when someone's forgotten to salt boiling potatoes. My partner at one time wanted to believe it was because I can smell salt… erm, no. I don't think anyone can smell salt, but the potatoes smell completely different.

Late edit: The accepted answer on Ways to learn to season food correctly? would appear to agree with the statement that salting early is different to salting late - but I'd love to see some really solid evidence as to actually how that affects something as simple as boiled potatoes. All I have right now is 30 years of just knowing it makes a difference.

  • 1
    Agree with you completely. And it's just as important, if not more so, when making potato salad. I've never been able to get either properly seasoned if salt is not added to the cooking water. And I know I use less salt when cooking than adding at the table.
    – Cindy
    Sep 23, 2019 at 17:19

How much of the salt from the cooking liquid gets into the potatoes? Not much.

But more importantly, if you're worried about salt content, it's better to just cook the potatoes in unsalted water, and salt the mashed potatoes to your liking when you mash them. There's nothing magical about the salt absorbed during boiling... it'll taste as salty, and be as salty, as salt mixed in during mashing.

  • 4
    I really have to disagree. I can smell when potatoes are boiling without salt & the end result is really rather revolting. No amount of salt added after mashing will get them anywhere near what they'd have tasted like if cooked with at least a little salt in the first place. [I have no idea how that works, but it's repeatable]
    – Tetsujin
    Sep 23, 2019 at 16:26
  • That really sounds like a placebo effect, and conflicts with my experience. If you're certain of your experience, it could make an interesting science experiment.
    – Sneftel
    Sep 23, 2019 at 17:15
  • 1
    It can't be a placebo effect if I suddenly can smell from the living room that I didn't salt the taters in the kitchen. I didn't forget then remember. I can smell the difference.
    – Tetsujin
    Sep 23, 2019 at 17:30
  • 1
    I don't know why people are insisting that being able to smell the difference in 2 foods could be any kind of "placebo effect". A placebo is being given one thing & being convinced it works "because it should". Being able to smell that taters have not been salted is no kind of psychological effect, otherwise i would periodically get false positives. I don't. Let me re-iterate. I cannot "smell salt" - as far as I'm aware, no-one can. I can smell the difference between boiling potatoes that have been salted [yum] vs ones that haven't [oddly plasticy & just 'wrong']
    – Tetsujin
    Sep 23, 2019 at 17:58
  • 1
    @Tetsujin, ditto for pasta. Sep 23, 2019 at 18:31

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