Parboil Potatoes: How to Parboil Potatoes & Everything You Should Know

By: Bob's Red Mill | June 6 2018

I once saw a cross stitch piece that said, "I am thankful for all the ways I can eat potatoes," and thought that it was speaking directly to me. There are so many delicious ways you can enjoy potatoes, from the classics like French fries or a baked potato in the oven, to . . . well . . . even more classics like hash browns, home fries, and potato pancakes! It seems like we'll never run out of delicious ideas for potatoes, and I, for one, am not complaining. The unfortunate part is there are a lot of potato recipes that seem impossible to get right at home! Sure, baked potatoes are fairly simple, but have you ever tried homemade home fries? They always end up a little mushier than you want, at least in my kitchen!

Whether you are using a starchy potato like a russet potato or a waxy potato like a new potato or red potatoes, learning how to boil potatoes partially can help get the right texture and doneness.

Luckily, I have recently been researching a new method that will keep this from happening: parboiling! If you haven't heard of parboiling, or are just starting to learn about this process, you're in luck! Whether you are looking to roast baby potatoes or make potato salad, or are trying to make scalloped potatoes, there are many ways parboiling can help with the cooking process. Today, we are compiling all the must-have info and tricks to get the perfect parboil every time, and why on earth you would even want that! Keep reading to get the scoop on how to parboil potatoes to celebrate even more potato variations at home.

What Is Parboiling?

Parboiling is a blended word that takes "partial" and "boiling" and basically smashes them together, because that is what parboiling is: partially boiling something. It involves the process of boiling potatoes until they are partially cooked, but not all the way. Parboiling potatoes allows you to get crispy roasted potatoes that have a nice crust on the outside while being soft on the inside. Some people confuse parboiling with blanching, but in fact these are two separate cooking methods with two different uses!

When blanching, you bring the water to a boil and then immediately remove the potatoes (or whatever else you are blanching) from the hot water and soak it in ice cold water. This effectively ends the cooking process right after the food is removed from the hot water and ensures a swift, specific type of cooking.

Parboiling, on the other hand, takes a few minutes longer, and cooks your food more thoroughly. Parboiling is almost always combined with a second cooking method, since you're only partially cooking your potatoes! Whether you go for a grilled potato or crispy sliced potato, parboiling is the perfect way to cook your potato exactly how you want it.

How to Parboil Potatoes

Parboiling is pretty much as easy as it sounds. You simply boil your raw potato with a little kosher salt until they are partially cooked through. You can decide whether or not you prefer to parboil your potatoes whole, or peeled and diced--either will have a similar effect, but if you start with them diced, you do not need to boil them as long.

  1. Start by placing your potatoes in your pot and then covering them with clean, cold water. Cutting large potatoes into smaller pieces or potato cubes can quicken the cooking time. New potatoes are smaller, so they cook more quickly.
  2. Throw in a pinch of kosher salt, cover the pot with a lid, and then turn the stove on high heat.
  3. Once the water starts to boil, reduce the heat slightly to keep it from boiling over (or just remove the lid), and continue boiling for about 5-10 minutes--shorter if you are using diced, sliced or cubed potatoes and longer if you left them whole.
  4. Remove a potato from the boiling water and test your potatoes with a fork or the tip of a sharp knife--if it goes in with only slight resistance, you're done.
  5. Remove the boiled potatoes from the heat, drain your pot of the excess water, and let them cool a little before moving to your next step, no matter what that next step is. And voila, your potatoes are now parboiled!
  6. Your parboiled potatoes can then either be cooked in the oven or in a fryer up to two days after you parboil them.

Why Do You Parboil Potatoes?

Now that we have the method part down, let us explore the reasoning behind the methods. Why on earth do you need to partially cook your potatoes before you fully cook them? Do they need practice cooking or something? Not quite. There are actually quite a few reasons why you may choose to parboil your potatoes before cooking them in the oven or fryer.

Parboiling Makes Potatoes Crunchier

parboiled potatoes with crispy exterior and shallots

Earlier, I mentioned those mushy home fries that I used to make in my own kitchen, in contrast to the deliciously crispy ones I used to get at brunch on Sunday morning! One of the main reasons for this is parboiling. Potatoes are extremely starchy, as you may know, which makes them really tough to break down during the cooking process. One of the best ways to do this is by boiling, but obviously, boiling will not produce that delicious crunch that we are working toward. The process of parboiling your potatoes actually gets rid of a lot of the simple sugars and starches in your potatoes, and gelatinizes a layer on the surface of the potatoes. When you then transfer the potatoes into a different cooking method, this layer becomes dehydrated and browns as it cooks, creating that nice crunchy, crisp outer layer that we love to bite into!

Parboiling Makes Potatoes Cook Faster

This one has been a lifesaver to me on so many occasions since discovering parboiling. The fact is, potatoes are dense. And they take forever to cook, right? Right. Parboiling actually pre-cooks the potatoes in the easiest way, and now they will roast, bake, or sauté much faster, just to name a few of my favorite methods for cooking parboiled potatoes.

I used to think that my potatoes were too soggy because I hadn’t cooked them long enough, so I would try to roast them even longer and end up with burnt (and yet somehow still soggy on the inside) potatoes. In reality, now that I have discovered parboiling, I can get that delicious crunch and save time to boot--and anything that saves time in my kitchen is a positive! This is great if you are grilling as well, because the potatoes don’t have to take up space on the grill for hours before being ready to eat!

Not only does parboiling save you time, but can help your kitchen run more efficiently and effectively as well! Because your potatoes will cook faster when parboiled, their cooking time will be more in sync with whatever other ingredients you are using. One of my biggest frustrations with putting together a vegetable medley is that they each take different lengths of time to cook properly, so you try to use a medium length of time, and end up with soggy zucchini and potatoes that are practically still cold on the inside.

With parboiling, your potatoes will take much less time to cook, so your other vegetables won’t be sitting around waiting for them to be done (and neither will your family). Think of cooking a stew, soup, or casserole, for instance. If you parboil your potatoes, they will be perfectly in tune with the rest of the ingredients throughout the slower cooking process.

Sweet potatoes can actually be parboiled as well, although sweet potatoes do typically cook differently than regular potato varieties, so keep an eye on them during this process!

You Can Prep by Parboiling the Potatoes Early

As if better flavors and saved time were not enough to convince you to parboil, you can even prep your potatoes early this way. Parboiled potatoes are good  for up to one to two days after you remove them from boiling. So if you have a dinner party coming up, friends coming over, or just want to get a headstart on your meal prep for the week, parboiling potatoes helps you be able to cut down on cooking time before the actual event. Simply parboil your potatoes, wrap them in an airtight container, and place them in the fridge as you would any leftovers. When you’re ready to finish cooking them, you’re ready to go with delicious potatoes every time that will cook much faster than if you started from scratch. You can even freeze potatoes after they have been parboiled, and they will last for up to two or three months! That way, an easy side dish is always ready to go when you need it.

How Can I Use Parboiled Potatoes?

Parboiled potatoes are extremely versatile in that they can be fried, baked, roasted or sauteed, depending on your dish of choice. Enjoy a side of crispy breakfast potatoes alongside your morning scramble, or serve a side of rustic smashed potatoes with your favorite roast chicken dinner. From russet potatoes to red potatoes or even purple potatoes, you can test out this parboiling method for any potato type. Whip up a batch of extra crispy roasted potatoes with a bit of garlic butter and herbs for a dinner party, potluck, or weeknight dinner for a delicious side dish that's guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser. This method even works on sweet potatoes!

When Not to Parboil Your Potatoes

Despite all these amazing reasons to parboil your potatoes, this is not a technique for every potato recipe--some dishes are best cooked using different methods, like mashed potatoes, for instance. Mashed potatoes are already supposed to be boiled all the way through, so there's no need to parboil them. Parboiling is typically associated with high-heat cooking methods, like baking, flash-frying, or grilling, so if you are slow roasting or twice-baking them, then you will not necessarily see benefits from parboiling.

The potato has been around for over 10,000 years, and originates here in the Americas, but it is truly remarkable the number of ways we have developed to enjoy them. No matter which version of potatoes you are enjoying--chips, crispy waffle fries, a baked potato, hash browns, or gnocchi even--you really can't go wrong. Depending on the recipe you use, parboiling is a wonderful technique to truly get the most out of your potatoes. Try out these tips and tricks for parboiling your potatoes before your next dinner party or for an easy fall dinner (and make sure to freeze a few for later) and let us know what you think in the comments below!


  1. S. Rose
    Recipes abound for twice-fried potatoes, generally starting with a parboil step. In this method, the potatoes are first cut to serving size, then parboiled in a simple salt/sugar brine, often using a sous-vide method. The results can be fantastic - crispy, flavourful, and uniformly cooked - particularly but not necessarily if you have a flavourful fat such as duck fat in which to finish them.
  2. Heather McClees
    What great tips! I just love potatoes. I recently shared a vegan potato salad recipe and this tip would have come in such handy for that recipe! Potatoes truly are one of our greatest food gifts of all!
  3. […] Want tips on how to boil perfect potatoes before you make potato salad?  Here are great tips in this article at Tablespoon: “How to Boil Potatoes” or learn how to parboil your potatoes for potato salad here at Bob’s Red Mill: Parboil Potatoes. […]
  4. Stephanie
    I am partially Swiss and trying to cook roesti for the first time in ages. Happened upon this site and am truly impressed with the writing. Who wrote this, where was she educated, and how old is she? Just curious.... Thanks! Off to parboil some earth apples...
  5. Wolfgang
    Oh this is funny Stephanie, I'm Swiss (now Australian) and I also arrived at this web site wanting to cook Roesti for the first time again in ages! This time with parboiling the potatoes first.

    I don't usually comment on web sites. However the article is really very impressive. It is so comprehensive yet without any unnecessary waffle. I really enjoyed the how's, why's and why nots. Thank you very much for sharing your experience.
  6. ChuckTom
    Too notch guide! Thank you for writing this it has helped me tremendously!
  7. John
    Many websites specify 'parboiled potatoes', but never give the 'how to'!
    Thank you for the coaching! VERY helpful!!!
  8. Bill
    I have done similar to this for years when cooking raw potatoes for a Big Meal I put them in the Saucepan cut up in the size I need bring the saucepan up to the boil then switch it off and leave it then when it comes to meal prep your cooking time is reduced you just bring them back up to the boil until cooked this will save final cooking time at meal prep and takes pressure off in the kitchen. / Try it.
  9. Allan Kaplan
    As much as one would like to believe that 'parboil' is a portmanteau, it is not.

    "Middle English, from parboilen to boil thoroughly, from Anglo-French parboiler, perboillir, from Late Latin perbullire, from Latin per- thoroughly (from per through) + bullire to boil, from bulla bubble" - Merriam Webster.

    How it got from "boil thoroughly" to "partial-boil," I can't tell you, though...
  10. Nic
    Hi, if I parboil peeling diced potatoes for roasted potatoes do I need to cover with oil after boiling to stop them goniv brown if I’m not roasting for a few hours?
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Nic - No, we have not found that necessary. Let them cool as the steam evaporates then dress with oil/seasonings before roasting.
  11. Alicia Radice
    Alicia Radice
    I recently came upon a different method that I want to try. It's not parboiling but it appears to end giving you the same crisp outside and soft inside. Peel and cut 3 medium potatoes french fry style. Add 2 tsps of sugar and 1 tsp of salt. Cover with water (about 2 cups)and half a cup of ice. Don't forget the ice. After 30 minutes, rinse, dry them well with paper or towel. Mix equal parts of regular flour and corn starch and mix with the row potatoes. Shake the potatoes in a colander to get rid of the excess powder and fry them or broil them in the oven until golden.
    golden. Has anyone done this?
  12. M. Zeller
    Wonderful article even though it took me a couple of years to discover. Parboiling is something that seems to have got a bit lost in the last 20 years. I learned growing up working in restaurants that parboiled potatoes are best for decent hash browns and country fried potatoes. Thank you for this awesome article and keep up the good work!
  13. JuanitaTaylor Taylor
    JuanitaTaylor Taylor
    In 40 my mom with 9 children did the potato parboild
  14. Stephen Walter
    Another reason for parboiling potatoes is that if you have someone in your family who has issues with potassium levels in their diet (as was the case with my late wife), then such a person can never have jacket potatoes again, because they are very high in potassium. Solution for my wife was that we could always peel the potatoes which is most of the potassium gone, and then parboil them, which gets rid of any potassium that leached through to the top level of the potato. Thus my dear wife could at least have mashed potato, roast potatoes, indeed , any kind of potato other than jacket. Sadly, she could also never have bananas again which she absolutely loved. But that’s another story.
  15. Doug
    Is kosher salt just sea salt?
    1. Ashley Morris
      Hi Doug! Kosher salt is a coarse, flat grained edible salt without additives. Its flavor is clean and straightforward, and it seasons food in a gentler way than table salt. Kosher salt is mined from underground salt deposits. Sea salt is made from drying salt water from the ocean or salt water lakes into crystals. Because it’s harvested from water, it has micro nutrients and other subtle flavors that aren’t present in kosher salt.
  16. NancyMcC
    How long does it take for them the "cool a little"? I have a recipe for potatoes au gratin that calls for parboiling, but the prep time is supposedly very short. It also calls for slicing them AFTER parboiling, which doesn't work very well.
    1. Ashley Morris
      Ashley Morris
      Hi Nancy, it really depends on the size of the potatoes. We recommend waiting until they are cool enough to handle without being too hot to the touch.

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