These goat cheese smashed potatoes are a simple, cozy side dish or appetizer! With crispy edges, soft centers, and a burst of flavor from fresh pesto and a quick balsamic glaze.
These pesto smashed potatoes are the perfect blend of crispy, creamy, tangy, and cozy: Basically, the stuff that side dish dreams are made of.
You'll start by boiling a few small red potatoes until they're soft. Smash the cooked potatoes down with a measuring cup (or a sturdy glass), bake until the edges are niiiiice and crispy, add a few toppings, and you're in business!
This recipe requires a few different steps, but we promise it's worth it. (If you're looking for a quicker potato side dish, try our smoked gouda mashed potatoes or greek yogurt mashed potatoes!)
For a full ingredients list with exact quantities, scroll to the recipe card below.
This is a pretty straightforward recipe, but we want to highlight a few things before you jump in:
- Use red potatoes that are on the smaller side: Small potatoes are easier to smash and will crisp up better than large potatoes (if your potatoes are quite large, you can cut them in half before boiling!) Remove any eyes, sprouts, or otherwise marred areas from each potato before cooking.
- We used basil pesto in these photos, but these potatoes are also good with arugula pesto, cilantro pesto, garlic scape pesto, or pea pesto!
- For best results, buy a log of goat cheese and crumble it up yourself: Pre-crumbled goat cheese sometimes has preservatives or anti-caking agents that cause it to brown or even burn in the oven (instead of melting).
- Good balsamic vinegar adds a ton of flavor here! Simmer regular balsamic for a few minutes in a small saucepan or skillet to make your own reduction, or use store-bought balsamic glaze to save some time.
Variations and Substitutions
This recipe is fairly forgiving: It's easy to customize with whatever you have on hand! A few of our favorite riffs:
- Swap the cheese. Use shaved or shredded parmesan, asiago, or cheddar cheese in place of the goat cheese here if you like.
- Add extra toppings. Crispy bacon or prosciutto and fresh herbs (basil, parsley, fresh chives) are excellent additions here, as are a pinch of flakey sea salt or fresh cracked black pepper.
- Mix up the potatoes! We love red potatoes here because they hold their shape well and lend a pop of color, but yellow or Yukon gold potatoes also work. (Russets are a little too large to use whole in this recipe, but they'll work if you cut them in thirds or quarters before boiling.)
- Use hot honey in place of the balsamic glaze, or drizzle these finished potatoes with a squeeze of lemon juice for extra brightness.
Boil the Potatoes
Start by boiling your red potatoes in a large pot of water seasoned with a generous pinch of kosher salt.
Cook the potatoes until they're very soft: A fork should be able to easily split the potato in half. The softer the potatoes are, the easier they'll be to smash in the next step!
Make-Ahead Tip: Boil the potatoes up to 3 days in advance! Drain the water and let them cool completely, then store in an airtight container in the fridge. When you're ready to use them, just transfer the cold potatoes to a baking sheet, then smash and bake normally.
Smash the Potatoes
Transfer the cooked potatoes to a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Be sure to leave an inch or two of space between each potato so they have room to spread out!
Use a sturdy, flat-bottomed object to gently smash each potato (we like to use a thick measuring cup; some folks like to use the bottom of a drinking glass, a potato masher, a small bowl, or even a large wooden spoon).
Don't be afraid to apply some pressure here: You want the potatoes to be fairly spread out so that they'll roast up evenly and develop crispy, golden brown edges!
Pro Tip: If the potatoes are sticking to the bottom of your measuring cup, run a butter knife between the smashed potato and the cup to loosen it and let it fall back onto the baking sheet.
Add Olive Oil and Roast
When the potatoes are smashed, it's time to start crisping them up! Drizzle smashed potatoes with a bit of olive oil (Image 1, above) then roast for 20-30 minutes until the edges start to crisp and brown (Image 2).
Make sure the potatoes are quite crispy before you move on: They'll only have a few more minutes in the oven once we add toppings, so the bulk of the crisping and browning happens during this first bake. Add another few minutes in the oven if needed to make sure the potatoes are cooked to your liking!
Add Toppings and Bake Again
When the potatoes are just about done, it's time to add toppings!
Use a pastry brush to brush each potato with a thin layer of pesto (Images 3 and 4, above).
Add a sprinkle of goat cheese to each potato (Image 5), then return the pan to the oven and bake another 5-15 minutes to finish crisping everything up (Image 6).
Drizzle with Balsamic Reduction
While the potatoes are baking, simmer a bit of balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan or skillet until it's thickened into a drizzle-able balsamic reduction. Balsamic can thicken up very quickly once it hits a simmer, so keep an eye on it! You can also use a store-bought balsamic glaze here, or skip this step entirely if you're short on time.
When the potatoes are done, finish them with a drizzle of the balsamic glaze! This is also a great place to add a sprinkle of flakey sea salt if you'd like.
A Few FAQs
For ultra-crispy potatoes, drizzle extra olive oil on the sheet pan before you smash the potatoes, and use a pastry brush to brush a generous coat of olive oil over the top of each smashed potato before baking (make sure you get a layer of oil into every nook and cranny!) Making sure there's plenty of oil on all sides of the potato will help them get crispier across the entire surface. You can also extend the bake time until the potatoes are browned to your liking.
If you anticipate having leftovers, we recommend leaving off the balsamic vinegar until you're planning to eat them, as it can make the potatoes soggy. Let baked potatoes cool completely, then store in a large airtight container (try to keep them in a single layer if you can, instead of stacking them on top of each other) in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat on a baking sheet in the oven until crispy. We do not recommend freezing these potatoes as it can alter the texture and flavor.
Yes! Be sure to use a vegan pesto, and omit the goat cheese (or replace it with your favorite vegan/dairy-free cheese alternative).
More Easy Potato Side Dishes
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Pesto and Goat Cheese Smashed Potatoes
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
- Yield: Makes 10 1x
- Category: Side Dish
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Vegetarian
These easy, crispy smashed potatoes have crispy edges and a fluffy interior. Topped with fresh pesto, crumbled goat cheese, and a drizzle of balsamic glaze!
- 10 small red potatoes
- kosher salt, to taste
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- ⅔ cup balsamic vinegar (optional)
- ¼ cup basil pesto
- 2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled (about ⅓ cup)
Boil the Potatoes (45 minutes)
- Remove any eyes or sprouts from the red potatoes, scrub them to remove any grit, and place them in a large saucepan. Add enough water to cover the potatoes, then add a generous pinch of salt.
- Cover the pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 20-25 minutes, until potatoes are very soft and easily pierced with a fork. Drain and let cool for 15 minutes or so, until the potatoes are cool enough to handle.
- While the potatoes cool, heat the oven to 450° Fahrenheit.
Smash and Roast the Potatoes (40 minutes)
- Place cooked potatoes 1-2 inches apart on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Use a sturdy, flat-bottomed vessel (we like to use a thick measuring cup or a small bowl) to gently smash each potato into a flat shape. Note: If the potatoes stick, slide a butter knife along the bottom of the cup to gently separate the potato from the surface.
- Drizzle smashed potatoes with olive oil.
- Transfer the baking sheet to a 450° F oven. Bake potatoes for 25-35 minutes, until they're lightly browned and crisp around the edges.
- While potatoes are baking, simmer balsamic vinegar in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 5-10 minutes to form a thick reduction. (This is optional, but delicious!)
Add Toppings & Finish Baking (15 minutes)
- Once potatoes are crispy, remove them from the oven. Use a pastry brush to brush each potato with a bit of pesto, then top with a sprinkle of crumbled goat cheese.
- Return potatoes to the oven for 10-15 minutes, until goat cheese is soft and the edges are crispy. Drizzle potatoes with balsamic reduction and serve immediately.
This is a pretty forgiving recipe - feel free to eyeball the ingredients here! Depending on the size of your potatoes, you may need to adjust the cook times. We recommend using fairly small potatoes - about 2-3" long - so they're quick to cook and easy to smash. Keep an eye on the potatoes as they cook and make adjustments if necessary.
Additions and Substitutions. Add extra toppings (crispy bacon, pancetta, or prosciutto are good here), fresh herbs (chopped basil, chives, parsley), or a pinch of flakey sea salt if you like. Use parmesan, asiago, or cheddar cheese instead of goat cheese. Make your own balsamic reduction or grab a store-bought balsamic glaze. Finish potatoes with a squeeze of lemon juice or a drizzle of hot honey instead of the balsamic glaze. Use any type of pesto you like (cilantro pesto, pea shoot pesto, garlic scape pesto, or arugula pesto are all good here). Use Yukon gold or yellow potatoes in place of red potatoes. If you need to use a larger potato (like a russet), cut it into thirds or quarters before boiling so it's easier to smash.
Make-Ahead Tip. You can boil the potatoes ahead of time if you like. Boil and drain as instructed, then let the potatoes cool completely and transfer to an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 3 days, then smash and bake normally.
- Serving Size: 2 potatoes
- Calories: 462
- Sugar: 11.4 g
- Sodium: 507.4 mg
- Fat: 13.8 g
- Carbohydrates: 75 g
- Protein: 11 g
- Cholesterol: 5.2 mg
Keywords: side dish, thanksgiving, sides
Wow, these look fantastically delicious!! And yes, I completely agree - you DID just make these into a health food...or at least, that's what I'll tell myself when stuffing these in my face 🙂
This looks really yummy, I love smashed potatoes in all forms I will have to try this.