The best KFC mashed potatoes and gravy copycat recipe

Stopping at KFC and leaving without a side of mashed potatoes and gravy isn't an option. It's just that this particular side dish is just that good. Sure, the fast-food giant is more well-known for the secret blend of herbs and spices in their crispy-fried chicken, but KFC does sides right. KFC mashed potatoes and gravy is so comforting, people add mashed potatoes to their chicken sandwiches and drizzle potato wedges with gravy to create poutine. Now that KFC has reported they're serving sides by the scoop instead of by the container, you can really hack the menu to make some creative dishes. Don't worry; we won't judge you if you turn a few scoops of mashed potatoes and gravy into your main meal instead of enjoying it as a side. 

Better yet, skip drive-thru all together and make this famous side dish at home. The recipe has changed several times over the years, so we tried out a few copycat recipes before settling on a final version. The recipe we use here is — by far — our favorite. Does it taste as good as KFC's hot and creamy mashed potatoes? Will you want to smother everything in our copycat signature gravy? Yes, and we actually thought it was better than the original (more like the KFC of our childhood). 

Pick up the ingredients for copycat KFC mashed potatoes and gravy

We were a little overwhelmed when we started with the ingredients list from KFC's website — they list over 28 ingredients, including things like mono and diglycerides, and calcium stearoyl-2-lactylate. What the heck is all of that? Then, we learned from Popsugar that KFC mashed potatoes and gravy is made from powder packets, and we felt a little better. Phew; we didn't have to add all those crazy ingredients we can't even pronounce.

The ingredients list is actually pretty simple when you get down to it. We were able to make this dish with a stick of butter, flour, milk, salt, pepper, beef and chicken bouillon cubes, and a packet of instant mashed potato flakes. Not counting the salt and pepper, that means you can make this dish with fewer than six ingredients, and you likely have most of them on hand at any given time. Check out the end of this article for ingredient quantities and the full step-by-step instructions.

Contrary to popular belief, KFC gravy does not contain fried chicken drippings

There are a lot of theories that KFC uses the drippings at the bottom of the pressure fryer to add flavor to their gravy. A few Redditors from Canada confirmed this theory: A KFC Winnepeg employee explained that, when they filter out the oil, they collect "all the bits of deep fried chicken and skin and batter." Those bits are then mixed in with gravy powder and water and strained out after they infuse the sauce with their flavor.  

Another Redditor chimed in that they asked their manager about adding chicken drippings to the gravy, only to learn that "they had to stop doing that because it wasn't cost-effective." They may have used the drippings in the past, but that process involved the addition of extra shortening, which cost too much money for the side dish. It might be an urban legend, or it may be the old-school way of making KFC gravy, but we decided to keep things clean by skipping the chicken drippings. If you want to give it a try to see if it makes a difference, you'll have to make a batch of KFC fried chicken first.

KFC gravy does contain a few types of bouillon cubes, though

The real secret to KFC gravy is what comes in the powder packet. Senior brand and innovation manager for KFC UK and Ireland, Marcus Buck, told Vice that the stock used in the gravy is "your typical stock cube... It contains ingredients like black pepper, chicken extract, salt, flour, etc." 

Some copycat KFC mashed potatoes and gravy recipes use chicken or beef bouillon cubes, but we wanted to use both. If the original KFC recipe did, indeed, use the fried chicken drippings found at the bottom of the pressure fryer, we would need a chicken bouillon cube to give the gravy its boost of chicken-forward flavor.  

So why use beef bouillon, too? Beef may be surprising ingredient considering this fast-food chain only serves chicken. That said, this ingredient not only gives the gravy a deep, rich flavor, but beef bouillon also performs another critical task: It provides the gravy with its signature color. We made gravy with chicken bouillon only the first time around, but it wasn't dark enough to match up with the real deal. Add in the beef bouillon, and it not only improves the flavor, but it also gets our gravy closer in color to the actual dish.

Should you use real potatoes or instant potato flakes for KFC mashed potatoes?

We considered using real potatoes to make our KFC mashed potato copycat recipe. After all, instant potato flakes are an odd ingredient to keep stocked up in the pantry. They look a little bit like dandruff when they come out of the box, and the idea that they can become as creamy and fluffy as real potatoes seemed ridiculous. But, KFC uses them to make their mashed potatoes, and they taste pretty good. So, we gave it a try, and we were pretty astonished at the results.

Man, oh man, these things are kind of magical! The Idahoan brand we picked up uses 100 percent Idaho potatoes, and they really do taste just like mashed potatoes made from scratch. Plus, they couldn't be easier to make; just heat up some water or milk, stir in the flakes, and top it off with butter. If you like your potatoes on the creamy side, you can whisk in extra water or milk at the end. After making the test batch, we completely understand why KFC doesn't take the time to boil and mash real potatoes, so we didn't feel the need to do so, either. As a bonus, instant potato flakes have a long expiration date, and you can feel pretty secure about keeping a box on-hand for last-minute or emergency situations.

Start by making a roux for copycat KFC gravy

OK, now that we understand the ingredients involved, it's time to get cooking. We started with the gravy. It's not only easier to keep gravy warm than it is to reheat mashed potatoes, but the latter always taste better when they're fresh, so best to save them for last. The basis of all good gravy is roux: a mixture of flour and fat (in this case, butter). It's basically a starch bomb that absorbs water, expanding the liquid to create a flavorful gravy that's thick enough to coat just about anything. 

The first step to a good roux is letting the butter brown a little bit. Technically, all you have to do is melt it so it combines with the flour. But, one of the secrets chefs learn in culinary school is to let it bubble and turn a light tan color. It gives you a head-start towards cooking the flour. Then, reduce the heat and add the flour little by little. You'll want to whisk the entire time to prevent any dry clumps from forming, and to keep the flour from accidentally burning to the bottom of the pan. From there, you simply continue cooking the mixture for a few minutes to remove the raw flour taste. When you're finished, the roux should be thick but smooth. 

Add beef and chicken bouillon to make authentic KFC gravy

Now that the roux is finished, it's time to add the liquid. In this case, we're using both beef and chicken bouillon, which creates the ideal flavor profile to recreate authentic KFC gravy. Simply add them to hot water and stir until they're well combined. If you don't have bouillon cubes on hand, you can use something like Better Than Bouillon roasted beef or chicken base. You could also swap-in a similar amount of beef or chicken broth, but we find the cubes or base have more flavor than store-bought broth. They also contain plenty of salt, so you don't have to add any salt or seasonings (although, you can also seek out low-sodium options, if you prefer).  

All that's left to do to make our gravy is to add the liquid to the hot roux. You'll want to add the liquid slowly in the beginning, constantly whisking to incorporate the two products. You'll notice the liquid starts to bubble up and expand almost immediately as it hits the roux; that's the scientific process of those starches absorbing the water. Continue whisking and adding the broth until the entire container is empty. If you stirred while you added, there shouldn't be any lumps in the gravy. Simmer the mixture until it's nice and thick, about five minutes. Then, reduce the heat to low to keep the gravy warm as we make our mashed potatoes.

It's time to make copycat KFC mashed potatoes

If you were using real potatoes, this process would be long and time-consuming. You'd have to peel the potatoes, boil them until they're tender, and mash them with milk and cream until they become the perfect consistency. Overworking the potatoes turns them gummy and starchy, but under-mashing them creates unseasoned lumps. Luckily, we don't have that problem here. The instant flakes are easy to incorporate into our hot liquid, so they turn out perfect every time.

To recreate the buttery, rich flavor of KFC potatoes, we used a combination of milk and water to make our mashed potatoes. You could use water alone, but we found a small addition of milk went a long way to making the mashed potatoes taste better. Melt some unsalted butter into the liquid before adding the flakes, and stir until they're well combined. That's it! If the potatoes are too thick for your liking, whisk in additional milk or water until they reach the perfect consistency. To make them taste exactly like KFC's mashed potatoes, add some freshly ground black pepper to dish before serving.

Eat KFC mashed potatoes and gravy as a side, or turn them into a KFC Famous Bowl

It's time to pull it all together to create KFC's classic mashed potatoes and gravy side dish. When you're ready to serve, simply scoop out the potatoes and top them with the rich gravy. We like to make a little indentation in the mashed potatoes with the back of a spoon to give the gravy a place to pool. If the gravy has sat for more than a few minutes, just give it a stir before serving it to make sure it hasn't formed a skin on top. If it has, don't worry; upon stirring, it will incorporate into the rest of the gravy without any problems.

Mashed potatoes and gravy are delicious as a side dish, but these mashed potatoes are so tasty on their own, you could eat them as the main meal. We thought it was a good opportunity to recreate the KFC Famous Bowl by adding some shredded cheddar cheese, sweet corn kernels, and crispy chicken nuggets. Drizzle the bowl with gravy to finish it off, and you're in for a real treat.

How close did we get to KFC mashed potatoes and gravy recipe?

You wouldn't think that mashed potatoes made from powdered potato flakes could be so good, but they really are. The potatoes were super buttery and had a nice, light and fluffy texture. Honestly, we couldn't stop eating them. The gravy didn't disappoint, either; it had a deep, dark, rich flavor that paired perfectly with those fluffy potatoes. We thought the gravy was tasty enough to stand on its own, too; it would be great served over pot roast or as the sauce for Swedish meatballs.

It might seem like cheating to make such a flavorful side dish with a handful of ingredients that come out of pouches or bags. But, flavor doesn't lie, and this side dish tasted almost exactly like the one we get from the Colonel. It was so good, we're considering using this recipe to make mashed potatoes and gravy as a Thanksgiving side dish this year. If no one walks into the kitchen to see us pouring out the bag of instant potato flakes, we don't think anyone would even know about this little secret.

Copycat KFC mashed potatoes and gravy recipe

Prep time: 5 minutes 

Cook time: 30 minutes

Makes: 6 servings

Ingredients

(For the gravy)

  • 2 teaspoons beef bouillon
  • 2 teaspoons chicken bouillon
  • 2-1/2 cups hot water
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • Ground black pepper to taste

(For the mashed potatoes)

  • 1/3 cup whole milk, plus additional milk as needed
  • 1-1/2 cups cold water
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1-1/2 cups instant mashed potato flakes
  • Ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Start by making the gravy. Add the beef and chicken bouillons to the hot water, stirring until the mixture is well combined. Set aside. 
  2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high and cook it until it starts to bubble and turn a light tan color.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the flour to make the roux. Stir constantly using a whisk until the mixture turns a light golden brown, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the bouillon-infused water to the pan, whisking constantly to prevent any clumps from forming. Increase the heat to medium-high and stir frequently until the mixture is the desired consistency, about 5 minutes. 
  5. Season the gravy with black pepper and keep it warm over low heat while you make the mashed potatoes. 
  6. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk and water to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add three tablespoons of the butter and the salt. Simmer the mixture until the butter is melted.
  7. Remove the pan from the heat and add the potato flakes, whisking as you add. Whip the potatoes until they're light and fluffy, adding additional milk or water to adjust the consistency to your liking.
  8. Place the remaining tablespoon of butter on top of the potatoes and let it melt. 
  9. Season the mashed potatoes with black pepper. Top the potatoes with the hot gravy and serve immediately.