The Real Reason You Should Never Order KFC's Mashed Potatoes

If you're cozying up to a bucket of KFC chicken, there's a good chance you have a side of mashed potatoes at the ready, too. After all, the magical combo of carbs plus carbs is hard to beat. KFC describes their mashed potatoes as "hot, creamy, and covered with our signature gravy," and goes on to claim, "It's a side, but we won't fight you if you want to call it a meal." Calling KFC's mashed potatoes with gravy a meal would be pretty accurate, considering an individual side portion packs in an alarming 530 milligrams of sodium. 

You might expect most of that sodium to come from the gravy but it's actually the potatoes that are the culprit. We're not talking about fresh potatoes out of the ground. According to a KFC manager on this Reddit Ask Me Anything thread, KFC's mashed potatoes come from powdered potatoes, a.k.a instant mashed potatoes. One excellent KFC copycat recipe hails Idahoan brand mashed potatoes as a close approximation of the dried potato flakes KFC uses in their kitchen. According to Idahoan, half a cup of prepared potatoes packs 370 milligrams of sodium. That's a lot for something you're likely gobbling up in between bites of KFC's MSG-laden fried chicken.

KFC's mashed potatoes come with lots of additives and preservatives

At this point, you may be wondering how KFC achieves such potatoey mashed potatoes without the use of real, fresh potatoes. Well, the credit there goes to a long list of food additives and preservatives. According to KFC's ingredients list, their mashed potatoes contain an array of additives such as maltodextrine, mono- and diglycerides, sodium bisulphite, and BHT. 

Short for "butylated hydroxytoluene," BHT is on the Environmental Working Group's "dirty dozen" list of food additives to be aware of, despite their approval by the FDA. They say that while BHT is not listed as a carcinogen, it has been known to cause cancer in animals. It has also been shown to disrupt the endocrine system of animals, resulting in developmental effects and changes in thyroid activity. BHT is generally recognized as safe by the FDA but if you're leery about chemicals in your food, maybe consider scratching KFC's mashed potatoes from your next order.

That gravy, though

There's a chance you might enjoy KFC's mashed potatoes solely for the luscious puddle of savory brown gravy that comes with them. But, KFC's gravy, and the interesting way it may or may not be made, has received some attention over the years. A self-described former KFC employee offers a description of KFC's gravy preparation on Quora, adding that the memories are nightmare-inducing. He alleges that all the leftover bits of chicken (mostly bones and "residue) that collect at the bottom of the chicken fryer – which contains a "black sludge" – are transferred to a freezer to later be melted and served up as KFC's famous mashed potato-topping gravy. 

A KFC fry cook in Canada took to Reddit with similar details except, in his version, the bits from the fryer were strained first, then stirred into water along with a packet of "gravy powder." Another Redditor claims the gravy is just a packet of seasonings and powder, mixed into water – no fryer drippings required. If any of this makes your tummy turn, skip KFC's mashed potatoes for good and just opt for the coleslaw.