Roasted baby potatoes are a simple side dish that goes with just about anything. Buttery, garlic-y, with crisp, golden edges and fluffy inside … they are one of my favorite side dishes.
The secret to achieving the perfect harmony between that golden crisp coating and soft fluffy center is lightly coating the potatoes in olive oil and roasting them at high temperatures. Wait! Did I say olive oil and roasting at high temperatures in one sentence? Yes!
Cooking with Olive Oil
Olive oil has always been a nutrition saint. Its health benefits have been touted for ages – high in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer… the list goes on and on. (1, 2) However, there is also a popular myth that it’s unsafe to cook with olive oil; that it isn’t stable and oxidizes when heated, forming harmful by-products in the process. While this is true for vegetable oils, olive oil has some unique qualities that make it stable under high-heat cooking conditions.
There are two reasons why olive oil outperforms other vegetable oils when heated:
- High monounsaturated fat content: olive oil consists of mostly monounsaturated fatty acids (73%), which makes it more stable in heat than oils with high amounts of polyunsaturated fatty. (3, 4)
- High antioxidant levels: olive oil contains phenolic compounds – polyphenols and tocopherols – which act to protect the oil from oxidation. These phenolic compounds influence olive oil’s stability in heat even more than its monounsaturated fat content. (5, 6)
These two factors combined make olive oil safe to cook with. It stands up well to heat and fares much better than other vegetable oils.
That being said, some grades of olive oil are more stable than others.
Types of Olive Oil
There are three basic grades of olive oil, and several types within each grade.
- Extra virgin olive oil (includes “premium extra virgin” and “extra virgin”) is the highest grade of olive oil. It’s made from the first pressing of olives. Chemicals and high heat are not allowed in the production. Compared to other types of olive oil, extra virgin olive oil contains the highest amount of phenolic compounds and is therefore the most stable and protected from oxidative damage when heated. (6, 7)
- Virgin olive oil (includes “fine virgin,” “virgin,” and “semi-fine virgin”) is made from the second pressing of olives, no chemicals or heat allowed in the production. The main difference between extra virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil is acidity. Extra virgin olive oil has extremely low acidity – no more than 0.8% – whereas virgin olive oil has an acidity level up to 2%.
- Olive oil (includes “pure” and “refined”): when virgin olive oil has a high acidity level or unpleasant aroma or flavor, it is sent to a processing plant where it becomes refined. There it undergoes processing with agents that might include heat, chemicals, and/or filtration. Refined olive oil is clear, odorless, and flavorless and has an acidity level of 0.3% or less. Because refined olive oil has the lowest amount of phenolic compounds, it is the least stable out of the three.
High-Heat Cooking with Olive Oil
It has been assumed that smoke point (the temperature at which oil produces a thin, continuous stream of bluish smoke under controlled circumstances) is the most important indicator of oil’s safety and suitability for cooking. However, new research has shown that is not the case.
An oil’s smoke point does not correlate to its performance and stability when heated. Rather, the factors that predict an oil’s safety and stability at high heat are the percentage of saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids (the higher, the better), the amount of antioxidants (the higher, the better), and the level of refining that has occurred during production (the less refined, the better).
In the study, extra virgin olive oil was the best performing oil but regular olive oil also performed better than most seed oils including canola oil, grapeseed oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, and avocado oil.
Now onto the roasted baby potatoes recipe …
Tips for Making Roasted Baby Potatoes
You only need a handful of pantry staples to make oven-roasted baby potatoes:
- Baby potatoes: little potatoes are the perfect type of potatoes for this dish. They don’t need to be peeled, are consistently sized to prevent some from cooking faster than others, cook rather quickly, and come in beautiful colorful varietals (white, red, and purple). What I love most about baby potatoes is their naturally buttery taste and creamy texture. Red and purple creamer potatoes have more flavor than yellow ones, so I prefer those.
- Olive oil: while you can roast potatoes without any oil, using a little bit of olive oil (plain or herb-infused) makes the potatoes crispy without being dry. You can achieve crispy potatoes even without oil (because the heat in the oven is a type of “dry” heat, meaning it causes water to evaporate), but oil is what acts as a protective barrier to ensure that the potatoes don’t completely dry out but rather maintain a fluffy, creamy interior.
- Garlic: garlic and potatoes go really well together. Make sure the garlic is really well coated with the olive oil, which will help the surface to caramelize rather than burn.
- Herbs: rosemary, thyme, and parsley are a classic and simple way to season the potatoes. However, you can use any herbs or spices you have on hand to make a different side dish every time you turn on your oven—the possibilities are endless! Go herby, spicy, garlicky, or even citrusy.
- Salt: along with the seasonings, use a generous amount of sea salt. Potatoes are basically a sponge for flavor.
How to Make Roasted Baby Potatoes
Roasting is one of the best ways to enhance the naturally sweet flavors of vegetables. As the vegetables roast, the outside forms a crispy “crust” while the inside becomes tender and the natural sweetness of the vegetable comes out. Here are my tips for roasting baby potatoes to perfection:
- Clean the potatoes. Because baby potatoes are young and tender, you don’t need to peel them. The skins are ever so thin. Simply rinse the potatoes thoroughly under fresh clean water. If you have any bits of stubborn mud or soil still stuck on them, use a vegetable brush and gently scrub the potato under running water.
- Drizzle the potatoes with oil and season with garlic, herbs, and salt. The most important thing is that all the ingredients, particularly the garlic, are well coated with the oil, so they don’t dry out or burn in the oven.
- Arrange the potatoes in a single layer. To achieve a beautiful browning and crisp exterior, arrange the baby potatoes in a single layer and don’t overcrowd the pan. As potatoes cook, they give off moisture. If they are too close together, or worse yet, in a double layer, they will steam rather than roast. So, use a large baking sheet and leave a little room around each half to let the heat circulate and allow the potatoes to really crisp up. use a large baking sheet and leave a little room around each chunk to let the heat circulate and allow the potatoes to really crisp up. I also like to make sure that the cut side is down, in contact with the direct heat of the pan, to increase browning.
- Roast at high temperatures. Low oven temperatures aren’t enough to achieve the kind of deep brown, caramelized, crisp exterior that makes roasting so wonderful. Roasted vegetables demand high heat. As a rule of thumb roast anywhere between 400°F/205°C and 425°F/218°C. This is the temperature that will produce potatoes that are crisp and cooked through in the center.
- Flip the potatoes only when the bottom is nicely golden. Allow the potatoes to roast in the oven undisturbed so they form a crust where they come into contact with the baking sheet. Only then flip the potatoes. I typically wait until the end, the last 10 minutes or so, to flip.
How to Serve Roasted Baby Potatoes
Roasted baby potatoes can be so much more than just a dinner side dish. In the fall and winter, I make roasted baby potatoes all the time but never get enough of them because there are so many ways to use them! Try stuffing them into a breakfast burrito, or serving them for brunch with vegetable frittata (recipe coming soon!). They are also delicious in a salad with greens or as a part of a Buddha bowl.
Tools You’ll Need
1. Griddle (12″, Lodge, Cast Iron) | 2. Knife Set (6 Pieces, Utopia, Stainless Steel) | 3. Cutting Board (24″ x 18″, Michigan Maple Block, Maple) | 4. Mixing Bowls (Set of 3, Pyrex, Glass) | 5. Measuring Spoons (Set of 6, 1Easylife, Stainless Steel)
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Roasted Baby Potatoes
- 2 lb baby potatoes , halved*
- 3 cloves garlic , minced
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley , chopped**
- sea salt, to taste
- Season the potatoes. Add the potatoes, garlic, and oil into a large bowl and toss until evenly coated. Season with salt and toss once again.
- Roast. Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Transfer the potatoes onto a large baking sheet or a pan and spread them into an even layer. For crispier potatoes, arrange them cut side down. Bake until the potatoes are golden brown and fork tender, 35-45 minutes, flipping halfway through roasting.
- Serve. Transfer the roasted potatoes to a serving bowl and sprinkle a little extra fresh parsley on top (optional). Serve immediately.
- Store. Leftover roasted baby potatoes keep well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
**In the photos, I used rosemary instead of parsley.
***Nutrition information is approximate and may container errors. Please, feel free to make your own calculations.