How to Boil Potatoes in the Microwave

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Cooking potatoes in the microwave is a quick and easy way to make a tasty side dish or ingredient for your favorite recipes. With just a few simple steps, you can have tender, fluffy boiled potatoes ready in minutes.

Why Microwave Potatoes?

There are several benefits to microwaving potatoes rather than boiling them on the stovetop:

  • It’s faster – Microwaves cook food much more rapidly by exciting water molecules directly. You can have perfect boiled potatoes in 5-10 minutes instead of 30-45 minutes on the stove.
  • Uses less water – Potato pieces or whole small potatoes only need a small amount of water to steam cook in the microwave. This intensifies the potato flavor.
  • Retains nutrients – Microwaving better preserves nutrients like vitamin C and antioxidants compared to boiling.
  • Easy cleanup – With just a microwave-safe bowl, you avoid dirtying pots and pans.
  • Good for small batches – It’s perfect for cooking 1-2 servings quickly. No need to boil a huge pot.

Step-by-Step Guide

Follow these simple steps for deliciously tender microwaved spuds every time:

1. Choose the Right Potatoes

  • Smaller potatoes microwave faster – go for new potatoes, fingerlings or cut larger potatoes into evenly-sized 1-2 inch chunks.
  • Avoid baking potatoes like russets – they don’t cook evenly in the microwave.
  • Wash and scrub potatoes well before cooking.

2. Prep the Potatoes

  • Peel potatoes if desired, or cook unpeeled. Just scrub well.
  • If peeling, slice larger potatoes into evenly-sized 1-2 inch pieces so they cook at the same rate.
  • For whole small potatoes, pierce the skin several times with a fork or knife tip. This prevents bursting.

3. Add Water

  • Place potato pieces or whole potatoes in a microwave-safe bowl.
  • Add just 1-3 tablespoons water. This will steam the potatoes as they cook.
  • For flavor, you can add herbs, garlic or other seasonings to the water.

4. Cover and Microwave

  • Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap or a lid. Make sure to leave a vent for steam.
  • Microwave on high for 3-4 minutes for diced potatoes or 7-9 minutes for whole small potatoes.
  • Let stand covered for 2 minutes before checking doneness.

5. Check Doneness

  • Potatoes are done when easily pierced with a fork or knife tip.
  • If still firm, microwave in 1 minute bursts, checking after each.
  • Carefully remove cover/plastic wrap and drain water before serving.

6. Mash, Fry or Use in Recipes

  • For mashed potatoes, add milk, butter and seasoning and mash until smooth.
  • For home fries, toss cooked potatoes with oil and fry in a skillet until crispy.
  • Or use microwaved spuds in your favorite potato salads, soups, stews and more!

Tips for the Best Results

Here are some handy tips and tricks for getting perfect microwaved potatoes every time:

  • Cut potato pieces about the same size so they cook evenly. Avoid a mix of large and small.
  • Add potatoes to cold water, not hot, so they cook uniformly throughout.
  • For whole small potatoes, pierce skin several times with a fork before microwaving.
  • Arrange potatoes in a single layer in the microwave-safe dish and don’t overcrowd.
  • Stir or turn potatoes about halfway through microwaving for consistent doneness.
  • Check potatoes early and often. Cook times can vary widely by microwave.
  • Factor in extra cooking time for larger potatoes like medium red potatoes.
  • Let potatoes stand covered for 2-3 minutes after microwaving to finish steaming.

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers

Got extras? Here’s how to store and reheat microwaved potatoes:


  • Store leftover boiled potatoes in an airtight container in the fridge up to 4 days.
  • For longer freezer storage, place cooked potatoes in freezer bags or airtight containers up to 3 months.


  • To reheat refrigerated microwaved potatoes, place them in a microwave-safe dish with a splash of water, cover and microwave until hot, 1-3 minutes.
  • To reheat frozen potatoes, run them under cool water to thaw first, then microwave until heated through.

More Creative Ways to Use Microwaved Spuds

Don’t stop at standard boiled or mashed potatoes. Get creative with microwaved potatoes by making:

  • Cheesy scalloped potatoes – Layer thinly sliced potatoes with cream soup, cheese and seasonings.
  • Greek potatoes – Toss cooked potatoes with olive oil, lemon, garlic, oregano and feta.
  • Potato pancakes – Mash potatoes and mix with egg, flour and scallions, then pan fry into patties.
  • Breakfast potato bowl – Top potatoes with sautéed veggies, cheese, eggs and salsa.
  • Potato gnocchi – Make fluffy soft gnocchi by mixing mashed potatoes with flour and egg.
  • Potato salad – Toss cooled potatoes with mayo, vinegar, celery, onion and herbs.
  • Baked potato soup – Puree cooked potatoes with broth, cream and bacon. Top with cheese.
  • Twice baked potatoes – Scoop out baked potato insides, mix with mashed potato and fill skins.

The possibilities are endless! Microwaved potatoes make a quick base for soups, sides, breakfasts and more.

Microwave Potato Cooking Time Chart

To get perfect spuds every time, follow this microwave cooking time guideline:

Potato TypeCook Time
Diced Potatoes (1-2 inches)3-4 minutes
Small whole potatoes7-9 minutes
Medium whole potatoes9-11 minutes
Large whole potatoes11-13 minutes
  • For diced potatoes, start checking doneness at 3 minutes.
  • For whole potatoes, allow to stand covered 2 minutes then check doneness.
  • Potato type, size and microwave wattage may vary cook time.

Selecting Potatoes for Microwaving

Not all potatoes are well suited for microwaving. For best results, choose:

  • Smaller potato varieties like new potatoes, fingerlings or baby potatoes.
  • Longer “oblong” potatoes rather than round russet types.
  • Younger, less starchy potatoes if possible for creamier texture.

Avoid these varieties for microwaving whole:

  • Russet potatoes – Tend to cook unevenly. Better for baking/mashing.
  • Round potatoes – Can more easily burst in microwave.
  • Older potatoes – Become more fibrous.

When in doubt, cut any large potatoes into even sized 1-2 inch chunks before cooking.

Microwave Potato Safety Tips

Microwaving potatoes is generally safe, but follow these tips:

  • Use microwave-safe, BPA-free containers. Never use metal.
  • Allow steam to vent – poke holes in plastic wrap and leave part of lid off.
  • Check potato temperature before eating – should be hot throughout.
  • Discard any potatoes that look discolored or dried out.
  • Keep raw potatoes separate from cooked to avoid cross-contamination.

Related: Is It Safe to Microwave Potatoes Wrapped in Plastic?


Why do potatoes explode in the microwave?

This happens if steam builds up inside the potato with no way to escape. To prevent explosions, be sure to poke holes in the potato skin before microwaving whole potatoes. Dicing potatoes into smaller pieces can also help avoid bursting.

Can you microwave a whole baked potato?

It’s not recommended. Large whole potatoes like russets don’t typically cook evenly in the microwave. They are better baked in the oven. For microwaving, choose small whole potatoes or cut larger potatoes into pieces (related: Craving a quick and tasty dinner? Learn how to make a Quick Baked Potato in the microwave by clicking now!)

Should you wrap potatoes in plastic for microwaving?

Wrapping diced or whole small potatoes in plastic wrap or putting a lid on helps steam the potatoes as they microwave. But be sure to vent the plastic or leave the lid slightly ajar so steam can escape.

How long does it take to microwave a whole potato?

Cook times can vary greatly, but in general whole small potatoes take 7-9 minutes, medium potatoes 9-11 minutes and large whole potatoes 11-13 minutes. Check early and often for doneness.

Why are my microwaved potatoes hard in the middle?

This happens if potatoes are cooked unevenly. Be sure to cut larger potatoes into even sizes. Stir or turn them halfway through cooking. And use similar sized small potatoes.

Can you microwave sweet potatoes?

Yes! Pierce the skin several times with a fork to allow venting. Cook whole medium sweet potatoes around 5-7 minutes, flipping halfway. Slice larger sweets into even pieces and microwave 5-6 minutes (related: Ready to Tantalize Your Taste Buds? Explore our Microwave Sweet Potato Recipe by clicking here!).

Is it better to peel potatoes before microwaving?

Peeling is optional. Scrubbing the skin well is the most important prep step. If leaving skins on, be sure to pierce them to allow venting.

How do you soften up microwaved potatoes?

Let potatoes stand covered for 2-3 minutes after cooking to finish steaming. Adding butter or milk after also helps soften them up. Undercooking can cause firmer texture, so cook thoroughly.

Can you microwave potato slices or wedges?

Yes, slice larger potatoes into even wedges or thick slices, arrange in a single layer and microwave 4-7 minutes until tender, flipping once. Add a splash of water to help steam.

In Conclusion

With this complete guide, you’ll be a master at microwaving perfect boiled potatoes for salads, sides, breakfasts and more! Adjust cook times based on potato variety, and make sure potatoes reach safe internal temperature. Get creative with your microwaved spuds by mashing, frying or incorporating them into recipes.

By Rosie Elliott

I’m Rosie. I’m a professional chef with experience in Western, Mediterranean, and Italian cuisine. I’ve been cooking for over 15 years, and I have two daughters that keep me busy!

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