Caramelized Potatoes

Jonas Drotner Mouritsen

No traditional Danish Christmas dinner is complete without a dish of small caramelized potatoes.

The potatoes must be boiled until well done but still firm and then peeled carefully rather than scraped so as to preserve the fine membrane that is found just under the peel. This membrane helps ensure that the potato starch does not seep out when they are browned, as this would result in a fuzzy and less smooth surface.

For the browning process to be successful, high heat is required to prevent the layer of caramel from becoming lumpy. The best results are achieved by sprinkling a layer of sugar over the bottom of a very hot pan and leaving it to melt without stirring it. It is also possible to achieve a more even melting of the sugar if a little water is mixed in with it.

When the sugar has melted and the water, if any, has evaporated, and before it becomes too brown, butter is melted into the sugar. The next step is the critical one: when the butter has started to froth, the peeled potatoes are placed in the melted sugar. Preferably the potatoes should be cold and have been rinsed with water. To prevent the sugar from solidifying and forming hard lumps of caramel when the ice-cold potatoes are added, it is necessary to have very high heat to keep the sugar liquid.

The browning process now proceeds by simmering the potatoes in the liquid caramel for a good period of time, all the while turning them carefully from time to time so that they do not burn at the bottom. The butter helps create a beautiful, shiny surface on the caramelized potatoes.


  • 2 1/4 pounds (1 kg) firm, very small potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon (18 g) salt per quart (L) of cooking water for the potatoes
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (30 g) butter

ALT INFOMouthfeel
by Ole G. Mouritsen and Klavs Styrbæk


Rinse the potatoes, then place in a pot and add just enough water to cover them.

Add salt, cook the potatoes for about 15 minutes, peel them, and put them in the refrigerator.

Sprinkle the sugar in the bottom of a pan and allow it to caramelize without stirring it.

Add the butter and allow it to froth, then mix together the sugar and the butter.

Rinse the peeled, cooked potatoes in cold water and let them drain a bit so that they are still moist. Place them in the caramel and turn them carefully until their surfaces are covered with caramel and they are warmed through.

The potatoes are done when they are completely reheated, golden and dark, and have a fine, bitter-tasting, caramelized surface.

* * *

Reprinted with permission from Mouthfeel by Ole G. Mouritsen and Klavs Styrbaeæk Copyright 2017 Columbia University Press.

Cook time: 
Serves 6
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