What Makes Kentucky Potatoes Special?

Potatoes never cease to impress. After all, the typical household staple can be perfectly prepared in a myriad of ways. However, there is another way to rustle up potatoes floating around the internet, known as Kentucky potatoes, that could make a great addition to your next meal. 

Kentucky potatoes take just a handful of ingredients, all of which are easily prepared in a slow cooker, though you can also use your oven to make this side dish. The ingredients list consists of diced potatoes, cheese, sour cream, cream of potato or chicken soup, bell peppers, onions, and common spices (namely, garlic powder, salt, and pepper). The casserole's easy preparation and simple ingredient list may remind you of pan-fried potatoes O'Brien, which also typically comes with diced bell pepper and onion. However, although Kentucky potatoes may sound similar, it uses ingredients that help to transform it into a new-to-you cheesy, creamy dish.

Where Kentucky potatoes came from

It's unclear where Kentucky potatoes originated. Moreover, depending on who's talking about the casserole, it can go by various names and include other ingredients. Nevertheless, each recipe has three things in common: the base is a riff on potatoes O'Brien, cheese and sour cream are added, and it's made in a slow cooker. Regardless, the question remains, why Kentucky?

There isn't a straightforward answer, but there's a probable one. Take Kentucky burgoo, an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink type of stew, which may provide some explanation for Kentucky potatoes. According to lore and the historical record, burgoo is accredited to French chef Gustave Jaubert, a company cook for Buffalo Trace Distillery after the American Civil War. The meal is a tasty jumble of whatever meats and vegetables are available. 

Granted, this may have resulted from scarcity and availability since there's an old expression around the region: "The less food you have, the more you know about cooking." This appears to be a trait central to Kentucky potatoes, considering how adaptable the dish is — aside from the core components, anything goes. Moreover, the potato holds a special place in the heart of Kentuckians, so much so that the Bluegrass State has at least two different festivals in the vegetable's honor. 

How to make Kentucky potatoes

While you can reach for a store-bought bag of frozen potatoes O'Brien to make Kentucky potatoes, you can also easily dice bell peppers, onions, and potatoes yourself. If you go this route, you have a wide variety of potatoes to choose from. None are the wrong answer here — as long as the dish has its main three features, it's Kentucky potatoes.

Still, since most instructions only call for a frozen bag, it would be a good idea to know the product's weight. Based on pictures, it appears that 28 ounces (or 1.75 pounds) of potatoes O'Brien is required, so dice accordingly. For that quantity, you'll also need 3 cans of condensed cream of potato or chicken soup, 2 cups of shredded cheese, and 2 cups of sour cream. Seasoning is up to you, though garlic powder, pepper, and salt are common.

Place it all in a slow cooker for two to three hours on high. This casserole can also be cooked in an air fryer or oven. Once finished, top with more cheese and enjoy a unique take on a familiar favorite.