Potatoe Balls

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this recipe is Mary Randolph’s direction to boil the potatoes with skin on to keep the starch in for frying. In many historic recipes, the technique is not spelled out as one would require in modern recipes. However, 18th century cookbook authors assumed that the reader was already a cook and familiar with a variety of processes.

18th Century

Mix mashed potatoes with the yelk of an egg, roll them into balls, flour them, or cover them with egg and bread crumbs, fry them in clean dripping, or brown them in a Dutch oven. They are an agreeable vegetable relish and a supper dish.

Randolph, Mary. “The Virginia Housewife.” pg.120.

21st Century

  • 2 lbs. russet potatoes
  • 1 egg plus 1 yolk
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • flour or seasoned bread crumbs
  1. Boil potatoes with the skin on until tender. This will retain the starch in the potato and make it hold together better.
  2. Drain potatoes and allow to cool slightly before mashing.
  3. Add egg yolk to mashed potatoes and mix well with a fork to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. As this is a very sticky mixture, the easiest way to form the balls is to coat your hands with flour. Then, taking a tablespoon of the mixture at a time, shape into balls and dredge in a dish of flour.
  5. Beat the remaining egg. Dip potato balls in the egg, then roll them in bread crumbs to coat.
  6. After all balls have been coated, place in refrigerator for 15 minutes up to an hour.
  7. Potato balls can be baked in a 350 degree oven for approximately 10 to 15 minutes until lightly browned. Or, for a better flavor, fry in vegetable oil until lightly browned. Using one large Russet potato, this receipt makes 20 medium sized balls.

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19 Responses to “Potatoe Balls”

  1. July 15th, 2011

    Alex S. says:

    These look pretty good, wonder if my nephews would eat them?
    You guys should post more stuff that doesn’t have meat in it (and more videos, the recipes without them aren’t nearly as fun.)

    P.s. When potatoes is singular it doesn’t have an ‘e’. This should be ‘Potato Balls’.

  2. July 15th, 2011

    Historic Foodways says:

    Alex, thanks for your comment! Potatoe with an “e” looks funny to us, too, but this is Mary Randolph’s recipe and that’s the way she spelled it.

  3. August 3rd, 2011

    Carrie says:

    Colonial tater tots – I love it! These look delicious, and since you mentioned seasoning them, it occurs to me that they would probably be a great candidate for any number of seasonings, especially herbs. Will definitely have to try this recipe.

  4. November 13th, 2011

    Gayle says:

    Going to make these with my 9 y/o for a Brownie Project! Can’t wait. She loves EVERYTHING about Williamsburg.
    Thank you so much

  5. November 27th, 2011

    Bri says:

    I made these as part of our Thanksgiving dinner, we fried them and they were WONDERFUL!! Thank you for this blog, it is so much fun to be able to recreate dishes from the past.

  6. December 27th, 2011

    Aaron Sowers says:

    Baked not fried

  7. March 22nd, 2012

    stacy reaves says:

    Great recipe. I used for my daughter’s youth group
    . They were studying the life and times of john Wesley.
    Love the blog. My sister is a guide at Williamsburg and suggested this site.

    • March 22nd, 2012

      Historic Foodways says:

      We’re so glad to see the food blog being enjoyed by so many people. Thanks for sharing.

  8. May 29th, 2012

    David Meyer says:

    I’ll have to play with this, it sounds very similar to a recipie that I make using potato and summer squash, bake the squash, bake the potatoe mix with egg then boil like a dumpling cool and fry to finish, we usually add a brown butter/sage fry, its good stuff

  9. October 17th, 2012

    Ryan says:

    Historic Foodways,

    What is the preferred eighteenth-century method of making bread crumbs? Without the luxury of a food processor, I imagine our predecessors would have run some stale bread over some sort of a grater. Thanks for your fantastic recipes and video tutorials!

    • October 17th, 2012

      Historic Foodways says:

      Ryan, your guess is exactly right. Eighteenth-century cooks would grate stale bread using a grater. This method can be seen in several foodways videos. Thanks for your question.

  10. December 31st, 2012

    I used leftover mashed potatoes.

  11. November 5th, 2014

    Jenny Whitman says:

    The 18th century recipe calls for clean drippings. Would that be bacon grease, or drippings from a roast beef? I’d like to try them the original way, I imagine they’d have more flavor and be super delicious.

    • November 6th, 2014

      Historic Foodways says:


      I think the reference was to beef drippings since that was the most popular meat at the time. They preferred to roast their meat in front of the fire and would collect the drippings in a pan under the meat. I would guess that as time goes on Americans will replace this with pork drippings or bacon grease so if you want the British way used beef drippings or suet and for the American way bacon grease.

  12. September 28th, 2015

    hannah says:

    i love this idea. it looks good! thanks and did they really do this back then?

  13. October 12th, 2016

    maquina says:

    I have a colonial cooking project due for school, and this recipe is a winner!!!!!

  14. November 9th, 2016

    Paula Sims says:

    Who’s narrating this? Really does sound like Tom Hanks! 🙂

  15. February 7th, 2017

    Sandi J says:

    Our 5th Graders are studying Williamsburg and this recipe was just perfect for their cooking class! We made them with the purple potatoes they had grown in their garden :-). We showed the video to them as well. Thank you!!

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