There’s a new trend that has definitely captured our attention: the baked potato bar. While baked potatoes may seem pretty basic (and are certainly inexpensive!), they can go from standard side to fun party food in a blink. How? Simply serve the baked potatoes on a platter surrounded by traditional toppings like sour cream, crumbled bacon and chives along with more unique options such as BBQ brisket, roasted broccoli and marinara sauce. Before you know it, you’ll have a DIY spread called a “baked potato bar” where guests can mix-and-match their favorite toppings and create their own custom spud. It’s a fun trend that’s perfect for game day, movie night and potlucks — and it’s easy on your budget too. Keep reading to learn how to make a baked potato bar that will steal the show!
What goes into making a baked potato bar
A baked potato bar involves two elements: the spuds and the toppings. When it comes to the potatoes, baked russets are a popular option as they’re hearty-tasting and sturdy enough to hold various toppings. However, you can use sweet potatoes for a slightly sweeter spud that balances the flavors of savory toppings and is packed with antioxidants including beta-carotene that’s essential for eye, skin and immune health. (Click through to learn more about the health benefits of sweet potatoes.)
As for the toppings, Kara Myers, recipe developer and founder of Sweetly Splendid, says your options are endless. “With toppings, people can go lighter or heavier, veggie-focused or meat-focused or just a variety to suit their tastes.” she notes. “I always like to have the basics of butter, sour cream, chopped chives and crumbled bacon.”
Below, Myers lists six kinds of toppings — simply pick and choose the ones that’ll delight your crowd:
- Protein: Cooked chicken, ground beef or turkey, bacon bits, pulled pork, smoked salmon, BBQ brisket, smoked salmon, sliced steak and/or cubed hard-boiled eggs
- Vegetables: Mushrooms, chopped celery, sautéed bell peppers, raw or cooked onions, roasted broccoli, cooked corn kernels and/or shredded carrots
- Dairy: Sour cream, shredded or crumbled cheese, plain Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese and/or butter
- Seasonings: Salt, pepper, chili flakes, fresh herbs, Italian seasoning, onion powder and/or garlic powder
- Saucy ingredients: Marinara sauce, beef or veggie chili, baked beans, salsa, creamy salad dressing and/or cheese sauce
- Additional toppings: Avocado, lime wedges, coleslaw, pepperoni, capers and/or guacamole
How to cook baked potatoes for a large crowd
Next time you make baked potatoes for your crowd, try this cooking trick: Instead of wrapping spuds in foil, which is time-consuming and makes the skins soggy, place them directly on the oven rack. This makes the potatoes extra crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. And for extra-delicious skins, Myers likes to coat the spuds in a bit of olive oil before cooking, which helps the outside layers from getting dried out.
How to serve a baked potato bar
Setting out a baked potato bar couldn’t get any easier. Simply place the baked potatoes on a large serving platter or wooden cutting board, and place the toppings in individual bowls or fill the openings of a 6- or 12-cup muffin pan with the ingredients. Then, serve both beside each other for guests to help themselves and build their favorite loaded baked potato.
The ultimate baked potato bar recipe
Preparing a baked potato bar is hassle-free since you can get your toppings ready as the spuds are in the oven. Here, Myers shares her favorite baked potato bar recipe, which is guaranteed to be the star of your next gathering!
Baked Potato Bar
- 8 large russet or sweet potatoes, scrubbed and patted dry
- Olive oil
- Desired toppings like chili, herbs, sautéed bell peppers, cheese, sour cream, etc.
- Total time: 1 hr + prep for toppings
- Yield: 8 servings
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Poke tiny holes into each potato with fork. Rub thin layer of olive oil onto, and place directly on middle oven rack of preheated oven. Put baking sheet on rack below potatoes and bake 1 hour, until knife or skewer can be easily inserted into flesh of spud without resistance.
- As potatoes bake, prep and place toppings in bowls. (Note: Cover cold toppings like cheese and sour cream with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.)
- Once baked, remove potatoes from oven with tongs and place on wire rack to cool at least 5 minutes.
- Arrange potatoes on serving platter or wooden board. Place topping-filled bowls or muffin pans next to potatoes on table and serve. Enjoy!
7 ideas for building a flavorful baked potato
Now’s the fun part: deciding what toppings you’ll opt for to create a delicious loaded baked potato. To get started, consider these seven flavor ideas from Myers — which are salty, smoky and equally yummy!
1. Pizza-inspired baked potato
Top your potato with marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, chopped basil, Italian seasoning and ricotta cheese.
2. Loaded chili baked potato
Fill the opened potato with chili, shredded cheese, onions and sour cream.
3. Broccoli cheddar baked potato
Load up your spud with cheese sauce or shredded sharp cheddar roasted broccoli, crumbled bacon, salt and pepper.
4. BBQ-style baked potato
Place cubed brisket, bacon, BBQ sauce, cheese, and sour cream onto the baked potato.
5. Smoked salmon and dill baked potato
Pack the baked potato with sliced smoked salmon, freshly chopped dill and capers before finishing with a squeeze of lemon juice.
6. Buffalo wing baked potato
Stuff the potato with shredded chicken, Buffalo wing sauce, ranch or bleu cheese dressing, chopped celery and shredded carrots.
7. Veggie-heavy baked potato
Add grilled corn, roasted vegetables, cheese and plain Greek yogurt to the potato.
And for a fun and easy way to serve up your spuds, check out this baked potato charcuterie board idea from food stylist Meg Quinn:
For more secrets that help you create tastier spuds, read the stories below: