How to Build A Baked Potato Bar
By: Bree Hester
How to make a baked potato bar for an easy weeknight meal featuring Roth Grand Cru® — what to serve and how to keep your baked potatoes warm for a baked potato buffet.
Busy nights call for easy meals. You know the busy nights I am talking about, when your whole family is coming and going and everyone walks into the house borderline HANGRY. This time of year is BUSY. Between school, sports, appointments, long days at work — there is a lot going on.
One thing that I have been doing more and more is a bar-style meal. Where you make a main item and leave out lots of things to customize your individual dish. This is great for my family because we have some vegetarians and some meat-eaters and everyone leaves the table satisfied.
Think taco bar, DIY burrito bowls, make your own pizza, and a personal family favorite — the baked potato bar.
My kids all love baked potatoes and this is an excellent way to turn a side dish into a meal. We add pulled pork or shredded buffalo chicken, bacon, veggies, LOTS of shredded Roth cheese, sour cream, sautéed peppers and onions, chili, pretty much anything you can think of — it can go into a potato.
It’s also quick to get on the table. If my afternoon is busy, I can prep this in the morning or while I am cooking another meal. I do this a lot if I am already cooking something and doing a lot of chopping, etc. I do it for two meals – a couple of extra minutes saves me so much clean up and prep time later. Future me is always grateful.
A baked potato bar is great for a weeknight meal, but it’s also an inexpensive way to entertain. This is great for a kid’s party, a team dinner before race day, or for watching a football game.
How to Make Baked Potatoes //
I know that you are probably thinking that baked potatoes are not a quick thing to make. And you are correct, they do take a long time to bake, but you don’t have to do it in the oven, and once they are in the oven, it’s hands-off.
More often than not, I bake potatoes in the oven. I wash them really well, dry them, prick them with a fork, coat them in oil and salt, and then bake them in a 375° F oven for 70 to 90 minutes. The skins are crisp and are perfectly seasoned.
If you would like to cut the cooking time in half, you can slice the potatoes and place them slice side down on an oiled sheet pan.
(Alternatively, you can use small potatoes like fingerlings and do a roasted potato bar. I really like this option when I want a few different toppings and don’t want to eat one big potato, I can make two or three mini options.)
Another way to cook them is in your slow cooker. Do the same as above, then wash, prick, oil, and salt the potatoes, but also wrap them in foil. Slow cook on HIGH for 4.5 to 5 hours or on LOW for 7.5 to 8 hours, or until the potatoes are tender and cooked through.
Which Toppings to Include //
The sky is literally the limit as to what to include as a topping for your baked potato bar. Take inventory of what is in your fridge and freezer, and it’s fair game for a baked potato. A potato is a blank canvas that is begging to be topped with delicious things.
Sure, a baked potato with a generous pat of butter and salt is delicious, but we can do better than that!
Cheese // Is there anything better and melty, gooey, cheese on a piping hot potato? I honestly don’t think there is. I used to buy the bags of pre-shredded cheese, but I am a convert to shredding my cheeses myself.
When you buy the bags of cheese, they add starch to the bag to keep the shreds from sticking together and they just don’t melt the same sexy way that cheese you shred yourself does. It makes a huge difference in the end result.
You also have total control over the kind and quality of cheese you use. (You know I love my Roth cheese, especially their alpine-style Grand Cru®.) When you shred the cheese yourself, you can use all of your favorites and choose varieties you might not always think of.
TIP: This cheese shredder attachment has been a game-changer when it comes to shredding cheese. I use it ALL the time. I also use the shredding disc on my food processor. Freeze your cheese for 15 minutes before shredding. It keeps the cheese from clumping and easier to get through the machine.
Cheese // I always have a ton of different kinds of cheese in my fridge. Creamy, sharp, soft, bold, I like to keep a good variety in my fridge. I love cheese and want to try as many kinds as I can. For a baked potato bar, I like to have a few different kinds to add different flavor profiles and textures to our potatoes.
Grand Cru® goes well with so many things. It’s an amazingly delicious cheese that is good in so many things. It’s slightly sweet, melts like a dream, and is a great all-around option for just about anything you want to melt cheese on. I love it melted in a potato with sautéed onions and peppers. This is my #1 choice for a loaded baked potato.
The inspiration for this potato bar was our New Year’s Eve raclette, and Grand Cru® is the star of that show over roasted potatoes and slices of baguette. Add a few slices of apples… **chef’s kiss**
Buttermilk Blue® adds a bold pop of flavor. Buttermilk Blue® crumbles are great for a baked potato bar because you simply open the container and add a huge amount of flavor to your baked potato. A buffalo chicken baked potato with carrots, celery, green onion, and a generous amount of blue cheese and shredded Grand Cru® is my little guy’s potato of choice.
Chèvre goat cheese is perhaps not the first cheese you would think of for a baked potato, but trust me when I say it works perfectly. It adds fresh, sharp, flavor and I like to make a very loose version of street corn with it. Corn, guacamole, roasted tomatoes, bacon, and Chèvre. Delicious!
Gouda is one of my all-time favorite cheeses. It’s mellow and creamy and melts so beautifully. Lots of shredded Gouda, bacon, green onions, sour cream, and a generous amount of black pepper.
Dill Havarti rounds out my delicious cheese selection. Another amazing melting cheese, it’s super creamy and I love the hit of dill. (I think that dill is underused and under-appreciated.) This one is my go-to for a vegetable potato. Roasted broccoli, spinach, onions and peppers, TONS of Dill Havarti, and a generous dollop of sour cream.
Sour Cream // A big bowl of cool sour cream is always a good idea, but it is a MUST for a baked potato. I also will add a bowl of garlic herb sour cream too.
Meats // Can you have a loaded potato without bacon? I didn’t think so either. I always have some pulled pork in my freezer and it is INCREDIBLE in a baked potato. For this potato bar, I bought a rotisserie chicken and tossed it with some buffalo sauce. Chili, taco beef, sloppy joe, pepperoni, ham, sausage. Any protein works.
Vegetables // I like to air fry some broccoli, as it crisps up and stays bright green. Sautéed onion and peppers, diced tomatoes, avocado, corn, sautéed mushrooms, spinach, green onion, roasted garlic, chives, sliced jalapeños. This adds color and crunch.
TIP: Check out the salad or mezze bar at your local grocery store. This is a great way to save time and get to try some new things. I bought the roasted tomatoes and garlic when I grabbed the rotisserie chicken.
Extras // Butter, salsa, pizza sauce, ranch, barbecue sauce, sea salt flakes, herbs, red pepper flakes, anything that adds flavor and interest to your potato.
Essentially anything you can think of belongs in a potato, so get creative and make your own delicious combinations.
How to Set Up Your Baked Potato Bar //
01. Bake your potatoes using your desired method. Whether you make oven-baked potatoes or slow cooker potatoes, make a few extra for leftovers.
02. Prepare your toppings. Shred your cheese, warm your cheese sauce, set out your toppings in bowls or on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment for easy cleanup. I set mine out on my kitchen counter in an assembly line so that everyone can grab a plate and utensils and get busy customizing their potatoes.
03. Assemble! Add toppings and get creative! I like to add cheese to the bottom and the top for maximum gooey meltiness.
TIP: Cut your potato in half and make two different kinds to maximize textures and flavors. Discover a new favorite combination!
How to Keep The Potatoes Warm //
If I need to hold my potatoes and keep them warm, I will keep them in a 200° F oven on a sheet pan until I need them. You can also keep already baked potatoes warm on the LOW setting in a slow cooker.
What to Serve With A Baked Potato Bar //
You don’t really need to serve anything else, a loaded baked potato is a meal in its own right, but I do like to serve some other things if I am serving this for a crowd. And obviously serve dessert. 🙂