Skip to Content

Baked Potato Bar

After seeing how popular my Mac and Cheese Bar recipe was, I wanted to share another fun way to serve dinner to a crowd or for a family dinner: a Baked Potato Bar!

Simply serve baked potatoes with lots of different toppings, and everyone can make the BEST loaded baked potato for their tastes! This recipe will give you several different ways to prepare "baked" potatoes if you don't want to bake them in the oven, plus tons of topping ideas.

Baked potato bar with different toppings
Jump to:

What is a baked potato bar?

A baked potato bar is a way to serve baked potatoes with lots of toppings so that everyone can pick and choose what they want. Think of a salad bar at a restaurant, except with baked potatoes as the base instead of lettuce or salad greens.

Different "bars" have been becoming more popular lately because they are a fun way to serve food that is perfect for parties or bigger family gatherings. I linked to my mac and cheese bar as an example, and you can also do taco bars, chili bars, or even breakfast bars/boards with pancakes and/or French toast.

Baked potato with chili and cheese

A baked potato bar is a great budget-friendly way to feed a crowd or make a large family dinner that everyone will enjoy. All the topping ideas here are gluten-free, many are vegetarian, and I give you ideas for how to serve up a lightened up baked potato. You can even use sweet potatoes!

And just because it's called a baked potato bar, doesn't mean you have to actually bake the potatoes. You can cook them in many different ways, most of which are much faster than baking: air fried, Instant Pot, in a slow cooker, microwave, or you can boil potatoes. I'll show you how to cook potatoes no matter which cooking method you prefer.

Related: Chipotle Black Bean Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Baked potato bar topping ideas

The great part about baked potatoes is that they're SO versatile and pretty much anything goes with them. You can prep lots of fresh ingredients for a baked potato bar, but you can also use up your leftovers too! Here are some of my favorite baked potato bar topping ideas:

Vegan and vegetarian baked potato bar toppings

  • Shredded cheese (try different kinds, cheddar, smoked Gouda and Pepper Jack are great! Or get some vegan cheese!)
  • Squeeze cheese
  • Butter (salted is the tastiest, and you can try herb garlic butter too.)
  • Sour cream or mayo
  • Diced scallions or chives
  • Fresh diced cilantro leaves (or parsley or dill)
  • Salsa or pico de gallo
  • Fresh chopped tomatoes
  • Fresh chopped bell peppers
  • Guacamole or fresh chopped avocado
  • Chopped olives
  • Black beans
  • Baked beans (you've got to try this favorite baked bean recipe!)
  • Corn
  • Sautéed mushrooms
  • Caramelized onions
  • Roasted garlic
  • Hot sauce
  • Capers
  • Fresh or pickled jalapenos
  • Crushed chips for some crunch
Baked potato loaded with salsa, black beans, olives, and cheese

Meaty baked potato toppings

  • Cooked crumbled bacon (or bacon bits)
  • Chili
  • Leftover taco meat (ground beef or ground pork tacos are great!)
  • Cooked crumbled Italian sausage
  • Leftover sloppy joe meat
  • Leftover carnitas or pulled pork
  • Cooked shredded chicken (rotisserie chicken)
  • Diced ham
  • Mini pepperoni
  • Prosciutto
  • Leftover fajita meat and veggies
  • Lox (serve with sour cream, capers, and chives or fresh fill)
  • Anchovies or canned sardines
Baked potato topped with bacon and shredded cheddar cheese

How to assemble the best loaded baked potato

There's no wrong way to make a loaded potato, but here's how I like to do it:

  1. Cut open the baked potato, use a fork to widen the opening to make room for lots of toppings, and fluff the insides with a fork.
  2. Season with a little salt and pepper (optional)
  3. Add a pat of salted butter so it melts all over the potato.
  4. Add your "main" topping (such as ground meat, chili, etc)
  5. Add a few flavorful toppings, such as sliced olives or salsa (see below for great flavor combinations)
  6. Add something creamy on top: shredded cheese and/or sour cream.
  7. Garnish with some fresh herbs.
  8. Dig in!

The best part about a baked potato bar is that people can make it as hearty/heavy or as light/healthy as they like. You can load up your potato with a ton of chili and sour cream if you're hungry, or go with salsa, fresh avocado, fresh herbs, and a light sprinkling of cheese.

Potatoes themselves aren't inherently unhealthy or "bad" like people think they are. Sure, they're carbs, but they contain a lot of fiber, nutrients, and vitamins and can be part of a balanced dinner!

Baked potatoes topped with fresh tomato and herbs

Related recipe: Sautéed Potatoes with Mushrooms

Favorite topping combinations

  • Sour cream, lox, chives, fresh dill, capers
  • Chili, sour cream, shredded cheese, diced scallions or cilantro, crushed tortilla chips
  • Sliced olives, crumbled feta, fresh herbs
  • Taco meat, salsa, guacamole or avocado, shredded cheese, cilantro
  • Shredded lettuce, fresh diced tomato, pickled jalapeno, squeeze of lime juice, pinch of salt
  • Sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, half a slice of swiss cheese
  • Shredded chicken, buffalo sauce, blue cheese

Related: How to Cook Sweet Potatoes (With Recipes!)

How to cook potatoes for "baked" potatoes

As I mentioned above, you don't have to bake potatoes to make baked potatoes, though you certainly can. Here are all the ways you can cook potatoes for a baked potato bar. Keep in mind that the actual cooking time will vary depending on the exact size and shape of your potato.

Many grocery stores sell individually wrapped perfect looking large "baking" potatoes. I actually prefer to buy smaller potatoes so that each person can load up 2 potatoes and try a variety of toppings, versus putting one huge potato on their plate and getting full from just 1 potato. And the best part is that small potatoes cook much faster. Oh, and that buying a bag of potatoes is much cheaper than buying individually wrapped "baking" potatoes. 🙂

Remember to SCRUB the potatoes clean with a brush or clean sponge to get any dirt off. Do not peel potatoes when preparing them to be served as baked potatoes.

How to bake potatoes

To bake potatoes in the oven, preheat the oven to 400-425 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with foil (if using 425F) or parchment paper (if using 400F). Poke a few holes in each potato with a fork. Rub the potatoes with olive oil and season with salt all over. Bake for 45-60 minutes (depending on the size of the potatoes and the temperature you use) until a fork easily pierces the potato and the skin is nice and crispy.

How to cook "baked" potatoes in the Instant Pot

Place the desired number of potatoes on a trivet in the Instant Pot. Add 1 cup of water. Cook at high pressure on the manual setting for 11-14 minutes (cook time will vary depending on the size of the potatoes used, but will NOT vary depending on the amount of potatoes you decide to cook). Let the pressure release naturally. Use tongs to carefully remove the potatoes from the Instant Pot and aside aside on a plate.

Instant Pot baked potatoes can be tricky the first few times until you get to know your Instant Pot and get a feel for how long to cook the potatoes. In my experience it's better to overcook a little than to have undercooked potatoes and then have to cook them more and wait for the pot to come to pressure again.

Cooking baked potatoes in an Instant Pot

How to cook "baked" potatoes in the slow cooker

Slow cooking potatoes is great because you can easily open the lid and check them for doneness. Simply poke the potatoes with a fork, rub them with olive oil and salt, and place them in the slow cooker (no water needed!). Cook on HIGH for 2.5 -  3 hours, or on LOW for 6-8 hours, or until easily pierced with a fork.

How to boil potatoes

This is my least favorite method to cook potatoes for serving as baked potatoes because they turn out a little too "wet," but you can certainly do it if stove-top is the most convenient way for you to cook potatoes.

Add your desired number of potatoes to a large pot and fill it with water to completely cover the potatoes. Add a generous amount of salt, bring to a boil, and lower the heat a little to keep the water somewhere between a simmer and a boil. Cook for 15-25 minutes, or until the potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork. Immediately drain the hot water out and let the potatoes sit in the empty hot pot so that any surface water evaporates and they dry up.

How to air fry potatoes

Pierce the potatoes with a fork a few times, rub with olive oil and season with salt, and air fry at 375F for 25-30 minutes (keep an eye on the skin to make sure it is not burning). Flip and air fry for another 5-15 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes.

How to microwave potatoes

Believe it or not, microwaved potatoes are a great way to quickly cook them, especially if you only need to cook a few. I find that overloading the microwave with a ton of potatoes leads to unevenly cooked potatoes, so I like to only place 3-5 potatoes on a plate to microwave. Pierce the potatoes with a fork a few times and microwave for 3-4 minutes, then use tongs to carefully flip the potatoes and microwave for another 3-4 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork. The microwave time will depend on the size and amount of potatoes, add a minute of microwave cook time per side for each extra potato if cooking more than 3 potatoes at a time.

How to serve a baked potato bar

The great part about this dinner idea is that you can use whatever serving plates you already have: a large bowl or platter for the cooked potatoes and small bowls for all the toppings. If you want, you can put everything on one large serving platter or tray, but that's not necessary.

Just remember to adjust the number of toppings and amount of toppings depending on how many people you have. If you have less than 10 people, it's probably not worth making 10 different meats and prepping 20 different toppings. If you're serving a crowd of 20-30 people, you might want to increase the number of toppings and make a larger amount of each topping.

A baked potato bar is a great budget-friendly way to serve a hearty, filling dinner to a lot of people because potatoes are pretty inexpensive, and each potato doesn't use up that much meat. If you are using small potatoes, your guests will be spooning just a few tablespoons of the main meaty topping on each potato.

What to do with leftover potatoes

Leftover potatoes reheat really well in the microwave or oven and can be loaded up with any leftover toppings. However, if you don't want to repeat dinner, you can use leftover potatoes in any of these recipes: mashed potato fritters, bubble and squeak, salmon potato cakes, no mayo potato salad.

If you enjoyed this recipe, let me know with a comment and a star rating below. And don't forget to share it on Facebook and save it on Pinterest for later!

Baked potato bar with toppings
Print Recipe
5 from 6 votes

Baked Potato Bar

Set up a Baked Potato Bar for a fun way to feed a crowd! Everyone can assemble their perfect loaded baked potato using any of the topping ideas below. Read the notes below the recipe for instructions for how to cook potatoes many different ways.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Diet: Gluten Free
Servings: 8 (as many potatoes as you want to cook)
Author: Kate

Ingredients

For the potatoes
  • Medium-large Russet potatoes - scrubbed clean (Cook as many as you want and can fit. Other kinds of potatoes are OK too)
  • Olive oil - to rub the potatoes, depending on the cooking method
  • Salt - to season potatoes
Vegan and vegetarian baked potato bar toppings
  • Butter - (salted is the tastiest, and you can try herb garlic butter too.)
  • Shredded cheese - (try different kinds: cheddar, smoked Gouda and Pepper Jack, crumbed feta or blue cheese)
  • Squeeze cheese
  • Sour cream or mayo
  • Diced scallions or chives
  • Fresh diced cilantro leaves - or parsley or dill
  • Salsa or pico de gallo
  • Fresh chopped tomatoes
  • Fresh chopped bell peppers
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Guacamole or fresh chopped avocado
  • Chopped olives
  • Black beans - (canned and drained)
  • Baked beans
  • Corn - (canned or cooked frozen corn)
  • Sautéed mushrooms
  • Caramelized onions
  • Roasted garlic
  • Hot sauce
  • Fresh or pickled jalapenos
  • Capers
  • Crushed chips for some crunch
Meaty baked potato toppings
  • Cooked crumbled bacon
  • Chili
  • Leftover taco meat -
  • Cooked crumbled Italian sausage
  • Leftover sloppy joe meat
  • Leftover carnitas or pulled pork
  • Cooked shredded chicken - (such as rotisserie chicken)
  • Diced ham
  • Mini pepperoni
  • Prosciutto
  • Leftover fajita meat and veggies
  • Lox - (serve with sour cream, capers, and chives or fresh fill)
  • Anchovies or canned sardines

Special equipment

  • Equipment will depend on the cooking method you choose
  • Brush or clean sponge to scrub potatoes

Instructions

Bake the potatoes (or see notes below for other cooking methods)
  • Get a baking sheet and line it with parchment paper or foil. If using parchment paper, preheat oven to 400F. If using foil, preheat oven to 425F.
  • Pierce a few holes in the potatoes, season them with olive oil and salt.
  • Bake for 45-60 minutes  (depending on the size of the potatoes and the temperature you use) until a fork easily pierces the potato and the skin is nice and crispy.
Set up the baked potato bar
  • Decide which toppings you're using (I recommend a few meaty toppings and a few vegetarian toppings) and place them in small serving bowls or plates with serving spoons. Set the bowls up around a platter or large bowl with the cooked baked potatoes.
Load up the perfect baked potato
  • Slice the potato open lengthwise, making sure not to slice all the way through. Use a fork to open the potato more and fluff the insides.
  • Season with a little salt and pepper (optional). Add a pat of salted butter so it melts all over the potato.
  • Add your "main" topping (such as ground meat, chili, etc)
  • Add a few "secondary" toppings, such as sliced olives or salsa.
  • Add something creamy on top: shredded cheese and/or sour cream. Garnish with some fresh herbs, and dig in!

Notes

Baked potato bar tips:

  • Russet potatoes are best, but any kind of potato will work. Try it with sweet potatoes, too!
  • You can use large baking potatoes, but I prefer medium potatoes so that each person can make 2-3 potatoes and try different toppings. As a bonus, small potatoes cook faster and are usually sold in a large bag instead of individually wrapped, so they are cheaper!
  • Do not peel the potatoes! Scrub them clean with a clean kitchen brush or sponge before cooking.
  • It is better to err on the side of overcooking than undercooking. You want the inside of the potato soft enough to fluff with a fork for the most flavorful baked potato.
  • See the blog post for detailed instructions for how to cook potatoes in the Instant Pot, air fryer, microwave, slow cooker, or on the stovetop.
Instant Pot baked potatoes: 11-14 minutes on a trivet with 1 cup water.
Boiled potatoes: ~15-25 minutes in salted boiling water.
Slow cooker: 2.5-3 hours on HIGH, 6-8 hours on LOW, no water needed.
Microwave: ~3-5 minutes per side for 3 potatoes, add more time for more potatoes.
Air fryer baked potatoes: 30-45 minutes, flip halfway through and watch to prevent burning.
Favorite topping combinations:
  • Sour cream, lox, chives, fresh dill, capers
  • Chili, sour cream, shredded cheese, diced scallions or cilantro, crushed tortilla chips
  • Sliced olives, crumbled feta, fresh herbs
  • Taco meat, salsa, guacamole or avocado, shredded cheese, cilantro
  • Shredded lettuce, fresh diced tomato, pickled jalapeno, squeeze of lime juice, pinch of salt
  • Sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, half a slice of swiss cheese
  • Shredded chicken, buffalo sauce, blue cheese
Nutrition facts will depend on the toppings you choose and size of potato. The estimated nutrition facts are for one ~150-gram potato rubbed with 1 teaspoon olive oil and a pinch of salt, and do not include any toppings.

Nutrition

Calories: 145kcal (7%) | Carbohydrates: 26g (9%) | Protein: 3g (6%) | Fat: 4g (6%) | Saturated Fat: 1g (5%) | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 49mg (2%) | Potassium: 620mg (18%) | Fiber: 2g (8%) | Sugar: 1g (1%) | Vitamin A: 2IU | Vitamin C: 27mg (33%) | Calcium: 20mg (2%) | Iron: 1mg (6%)

The nutritional information displayed is an estimate and not to be used as dietary or nutritional advice. Consult a nutritionist or dietician for nutritional info based on the exact ingredients you use.

Share this post by clicking the buttons below:

Comments or questions about the recipe?
Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.