The Baked Potato Bar: Your New Favorite Weeknight Dinner

The Baked Potato Bar: Your New Favorite Weeknight Dinner

Who wouldn’t love an easy, crowd-pleasing dinner that even makes leftovers taste better?

By Debbie Koenig

Few dinnertime building blocks offer as many possibilities as the humble baked potato. Those fluffy insides accommodate endless combinations of toppings—set out bowls filled with almost anything, and even your pickiest eater can find something to satisfy. My guy takes his with plenty of salt, butter, olives, and mozzarella cheese—a combination I’d never consider for myself, but that’s the beauty of the baked potato bar: To each his own!

Start by baking a bunch of potatoes (of course): Preheat oven to 400°F. Scrub one russet or sweet potato per person, dry, and poke each tater several times with a fork. Place them on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for about an hour, until tender.

Offer the basics—softened butter, sour cream, salt, and pepper—and add small bowls of, well, whatever you’ve got. For instance:

  • Proteins: Shredded cheeses like cheddar, mozzarella, and Swiss; soft cheeses like chevre, ricotta, and cottage; crumbly cheeses like feta, blue, and cotija; cooked chicken, turkey, beef, or pork; chopped tofu or tempeh; hard boiled egg; sausage; cured meats like bacon, pepperoni, or prosciutto; rinsed and drained canned beans; refried beans; smoked salmon or trout; crab, shrimp, tuna, or egg salad

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  • Cooked vegetables: Caramelized onions; roasted garlic; sautéed mushrooms, peppers, or greens; steamed broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, or peas; corn kernels; creamed spinach; any grilled or roasted vegetables; artichoke hearts; edamame
  • Raw vegetables: Onions, shallots, scallions, or chives; tomatoes; avocados; radishes; jicama; bell peppers
  • Leftovers: Chili; curry; taco or sloppy joe filling; pulled chicken or pork; beef stew; stir-fry; ratatouille; thick bean soup
  • Savory nibbles: Olives; capers; sundried tomatoes; pickled peppers; giardiniera
  • Extras: Nuts; diced apples, pears, or mangoes; fresh herbs; crumbled corn or tortilla chips; toasted sesame seeds; coleslaw; caviar (ooo, fancy!)
  • Sauces: Salsa; pesto; barbecue; alfredo; marinara; nacho cheese; ranch or blue cheese dressing; guacamole; tahini; teriyaki; gravy; tzatziki; tapenade; peanut sauce; Thai or Indian curry sauce; applesauce

What’s your favorite way to top a baked potato?

Debbie Koenig writes about family and food, and is the author of the cookbook Parents Need to Eat Too. Find her at

Image © Grantham

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