Start with Potatoes
The most important component of a baked potato bar is, of course, the potato. When you're shopping, opt for russet potatoes (also called baking or Idaho potatoes) -- they're perfect for baking and can hold their own against an array of different toppings and flavors. Make sure potatoes are firm and well-shaped without any wrinkles, sprouts, green spots, or cracks.
Store them in a cool, dry, dark place. Don't know how to bake potatoes? Check out our no-fail recipe, below.
Editor's Tip: Don't forget the tongs! Guests will appreciate not having to juggle a hot potato.
Makes: 4 servings
Prep: 5 mins
Bake: 40 mins 425°
Prepare the Toppings
From broccoli and pinto beans to bacon and asparagus, there's no wrong way to top a potato. Include an array of veggies, meats, and dairy items and set them out in small bowls. Don't forget our perfectly melty cheese sauce, which can be customized with different spices to make it just the way you like it.
Our Top 10 Potato Toppers:
- Roasted red peppers
- Sour Cream
- Hot peppers
- Tortilla chips
Makes: 16 servings
Start to Finish: 15 mins
Set Up the Buffet
Group toppings on an elevated tray to add interest and make the buffet more efficient. Put toppings in the order they might get added to the potatoes -- for example, have butter, sour cream, and cheese before the salsa and avocado chunks. Remember to set out a scoop or spoon for each topping!
Ready the Drinks
Impress party guests with already-made cocktails that fit the casual party theme. Put a twist on the traditional Bloody Mary (with light beer instead of vodka) and a classic lemonade shandy (with ginger ale) in clear pitchers. Don't forget the ice -- estimate a pound per guest -- and veggie garnishes (such as celery and pickles) for the Spicy Beer Mary. Both recipes are available, below.
Add a Few Side Dishes
Round out your party menu with a variety of healthy side dishes (on the next slides), sausage bites, and fried chicken tenders. Take away party-day stress by making each side dish ahead of time, and prep a dish or two (such as the sausage bites) in the slow cooker to keep them warm throughout the party.
Editor's Tip: Place dipping sauces on a platter with the chicken tenders -- that way, no one will confuse them as potato toppers.
Side Dish #1: Green Bean Salad
Choose simple and quick side dishes to complement your loaded poatoes, such as this easy green bean salad. Fresh green beans, celery, and green onions give the dish bright green color and fresh flavor. It's topped with a light-and-spicy vinaigrette.
Makes: 6 servings
Prep: 15 mins
Chill: 1 hr to 2 hrs
Side Dish #2: Cucumber-Radish Slaw
The best part about this so-easy veggie slaw is that it won't fill guests up -- it makes a great complementary side for baked potatoes. Thin slices of cucumbers and radishes give this potluck-perfect salad a delicious crunch, while a simple five-ingredient dressing adds a boost of flavor. Plus, it only takes 20 minutes to prep.
Makes: 4 servings
Start to Finish: 20 mins