Easy Buffet Party Idea: Baked Potato Bar
Prep the Party Spuds
The most important component of a baked potato bar is, of course, the potato. When you're shopping, opt for russet 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. And store them in a cool, dry, dark place. You can wrap each in foil to keep them warm and serve with a pair of tongs to protect everyone’s hands from playing hot potato.
Editor’s Tip: Don't know how to bake potatoes? Get our no-fail recipe for perfect baked potatoes.
Decide on Toppings
From broccoli and pinto beans, to bacon, asparagus, and homemade cheese sauce, there's no wrong way to top a potato. Include an array of chopped veggies, meats, and dairy items—and set them out in small bowls with spoons for easy serving.
Editor’s Tip: Our favorite toppers include roasted red peppers, blanched broccoli, diced, onions, diced ham, shredded cheese, sour cream, diced avocado, fresh herbs, crumbled crispy bacon, sliced hot peppers, sliced olives, roasted chopped asparagus, and crushed tortilla chips.
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, put your butter out first, right next to your potatoes. Then add any sauces, sour cream, or meats. And finally, put out freshly chopped veggies and variety of grated cheese before your salsa, avocado chunks, or bacon bits.
Try Topping Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are nutritious, super versatile, and delicious! You can top them with savory ingredients like bacon, cheese, and herbs or add sweet flavors like marshmallows, brown sugar, and nuts. Our favorite sweet potato toppers are goat cheese, pecans, and dried cranberries.
Sweet Toppings for Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes can have sweet or savory toppings (or both!) so don't waste the opportunity for a dessert-themed buffet. Make your own marshmallow to top baked sweet potatoes, and set out other sweet-but-savory treats, like chocolate-dipped bacon.
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.
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.