Cheesy loaded baked potatoes with broccoli and bacon are a great pantry meal. Potatoes store well and are generally available in bulk. Keep a few pounds in your pantry, and this becomes an easy and comforting dinner.
These loaded baked potatoes are pretty much exactly what I want for dinner on a chilly winter day or cool spring evening, but they run right up against one of my biggest struggles when feeding my kids: It’s intimidating to see big piles of food. Most kids I know struggle with it, and I know mine do. No worries! We can solve it!
Normally, baked potatoes are seen as a side dish, but these are so stuffed and have so much going on that they are essentially a meal in themselves. Sometimes, I’ll serve them with a little side salad or something just to lighten up the plate. But, honestly, you can serve them with absolutely nothing else and be in good shape. Life is busy. Go easy on yourself.
Let’s dig in!
THE BEST WAY TO MAKE BACON
I prefer to bake my bacon in the oven. Yep, you read that right—I place it on a baking rack over a baking sheet, and I get uniform crispy bacon every time. Check out my step-by-step guide: How to Make Bacon in the Oven.
THE BEST POTATOES FOR LOADED BAKED POTATOES
Simply Recipes has an excellent tutorial on baked potatoes, so I won’t reinvent the wheel here. I essentially follow the method in that article.
I shoot for medium-to-large potatoes (less than a pound per potato, for sure). I scrub mine well and stab them with a fork many times all over. Then, I rub them with some olive oil and a good sprinkle of coarse salt. Bake the potatoes at 400˚F until they have wrinkled skins and are very tender on the inside; about an hour is a good guideline.
I wouldn’t alter from the classic here. Russet potatoes are what you want. That said, I would stay away from the Godzilla-sized potatoes that you can sometimes find. A lot is going into these, and you don’t need to start with a pound of potatoes. I shoot for around 10- to 12-ounce russet potatoes.
ALTERNATIVE TOPPINGS FOR BAKED POTATOES
Whether you set up a toppings bar and let people choose their own, or serve them up ready to eat, I think your family will love these!
I used some of my favorite (and classic) toppings for my loaded baked potatoes, but you can get quite inventive with these if you are so inclined. You might try:
- Pulled pork and smoked gouda
- Chorizo, red onions, and queso
- Pepperoni, mozzarella, and marinara
Potatoes are an incredibly flexible starting point for so many flavor combos! For this recipe, I blanch fresh broccoli, but you could absolutely use frozen broccoli if that’s what you have on hand.
MAKING IN ADVANCE AND REHEATING
Baked potatoes can be made well in advance, and they store magnificently in the fridge for up to a week.
While you can reheat them in the microwave in a pinch, reheating in the oven will give you a better texture on the skin, which I like. I reheat mine on a baking sheet at 350˚F for about 20 minutes, until they are just warmed through.
THE DAD ADD
Quick home fries! I don’t need to add anything extra to these potatoes that isn’t already there, but I do like to sneak one potato into the back of the fridge for quick home fries the next morning.
Home fries are a great way to use up potato leftovers. Dice up a cold baked potato (leave the skin on) and add it to a skillet with a drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of seasoned salt. Cook it over medium high heat until the potatoes get crispy, and serve it with eggs.
When I started my career as a Dad Cook, I definitely would’ve screwed up this meal. I would’ve served my kids exactly what I was eating: a completely stuffed-to-the-max potato. That will almost certainly cause a food fight.
Instead, I learned the trick is to just serve smaller portions of individual items. Sure, this loses the effect of a huge, loaded potato, but it does allow you to keep your sanity as a parent.
My kids crushed about 1/4 to 1/2 of a baked potato along with various toppings that I served on the side. Two thumbs up, as you can see!
MORE POTATO RECIPES