Standard baked potatoes have this way of disappointing me. It’s not that they offend me, per se (particularly once topped with bacon and cheese), but they’ve never felt exciting enough to merit the full hour of high-temperature oven blazing it takes to bring them to fruition. Crock Pot Baked Potatoes, however, are an entirely different scenario.
An easy vegetable side dish I can put in my slow cooker, ignore for a few hours, then return to find perfectly cooked, all without having to turn on the oven? SOLD.
Also, where this is a baked potato, there will bacon and cheese and maybe even avocado if I’m feeling crazy. SOLD AGAIN.
Crock Pot Baked Potatoes – A Better Cooking Method
Here is how the idea of “baking” potatoes in the crock pot came to be. My sister told me about a build-your-own-baked potato bar at a party she’d attended. Each guest grabbed a baked potato, then loaded it up at a DIY topping bar the host had provided.
It sounded like a brilliantly easy, delicious way to entertain. I have yet to encounter a single person who doesn’t enjoy a loaded baked potato every now and then.
Plus I’ve learned the hard way that, when I’m hosting a party, it’s integral to my sanity to prep as much as possible in advance. This baked potato party would be a snap to do ahead of time, with the exception of one small detail.
Baking the potatoes.
I didn’t like the idea of having my oven tied up for the full hour plus it would take to bake the potatoes the traditional way immediately before the party started. If the oven was full, how would I heat the Skinny Chicken Enchilada Dip and Shrimp Guacamole Bites? Important details.
That’s when it hit me: what if I could roast the potatoes in the crock pot instead?
I was a genius.
As, it turns out, so are the folks at Cook’s Illustrated, the magazine put out by the wonderfully obsessive recipe testers at America’s Test Kitchen.
Long before I’d come up with the idea, they’d devised a crock pot baked potato method of their own.
Rather than reinvent the wheel (Cook’s Illustrated tests its recipes dozens of different ways, so I was confident they’d already made my mistakes for me), I decided to give their method a go. I was worried the crock pot baked potatoes would be too mushy and lack the fluffiness I love most in classic baked potatoes, but I was thrilled with the results.
The potatoes could not have been easier to prep, the cooking process was completely hands-off, and making the potatoes in the slow cooker left my oven free for greater endeavors (ahem, Vegan Apple Crisp).
You can also cook the crock pot baked potatoes on high heat or low, depending upon when you need them to be ready.
Once the crock pot potatoes were cooked, it was time for them to meet their ultimate destiny: a shower of toppings.
I stuck with the classics—bacon, chives, and cheese—then piled on a big dollop of plain nonfat Greek yogurt, my favorite healthy swap for sour cream. It’s creamy and pleasantly tangy like sour cream but packs far more protein for a fraction of the calories.
In the cheese arena, I like to use a fully flavored, melty cheese like sharp cheddar, because a small amount goes a long way.
How to Make a Crock Pot Baked Potatoes Bar
For a full-on baked potatoes bar, I’d suggest adding heartier toppings too:
- Chili (might I suggest this Healthy Turkey Chili)
- Blanched broccoli
- Pulled pork (I can practically feel Ben leaning over my shoulder requesting this)
- Black beans
- Tex-Mex anything: salsa, cilantro, sliced jalapenos
In the cooler fall and winter months, I can see these Crock Pot Baked Potatoes being the food MVP of a fall game watch or even tailgate.
You can even start the potatoes at home, then bring them right along with you in your slow cooker.
In the warmer months, this slow cooker potato method is also ideal, because you won’t need to heat up your oven for a full hour to enjoy a fluffy baked potato at your barbecue or cookout.