Here’s a friendly reminder, as we approach increased time restraints that often come with the holiday season, that a baked potato or sweet potato make a perfectly fine meal.

Start a few potatoes baking when you get home: Turn your oven on to 425 degrees, scrub your potatoes well, dry, pierce a few times with a fork or knife, rub on a little oil and sprinkle with a bit of coarse salt, then roast on a baking sheet for about 45 minutes to one hour, turning over once midway, until a knife goes into the potato with no resistance. Or, even quicker: Scrub, pierce, and microwave on high for about four minutes per potato, turn the potato(es) over, then microwave for a few minutes more, until done. The timing will depend on the size and number of potatoes.

If you’re short on time, a simple pat of butter, sprinkle of salt and dash of vinegar is a perfectly acceptable combination. But when you want to do a little more, whether just for you or for a group of friends or family members, a few good homemade toppings can make your baked spuds all the more special. Gather the fixings and let everyone assemble their own, baked potato restaurant style. (Yes, such restaurants do exist — in Russia.) Here are a few combinations we’d dig into:


(Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post; food styling by Bonnie S. Benwick/The Washington Post)

For the Wendy’s-ish potato: Go with Crispy Roasted Broccoli, draped with cheese sauce (or, even easier, shredded cheddar) and topped with crispy fried shallots or onions — either homemade or store-bought.



(Renee Comet for The Washington Post; styling by Bonnie S. Benwick)

Chili goes well on most things, we think, but especially on a warm and steaming baked potato. This meatless Red Lentil Chili is a crowd-pleaser that’s ready in just about an hour. Serve with sour cream and crumbled tortilla chips for crunch.



(Scott Suchman for The Washington Post)

Another direction to go, beans-wise, is with a pot of Honey Baked Black Beans, which have a nice depth thanks to a bottle of dark beer that’s poured into the pot near the end of cooking. Add a meaty crunch with crumbled bacon or a little chew with torn pieces of jerky.



(Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky)

Tomato-Balsamic Chicken is saucy, tangy and ready in 25 minutes. It’d be swell on a baked potato, topped with a little shredded cheese or dollop of thick yogurt.



(Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)

Or keep things super simple and stick with a sauce. This Mustard Greens + Pecan Pesto is nice and seasonal; Lentil-Miso Gravy is substantial and presents a good way to audition vegan recipes for Thanksgiving; horseradish mixed with Greek yogurt and olive oil is easy and classic.

Other ideas: Roasted salted nuts; leftovers of any sort; a fried egg; tuna-anchovy mayonnaise (especially great on sweet potatoes); crispy tofu; crumbled chorizo (homemade or tofu-based or store-bought); salsa. The sky is the limit. What do you like to add to your baked and sweet potatoes? Let us know in the comments.

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