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Food & Recipes

Wow Your Guests (Without the Work!) With a Trendy Mashed Potato Bar

Even the pickiest eaters won't be able to resist this DIY spread complete with all the toppings!

We love a comfort dish with a twist, which is why we’re enjoying the latest entertaining craze: the mashed potato bar. This trend takes mashed potatoes from a basic side to a yummy party dish without breaking the bank. It’s as simple as serving the creamy spuds in a large bowl and placing various toppings in smaller bowls. Then, guests can scoop and customize a serving of mash to satisfy their salty, smoky or cheesy cravings. If this DIY spread sounds like the perfect fit for your next tailgate or birthday party, we’ve got a couple shortcuts to make preparing it a breeze. Here’s how to create a crowd-pleasing mashed potato bar and several topping ideas to get your taste buds watering!

What is a mashed potato bar?

A mashed potato bar calls for serving plain creamy spuds along with toppings like meat, vegetables, seasonings and cheese in separate bowls. Once guests help themselves to a portion of mash and toppings, the dish can be enjoyed out of individual-sized vessels like bowls, mason jars or even martini glasses for festive flair!

Related: Your New Entertaining Secret Weapon: A Baked Potato Bar — It’s Delicious, Easy and Makes Everyone Happy

The key to making a big batch of mashed potatoes

Whipping up fluffy mashed potatoes for a crowd is easier than you think. The secret? Simply grab a slow cooker, fill with your peeled potatoes and ingredients and let it cook for hours. Then, quickly mash the potatoes and stir in creamy ingredients before serving.

This hassle-free method frees you up from boiling the spuds, making them tender and velvety rather than watery or mealy. You also don’t have to deal with hot water splashing everywhere as you’re draining the potatoes. Bonus: Switching your slow cooker’s setting to warm keeps the mashed potatoes heated until you’re ready to serve.

Best toppings for a mashed potato bar

Person holding a martini glass filled with mashed potatoes topped with bacon and scallions, at a mashed potato bar party
Getty

As for toppings to include in a mashed potato bar, the more the merrier. Here, Holly Nilsson, founder of Spend With Pennies, suggests six different types of toppings perfect for including in your mashed potato bar.

1. Protein

Crumbled bacon, BBQ brisket, ground beef, pulled pork, cubed chicken and/or flaked salmon

2. Vegetables

Roasted bell peppers, sautéed kale, caramelized onions, broccoli, sliced red onion and/or sautéed mushrooms

3. Dairy

Shredded cheddar, sour cream, Monterey Jack, crumbled feta and/or plain Greek yogurt

4. Saucy ingredients

Cheese sauce, baked beans, chicken or turkey gravy, salsa, sausage gravy and/or melted butter

5. Seasonings 

Salt, pepper, dried oregano, chili flakes, Italian seasoning and/or fresh herbs

6. Additional ingredients

Crushed tortilla chips, sliced olives, minced chives and/or jalapeños

To see a mashed potato bar in action, watch this video from Cityline’s YouTube Channel.

How to make the ultimate mashed potato bar

Below, Nilsson shares her Mashed Potato Bar recipe, which uses a plain mash made from basic potatoes. But, you can experiment with various types of potatoes and flavorings for a more vibrant mashed potato bar. “A fun way to mix it up would be to offer a few kinds of mashed potatoes as the ‘base’ for your bar — try mashed sweet potatoes, roasted garlic or ranch mashed potatoes,” she says. Give it a go and see your loved ones devour these spuds in no time!

Slow-cooker mashed potatoes

Mashed potatoes topped with onions and bacon bits as part of a guide on making a mashed potato bar
Getty

Ingredients:

  • 5 lbs. red, yellow or white potatoes, scrubbed and peeled
  • ¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • ½ tsp. onion powder
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 Tbs. fresh parsley
  • 2 Tbs. cream cheese, optional
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Warmed milk or heavy cream, to taste
  • Desired toppings like cheese, meat, vegetables, etc.

Directions:

  • Active: 10 mins
  • Total time: 3 hrs, 10 mins + toppings prep
  • Yield: 10 servings
  1. Cut potatoes into 1-inch chunks and place into 4-quart slow cooker. Add broth, garlic powder and onion powder to potatoes.
  2. Cook on high 3 to 4 hours or low 6 to 7 hours, stirring every hour until tender.
  3. In meantime, prep and place toppings in individual bowls.
  4. Using potato masher, mash spuds until smooth. Next, stir in butter, sour cream, parsley and cream cheese (if using). Season mashed potatoes with salt and pepper to taste. For a creamier texture, stir in warmed milk or heavy cream to reach desired consistency. Switch slow cooker setting to warm until serving.
  5. Serve mashed potatoes out of slow cooker or in separate dish. Place bowls of toppings around the mash with serving spoons for each bowl. Enjoy!

5 topping flavor-ways for mashed potatoes

You can stick with the traditional toppings that one would use on a loaded baked potato — pulled pork, scallions, shredded cheese, crispy bacon, sour cream and even a little gravy — and set them out for your guests to sprinkle and pour on.

Or you can go with one (or more!) of the flavor themes below:

Smoky BBQ Mash

Set out chunks of brisket or pulled pork, your favorite BBQ sauce and some grated cheese.

Roast Dinner Mash

Set out slices of roasted chicken, turkey or ham and your favorite gravy.

Vegetable Delight Mash

Set out sautéed peppers, onions, mushrooms, kale and/or broccoli.

Olive and Feta Mash

Set out sliced olives (any kind), feta cheese, extra virgin olive oil and some dried oregano.


For more hearty potato recipes, check out these stories below:

For Extra-Crispy Skin On Your Baked Potato, Cook It In Your Toaster Oven, Says Chef

This Popular Condiment Makes Roasted Potatoes Crispier and More Flavorful

Chef’s Foolproof Secret to Perfectly Crispy Roasted Sweet Potatoes Every Tim

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