Who doesn’t love a casserole? Growing up in the Midwest, casseroles were a regular fixture on my weeknight family dinner table, at potlucks, and at every holiday get together. Why? Casseroles combine fresh produce with pantry staples to make a choose-your-own-serving-size dish that is versatile, forgiving, and perhaps best of all, easily assembled ahead of time.
This casserole takes all the joy of the twice baked potato—a creamy, fluffy potato base packed with gooey and tangy cheese, salty bacon, and fresh scallions—and transforms it into the ultimate make-ahead dish.
Choosing Your Potatoes
I will never tell you that there is a wrong potato (all potatoes are wonderful), but there is usually a right potato for the twice baked potato job and understanding a bit more about them can help you choose correctly.
Potato varieties fall into two categories: waxy and starchy.
- Waxy potatoes have less starch and more moisture. What does this mean? They’re great at holding their shape when cut and cooked (think potato salad or soup) but get a bit crumbly if you try to break them apart. Potatoes that fall into this category include new potatoes, redskins, and fingerlings.
- Starchy potatoes have more starch (of course) and less moisture, so they’re better for breaking apart into fluffy potato clouds (baked, mashed) or crisping up when frying (hello, French fries). Idaho, Yukon gold, and russet potatoes all fall in this category, and these are the potatoes we’ll be using for our creamy baked potato casserole.
Bake Your Bacon
This recipe includes fresh bacon bits, which presents a perfect opportunity for one of my favorite bacon cooking methods: Baking it in the oven.
Cooking bacon in the oven is not only a great way to save yourself the greasy splattered mess of stovetop cooking, but it also cooks bacon more evenly, and saves you from having to stand over a hot stove, regularly flipping bacon strips in a pan.
To make bacon in the oven: Line a large, rimmed sheet pan with foil (for easier clean up) and set an oven-safe baking rack on top, if you have one. The baking rack helps the hot air circulate around the bacon, cooking it more evenly, and lifts the strips out of the rendered bacon fat, yielding crispier pieces. Don’t have a baking rack? No problem. You can cook the bacon directly on the sheet pan, just use tongs to flip the strips halfway through cooking.
One other thing to keep in mind with this method: Bacon crisps as it cools, so you’re looking for a darkened color change on your bacon rather than crispy strips as a sign that it’s ready to pull out of the oven.
Endless Twice Baked Potato Casserole Toppings
The joy of a baked potato dinner is the endless possibilities for toppings, and that joy exists with this casserole too! Our recipe starts with the classics: Cheddar cheese, bacon bits, and scallions; but use this as a jumping off point and feel free to swap in some of your favorites.
Here are some ideas:
- Mix up the cheese by replacing some of the Cheddar with gruyere, feta, or goat cheese.
- Replace the bacon with cooked Italian or andouille sausage.
- Want more veggies? Add blanched spinach, sauteed peppers, mushrooms, roasted garlic, or broccoli florets to the mix.
- Utilize your herb garden to add chives, parsley, or fresh basil as a garnish.
- Add some heat by mixing in some minced jalapenos, or a hearty pinch of chili powder!
How to Serve this Casserole
As I mentioned, casseroles are flexible in their role as main or side dishes, so serve this one as either.
If serving it as your main dish, toss a quick side salad together while your potatoes bake. A hearty, tangy kale salad is a great choice to balance out the rich, cheesy potatoes.
Or keep this as a make-ahead side dish, to serve along with a quick stovetop main like pan-fried pork chops or an oven-roasted chicken (the 350°F baking temperature on this casserole is somewhat flexible, if you need to bump it up a bit to cook alongside your main dish).
An Easy Make Ahead Casserole
Want to make this ahead of time? No problem! Once the casserole is assembled, cover it with plastic wrap and hold in the fridge for up to 5 days. When you’re ready to bake, take it out of the fridge 30 minutes before cooking, remove the plastic wrap, then bake according to the recipe instructions.
Want to freeze it? Wrap the entire baking dish in a layer of plastic wrap, then a layer of foil. Freeze for up to 1 month. Defrost in the fridge, remove the plastic wrap, and then bake according to the recipe instructions.
One final note about the joy of casseroles: They reheat wonderfully. Refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Reheat in the microwave or in an oven-safe baking dish at 350°F for 20 to 30 minutes.
More Cozy Potato Casserole Recipes
Twice Baked Potato Casserole
If you use unsalted butter for this recipe, add an additional 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the potatoes in method step 6.
- 3 pounds russet potatoes
- 12 ounces sliced bacon (about 12 slices)
- 1 cup sour cream
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 2 tablespoons salted butter, melted, plus more for greasing
- 2 1/2 cups grated Cheddar cheese, divided
- 1 1/2 cups sliced scallions (white and green parts), divided
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
- A few cracks freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Bake the potatoes:
Prick each potato a few times with a fork and wrap them in a large foil packet. Bake the potatoes until they are fork tender, 40 to 60 minutes depending on the size. Once done, unwrap the potatoes to let them rest until cool enough to handle.
Add bacon onto a lined baking sheet:
Meanwhile, line a large, rimmed sheet pan with foil and top with a baking rack (if you have one). Arrange the bacon strips on the rack in a single layer, making sure not to overlap them.
Cook and chop the bacon:
Bake the bacon until it shrivels slightly and darkens in color (remember it will crisp once it’s cooled), about 15 to 20 minutes depending on thickness.
Use tongs to transfer the cooked bacon to a plate lined with a few pieces of paper towel to cool. Once cooled, chop the bacon into small bits. Set aside.
Peel and mash the potatoes:
Once they’re cool enough to handle (but still warm), slice the potatoes in half. Set the potatoes cut side down on the cutting board and, using a soup spoon, peel the skin and discard. Cut the potato flesh into chunks and place in a large mixing bowl.
Add mix-ins to potatoes:
Add the sour cream, cream cheese, milk, and melted butter to the bowl with the potatoes. Using a potato masher, mix and mash the potatoes until well combined, but not completely smooth (you want a few potato lumps still).
Add about half of the chopped bacon, 1 1/2 cups of the cheddar cheese, 1 cup of the scallions, plus the garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Use a rubber spatula to fold the mix-ins into the potato mixture. Taste and season with more salt and pepper, if needed.
Reduce oven temperature and prepare baking dish:
Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with butter.
Assemble the casserole and bake:
Add the potato mixture into the prepared casserole dish and smooth into an even layer using a rubber spatula. Scatter the remaining cheddar cheese over the potatoes. Cover the dish with foil, making sure not to press it tight against the cheese, and bake for 40 minutes.
Remove the foil and bake the casserole uncovered for another 20 minutes, until the cheese is browned and bubbling slightly at the sides.
Garnish and serve:
Top the casserole with the remaining bacon bits and scallions. Serve.
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