Twice Baked Potatoes with Bacon and Caramelized Onions: The perfect side dish recipe for any protein, these twice baked potatoes are loaded with bacon, caramelized onions, cheese, and fresh thyme. They’re surprisingly easy to make and will make everyone at the table happy at dinner time!
Many many years ago, I was first introduced to the twice baked potato. It’s difficult to pin point the exact time this was but I believe it was during a big family dinner.
It wasn’t during a holiday dinner or anything like that, but probably on a winter weekend or maybe for one of my dad’s birthdays.
I definitely remember my mom making a roast pork loin as the protein for the meal which makes it more likely this was for one of my dad’s birthdays. The man loved his pork!
And I also definitely remember absolutely flipping out over my first twice baked potato. I’ve always loved the skins from the baked potatoes so with the combination of loaded mashed potatoes stuffed into the skins, I was in heaven!
Truthfully though, I haven’t often made twice baked potatoes in my adult life, aside from these gouda twice baked potatoes. It’s just not a side dish I think of often when I’m meal planning.
That’s probably because while I tend to make easy twice baked potatoes, they aren’t always quick to make. They tend to be geared more for weekend meals rather than weeknight meals, right?
But now that I’m working from home on the blog full time, I have quite a bit of flexibility with my time. I can run the oven in the middle of the day in the middle of the week to make the best twice baked potatoes for dinner that night.
So for these twice baked potatoes, I really wanted to create an incredible potato that would be delicious as a side dish to a hearty protein. And I wanted one that could stand alone as a great lunch with maybe a small salad or bowl of soup on the side as well.
What is a Twice Baked Potato?
A twice baked potato is a potato that has been baked twice. The first bake is to cook the potato. And the second bake is after you’ve scooped out the potato from the skin, mixed it with delicious add-ins (usually cheese, among other things), and stuffed the filling back into the potato skin.
If you’ve never had a twice baked potato, please get to it soon! If you love mashed potatoes, THIS is the kind of recipe you’ll love!
How to Bake a Potato
I realize that not everyone has a go-to baked potato recipe and up until a couple of years ago, neither did I. But since the whole basis behind a twice baked potato is well, the baked potato, it needs to be a good baked potato.
The potato skin needs to be crispy and sturdy because it acts as a wall to hold your potato stuffing in when the potatoes are baked a second time.
So my baked potato recipe creates the absolutely perfect baked potato just for this purpose.
To make great baked potatoes, you’ll quickly rinse Idaho or Russet potatoes in a salt water brine before baking them on a rack over a baking sheet.
The rack allow for air flow underneath the potatoes, which helps to bake them evenly all the way around.
After the potatoes are almost fully baked, you’ll pull them from the oven, brush them with olive oil, sprinkle them with a little coarse sea salt, and bake them for 10 more minutes. The olive oil helps to create those crispy potato skins we all love and this easy step is the key to making the best baked potato!
How to Make Twice Baked Potatoes
To make these twice baked potatoes with bacon and caramelized onions, you’ll pull your baked potatoes from the oven, slice them in half horizontally, and then scoop out the potato from the skin.
You’ll want to leave a little of the potato holding to the skin so the potatoes skins won’t tear when you stuff them.
Next, you’ll stuff them with your filling mixture!
In developing this twice baked potatoes recipe, I knew I wanted caramelized onions to be one of the primary filling ingredients. I absolutely adore the OOMPH that caramelized onions add to a recipe (see this risotto, for example) and their deeply caramelized and sweet, earthy flavor was exactly what these potatoes needed.
So I made a batch of of my favorite caramelized onions while I had the baked potatoes in the oven. If you’re a weekend meal prepper, you could definitely make the onions on the weekend and keep them in the fridge for 1 week before using them.
I mixed my potatoes with those caramelized onions, chopped bacon, gruyere cheese, and fresh thyme.
Once you’ve filled the potatoes back up, you’ll add some more cheese to the tops, and pop them in the oven for their second bake. They’ll need just a few minutes for the filling flavors to meld and for the cheese to melt.
What emerges from the oven is quite possibly one of best potato side dishes I’ve ever eaten! And that’s saying a lot when you have these cheesy hasselback potatoes in your repertoire!
The potato filling is quite literally bursting at the seams with flavor and the hint of thyme balances all of those savory flavors so nicely.
The all-important potato skins remain crispy during the second bake and even the potato skin haters in your family may actually eat them! I know mine did!
What to Serve Twice Baked Potatoes with
Obviously, these potatoes would be excellent alongside some grilled steak. But they would also be outstanding with Ina’s turkey meatloaf, this chicken with country gravy, this butterflied and grilled chicken, or even bacon and onion jam burgers!
- 2 baked potatoes, sliced in half horizontally (see note below)
For the caramelized onions:
- 1 large white or yellow onion, root end cut off, halved end to end, peeled, and sliced ¼-inch thick across the grain (or ½ cup caramelized onions)
- 1 ½ tsp unsalted butter
- 1 ½ tsp vegetable oil (canola, grapeseed, safflower)
- ¼ tsp table salt
- ½ tsp light brown sugar
- 1 ½ tsp water
- Ground black pepper
- ½ cup shredded gruyere cheese (about 2 oz), divided
- 3 strips of cooked bacon, roughly chopped and divided
- 3 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed from the stems
- While your potatoes are baking, make the caramelized onions: In a 12-inch skillet, heat butter and oil together over high heat until the butter is melted. Stir in the salt and brown sugar until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the onions and mix them up to coat them with the butter and oil. Cook onions for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the start to soften.
- Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently (and even more so towards the end), about 40 minutes. The onions should be very deep golden brown in color and should be almost completely soft when tasted. If the onions are browning too fast or starting to burn, reduce the heat. You'll need to keep a close eye on them towards the end of the cooking time as they can easily burn at this point.
- Off the heat, stir in the water and season with black pepper to taste. Store for up to 1 week in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Leave the oven on after baking the potatoes and turn the temperature down or up to 425° F.
- To assemble and baked the twice baked potatoes: Scoop out enough flesh from the baked potatoes into a medium bowl, so that there is a sturdy ¼-inch wall of potato left attached to the skin around the whole circumference of each potato half.
- Mix ½ cup of the caramelized onions, ¼ cup of the cheese, ¾ of the chopped bacon, and the thyme leaves into the potatoes in the bowl.
- Scoop ¼ of the potato mixture into each of the potato skins and top them with the remaining cheese. Transfer the potatoes to a baking sheet.
- Bake at 425° F for about 15 minutes, just until the potatoes are heated through and the cheese on top is melted. Garnish with the extra chopped bacon and some extra thyme leaves if you have them. Serve while still hot. These potatoes are best served the day you make them but I wouldn't (and didn't) turn down the leftovers either.
Feel free to bake your potatoes using your preferred method. However, if you're tired of your plain ol' baked potatoes and want crispy skins and fluffy insides every single time you make them, or you need to know how to make baked potatoes, you must try my tried and true oven baked potato recipe.
Do Ahead: The caramelized onions can be made and stored in the fridge for up to 1 week before you need them for this recipe.