5-ingredient TGI Friday's stuffed potato skins

The 2020 coronavirus pandemic has not been kind to restaurants. Many restaurants never reopened after forced closures, and others have been allowed to reopen at only 50 percent capacity. The news hasn't been good for national restaurants like TGI Friday's, which were already struggling before the stay-at-home orders came down. Sadly, the chain may have to permanently close as much as 20 percent of its restaurants.

Depending on where you live, that may mean you can no longer get your fix of TGI Friday's famous loaded potato skin appetizer. Sure, you can find them in the frozen section at Walmart, but they never taste quite as good as a freshly made batch. So, we set out to make our own version. We wanted to make the process as simple as possible, setting a goal to make these potato skins with five ingredients or fewer. Were we able to pull off a 5-ingredient TGI Friday's stuffed potato skins recipe? Does it taste as good as the original? Read on to find out.

Gather the ingredients to make 5-ingredient TGI Friday's stuffed potato skins

Our first stop in creating copycat recipes is always the restaurant's website to scope out the ingredients list. We didn't have much to go off on this one. TGI Friday's doesn't disclose the ingredients used in this popular appetizer, but it does describe the dish as using Maine-grown white potatoes topped with melted cheddar and crispy bacon. That description was enough to allow us to add potatoes, cheddar cheese, and bacon to our list of ingredients for our 5-ingredient TGI Friday's stuffed potato skins.

Then there's the dipping sauce. TGI Friday's calls it a "ranch sour cream topped with green onions." We knew we only had two more ingredients to work with, so we couldn't include ranch seasoning, sour cream, and green onions. So, we chose the latter two and knew that we could get it close enough to the original while staying within our five-ingredient limit.

For the full list of ingredients, including the step-by-step directions and ingredient quantities, scroll to the directions portion of this article.

What are the best potatoes to use for 5-ingredient TGI Friday's stuffed potato skins?

TGI Friday's uses "Maine-grown white potatoes" for its loaded potato skins. These potatoes are not regularly available at the grocery store, so we dug in to figure out a suitable replacement. We found that Maine's white potatoes are an all-purpose potato that's well-suited for boiling, mashing, and roasting. They have a lower starch content than russet potatoes, one of the more common baking potato varieties, but we thought russets could be a good substitute.

We tried making these 5-ingredient TGI Friday's stuffed potato skins with starchy russet potatoes and all-purpose Yukon Gold potatoes. While the Yukon Golds had a creamier, richer-tasting flesh, we thought the baked russet potatoes were more closely linked with TGI Friday's appetizer. The skin was thicker, making it easier to core the potatoes without them falling apart. We also liked the way the outside crisped up, giving us a crunchier eating experience.

In the end, we determined that most varieties of starchy or all-purpose potatoes should work here. Avoid the waxy potato varieties (like red potatoes), as they tend to get a little gummy when they're baked the second time.

We'll use the whole green onion for this 5-ingredient TGI Friday's stuffed potato skins recipe

Remember how we mentioned that TGI Friday's stuffed potato skins are served with a side of ranch-flavored sour cream? Well, we didn't have enough ingredients to add ranch seasonings to our list, but we found that a single green onion worked perfectly. It added enough ranch-like flavor to the sour cream to create a tasty dipping sauce, and we were also able to use the green onions as a garnish to make our potato skins more visually appealing.

There are two parts to a green onion: the white or light green portion and the dark green tops. The white and light green part of the onion is sharper with a more onion-forward flavor, while the tops are milder with a grassier flavor. For this recipe, we thinly sliced the green part and set it aside to decorate our finished potato skins. Since the white and light green parts have a more intense flavor, they were a perfect addition to the sour cream sauce. They gave it a ranch-like flavor without having to add any additional ingredients.

If you want to take things to the next level, you can swirl a quarter-packet of ranch seasoning into the sour cream. A homemade mix of dried parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, dried dill, freeze-dried chives, salt, and pepper also works for these 5-ingredient TGI Friday's stuffed potato skins.

How to make the dipping sauce for 5-ingredient TGI Friday's stuffed potato skins

If you want to get your prep work out of the way early, make the dipping sauce for these 5-ingredient TGI Friday's stuffed potato skins first. The flavors will meld and come together in the fridge, and the dipping sauce is good for up to a week when it's stored in an airtight container.

Start by finely chopping the white and light green parts of a green onion. While you have your knife and cutting board ready, go ahead and thinly slice the dark green tops too. We'll set those aside for later. Place the sour cream in a small bowl, and add the finely chopped onions. Add the additional optional seasonings if desired, and stir to combine.

The quantities used in this recipe make enough for this two-potato serving, but feel free to double or triple the dipping sauce. It tastes great with potato skins, but it also works well for traditional baked potatoes, as a healthy dip for vegetables, or as a garnish for soup.

Bake the potatoes for 5-ingredient TGI Friday's stuffed potato skins

Baking the potatoes is another step that can be done ahead of time, if you like. Baked potatoes take a long time to cook — 45 minutes to an hour in a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven — so it's nice to get that part out of the way. After they're baked, the potatoes are good for three to four days in the refrigerator. Of course, you can always use the microwave as a shortcut if you're running short on time.

You can bake potatoes with or without foil, but we've chosen the foil-wrapped method for this 5-ingredient TGI Friday's stuffed potato skins recipe. The foil keeps moisture inside as the potato bakes, resulting in a softer baked potato. That helps the skin stay intact when you're scooping out the insides later on. Since we'll be baking the potatoes a second time with the stuffing, they'll have plenty of opportunity to crisp up.

It's important to prick the potatoes with a fork before wrapping them in foil. Southern Living explains that potatoes are full of water, which turns to steam as it bakes. If the steam gets trapped inside the skin, the potato can burst. Sounds like a mess we'd rather avoid!

Cook the bacon for this 5-ingredient TGI Friday's stuffed potato skins recipe

While the potatoes are cooking, we can prepare the remaining ingredients for our 5-ingredient TGI Friday's stuffed potato skins. You can absolutely cook the bacon as whole strips and chop them after, but we find it's easier to cook when it's cut first. The smaller bacon pieces get browned and caramelized on all sides, and they finish faster than long bacon strips too.

Cut the bacon into quarter-inch pieces. Don't worry if they're a little bigger — you can always crumble them into smaller pieces after they cook. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and cook until the bacon is cooked through and browned on all sides. Remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain off the excess grease.

If you're working with block cheese, you'll want to grate it through the large holes of a box grater. There are some weird ingredients in pre-shredded cheese, so we always try to shred our own whenever we have time.

Cut and core the potatoes for 5-ingredient TGI Friday's stuffed potato skins

Now that everything is prepared, it's time to finally create our 5-ingredient TGI Friday's stuffed potato skins. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut each one in half with a sharp knife. Then, using a spoon, scoop out most of the potato filling, leaving about a quarter-inch of potato inside the skin. This process is much easier to do when the potatoes are fully cooled. If you have trouble scooping out the filling without the potato falling apart, it might help to put the potatoes in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour.

We don't need the filling for this copycat recipe, so set it aside for another use. You can absolutely use the filling to make these potato skins more indulgent, though. It won't be an exact TGI Friday's copycat, and it will require an extra ingredient, but you can mash the potato filling with sour cream and melted butter. Scoop the mashed mixture back into the skins, and follow the remaining directions.

Broil the potatoes to finish this 5-ingredient TGI Friday's stuffed potato skins recipe

The only step left to do to make your 5-ingredient TGI Friday's stuffed potato skins is to bake potatoes a second time. Preheat the broiler on the high setting, and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. If you made the potatoes ahead of time, you'll need to reheat them before you can add the filling. Simply place the cored potatoes skin-side up on the baking sheet, and place them under the broil for about five minutes until they're lightly crisped and warm to the touch.

Flip the potatoes over and fill each one with the shredded cheddar cheese and cooked bacon pieces. Slice the baking sheet under the broiler and cook until the cheese is melted, which should take about two minutes. Top the cheesy potato skins with the sliced green onions from earlier, and serve them hot with the sour cream sauce on the side. They make an excellent side dish for a steak dinner, but you can also serve them as appetizers. To make them go a little further, feel free to cut each potato skin in half again to create eight total pieces.

How close did we get to the original TGI Friday's stuffed potato skins?

We've had many potato skin appetizers over the years, and these were just as good as any we've gotten at a restaurant. The potato skin crisped up beautifully and added a satisfying crunch with each bite. The potato itself was soft, and we were surprised that it didn't need any extra seasoning. Between the salty cheese, smoky bacon, and onion-flavored sour cream, the potato skins tasted perfect. We made the first batch according to the recipe and added the sour cream and butter-infused mashed potato filling for the second batch. Both tasted great, but we prefer the original recipe for appetizers and the stuffed version as a filling side dish.

Now that we know how easy it is to make 5-ingredient TGI Friday's stuffed potato skins at home, we plan to include them on all our dinner party menus. They would even work for a backyard barbecue — cooking them a second time on the grill would work just as well as the broiler.

5-ingredient TGI Friday's stuffed potato skins directions

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time:1 hour 10 minutes

Serves: 2 to 4 people

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium russet potatoes
  • Salt and pepper (optional)
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 green onion
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

Optional ingredients:

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/3 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon freeze dried chives
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pinch ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Wash the potatoes and prick them all over with a fork. Wrap the potatoes in aluminum foil, seasoning the skins with salt and pepper, if desired.
  3. Bake the potatoes for 45 minutes to an hour, until they're cooked through. Carefully remove the aluminum foil, and let the potatoes cool.
  4. Alternatively, cook the potatoes, unwrapped, in the microwave for about 7 minutes, turning halfway through. Continue cooking in 1-minute increments until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.
  5. Meanwhile, cut the bacon into 1/4-inch pieces. Cook over medium-high heat in a skillet until browned on all sides. Remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain off the excess grease, and set aside.
  6. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut each potato in half. Using a spoon, scoop out most of the potato filling, leaving about 1/4 inch of the potato inside the skin. Set the potato filling aside for another use. If the potato is too soft and falls apart, put the potatoes in the refrigerator and continue when they're fully cooled.
  7. Preheat the broiler on the high setting, and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  8. If the potatoes are cold, place them skin-side up on a baking sheet and place them under the broiler for 5 minutes until they're warm.
  9. Flip the potatoes over and fill each potato with a quarter of the cheese and cooked bacon pieces.
  10. Broil for 2 minutes until the cheese is melted.
  11. While the potatoes are cooking, finely chop the white and light green parts of the green onion. Slice the green parts and set aside separately.
  12. Combine the chopped white and light green onion with the sour cream. If desired, add the optional dried parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, dried dill, freeze-dried chives, salt, and pepper to the sour cream, and mix well.
  13. Top the broiled potato skins with the sliced green onions, and serve hot with the sour cream sauce on the side.