Homemade Classic Carl's Jr. Baked Potatoes

How to Make Your Own retro Carl's Jr. (or Wendy's) Baked Potatoes

In this article:

  • Memories of Carl's Jr. Baked Potatoes (But hey, Wendy's has them now)
  • Baked Potato basics
  • Why I personally use a microwave
  • Getting Started
  • The Fun Toppings
  • Let's Build A Baked Potato
  • More Ingredients and Toppings
  • The Baked Potato Bar
  • Food Safety
  • The Breakfast Baked Potato Bar

Back when I was in High School, one of my favorite item's on the Carl's Jr. menu here in Los Angeles were their Baked Potatoes.

Back then Carl's Junior food was among the highest priced in fast food, while also offering the largest burgers.   That was before all the burger places jumped on the "Super Size" value menu train.

I didn't have a lot of money like many of my friends who were paying $6 for a hamburger, so I sipped on a soda.

Then one day, I was really hungry and decided to order a Carl's Junior Baked Potato and instantly fell in love.

They were always hot, fresh and tasty.

Different Baked Potato combinations were available. 

Baked potato basics

THE BASIC: A Baked Potato with Sour Cream and Chives.

Other Add on toppings included: Jalapeno's, Fried White Onions, Broccoli Florets, Fried Mushrooms, Chopped Green Onion, Nacho Cheese Sauce, Bacon Pieces, Shredded Cheese, Sliced Black Olives.

In my family, a baked potato was a potato with a little bit of butter.  We never had any other options, so when suddenly there were options and those options worked incredibly well with a potato, I had to start exploring them.

Carl's Jr. Baked Potatoes became my favorite and most memorable menu item.  But then one day, after my buddy and I hadn't been to Carl's for a while, we discovered they  had removed it, and I resented their decision for years.

This was before the Vegan Trend penetrated fast food, before the $6 Dollar Burger, before the Super Star with Cheese, before any of the big burgers.

In fact the whole idea for the Baked Potato on the menu came from the earlier themed Carl's Jr. Menu which featured the Famous Star Burger and other western themed items.

A month prior to today, a friend and I were talking while having lunch at a local Carl's Jr. and the Carl's Jr. Baked Potatoes came up randomly into the conversation. The rest of our time together focused on these potatoes that were a meal in themselves.

I am pretty sure that is one reason they eventually pulled them off the menu, along with their salads, because they were just to big and to filling when ordered with a burger.

I used to order them instead of fries and friends who hadn't eaten with me at Carl's Jr. before, would be awestruck that I was able to get an amazing baked potato for a little extra change in substitute of fries.

My brother and I recently spent a day working together on a project and I took him to Carl's Jr. for lunch. They had a menu that went back even before the 1980's.  It had all kinds of unusual but appetizing items, which made us begin to talk about items Carl's Jr. offered when we were younger.

That of course reminded me again of those amazing baked potatoes.

So I set-off on a quest this week to recreate my favorite dining menu item at home for my brother and myself. The Carl's Junior Amazing Baked Potato. But if you just don't want to be bothered, even though you can make your own in around 6 minutes. You could always just go to Wendy's.

I shop Amazon Fresh at around 2AM to 4AM online, because I get focused on projects that often extend into the morning, so when buying my own toppings, i actually forgot to place some of them into my cart. I was sleepy.  

Amazon Fresh delivers to my house for free on orders over $25. I do not have a paid Prime Account. So far the food is  fresh and good quality, and so that is what I did for my Flash Back to Carl's Junior's Baked Potato.  As you continue reading, please keep in mind, I wasn't going for the appearance, I was and am going for the taste.  I wanted that collage of tasty flavors to trigger my brain and that is what I ended up with. 

Links in this article go to Amazon Fresh. I am an Amazon affiliate and product reviewer so I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase. I use any commission I receive from Amazon, back on Amazon to purchase products to review or to put food on my table.  That being said, I consider my time valuable and I imagine your time is too, so I chose to use Amazon Fresh because that is where I shop. I also wanted you to be able to easily get all the ingredients fast and easy, compared to having to wander around your local store.  I only chose brands I use and recommend, but there are other brands to chose from.

Why I personally use a microwave.

I decided to use a Microwave for the sake of time, and my potatoes were smaller than Carl's Jr. used to offer. Carl's baked there's in an oven and served them still in the aluminum foil.

Oven baked is the best, but I am going to walk you through both Microwave and oven baked potatoes, talk about topping options and share other thoughts about baked potatoes.

My eyes said, this is an ugly first attempt at a Carl's Jr. Baked Potato.
My mouth and brain didn't care.

I chose using a Microwave because of time. A microwave Baked Potato can be cooked in around 6 minutes.  An oven baked potato takes a whole hour.

Getting Started

First the Potatoes.  You'll want to use a Russet Potato.  Russet Potatoes at least here on the USA West Coast are traditionally used. Try to find some big ones.


Next you'll need the Sour Cream*. Now I realize, not everyone enjoys sour cream. When I was a kid, I hated sour cream, in fact it was these baked potatoes that changed all of that for me.  My brother still doesn't like Sour Cream, so Sour Cream is optional.  

I recommend Amazon's Happy Belly Sour Cream.  It taste wonderful and sells for a competitive price.

My second choice in sour cream is the Daisy Brand.

Both the Happy Belly and Daisy brands of sour cream have the thick consistency and flavor that will work great with your homemade Carl's Jr. Baked Potato.

An alternative to Sour Cream is to go with Butter.  I won't recommend a particular butter because if I did, I'd be lying or just randomly picking one.  I generally do not eat butter or margarine. I only use them when I need to prepare a pan or casserole dish for a recipe. Generally I use an oil spray. You can find those on Amazon Fresh too. 

To finish off your basic Carl's Jr. Baked Potato, or as I called it back then, "The poor man's baked potato", you need either some chives or chopped green onions. These are of course optional, in fact all of the toppings are optional, except the potatoes. 

Chives are a traditional topping on baked potatoes.  I have no idea why, but they do add a nice different texture.  You could buy dehydrated chives, but I do not recommend it. To really obtain the genuine Carl's Jr. Baked Potato experience, you'll need fresh chives.  

If you do not want to use chives, or they are not available near you, then substitute the chives with some fresh green onions. The green onions of course have a stronger flavor, or just leave them both off.


Now the we have the basic toppings together, here is a list of fun toppings that you can add to your homemade Carl's Jr. Baked Potato


I prefer Amazon's Happy Belly Mild Cheddar. Cheddar has a good tanginess that goes well with the flavors of potatoes with sour cream, but you could use any sharpness of cheddar or other many other cheeses you might prefer.  Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack, Colby Jack, Mozzarella, Sharp Cheddar, Goat Cheese, Gouda.


When it comes to Broccoli Florets, if you want the full Carl's Jr. experience you'll need to use fresh Broccoli Florets.  I used Amazon's Happy Belly Frozen Broccoli Florets because it is priced well and I knew there would be several days to a week before I or my brother got around to making our next Baked Potato.  I love fresh broccoli, but I tend to not be able to eat a whole bunch on my own while it is still fresh.

Fresh Broccoli Crowns are a great option if you don't mind doing a little chopping or need a larger quantity if you'll be setting up a Baked Potato bar for your friends and family.


When if comes to bacon pieces, freshness really matters in the texture and taste.  However you can use those fake bacon bits they sell in a little plastic container.  I recommend you go with a quality brand of "fresh" bacon pieces. 

For my Carl's Jr. Baked Potato's I used Oscar Mayer Bacon Bits Value Pack.  I am a familiar with the Oscar Mayer brand, have used their Bacon Bits before and they just happened to be on sale the morning I was placing my order.

I do not recommend making your own from scratch, unless you can get them really crisp without all the fat, or just happen to have a package of bacon available.


I love Jalapenos! But I can no longer eat them very often and I have to keep to the mild ones.  I used to keep a gallon sized jar in the fridge at work, my co-worker of past years used to call me, "My little Mexican".  She was a Latina who couldn't eat Jalapenos.

So I went with La Preferida Jalapeno Nacho Slices because they have a mild variety.  If you can handle a bit warmer Jalapeno, then I recommend going with a variety that does not have "nachos" in the name.  Jalapeno slices that have Nachos in the name generally are softer than normal Jalapeno slices which are firmer, crisper and have a bit more vinegarish bite.  That's preferable and more true to the Carl's Jr. experience.  But if you're like me, needing a mild Jalapeno, then these will be fine.  I just personally am not a fan of soft and squishy Jalapenos, and that's what you get anytime a jar or can of Jalapeno has "Nachos" in the name.


My father hated onions in his food, at least when he knew they were in there. My brother and mother loved fried onions. Personally, it just depends on the dish.  When it comes to Baked Potatoes, some nicely fried onions can add an additional nice and sweet flavor and texture to your Carl's Jr. creation, but like all of the extra toppings, I think the thing to consider is how much time you have to invest in your baked potato meal.  

One of the brilliant things about Baked Potatoes like these is being able to keep it simple and relatively fast to prepare.  So if you like fried onions and don't mind frying them up, then go for it.  For the ones we prepared for our Carl's Jr. flash back, no onions were harmed. 

That being said, sticking with the idea of simplicity, I'd recommend buying already diced onions so you can cook them up quick.  Amazon Fresh sells bags of whole onions, but for our purposes, I am only posting their already diced variety.  If you are going to have a full Baked Potato bar for your friends and family, then you might want to go ahead and buy a bag of whole onions, chop them yourself and you can find those HERE.


I love mushrooms in all kinds of ways, raw on salads, breaded and deep fried, and fried-sautéed. For your authentic Carl's Jr. experience, you'll need to fry-Sautee them.  White Mushrooms, often called Baby Bella's are best for baked potatoes.  Personally, I prefer whole mushrooms over already sliced mushrooms, because whole mushrooms are generally fresher and stay fresher longer, but either is fine.

If you want to stick to the full simplicity concept, you could just buy mushrooms in a jar.  When I worked for a Pizza company in college, we used mushrooms from jars, because they were already soft and cooked easier than using fresh mushrooms. When possible I always say, keep it fresh as possible, because you'll get the best natural flavors from your ingredients.

If you'll have some time spaced out between your baked potatoes meals and won't be using your mushrooms for other meals, then consider buying some fresh frozen mushrooms.


Cheese Sauce can make almost anything taste great it you are a cheese lover, including Baked Potatoes.  It was a great extra topping on Carl's Jr. retro baked potatoes, in addition to any shredded cheese.

I didn't use any cheese sauce on my retro baked potato experience, mainly because it forgot to add it to my Amazon shopping cart.  That happens when you work into the early morning, and then do your shopping between three and four in the morning.

A favorite I have used before is Tostitos Salsa Con Queso (medium hot). It comes in a large jar and adds a nice spiciness. Just add some on during the final minute of cooking in the microwave, or warm it up in a dish and pour some on, BEFORE adding your chives or green onions, sour cream, bacon pieces, Jalapenos, black olives.

I've also used Velveeta cheese block, which is a plain cheese.  Just depends on what you like.  The Velveeta you'll have to melt separately.


I'm a big fan of sliced black olives for salads, pizza and baked potatoes, but I totally forgot to add them to my shopping cart this time.

I usually use Pearls sliced ripe black olives, but so far I've never found a brand that didn't taste like black olives, so buy whatever brand you prefer.  Whole olives will roll off, so stick with sliced ones.

If you are creating a Baked Potato bar for your friends and family, then you may need to find a bigger size can or jar than Amazon Fresh currently carries.


I've tried a ton of Salsa's.  We love Salsa in Los Angeles.  For me personally, I like the taste, texture and flavor of Pace Chunky Salsa's better than any other brands. They have the right mix of taste and cube the right ingredients into chunks.  Other salsa brands offer a chunky version too, but they just careless chunky everything and lack the balance that Pace offers.

Amazon has a lot of good quality Chunky Salsa brands to explore, if you don't like Pace.


It may look messy, but your mouth doesn't care!


If you have 1 hour, then bake your potato in the oven.

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees 
2. Scrub, clean and dry the potatoes
3. Poke them all over with a fork
4. Rub them all over with a Canola Oil
5. Place them on a baking sheet and cook until soft in the center

1. Scrub, clean and dry the potatoes
2. Poke them all over with a fork
3. Microwave on HIGH for three minutes
4. Remove from Microwave and slice down the middle
5. Microwave another minute or two if they need to soften more.




If you are adding veggies, then skip to step three.

1. If you are going with the Basic Baked Potato, then as soon you pull them from the oven, put on your shredded cheese so it has time to melt.  Not recommended if you are having a baked potato bar, since some people are lactose intolerant and will not want any cheese.

2. Next, add your chives or green onion, butter, and bacon pieces, Jalapenos, black olives.

3.  Add any veggies, If you are using Cheese Sauce, heat up your cheese sauce in a dish, stirring occasionally to help it melt, then pour or drizzle onto your baked potato and other toppings.

4. Add sour cream and optionally Salsa

5. Sprinkle more Shredded Cheese on top.


If you are adding veggies, then skip to step three.

1. Check to see If the potato is fully cooked, add your shredded cheese and cook another minute or two to melt it. You only need to add the shredded cheese at this stage if you want to melt it.  Not recommended if you are having a baked potato bar, since some people are lactose intolerant and will not want any cheese.

2. Next, add your chives or green onion, butter, and bacon pieces, Jalapenos, black olives.

3. Add any veggies. If you are using Cheese Sauce, heat up your cheese sauce in a dish, stirring occasionally to help it melt, then pour or drizzle onto your baked potato and other toppings.

4. Add sour cream and optionally Salsa

5. Sprinkle more Shredded Cheese on top.




1. If you will be adding any veggies, then prepare them while the baked potatoes are cooking in the oven.  For example, Sautee the Mushrooms, Fry the onions, cook the Broccoli Florets. 

2. When you pull the baked potatoes from the oven, add your shredded cheese so it has time to melt. Adding cheese at this stage is optional.  Not recommended if you are having a baked potato bar, since some people are lactose intolerant and will not want any cheese.

3. Add your still hot/warm veggies on top.

4. If you are using Cheese Sauce, heat up your cheese sauce in a dish, stirring occasionally to help it melt, then add it on top of the veggies.

5. Add your chives or green onion, butter and bacon pieces, Jalapenos, black olives. 

6. Add sour cream and optionally Salsa

7. Sprinkle more Shredded Cheese on top.



Fry and Sautee any veggies you are using in light cooking oil, while the potato bakes in the oven or microwave.


1. Carefully remove the baked potato from the microwave during the last minute of cooking time.

2. Add veggies on top

4. Microwave two minutes until veggies are tender.


1. Clean and wash your veggies

2. Set them to the side as a topping.

Preparing hot veggies takes a lot of extra time, especially if you will set-up a baked potato bar.  So just serve them at room temperature as it's own topping in a bowl.

There's a baked potato under there somewhere, I promise!

Congratulations!  You are now officially a Baked Potato Expert!  Put it on your resume.

I love the idea of setting a baked potato bar for friends and family for holidays, game night, church function, or work lunch.  It's so simple, there are so many topping options, they taste so yummy, and if you do it right, even your vegan friends will love you.


A few other toppings you might want to consider if your feeling brave or want a bigger baked potato bar:


I have a long history in group environments like church events, summer camps, corporate settings, unions, etc.

I would say that one of the hardest parts of feeding a community of people, is finding something that everyone can enjoy, especially in the new age of veganism.

Once you find something that most people might enjoy eating together, then comes all the preparation time, cooking and preparing, and seeing some of it straight out dumped in the trash.

That is where the Baked Potato Bar shines. It's simple.  The main cooking can be as simple as using a microwave, or baking a bunch of potatoes in advance to be warmed up later.  You can even make them part of a barbeque during the summer for your family reunion or sporting event.

When it comes to the toppings, you simply need to put most of them in a separate bowl. Couldn't be any easier.

The only other cooking is if you decide to melt your shredded cheese or fry and Sautee any of the ingredients. but just keep it simple and don't bother.  Shredded cheese is fine at room temperature, and keeping those chopped or diced onions raw is fine too.

Simplicity is the key and a Baked Potato Bar is one of the easiest non-chief, no-brainer group meals you could present.

All you'll need is your ingredients set out in bowls with large spoons or tongs, table space, bowls or strong disposable plates and forks, and your warm baked potatoes.


You could use a sterno wamer to keep the potatoes and any other ingredients that need to be kept warm for food safety.

Use an Aluminum Pan with some ice inside to surround the separate and individual topping bowls that need kept cold, like deli meats cool for food safety.

Keep any and all nut products on a separate serving table or have them as the very last toppings.  Some people have deadly allergies to nuts, even if other foods come in contact with them, so keep them separate and away from the other toppings, put the nuts out last and wash your hands after handing them.

Allergy Causing Foods

* Milk
* Eggs
* Nuts
* Soy Beans
* Fish


You can make it 100% self serve, where people walk along a table any load up the toppings they want on their baked potato, or if you are concerned about multiple people interacting with the food, place a couple of people behind the tables to do all the loading.

1. Have the basics at the beginning. 

Plates, Forks, Knives, Napkins, Potatoes, Butter, Shredded Cheese, Sour Cream, Chives or Onions.  That way, those who just want to basics can get out of line early.

2. Next have the fun toppings

This article provides a lot of topping suggestions, but make sure to follow the safety guidelines too. 

3. Topping Safety and Being Respectful

Keep it safe and respectful for everyone.  While most toppings are fine for the mass majority, in a group environment, you need to pay attention to things like allergens.  Allergens are food items that cause people to have immediate life threatening reactions.

With this in mind, I recommend placing nuts at the very end of the table as the last topping.

Respect your vegan friends. In this day and age of change, we have many people embracing complete vegan diets.  It doesn't matter why they decided to live vegan, it only matters that in a group setting we give them the same respect that everyone else will receive.  

For this reason, I recommend, either having a separate table for all the veggie toppings, or at minimum place the veggies, right behind the basic toppings, so they come before any meat or dairy products.



Put all veggies at the very beginning of the toppings line, before any meat or dairy products. That way your vegan friends can get their toppings without having to fear cross-contamination with the meat products.


At the end have any dressings or drizzle toppings like Ranch Dressing, Honey, for example.

After your dressings and drizzle toppings, place toppings any nuts* as the very last topping.  This will help prevent cross-contamination for people who are allergic to nut related products. 


Have everyone form a line at the beginning of the table, then either have them serve themselves, or you and several others serve them.

If you want to have everyone serve themselves, then I recommend buying a box of extra large, medium and small plastic serving gloves. Put them at the beginning of the table and require everyone to put them on while going through the line.  Put a trash can at the end of the table for the gloves.  This will help reduce multiple people having to handle the same serving utensils.

Keep in mind, some people would rather be served by one or two people, instead of having everyone touch a serving utensil.

Wear plastic serving gloves for handling everything, including bowls, utensils, food, and when serving. 


With a little creative thinking you can make a Breakfast Baked Potato Bar.

This is an easy cross-over because many breakfast meals already include some kind of potatoes.  You'll just swap those potatoes out for a baked potato and add breakfast kinds of toppings to your Baked Potato Bar.

When thinking about toppings for your Breakfast Baked Potato Bar, keep "sweet and savory" in mind.  A yummy breakfast traditionally has a bit of sweet and savory to it.  Maple Syrup, Sausages, Eggs, Meats, Nuts*, Honey, Sweet Apples, Banana's.