The motherloaded potato.
When I go to McAlister’s Deli, I always get a Grilled Chicken Spud. It has grilled chicken, cheese, tomatoes, green onion, and butter. (Now I always get a chocolate chip cookie too, but that is not part of the journey today.) I wanted to find a way to make this recipe Whole30, and with the help of a little vegan queso and some seasoning, these loaded chicken baked potatoes come out pretty darn close to those spuds at McAlister’s.
I first want to talk about the vegan queso that I use in these loaded chicken baked potatoes. The ones I use are always cashew based and basically contain some or all of the following: cashews, water, nutritional yeast, peppers, onions, garlic, and spices. So basically, very clean ingredients. I made my own vegan queso once, and it consisted of soaking raw cashews for a few hours and then using a food processor to mix in all the other ingredients. It was not hard, per se, but I find it much easier and tastier to buy Siete (their queso blanco is the flavor I typically use) or Vegan Valley jalenpeño queso.
The other call out I want to touch on around vegan cashew queso is that it can be a SWYPO food in Whole30. Yes, that acronym stands for “Sex With Your Pants On” before you get all worried about what that hyperlink is. Basically, SWYPO still enforces bad habits because you are just replacing real junk food for fake/healthy junk food. Here is the difference: If you are mindlessly eating plantain chips dipped in vegan queso because you miss eating chips and queso at your neighborhood Mexican restaurant, you are having SWYPO. If you are using vegan queso to thicken a sauce or add some creamy spice to a dish that you are consciously and mindfully choosing to eat while on the Whole30, this is not SWYPO. If you opt to not use the vegan queso, you can use a combination of ghee and almond milk and a dash of cayenne pepper to add some creamy spice to these potatoes. See notes below for more details!
For these loaded chicken baked potatoes, I obviously call for a few cups of cooked chicken. You can just buy a rotisserie chicken at the store and shred it (just check your labels for Whole30 compliance) or you can grill some of my citrus grilled chicken and use that (or any other cooked chicken you have).
Overall, these are really simple to make! All you have to do is bake some potatoes until they are soft. Then scoop out the insides of the potatoes and mix together with the other ingredients. Using an ice cream scoop, like this one, scoop the filling back inside the potato skins and bake for a few more minutes.
- 4 large russet potatoes
- ¼ cup chopped green onion
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes
- ¼ cup vegan cashew queso
- 6 TBSP olive oil (Divided: 2 TBSP, 4 TBSP)
- 2 tsp salt (Divided: 1 tsp, 1 tsp)
- 2 tsp pepper (Divided: 1 tsp, 1 tsp)
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp paprika
- Optional for garnish: vegan queso (4 TBSP), green onions (1 TBSP), salt, pepper, pink peppercorn, drizzle of olive oil
- Preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit
- Wash potatoes and poke holes with a fork. Drizzle with about 2 TBSP olive oil and 1 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of pepper.
- Using your hands, rub the potatoes in the oil and salt and pepper so that each potato is pulley covered with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
- Transfer to a baking sheet and put in the oven for 45 minutes to 60 minutes, until potatoes are soft.
- Once the potatoes have cooled, (or use a glove to protect your hand. I use these, but they are not designed for heat, rather than protecting from heat, but they work.) slice in half long ways and scoop out the flesh of the potato and transfer to a bowl.
- In the bowl with the potato flesh, add tomatoes, green onion, vegan queso, remaining salt and pepper, remaining olive oil, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder.
- Using an ice cream scooper (like this one), scoop the potato filling back in the potato skins.
- Transfer back into the oven (still at 400° Fahrenheit) for 10-15 minutes, until potatoes are warmed back through.
- Optional: Drizzle with additional warmed vegan queso (1 TBSP per potato) and top with additional salt, pepper, and green onions. Sprinkle pink peppercorn on top. Drizzle a little olive oil on top as well. (Again, all of those are optional so you can do some, all, or none of these extra garnishes).
- This serves a hefty four portions. We typically make this last 5-6 portions, especially if we serve with a small salad.
- If you can’t find or don’t want to use cashew queso, you can add almond milk and ghee and a pinch of cayenne pepper. The almond milk and ghee amounts can vary, but start with ¼ cup of almond milk and 2 TBSP of ghee. Mix in with the other ingredients and taste. Add more ghee, almond milk, and cayenne pepper based on taste.
- If you have no dietary restrictions, feel free to substitute the vegan queso with your favorite shredded cheese.
- Cooking the potatoes with the olive oil, salt and pepper in a hot oven ensures the skin is crispy and full of flavor. If you are short on time, feel free to cook these potatoes in the microwave for 5-10 minutes, depending on size. Don’t forget to poke holes and wash the potatoes first.
- When you scoop the potatoes out, you will not get all the potato flesh and that is ok. If you remove all the potato flesh, then the skin breaks. You want to keep a thin layer of potato still attached to the skin when scooping out the flesh. They will not be perfect, and that is ok!
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