Creamy potatoes au gratin is a classic side dish that everyone will love. Every bite is comforting potato heaven with creamy, cheesy goodness. Perfect for festive celebrations like Easter and Christmas or anytime you need an easy, delicious potato side recipe.
- Why You’ll Love This Potatoes au Gratin Recipe
- What’s the Difference Between Potatoes au Gratin, Dauphinoise Potatoes and Scalloped Potatoes?
- Which Is The Best Potato Bake Recipe?
- What Potatoes Work Best For Potatoes Au Gratin?
- Do I Peel Or Not Peel Potatoes?
- Recipe Overview
- Variations and Substitutions
- How to Make This Recipe Perfectly (Expert Tips)
- Great Mains for This Side Dish
- Frequently Asked Questions
Why You’ll Love This Potatoes au Gratin Recipe
Tender baked potato slices layered with a creamy sauce and cheesy top. Mmmm. Makes my mouth water even thinking about it.
Creamy potatoes au gratin is one of those potato side dishes that people say “oh so rich” but then can’t stop eating.
I am one of those people. Yes, that’s me. I can’t eat a huge portion of potatoes au gratin, but damn, is it good! Especially when served with a fine lamb roast dinner, winter beef stew or hearty grain salad. The right amount of comforting potato heaven with creamy, cheesy goodness is the perfect potato bake side dish.
Plus, it is one of those fancy side dishes you can make in advance and leave in the oven to do its thing when ready to serve. This au gratin potatoes recipe does take time to cook, but your hands are free to prepare other dishes while potato gratin is bubbling away in the oven.
So whether you are serving a Sunday roast or cooking a feast during Christmas, this creamy potato gratin recipe is one you should make to share.
What’s the Difference Between Potatoes au Gratin, Dauphinoise Potatoes and Scalloped Potatoes?
Okay, you may get a little confused between recipes for scalloped potatoes, potato au gratin and Dauphinoise potatoes. Are they the same thing?
Technically, no, but they definitely have a lot of similarities. And, to be honest, with all the modern twists, I find the three potato bake recipes now intertwine with each other.
All three recipes are essentially potato bakes made with sliced potatoes baked in a shallow baking dish with a cream based sauce. However, there are subtle differences between them in ingredients and cooking methods.
Potatoes au gratin typically will have a top layer of cheese or even breadcrumbs to create a golden brown crispy top. The term gratin originated from the French word “gratter” referring to baking a dish until the top layer becomes brown and crispy.
On the other hand, the Dauphinoise potatoes recipe (originated from the French Dauphiné region) is more simplistic in its cooking method, with sliced potatoes baked in cream, milk, garlic and seasoning until tender. There is generally no cheese or crispy topping.
The dish is baked at a lower temperature for a longer time for the potato and cream flavours to meld together. Some people may start the cooking process over the stovetop and then finish in the oven.
Similar to Dauphinoise potatoes, scalloped potatoes traditionally do not have cheese in the dish. And rather than just baking in cream and milk, most recipes will call for a bechamel type of creamy sauce to bake the potatoes in.
Which Is The Best Potato Bake Recipe?
Whatever floats your boat, right?
And with all the modern variations, you can create your own special recipe. You can also try our baked sweet potato side dish as an alternative to regular potatoes.
I do know one thing about all three potato bake recipes – they’re all popular festive holiday side dishes!
It is very common to see one version of potatoes au gratin, Dauphinoise potatoes or scalloped potatoes pop up at Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations, just like our sweet potato casserole, Brussels sprouts and bacon and purple mashed potatoes.
Who doesn’t love comforting creamy potato bakes?!
What Potatoes Work Best For Potatoes Au Gratin?
The best potatoes for gratin are starchy potatoes. They have a higher starch content and lower moisture content. This makes them better for achieving the perfect texture and their starchiness helps thicken up the sauce. Starchy potatoes are also great for mashed potatoes, like our twice baked mashed potato recipe.
Starchy potato varieties include Russet, Yukon Gold, King Edward, Maris Piper, Sebago or Dutch Creams. Otherwise, an all-rounder like Golden Delight is a good option as well.
Do I Peel Or Not Peel Potatoes?
This is a personal preference to peel or not to peel the potatoes. I generally do not peel my potatoes for au gratin.
The potato slices are so thin that leaving the skin on did not make much of a difference to me. If anything, I prefer to have the skin on to help keep the shape of the potato slices. And one less step to prepare!
Flavour/Texture: Creamy, luscious and rich combination of potato and cheese.
Ease: An uncomplicated recipe that only needs a few steps to assemble. The oven will do most of the heavy lifting in the cooking process.
Time: Lower heat will be better to soften the potatoes and creamy mixture, so it will take a little longer to cook. Allow 1 hour and 45 minutes. You can prepare other dishes whilst potato au gratin is in the oven.
These are the ingredients you need for potato au gratin:
Potatoes: I went with an all-rounder Golden Delight potato for my gratin which worked well with texture and creaminess. Choose similar sized potatoes so the potato slices cook evenly.
Cream/Milk: The traditional recipe calls for heavy cream only, but I go with half cream and half milk in my creamy mixture. It is best not to use just milk as it will not have sufficient fat content to help thicken the sauce.
Butter: Not really a creamy potato bake recipe without butter! It helps glue everything together.
Garlic: For extra flavour to the creamy sauce in the potato gratin, minced garlic is essential!
Thyme: Earthy aromatic thyme adds to the overall flavour of the cheesy sauce. You can leave it out if you don’t have thyme readily available.
Cheese: I feel the best cheese for au gratin potatoes is gruyère. It is a firm cheese with a nutty and distinct complex flavour. And despite its firm texture, gruyère has a creamy mouthfeel when melted.
This makes it a popular choice for melting and incorporating into dishes like fondues, quiches, and gratins.
Variations and Substitutions
Different potato varieties: As mentioned, go with a starchy potato for au gratin. Waxy potatoes don’t break down as well as starchy potatoes when baked and are better for salads like our classic potato bacon salad.
Substitute for gruyère: You can substitute gruyère with another Swiss cheese like grated jarlsberg or mix it with an everyday cheese like sharp cheddar, havarti or mozzarella. I would add some grated parmesan with mozzarella for extra flavour.
Vegan option: To make a vegan potato gratin, you will need to substitute cream for plant-based milk or use soaked cashews to create a creamy sauce. Go for your favourite vegan butter and cheese in place of the butter and gruyère as well.
Step by step instructions for how to make potatoes au gratin:
Preheat oven to 180°C or 350°F.
Wash potatoes to remove any excessive dirt. You can peel the potatoes if you choose to do so.
Thinly slice potatoes. You can use a sharp knife or mandoline.
In a mixing bowl or jug, combine cream, milk, minced garlic and melted butter.
Layer half of the sliced potatoes in a shallow baking dish, and pour half of the creamy mixture over sliced potatoes.
Season with salt and pepper, thyme leaves, and then add grated cheese on top.
Repeat the process except for the final layer of cheese.
Cover the baking dish with foil and bake in the oven for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes until the potatoes are tender soft. You can use a fork and poke through the middle to test the potatoes.
Add a final layer of cheese and bake for another 15 minutes until crispy golden brown top and bubbly sides.
Remove from oven and allow potato au gratin to stand for a few minutes before serving.
How to Make This Recipe Perfectly (Expert Tips)
Similar thickness: Try to slice the potatoes into similar sizes and thicknesses. This will help cook the dish evenly. A mandoline is very useful in this process.
Cooking at lower temperatures: Cooking at high heat can curdle the cream, producing white lumpy bits in the sauce. You can still consume it, but it may not look as pretty.
If your oven tends to overheat, lower the temperature when baking and monitor the cooking time to avoid overexposure to high heat.
Add the final layer of cheese later: I once baked this dish with everything in place, including that top layer of cheese. It came out okay, but the top got a bit too brown for my taste.
Plus, some cheese oil separated, making it a tad oily. A little heads up from my kitchen to yours: toss on that final cheese layer closer to the end of baking for a perfect golden finish.
Great Mains for This Side Dish
What to serve with potatoes au gratin? Try these delicious main dish recipes:
Frequently Asked Questions
Generally, you do not need to pre-cook the potatoes before adding them to the baking tray. The baking process with the cream mixture will be sufficient to cook the potatoes properly.
When you see lumpy white bits form in your cream sauce, your cream may have separated and curdled.
High temperatures and overcooking can cause the cream to split and curdle in potatoes au gratin. The proteins in the cream are disrupted and coagulate to form small curd-like bits.
Use heavy cream and full cream milk for the creamy mixture. Milk alone or low-fat milk will tend to split when cooking in high heat.
The next step to avoid curdling is to bake the gratin in lower heat between 170°C-180°C or 340°F-360°F and monitor the cooking time.
Yes, you can still eat the gratin even if the cream has curdled. Curdling in cream-based dishes like potato gratin is primarily a texture issue and does not necessarily indicate that the food is unsafe to eat.
Yes, you can prepare potatoes au gratin in advance. Bake in the oven without the final layer of cheese. Let it cool down, cover the top and store in fridge.
When ready to serve, bring out from fridge and let it return to room temperature before baking with the final layer of cheese on top until golden brown and bubbly. This may take approximately 30 minutes.
Who would think a few simple ingredients could create such deliciousness? The creamy, cheesy sauce melded with tender baked potato slices is just too hard to resist. The potatoes au gratin recipe is a classic side dish that will continue to be a family favourite for years to come.
More Winter Side Dishes
Creamy Potatoes au Gratin
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- Preheat oven to 180°C or 350°F.
- Wash potatoes to remove any excessive dirt.
- Thinly slice potatoes using a sharp knife or mandoline.
- In a mixing bowl or jug, combine cream, milk, minced garlic and melted butter.
- Layer half of the sliced potatoes in a shallow baking dish, and pour half of the creamy mixture over sliced potatoes.
- Season with salt and pepper, thyme leaves, and then add grated cheese on top.
- Repeat the process except for the final layer of cheese.
- Cover the baking dish with foil and bake in the oven for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes until the potatoes are tender soft. You can use a fork and poke through the middle to test the potatoes.
- Add a final layer of cheese and bake for another 15 minutes until crispy golden brown top and bubbly sides.
- Remove from oven and allow potato au gratin to stand for a few minutes before serving.
- Try to slice the potatoes into similar sizes and thicknesses. This will help cook the dish evenly. Use a mandoline if that makes it easier.
- Peel or not peel potatoes is a personal preference. Make sure your potatoes are washed to remove excessive dirt.
- Be sure to use starchy potatoes or a good all-rounder like Russet, Yukon Gold, King Edward, Maris Piper, Sebago or Dutch Creams.
- You can substitute gruyère with another Swiss cheese like grated Jarlsberg or mix it with an everyday cheese like cheddar, havarti or mozzarella.
- To make a vegan potato gratin, you will need to substitute cream for plant-based milk or use soaked cashews to create a creamy sauce. Go for your favourite vegan butter and cheese instead of the butter and the gruyère cheese.
- Cooking at high heat can curdle the cream, producing white lumpy bits in the sauce. You can still consume the dish, but it may not look as nice. If your oven tends to overheat, lower the temperature when baking and monitor the cooking time to avoid overexposure to high heat.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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