The Cheesy Sauce In This Potatoes Au Gratin Is So Good, We Could Cry (2024)

Cheesy, creamy, and perfectly decadent, potatoes au gratin is the side dish we turn to for practically every holiday. Thinly sliced potatoes are baked with a creamy garlic mixture and cheese topping until golden and bubbling. It’s the perfect easy but impressive side dish to wow at your Easter dinner, or for an extra special date night. While this dish is relatively simple to make, there are a few aspects that will take potatoes au gratin from good to great. Here’s everything you need to know:

The difference between potatoes au gratin and scalloped potatoes:
Gratins have cheese; scalloped potatoes primarily do not. Au gratin potatoes, also known as gratin dauphinoise, can be traced back all the way to late 18th century France, where the dish maintains its popularity today.

The best potatoes to use:
Starchy potatoes, like russets, are best for potatoes au gratin. The starch is released during cooking to help thicken the sauce and achieve a luscious creaminess. The extra starch also helps keep the dairy from curdling while it cooks at a high temperature. Avoid waxy potatoes as they tend to stay slippery instead of melting into the cheesy sauce.

The best cheese to use:
That's entirely up to you. Gruyère melts well and has a fantastic nutty flavor, and a nice peppery Parmesan is classic. Personally, we like to use both, but there aren't really rules. Fontina, mozzarella, or even a sharp cheddar would all work too.

Top tips for making potatoes au gratin:
Milk vs. cream. We like to use a combination of both. Heavy cream adds an unbeatable richness and creates a velvety sauce. But an all-cream sauce would be intense, so to balance it out, we add milk (whole milk, not skim, is preferred!). If at all possible, resist the urge to skip the heavy cream; it's crucial for thickening the sauce.
To peel or not to peel. It depends on the type of potato you find! For thick-skinned russets, it's best to peel the potatoes in order to maintain their uniform texture. If you have a butter potato or other similarly starchy thin-skinned potato, you can skip the peeling.
Cover with foil. The foil helps cook the potatoes (they steam and boil in the sauce) while the whole gratin is in the oven. We take the foil off during the last stretch of baking to get the top cheese layer golden and crispy.
Brown the top. Since the heat in the oven is relatively moderate, your top layer may be stubborn and not want to brown. When this happens, we turn to the broiler. Once your potatoes are super tender and the sauce is bubbling, crank the oven heat and broil it for a couple of minutes until the gratin is golden on top.
Prevent watery potatoes. Baked potatoes will release a lot of moisture, causing your final dish to be a little soupy. To help prevent that you can lay your sliced potatoes out on paper towels to help soak up some excess water. The last 15 or 20 minutes of baking you should also bake the dish uncovered. This will help some moisture escape and make your cheese nice and golden. Let your dish rest for a few minutes after baking to allow your potatoes to absorb more of that cream sauce.

Serving ideas for potatoes au gratin:
These are perfect for any celebratory occasion, and make a great side to add to any holiday table. Pair with our tomato butter roast chicken, roast ham, roast beef, or our sheet-pan garlic butter salmon.

Storage & make ahead:
Any leftovers will keep in a resealable storage container for 3 to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. If you want to make this ahead, assemble and bake the gratin and let cool completely while still wrapped in foil. Wrap the entire pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Reheat at 375° for about 20 minutes.

Have you made this yet? Let us know how it went in the comments below!

8 serving(s)
Prep Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
1 hr 30 mins


  • 6

    russet potatoes, cleaned and peeled

  • 2 tbsp.

    butter, plus more for pan

  • 2

    cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 1/2 c.

    heavy cream

  • 1/4 c.


  • 1 tbsp.

    freshly chopped thyme

  • Pinch of nutmeg

  • Kosher salt

  • red pepper flakes

  • 1 1/2 c.

    shredded Gruyère

  • 1/2 c.

    freshly grated Parmesan


    1. Step1Preheat oven to 375° and butter a large 3 qt baking dish.Slice potatoes 1/4" thick and place in water to keep from browning.
    2. Step2In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add garlic and cookuntil fragrant, about 1 minute. Add cream, milk, thyme, nutmeg, salt, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Let simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
    3. Step3Layer a thirdof potatoes, slightly overlapping, in prepared dish then pour a thirdof cream mixture over potatoes. Repeat with remaining potatoes and cream to make two more layers. Sprinkle Gruyère over top.
    4. Step4Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with Parmesan and continue baking until potatoes are tender and top is golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

The Cheesy Sauce In This Potatoes Au Gratin Is So Good, We Could Cry (2)

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The Cheesy Sauce In This Potatoes Au Gratin Is So Good, We Could Cry (4)

The Cheesy Sauce In This Potatoes Au Gratin Is So Good, We Could Cry (2024)


Does au gratin mean with cheese? ›

What Does “Au Gratin” Mean? A “gratin” is any dish that is topped with cheese or breadcrumbs mixed with butter, then heated in the oven or under the broiler until brown and crispy, according to The Food Lover's Companion. The term au gratin or gratinée just refers to anything prepared in that manner.

What does potatoes au gratin translate to? ›

There are many variations on casseroles that can be prepared au gratin and made even more delicious. The phrase au gratin literally means "by grating" in French, or "with a crust," from the verb gratter, "to scrape, scratch, or grate."

Which has cheese au gratin or scalloped? ›

Au Gratin potatoes contain cheese, whereas Scalloped Potatoes do not. Scalloped potatoes typically contain cream but can also contain flavorful stock instead of dairy.

Why are my cheesy potatoes watery? ›

Watery scalloped potatoes are not good, and is often caused by using the wrong type of potato. This recipe requires starchy potatoes, such as russets or Yukon golds, not waxy potatoes. Another cause is washing or holding the sliced potatoes in water (as outlined in the question above).

Why do my au gratin potatoes curdle? ›

The curdling is caused by high heat, which is hard to avoid in an oven.

What can I use instead of milk in boxed au gratin potatoes? ›

If your household has to go dairy-free, there's no reason to skip this favorite dish as the milk and cheese can easily be substituted. Some recipes use chicken broth or water while others use non-dairy alternatives like soy or almond milk.

What is another name for potato gratin? ›

Potatoes gratiné

Sliced raw potatoes may also be baked in a liquid or sauce that steams them and forms a golden crust on top. In the US, the dish is referred to variously as funeral potatoes, potatoes au gratin, scalloped potatoes, or au gratin potatoes.

What is an au gratin dish used for? ›

Named after the French culinary technique of creating a crusty topping on dishes, the Au Gratin dish is ideal for cooking anything from casseroles to side dishes to desserts. It can also be used as a serving dish for sides, desserts, and appetizers.

What to eat with potato gratin? ›

The potatoes are soft, but still intact. The whole dish has a comforting cheesy flavor, but still feels elegant. Serve the gratin with beef such as London broil or even a simply roasted chicken for a classic meal.

What is a substitute for cream in gratin? ›

Substituting Milk for Heavy Cream

Whole milk alone can work in some instances as a substitute. At 3.5%, its fat content is low, but it's a good substitute in mashed potatoes or potatoes au gratin.

What is the difference between a gratin and a casserole? ›

Casseroles and gratins are the same dish.

Yes, there actually IS a difference between a casserole and a gratin. Both are baked in the oven, but a gratin is a special form of a casserole. When cooking it, you will layer the ingredients instead of just adding them all together.

How to thicken au gratin potatoes? ›

To thicken scalloped potatoes, keep cooking the sauce a minute or so longer than directed before adding the cheese. This will create a rich, extra-thick sauce.

Why are my scalloped potatoes not creamy? ›

High heat will cause the milk to curdle. Use milk or cream with higher fat content. Whole milk, half-and-half, or cream and full-fat cheeses are necessary. Skim milk and reduced-fat products will not be your friend in this dish.

How long will au gratin potatoes last in the fridge? ›

Leftovers: Store leftover potatoes in an airtight container in the fridge for 5 days. Freezing: Store them in an airtight container and freeze them for up to 2 weeks for best results. You can also freeze them in the dish they were baked in, but cover it tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap.

What does gratin literally mean? ›

The etymology of gratin is from the French language words gratter, meaning "to scrape" (from having to scrape the food out of the dish it was cooked in). The technique predates the current name, which did not appear in English until 1846 (OED, s.v. "gratin").

What is the meaning of au gratin method? ›

In the culinary arts, the term au gratin refers to a dish that is baked with a topping of seasoned breadcrumbs and cheese.

What is an au gratin dish? ›

What is an Au Gratin? The Au Gratin dish gets its name from the French technique where the dish is topped by a brown crust, usually with grated cheese, butter, or breadcrumbs. The Au Gratin is an oval, stoneware dish that is suited for gratins, roasting, and even baking recipes.

Why do the French end meals with cheese? ›

Cheese platters are a traditional part of celebratory or family meals in France. They reflect the diversity of French expertise, and are presented at the end of a meal, before dessert, bringing together on a single plate a range of regions, producers and skills.

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