Scalloped Potatoes

This classic scalloped potato recipe is everything you want it to be - creamy, tender, cheesy and delicious. It is sure to please a crowd and is big enough to feed one too!

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A spatula lifting a portion of scalloped potatoes out of a pan.

Scalloped Potatoes vs. Potato Gratin

This is a loaded subject. There are many different opinions on what the difference is between scalloped potatoes and potato gratin. Some say that cheese has no place in scalloped potatoes; others say that the potatoes should be sliced thinner in potato gratin. I honestly love both dishes equally and have my own way of distinguishing between the two. In my world, potato gratin is cooked with garlic scented cream and then topped with cheese which forms a crust on top (the definition of au gratin). It’s simple, it’s pure and it’s decadent. Scalloped potatoes, on the other hand are cooked with a béchamel sauce – a pre-thickened sauce made with milk – and often thinly sliced onions. Scalloped potatoes don’t have to have cheese on top, but why not? Scalloped potatoes are more casual, a little less decadent than potato gratin, but just as delicious. 

Ingredients on a countertop and cutting board - potatoes, cheeses, thyme, butter, flour, milk and seasoning with a blue and green striped towel nearby.

How to Make Scalloped Potatoes (ahead)

There are just a few components to scalloped potatoes – the sliced potatoes, the sliced onions, the grated cheese and the béchamel sauce. Get all the components ready first and then build the dish. If you are making the scalloped potatoes ahead of time, build the dish, bake the dish and then cool completely before covering and storing in the refrigerator. When you want to serve the potatoes, keep them covered and re-heat at 350ºF for 30 minutes, removing the foil for the last 5 minutes or so.

Bechamel sauce in a saucepan with cheeses in bowls in the background.

Sauce for Scalloped Potatoes

The sauce for scalloped potatoes is a béchamel sauce – the most basic of mother sauces. It’s easy to make and easy to make ahead of time too. You can learn all about béchamel here. While you could make the sauce with part cream for an ultra rich side dish, I think using milk is what helps distinguish scalloped potatoes from potato gratin. 

A hand slicing potatoes on an orange colored mandolin with bowls of cheese, sliced onion and peeled potatoes around.

How to Slice potatoes for scalloped potatoes

Slicing the potatoes is an important step in making scalloped potatoes and the most important part of this step is ensuring that the slices are an even thickness. The easiest and fastest way to do this is with a mandolin slicer. Try to slice the potatoes ⅛-inch thick and absolutely no thicker than ¼-inch. It’s also important to slice the onions very thin as well. In this recipe, you do not cook the onions ahead of time before layering them in the casserole, but very thinly sliced onions  soften easily in the dish while the potatoes cook.

9 photographs showing how to build scalloped potatoes in a blue baking dish.

Build It and They Will Come

Never has this phrase been more true than with scalloped potatoes! The smell of  these potatoes baking in the oven brings everyone down to the dinner table promptly. It’s a simple build, layering the potatoes, onions, thyme and sauce a few times and then topping with a mix of Gruyère and Parmesan cheeses. 

Scalloped potatoes in a blue baking dish ready to go into the oven.

Best Cheese for Scalloped Potatoes

I like to use the combination of Gruyère and Parmesan cheeses for this dish because they have different qualities that I like. Parmesan adds a salty seasoning to the top of the dish, while Gruyère is a fantastic melter with a smooth, nutty flavor. If you can’t find Gruyère, try a Swiss cheese. Cheddar will also work well if that’s one of your favorites. 

A blue baking dish of scalloped potatoes with one portion cut out.

What to Serve with Scalloped Potatoes

Scalloped potatoes always make me think of ham. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I had a baked ham without scalloped potatoes. It would also be a delicious side dish with roast beef or grilled or air-fried steak. You could also layer in some leafy greens like spinach or kale and make this the center of a vegetarian dinner. So many possibilities! 

Scalloped Potatoes

  • Prep Time: 20 m
  • Cook Time: 50 m
  • Total Time: 1 h 10 m
  • Servings:
    10
    people

Ingredients

  • Unsalted butter to grease the pan
  • 3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes peeled
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • cups whole milk
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ onion very thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • cups grated Gruyère cheese
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan or casserole dish with butter.
  2. Using a mandolin slicer or a sharp knife, evenly slice the potatoes into ⅛-inch thin slices. Pat the potato slices dry with paper towels or clean kitchen towel.
  3. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the flour and stir into a paste to form a roux. Cook for a minute or two. Slowly pour in the milk and whisk until the sauce is smooth. Stir in the nutmeg, salt and season with freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  4. Layer one third of the potatoes evenly in the bottom of the prepared pan. Top with one third of the sliced onions and one third of the fresh thyme leaves. Pour one third of the of the sauce over the potatoes and spread it out evenly over the vegetables with a spatula. Repeat two more times with layers of potatoes, onions, thyme and sauce. Sprinkle the Gruyère and Parmesan cheeses on top.
  5. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake at 375°F for 50 to 60 minutes until the cheese on top is golden brown and the potatoes are soft when pierced with a knife.
  6. Let the scalloped potatoes rest at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm.
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Comments (7)Post a Reply

  1. I was always taught that scalloped potatoes did not have cheese in/on the dish. It’s au gratin potatoes (or anything else) that has the cheese. Learned from watching Julia Child on TV in the 1950’s.

    1. The two dishes are quite similar. Scalloped potatoes are thinly sliced potatoes baked in a cream sauce which may or may not include cheese. Au gratin potatoes are also thinly sliced and baked in a cream sauce but are always topped off with cheese.

  2. Hey BJC! It’s Kate
    Could I make these with just cheddar? I never keep Gruyère cheese in my fridge. Hope you are having a great spring!

    1. Yes, you can make these scalloped potatoes with just cheddar or really any cheese you like.

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