When your main dish recipe needs a decadent side dish sidekick, there’s nothing like a creamy, thyme-infused cheesy potatoes au gratin recipe to do the job, and to do it easily too.
Au Gratin Potatoes Recipe
There are few side dishes that are more comforting than those made with potatoes. Creamy mashed potatoes. Buttery parsley potatoes. The best potato salad ever. Smashed, twice baked, and roasted potatoes, and so many more.
But au gratin potatoes hold a special place in my food loving heart. They’re creamy, cheesy, and no matter how you slice, spoon, or stack them, they fit in just right alongside both special occasion main dishes or simple weekend burgers.
Creamy on the inside with crisped bites along the edges, these potatoes au gratin don’t call for a floured roux or canned soup, instead letting the potatoes, cream and broth combine to do their creamy thing they do so well.
And here’s the final fact of this potato act…whether you make homemade au gratin potatoes for a crowd of one or a crowd of many, they’re going to be a crowd pleaser every which way.
What’s the Difference Between Au Gratin Potatoes vs Scalloped Potatoes?
What is the difference between au gratin potatoes and scalloped potatoes? Home cooks want to know! The answer is: not much.
At this stage of evolution in the potato-side-dish-making-game the two are mostly interchangeable with mostly the same ingredients.
The distinguishing characteristics of both au gratin and scalloped potato recipes are:
- Creamy potatoes are stacked and cooked in a shallow dish.
- Said potatoes are topped with a delicious crust of cheese, or bread crumbs, or other gratin-styled crisp.
- Au gratin potatoes are layered with cheese where scalloped usually have cheese only on top. Naturally, I add cheese everywhere.
What’s in Potatoes au Gratin?
These easy au gratin potatoes require very few ingredients to achieve their perfectly creamy, cheesy flavor. The potatoes au gratin ingredients you’ll need for this recipe are:
- Fresh thyme
- Kosher salt and pepper
- Heavy cream
- Chicken broth
- Bay leaves
- Gruyere cheese
- Parmesan cheese
What Are the Best Potatoes for au Gratin Potatoes?
Au gratin potatoes call for a sturdy, starchy potato that layer well but hold their own. That’s why the gold standard russet potatoes do their best work here.
How to Make Au Gratin Potatoes
There are a few simple steps I follow every time I make au gratin or scalloped potatoes, and then there are a few steps where I just let it be what it is depending on what’s in the fridge at the time. For example, in my book all cheese is good cheese for a gratin. But first…
The potatoes. In slicing the potatoes, I use my favorite hand-held mandoline to keep them uniformly 1/8-inch thick (using the #2 setting). To avoid that always-to-be-avoided potato discoloration situation, submerge your just peeled potatoes in a bowl of cold water to keep your potatoes white and bright.
The creamy situation. Just like in my Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes recipe, I use a combination of cream and chicken broth that have been infused with flavor of garlic and sautéed onion. The chicken broth loosens the cream a bit so it isn’t so cloying and clumpy.
Cooking the potatoes in the creamy mixture on the stove top gives them a head start before hitting the oven. The potatoes cooking in the cream mixture adds starch t0 the sauce and acts as a natural thickening agent, forgoing any floury roux you might see in other recipes.
The cheese. Layering cheese with the potatoes plus adding it as a topping is what makes an au gratin great. I used gruyere for the creamy factor and Parmesan cheese for more flavor, but you can use any melty cheese you have on hand including cheddar, provolone, fontina, etc..
Can You Make Au Gratin Potatoes Ahead of Time?
Can you assemble homemade au gratin potatoes ahead of time? By all means, YES! This step is actually one I encourage after assembling the dish.
Refrigerate the potatoes for an hour or overnight before baking. This step gives the cream time to set and meld with the potatoes and the starch to create a lush creamy bite that won’t be watery or soupy.
Can You Freeze Au Gratin Potatoes?
Yes, you can also freeze the au gratin potatoes before baking, then bake from frozen for 1 1/2 to 2 hours at 350°F.
Tips for Making the Best au Gratin Potatoes
For the best flavor, you want to use fresh thyme in this homemade au gratin potatoes recipe. Dried thyme is much more potent in flavor, so stick with fresh.
Also note that there are no heavy cream substitutes you can use in this homemade au gratin potatoes recipe. The fat in the heavy cream is essential for creating a thick, creamy sauce for these potatoes au gratin. If you subbed a milk with less fat in it, I’m afraid you’d wind up with potato soup.
Lastly, if you don’t have a mandoline, do your best to slice the potatoes as thinly and evenly as possible. It’ll take more time to do it all by hand, but don’t try to rush it. Trust me, these potatoes au gratin are worth the extra effort.
What to Serve With Au Gratin Potatoes to Make a Meal
- Easy Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
- Baby Back Ribs In the Instant Pot
- Grilled Lobster Tails with Smoked Paprika Butter
- Filet Mignon with Porcini Mushroom Compound Butter
- Juicy Roast Turkey Breast
- Oven Roasted Chicken with Lemon Rosemary Butter
- How to Make Homemade One-Pot Sloppy Joes
Au Gratin Potatoes Recipe
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 garlic cloves pressed in a garlic press
- 1 medium onion minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 5 pounds russet potatoes peeled and sliced thinly, about ⅛ inch thick
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 cup gruyere cheese shredded
- 1 cups Parmesan cheese shredded
- Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, then add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, stirring until garlic becomes fragrant. Add the onions, thyme leaves and kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook until onions become soft, stirring occasionally, for about 4-5 minutes.
- Stir in the cream and chicken broth then add the potato slices and bay leaves and bring to a rolling simmer. Cover and reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are nearly fork tender.
- Begin stacking the potatoes with the sauce in a 1 ½ quart baking dish (an 8 X 8 or 9 X 6) sprinkling half of the cheeses as you layer. Sprinkle the potatoes with the remaining cheeses.
- Refrigerate for an hour or up to overnight. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees F for 45-55 minutes or until the cream is bubbling around the edges and the cheese is golden brown. Let rest for 5-10 minutes until serving.
- Plan on at least an hour of refrigeration time before baking these potatoes so the creamy sauce melts into the potatoes and cheese for a rich sauce instead of a soup.
- To freeze potatoes au gratin: You can freeze the au gratin potatoes before baking, then bake from frozen for 1 1/2 to 2 hours at 350°F.
- Adapted from Cooks Illustrated The New Best Recipe
More Potato Side Dish Recipes You’ll Want to Make Too
- Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes
- How to Make the Best Creamy Mashed Potatoes
- How to Make the Best Potato Salad
- Buttermilk Blue Cheese Mashed Potatoes
- The Best Buttery Parsley Potatoes
- German Potato Salad
- The Best Oven Roasted Crispy Potatoes
- Heavenly Funeral Potatoes
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