If you need to make a meal feel holiday-ish, adding a pan of scalloped potatoes is a very good way to accomplish that goal. And if you want to go down a recipe name/origin/definition rabbit hole, start googling the difference between Potatoes Gratin (or Potatoes au Gratin) and Scalloped Potatoes or Scalloped Potatoes Au Gratin. There are a lot of thoughts on this meaningful topic.
Difference Between Potatoes Gratin and Scalloped Potatoes
So what’s the difference between potatoes gratin and scalloped potatoes? Many of us use these terms interchangeably, and at this point there is no clear definition for each, so when you see one or the other in a recipe title, or on a restaurant menu, you might get any version of these sliced potatoes dishes.
Origin-wise, it seems that these were the differences between the two potato casseroles:
- Potatoes gratin are baked in a creamy sauce and topped with cheese; sometimes cheese is also included in the creamy sauce. Scalloped potatoes are made with a creamy sauce, but no cheese.
- Potatoes gratin and scalloped potatoes may or may not have bread crumbs as part of the topping.
- Potatoes gratin have very thinly sliced potatoes, classically cut with a mandolin. Scalloped potatoes are often more thickly cut.
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Cheese or No Cheese on Scalloped Potatoes
I couldn’t decide whether to skip the cheese or not. After all, I do have a potato gratin in Dinner Solved, and another one coming up momentarily on this blog, make with Yukon Gold Potatoes. And I did just do these The Best Easy Cheesy Loaded Hasselback Potatoes. And a little while back there were these Cheesy Mashed Potatoes. So my potato-cheese fix had clearly been addressed…. but still….
Finally I decided to channel one of my husband’s favorite lines in any movie, the more than slightly cheesy (pun kind of intended) line that comes at the very end of that classic film Trading Places. The protagonists for the movie (the Eddie Murphy character and the Dan Akroyd character) have beaten the egocentric, manipulative bad guys, made out like bandits, and escaped with the cash to an exotic island somewhere.
They have been accompanied by the somewhat loyal butler played by Denhold Elliot, and they all have babes on their arms. The butler asks his lady friend if she would prefer the lobster or the cracked crab for lunch, and she alluringly replies, “Can’t we have both?”
Anyway, this is what Gary usually says when I ask a food related question. And it’s where I defaulted to when deciding whether or not to sprinkle over a generous handful of Parmesan on the top of these scalloped potatoes.
How to Make Scalloped Potatoes
Scalloped potatoes are basically thinly sliced potatoes baked in a creamy sauce.
You make the sauce with some aromatics and half and half (or cream or whole milk), then place half of the sliced potatoes in a baking pan, then pour half of the hot sauce over the potatoes. In go the the rest of the potatoes, arranging them attractively if you care about such things and pour over the rest of the liquid.
Cover the pan with foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake uncovered for another 30 minutes. If you want the top to be a little more browned, turn the broiler on for a minute or two, watching carefully to make sure the top doesn’t burn.
This pan, below, is the Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes.
This pan, below, is Scalloped Potatoes without cheese.
Both fairly gorgeous no? And both were delicious. You can decide for yourself, and if you decide to go the cheese route, you can also play with all sorts of cheeses, from cheddar to gruyere to Grand Cru. If you’re digging the little Staub casserole pans I used, I couldn’t agree more—I got two sizes and I think I may go back for the third.
Other Great Potato Side Dish Recipes:
- The Best Parmesan Roasted Potatoes
- Cheesy Mashed Potatoes
- Thyme and Yukon Gold Potato Gratin
- Dutch Oven Idaho Potatoes
- French Potato Salad
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Creamy Scalloped Potatoes
- 2 tablespoons (¼ stick) unsalted butter
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 cup chopped yellow onions
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 cups half and half
- 4 large Idaho baking potatoes about 2 ½ pounds peeled and thinly sliced
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a 2-quart baking dish, or 9-inch square pan, with nonstick cooking spray.
- Heat the butter in a deep skillet over medium-low heat. When the butter is melted add the garlic and the onions and sauté for about 5 minutes until the onion is tender; don’t let the vegetables brown – turn down the heat if necessary, and stir frequently. Stir in the red pepper flakes, thyme, salt and pepper. Add the half and half and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
- Place half of the potatoes in the prepared baking pan. Carefully pour half of the hot liquid over the potatoes, using a spoon to scoop out some of the onions as your pour. Fill the pan with the rest of the potatoes, arranging them attractively if you care about such things and pour over the rest of the liquid. Cover the pan with foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake uncovered for another 30 minutes. If you want the top to be a little more browned, turn the broiler on for a minute or two, watching carefully to make sure the top doesn’t burn.
- Let the potatoes sit for about 8 minutes before serving.
The nutrition values are provided as an estimate. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional.
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