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Layers of thinly-sliced potatoes, a creamy sauce and two different types of cheese make this the best Easy Au Gratin Potatoes recipe you’ll ever taste! Your guests will love the combination of sharp cheddar and Gruyere cheeses with hints of garlic, thyme and nutmeg in a rich, smooth sauce. Best of all, the homemade au gratin potatoes can be assembled in advance for convenient family dinners or holiday buffets!

Long overhead shot of Potatoes Au Gratin in a baking dish with silver serving spoon

Potatoes Au Gratin

Au gratin potatoes are a classic French dish typically made by layering thinly-sliced potatoes, cream and cheese in a dish. As the mixture bakes in the oven, the potatoes release starches that thicken the sauce, the cheese melts, and everything comes together in a magical, cheesy way.

This easy au gratin potatoes recipe starts with a roux-based cheese sauce. Since the sauce is cooked and thickened in the skillet before layering the ingredients in the dish, I find that it yields a thicker, richer, more satisfying and flavorful finished product. The cream doesn’t separate or get lumpy, it’s perfectly seasoned with a hint of garlic, thyme and nutmeg, and the cheese smoothly incorporates into the cream sauce. They are truly the best au gratin potatoes!

What is the difference between scalloped and au gratin potatoes?

While these terms are often used interchangeably to describe two similar dishes that include layers of potatoes and cream, they’re actually not the same thing. The main difference comes down to the cheese. Scalloped potatoes are typically baked in a simple cream sauce (often made with a combination of milk and heavy cream) — and that’s it! Au gratin potatoes, by contrast, are more decadent. “Au gratin” is defined as covered with breadcrumbs or cheese, whereas “scalloped” refers to baked with milk or a sauce. Again, the main difference comes down to the cheese that you’ll find in this easy au grain potatoes recipe.

Overhead shot of easy au gratin potatoes recipe in a cast iron baking dish

The Potatoes

Russet potatoes are the best choice for this dish. They have the most starch and therefore yield the creamiest sauce. Yukon Gold potatoes are also a good option, so feel free to substitute with those if you prefer.

You will need to peel the potatoes for this au gratin recipe, and thinly-slice them to about 1/8-inch thick. I like to use a mandoline to make this task quick and easy, but a sharp knife will also do the trick. Just make sure that you keep all of the slices uniform in thickness so that they cook in the same amount of time.

Thinly sliced potatoes on a cutting board

The Best Cheese for Au Gratin Potatoes

Since the cheese is an important component of au gratin potatoes, you’ll want to pick a high-quality variety with plenty of flavor. I prefer a combination of both sharp cheddar cheese and Gruyere cheese, which gives you the best of both worlds: strong, rich flavor and a good melting quality. You can include other cheeses here, too. Swiss is a nice substitute for Gruyere. A sprinkling of Parmesan or feta cheeses would be another great way to incorporate even more flavor in the dish.

Ingredients

This is an overview of the ingredients that you’ll need to prepare the quick au gratin potatoes. As always, specific measurements and complete cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Salted butter: works with the flour to make the roux that thickens the cream sauce; also adds rich flavor to the dish.
  • All-purpose flour: thickens the sauce.
  • Garlic: adds flavor to the cream sauce.
  • Whole milk: part of the liquid that forms the base of the sauce.
  • Heavy cream: do not substitute with half-and-half or extra milk. You need the richness of the heavy cream to achieve a perfect sauce.
  • Thyme: I prefer fresh herbs if they’re available, but you can substitute with dried thyme when necessary.
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper: to enhance the flavors in the dish.
  • Nutmeg: just a subtle hint of warmth in the background, this is a classic addition to a white cream sauce.
  • Cheddar cheese and gruyere cheese: for sharp, rich cheese flavor.
  • Russet potatoes: peeled and thinly-sliced; you can also substitute with Yukon Gold potatoes, if necessary.
Overhead shot of ingredients for easy au gratin potatoes recipe

How to Make Au Gratin Potatoes from Scratch

This easy recipe comes together with just a handful of simple ingredients and can be assembled in advance to cut down on last-minute meal prep. Nobody can resist the cheesy, creamy au gratin potatoes — they will be the star of your show!

  1. Make the cream sauce in a skillet.
  2. Add half of the cheese and whisk just until the cheese melts smoothly into the sauce.
  3. Arrange half of the potatoes in a 2-quart baking dish, and season with a little bit of salt.
  4. Pour half of the sauce over top.
  5. Arrange the remaining potatoes in the dish, season with salt, and pour remaining sauce over top.
  6. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
  7. Cover and bake in a 400° F oven for about 50-60 minutes, or until the potatoes are just about tender.
  8. Remove the cover and continue baking for 15-20 minutes, or until nicely browned on top.
  9. Cool slightly, then serve!
Process shot showing how to make au gratin potatoes from scratch
Process shot showing how to layer au gratin potatoes in a dish
Horizontal overhead shot of creamy au gratin potatoes recipe on a wooden table

What to Serve with Easy Au Gratin Potatoes

This rich, decadent and easy potato casserole is a simple side dish that pairs perfectly with just about any entrée! Here are a few main dish options that go well with potatoes au gratin:

Make Ahead

Yes, you can make this easy au gratin potatoes recipe ahead of time! It’s such a wonderful option for holiday meals or other gatherings when you don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Simply assemble the casserole as instructed, cover, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. When ready to bake, allow the dish to sit on the counter and come to room temperature for at least 30-60 minutes. Then bake according to the recipe instructions. If your dish is still cold, you might need to add a little bit of extra time for the potatoes to get them nice and tender.

Storage

Leftover potatoes will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. You can reheat the dish in a 350° F oven for about 20-30 minutes, or in the microwave until warmed through. Just be aware that the leftover potatoes will absorb some of the sauce as they sit, so they will be a bit more dry than when they were fresh out of the oven.

Can you freeze au gratin potatoes?

No, I do not recommend freezing this dish. The cream-based sauce will “break” or separate when thawed, and the potatoes will have a mushy texture.

Tips for the Best Au Gratin Potatoes

  • Use russet potatoes or another starchy potato (like Yukon Gold) for the best texture and the creamiest sauce.
  • Add finely-diced or thinly-sliced onions to the layers of potatoes in the dish if you’d like some onion flavor in the au gratin potatoes.
  • Au gratin potatoes and ham are a classic combination! Turn this easy side dish into an entrée by adding diced ham to the layers of potatoes.
  • Heavy cream is an essential ingredient, so do not substitute with half-and-half or additional milk.
  • Fresh thyme adds a lovely, savory touch to the dish. If you prefer, you can omit the thyme or substitute with other herbs that you enjoy. Good options include parsley, chives or rosemary.
  • Pick a flavorful, high-quality cheese for the best potatoes au gratin! If you can’t find Gruyere, you can substitute with Swiss cheese, or just use additional sharp cheddar cheese.
Overhead shot of au gratin potatoes in a cast iron baking dish

More Potato Recipes to Try

Long overhead shot of Potatoes Au Gratin in a baking dish with silver serving spoon

Easy Au Gratin Potatoes Recipe

5 from 2 votes
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 10 minutes
Cooling Time 5 minutes
Total: 1 hour 35 minutes
Servings 8 people
Calories 344 kcal
Layers of thinly-sliced potatoes, a creamy sauce and two different types of cheese make this the best Easy Au Gratin Potatoes recipe you'll ever taste!

Ingredients
  

  • 3 tablespoons salted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 ½ teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
  • ½ cup grated cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 2 ½ lbs. russet potatoes (about 5 medium), peeled and sliced ⅛-inch thick

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400° F. Grease a 2-quart baking dish; set aside.
  • In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and garlic; cook for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk and cream; cook, whisking, until thickened, another 2 minutes or so. Add the thyme, salt, pepper, nutmeg, half of the cheddar and half of the Gruyere. Whisk for about 1 more minute, making sure that all of the cheese is melted. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary.
  • Arrange half of the potatoes in the prepared baking dish. Season with a little bit of salt. Pour half of the sauce over top. Arrange the remaining potatoes on top, season with another pinch of salt, and pour the remaining sauce over all. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover and bake for 50-60 minutes (or until the potatoes are just about tender), then uncover and bake until browned on top, an additional 15-20 minutes. Let cool slightly, then serve.

Notes

  • Use russet potatoes or another starchy potato (like Yukon Gold) for the best texture and the creamiest sauce.
  • Add finely-diced or thinly-sliced onions to the layers of potatoes in the dish if you’d like some onion flavor in the au gratin potatoes.
  • Au gratin potatoes and ham are a classic combination! Turn this easy side dish into an entrée by adding diced ham to the layers of potatoes.
  • Heavy cream is an essential ingredient, so do not substitute with half-and-half or additional milk.
  • Fresh thyme adds a lovely, savory touch to the dish. If you prefer, you can omit the thyme or substitute with other herbs that you enjoy. Good options include parsley, chives or rosemary.
  • Pick a flavorful, high-quality cheese for the best potatoes au gratin! If you can’t find Gruyere, you can substitute with Swiss cheese, or just use additional sharp cheddar cheese.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/8 of the recipeCalories: 344kcalCarbohydrates: 30gProtein: 9gFat: 21gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 72mgSodium: 141mgPotassium: 672mgFiber: 2gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 768IUVitamin C: 8mgCalcium: 208mgIron: 1mg
Keyword: au gratin potatoes, easy au gratin potatoes recipe, potatoes au gratin
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: French
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

    1. Hi, Sandy! Yes, that should work, however, you won’t get that “browned on top” finish that you get in the oven by removing the cover at the end. You might also end up with a thinner sauce, since there’s more condensation in the slow cooker, which drips down into the dish. Long story short — it wouldn’t be my first choice, but it would probably work in a “pinch.” Merry Christmas!