Warm, cheesy au gratin potatoes are a perfect side dish for a holiday feast. You can make it ahead because it tastes even better the next day. I've created a family friendly "scalloped" potatoes type of dish with simple ingredients that everyone can enjoy, unless you don't like cheese and potatoes. Then I can't help you with that on this post. Cheese and creamy potatoes rule this dish! My recipe for cheesy Au Gratin Potatoes are potatoes baked in cream and cheese, positioned in a baking dish like scalloped potatoes. This is my take on Au Gratin potatoes that is a perfect side to impress guests and family. This has easily become one of my guys' favorite recipes.
What is the Difference Between Au Gratin Potatoes & Dauphinoise?
The difference between Au Gratin potatoes and Dauphinoise, Pronounced- "dō-fin-nwa" or "dō-fin-nwaz" is that Au Gratin potatoes are pre-cooked, then sliced thin and baked. Dauphinoise potatoes are not pre-cooked and are baked right in a cream mixture. The name, Dauphinoise originates in the French Dauphiné region of south-Eastern France. Dauphinoise actually means "sliced potatoes baked in milk or cream." You have got to love French cuisine for their spectacularly rich and amazing dishes. I can appreciate rich dishes like this French classic for a special occasion or if you just need some ooey gooey comfort food on a cold cozy day at home with family. Apparently, Julia Child made a spectacular Dauphinoise, made traditionally with potatoes in cream with garlic. This dish has garlic, cream and cheese so it's like the best of Au gratin, scalloped and dauphinoise potatoes.
What is the Difference Between Scalloped Potatoes & Au Gratin Potatoes?
I have a confession to make. For years I thought I had been making scalloped potatoes, until I started really researching for this post. Apparently true scalloped potatoes do NOT have cheese! They are the simpler version of the more decadent au gratin potatoes. I've never made this potato dish without cheese because I mean...come on! How could you NOT want cheese in a potato casserole dish? So, technically I have been making Au Gratin Dauphinoise all these years because this dish has cheese in it and the potatoes are not pre-cooked. True scalloped potatoes only have a creamy sauce.
Slicing the Potatoes
Slicing By Hand
I personally don't recommend hand slicing, but if that's your preference, go for it. Even thickness of the potatoes is crucial for a great potato gratin dauphinoise. When I started cooking, I was on the lazy side when it came to making such a dish. I would cut the potatoes by hand, firstly because I didn't know any better and secondly because I was terrified to use a mandoline slicer.
This is my preferred method for this dish. I am no longer terrified of the mandoline , but my husband is. He's had a few awful incidents. Knock on wood, I haven't really had an accident yet with one. For this recipe, slicing the potatoes at about ⅛" inch thickness is crucial for a nice even cook and tender potatoes for all 3 layers of the au gratin to be fully cooked through. Using a mandoline slicer really is a great way to thinly slice potatoes for this dish and it takes little time to do it this way.
If you're nervous about using a mandoline and do not want to slice by hand, this is a great option for you. You can slice in a jiffy, just make sure you have it set to ⅛" thickness.
How to make Cheesy Au Gratin Potatoes
This is an easy recipe, it just takes a little TLC on your part making the white cheese sauce. Start with a medium saucepan to make your roux and then béchamel (white sauce). Then you'll be turning it into a delicious cheese sauce. Have all of your béchamel sauce ingredients prepped and ready to go.
Once you're ready, melt butter, then add your minced garlic and stir on medium low for about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Then add the flour and stir constantly into your roux. Start adding your milk about a half cup at a time. Bump up the temperature of the burner to a medium-high heat, but be sure you keep stirring or you'll burn the milk. Continue adding the remaining milk and cream, stirring constantly until the sauce has thickened. Then, turn down the burner to medium-low heat and add the salt, pepper and hot sauce. Lastly, add the shredded gruyere and stir until it's fully melted.
Building this Side Dish
Once you've peeled your potatoes, you can keep them in a bowl of water to keep them fresh. Once your sauce is done, baking dish is greased, shredded cheese is ready, you can start slicing and building your au gratin. I like to slice a few potatoes at a time, to keep my potatoes from turning brown. Overlap the sliced potatoes about ⅓ of the way overlapped, like you would for scalloped potatoes. For seasoning layers, I like to give the potatoes a few twists of sea salt and pepper, then about ⅓ of the sauce and about ⅓ of the shredded cheese, then make 2 more layers of scalloped potato slices just like the first layer.
Au Gratin Potatoes Ingredients
- Yukon Gold or Russet Potatoes- are ideal for this dish. Apparently King Edward or Maris Piper potatoes are very traditional for a potatoes dauphinoise recipe, but I don't usually come across those potatoes. You can stick with standard starchy potatoes like russets or yellow potatoes.
- Gruyère cheese- I add Gruyère cheese to this dish because it's delicious and it is standard for this gratin dish. The reason I do not use it for the entire "cheese portion" of this recipe is because it is pricey and just like you, I don't want to spend a fortune on my potato dish. Also, Gruyere cheese is a hard "swiss cheese" and if I'm feeding a crowd, or just my family, it's just enough to give a subtle taste that is lovely, but not overwhelming for picky palates. If you don't have or want to use gruyere you can substitute it for asiago cheese. If saves you a couple bucks probably and gives you a similar taste for the sauce. Pictured on this post you'll see an Aldi's block I use that is exactly 6 ounces for this dish.
- Shredded Cheese- I like to use cheddar cheese for the remining cheesy portion of this recipe, but you can honestly make it your own and use your favorite shredded cheese.
- Butter- I like to use real unsalted butter.
- Garlic cloves- 3-4 large cloves, minced (I love to use my garlic twist to mince the garlic)
- Flour- standard all purpose flour is great for this.
- Milk- I prefer to use whole milk
- Heavy cream- if you want this lighter you can substitute it with half & half or just milk
- Sea salt- this is my go to kitchen salt for dishes.
- Black pepper- I use a grinder for the potato layers and a fine ground black pepper for the sauce.
- Hot Sauce- (Optional) you can skip it if you want, or if you prefer you can substitute the hot sauce for a little Cajun seasoning, about ½ teaspoon should do.
Cheesy Au Gratin Potatoes (Layered with Sauce)
- 2 ½ lbs Yukon Gold or Russet potatoes peeled & sliced into ⅛" thick slices (You can peel and hold them in water till you are ready to slice them.
- 2 cups shredded cheese I use a mix of sharp cheddar cheese and a milder cheese like Monterey jack which my kids like
- Salt & Pepper to sprinkle or grind onto potato layers
Béchamel Cheese Sauce Ingredients
- 6 oz. gruyere cheese shredded
- 3 tablespoon butter
- 3 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 3 large cloves of garlic minced
- 2 cups milk I prefer to use whole milk
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon salt divided
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Optional: 1 teaspoon hot sauce
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Peel potatoes and hold them in a bowl of water.
Make your Béchamel Cheese Sauce
- In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat, then add garlic and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Stir constantly so the garlic doesn't burn.
- Add in flour and continuously stirring cook for about 30 secs.
- Whisk in milk and heavy cream gradually, keeping at a low simmer, about ½ cup at a time. Slow down if you lose your simmer.
- Add 1 teaspoon of sea salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper and hot sauce if you're adding it.
- Once sauce is thickened to about the consistency of heavy cream to buttermilk, turn burner down to low and whisk in your shredded gruyere cheese.
- Once fully melted, turn off burner and remove from heat. Let sit while you start slicing and building the Au Gratin Potatoes.
Build your Au Gratin Dish
- Slice a few potatoes at a time or all if you can work fast and add them to your greased baking dish, in a "scalloped" fashion, overlapping about ⅓ of the way till you cover the bottom of the baking dish.
- Grind or sprinkle just a little salt and pepper to the potato layer.
- Spoon on a spread out about ⅓ of the béchamel sauce onto the potatoes
- Scatter about ⅓ of the shredded cheese atop the sauce and then make 2 more layers of potatoes, salt & pepper, sauce & cheese.
- Your top layer (the 3rd one will have the last of the scattered shredded cheese on top.
- Bake the Au Gratin for 1 hr at 375 F. It should be nice and golden on top and bubbling. You can test the tenderness with a sharp knife if you like before removing it from the oven.
- Let the potatoes sit for at least 10 minutes and then you can serve it by slicing it into squares.