Is there anything more comforting than a delicious potato dish like scalloped potatoes or au gratin on a crisp, Autumn evening? These culinary siblings share some striking similarities, and even the most seasoned foodies often find themselves entangled in a web of confusion. If you’ve ever interchanged their names with reckless abandon, you’re definitely not alone!

Both dishes are rich and decadent. Both have delicate layers of thinly sliced potatoes, cooked in the oven to create golden-brown perfection. However, as similar as they may seem, scalloped potatoes and au gratin are actually completely different dishes. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between scalloped potatoes and au gratin below. Spoiler alert: their distinctions lie in the nuances of each dish’s texture and delectable flavor.

What Are Scalloped Potatoes?

You really can’t go wrong with potatoes, can you? Chances are, you already know how versatile potatoes are. “Boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew,” you know? Scalloped potatoes are a classic and delicious dish. It’s a bit of a Cinderella story, actually. By making scalloped potatoes, you can turn humble spuds into an extraordinary culinary indulgence.

Just picture this: tender, thinly sliced potatoes layered with meticulous precision. Each scrumptious layer, bathed in a velvety blend of rich cream, butter, and seasonings, melds together to form a comforting but sophisticated flavor palette. As they bask in the gentle heat of the oven, these luscious potatoes go through a truly magnificent transformation. Their edges crisp to a golden brown while their insides get melt-in-your-mouth soft. Talk about delectable!

What Is Au Gratin?

What’s the main difference between scalloped potatoes and au gratin? We’ve got one word for you: cheese. With au gratin, each delicate potato slice is wrapped in a velvety blanket of creamy béchamel sauce. As au gratin cooks, the sauce lovingly enrobes the potatoes and makes them delectably soft.

Au gratin’s crowning glory, though, is a generous amount of golden, melted cheese — which, when cooked, forms a delicious, crispy crust around the sliced potatoes. As you can imagine, the softness of the potatoes and the crispness of this cheesy crust is an absolute match made in Heaven. The richness of the cheese also mingles with the savory undertones of the béchamel sauce. You can make this dish even more delectable by adding some breadcrumbs on top before cooking it. We honestly can’t think of anything more mouthwatering!

What Are the Differences Between Scalloped Potatoes and Au Gratin?

Let’s start with the illustrious potatoes au gratin, a dish hailing from France (as the name suggests). This dish is believed to have originated in the Dauphiné region. The term “au gratin” bears the promise of breadcrumbs, cheese, or a delicious combination of both. The au gratin will, of course, adorn the final layer of the sliced potatoes and turn irresistibly golden and crispy in the oven.

The potatoes, which are sliced with a touch more finesse than their scalloped counterparts, rendezvous with copious amounts of Gruyère cheese, which is interspersed between the layers. The end result is a delightful amalgamation of cheese-infused decadence. Au gratin oozes with both creamy and crispy textures and will definitely leave your dinner guests longing for more.

Now, let’s talk about scalloped potatoes. They’re quite similar — like au gratin, they bask and bake in the warm embrace of cream or milk sauce — however, unlike their cheesy cousins, scalloped potatoes don’t typically contain cheese. They have a creamy texture for sure, but they aren’t cheesy. That’s the main difference between au gratin and scalloped potatoes.

Scalloped potatoes also won’t be as crispy in texture as au gratin. Both are golden brown and creamy, but if it’s crispiness and crunchiness you’re after, au gratin will probably be your best bet. Either one is sure to be a hit with your dinner guests, but it just depends on what sort of vibe you’re going for!

How Do You Make Scalloped Potatoes?

Scalloped potatoes are fun and relatively easy to make! Make sure to gather your ingredients together before you start cooking. Here’s what you’ll need:

Scalloped Potatoes Ingredients

  • Potatoes, of course! We’d recommend using Yukon gold potatoes or red potatoes, since you won’t have to peel them.
  • Onions — these will add a whole lot of flavor.
  • Cream sauce, which you can quickly whip together with flour, milk, butter, and broth.
  • Some simple seasonings, like salt, pepper, and garlic, If you’d like, you can add in some rosemary or thyme as well.

How to Prepare Scalloped Potatoes

Crafting homemade scalloped potatoes takes time, but it’s definitely worth it. While traditional scalloped potatoes don’t use cheese, it’s not uncommon to add a little bit (though, at that point, you’re essentially making au gratin). You’ll want to start by meticulously slicing your potatoes and onions into thin, uniform pieces.

Next, prepare your cream sauce, and start layering the sliced potatoes, onions, and sauce in a baking dish. Coat each layer with the cream sauce, cover the dish with foil, and place it in the oven to bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. As it cooks, remove the foil to allow the scalloped potatoes to develop a luscious, golden-brown top. The cooking process will take about an hour and a half, but make sure to keep an eye on the potatoes and uncover them partway through. You should let your scalloped potatoes rest and congeal for about 15 minutes before serving them.

How Do You Make Au Gratin?

If you’re looking to enjoy a cheesy dish, you can’t go wrong with making au gratin. As stated previously, this dish is similar to scalloped potatoes. There are just a few extra steps involved. Here’s what you’ll need to make au gratin:

Au Gratin Ingredients

  • Potatoes! Yukon gold potatoes or russet potatoes will work just fine for au gratin.
  • Onions — like with scalloped potatoes, sliced onions will add a bit more flavor to your dish.
  • Seasonings (just salt and pepper will suffice).
  • Butter and all-purpose flour (to prepare the roux).
  • Milk to create that delightful, creamy consistency
  • Cheese, of course! Traditionally, au gratin is topped with shredded Cheddar.
  • Breadcrumbs (optional, but delicious).

How To Make Au Gratin

The first thing you’ll need to do is layer half of your sliced potatoes in the bottom of a baking dish. Make sure to season them! Then, layer in the onion slices and the remaining potatoes. Prepare your roux by melting butter in a saucepan and incorporating the flour. Gradually whisk in the milk until the mixture thickens. From there, all you have to do is stir in the cheese to complete the dish.

Pour your sauce over the layered potatoes and onions, making sure that you’ve covered them completely. Top with more shredded Cheddar and some breadcrumbs if you’d like! Cover the baking dish with foil, and place it in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Let the potatoes bake until they get tender and the sauce starts to bubble. This will take about an hour and a half. Like scalloped potatoes, you’ll want to let au gratin rest before serving it!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1: What causes scalloped potatoes to curdle?

The phenomenon of curdling in scalloped potatoes tends to arise due to the intense heat of the oven. It can sometimes be challenging to prevent this from happening, however, you can actually address this issue prior to baking the dish. Rather than just layering the potatoes with the milk, butter, and broth, you’ll want to mix these ingredients together to create a smooth sauce. This way, you’ll be able to make sure that your potatoes and sauce remain cohesive while they cook.

Q2: Can you slice the potatoes too thin for scalloped potatoes or au gratin?

Yes, unfortunately, this is a possibility! It’s more of a concern for scalloped potatoes, but if you slice your potatoes too thick or thin for either dish, they might bake unevenly, meaning you won’t get the tender texture you’re aiming for. We’d recommend using a chef’s knife (or even a mandoline, if you have one on hand) to slice your potatoes as evenly as you can. In general, you’ll want to slice your potatoes as thinly as possible, but don’t fret if they’re not perfect.

Q3: What goes well with scalloped potatoes?

Most people choose to pair scalloped potatoes with lean proteins like pan-seared fish or even grilled ham. You can’t go wrong with serving scalloped potatoes with beef tenderloin or roast chicken as well. A side salad with a tangy vinaigrette would also taste delightful with scalloped potatoes. Don’t forget to pour yourself a nice glass of white wine or lemon water to cleanse your palette!

Q4: What goes well with au gratin?

We’d recommend serving up your au gratin with a medley of vegetables on the side. Broccoli, green beans, carrots, and zucchini all serve as excellent accompaniments to au gratin. The crispy, cheesiness of the potatoes would also pair exceptionally well with roast chicken or grilled salmon. Some stuffed bell peppers or mushroom stroganoff would also make this meal something to call home about!

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Scalloped Potatoes vs Au Gratin: What’s the Difference?

au gratin potatoes next to scalloped potatoes
A comparison between scalloped potatoes and au gratin potatoes


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