Scalloped potatoes are somehow both fancy and rustic. Layers of buttery potatoes, with onions, a bit of cheese and some cream, just scream comfort food. But they’re also a show stopper! Plus, they are super yummy as leftovers. And as the weather cools into the Autumn, it’s the perfect time to add this classic to your weekly menu.Jump to Recipe
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The word scalloped comes from the Old English word “collops” which means to slice thinly. It was originally used to refer to thin slices of meat. And still today, you can ask a butcher for scalloped pork or veal, which is used to make schnitzel. So scalloped potatoes is simply a description of how the potatoes are sliced. You will sometimes see the dish get called potatoes au gratin. And that’s not wrong. The term “gratin” is a French word meaning “to scrape”or “to crust”, and gets used in cooking when something is broiled and given a crusty layer on top. You could par boil some potato chunks, throw them in a baking dish, cover them in cheese, and broil them to get au gratin potatoes. The difference is the thin slicing. So though all scalloped potatoes are given a “gratin” top layer, not all potatoes au gratin are scalloped.
My first Scalloped Potato Experience
My aunt introduced me to scalloped potatoes when I was about 14-15. I think I’ve always been a lover of gooey, cheesy, potato-y things. (I mean, I’m descended from the Brits, what do you expect). And these hit all the bases. This particular aunt is also a wonderful cook, so being able to help her in the kitchen always made me feel special. Like I’d earned the trust to be able to do something like slice the onions, or even, layer the potatoes!
Since learning to make them, scalloped potatoes have been a favourite of mine. And over the years I’ve changed how I make them, and experimented with different ingredients. I like to add caramelized onions instead of raw onions, along with a little bacon to my layers. Recently, I’ve also started using buttermilk instead of cream of milk. I think I just like the bit of tartness and acidity that it brings.
A lot of recipes for scalloped potatoes only put cheese on top. But I’m a huge cheese fan, so I like to add a layer or two of cheese into the dish as well as on top. It just adds to the overall creaminess of it.
It’s good to have a nice heavy baking dish for this. You can use a rectangular cake pan if that’s all you have. But be aware that the outside may get a bit more crusty than you want. I use either a ceramic baking dish like this one, or a pyrex dish like this. All of these options need a good coat of fat in them before you start layering or else you’ll have very stuck potatoes!
- 1,200 grams Potatoes
- 3 1/2 cups Buttermilk
- 3 cups Cheese, Grated I like using a mix of Aged Cheddar and Emmental
- 6 slices Bacon diced
- 4 medium Sweet Onions sliced thin
- 2 tbsp Maple Syrup
- 2 cloves Garlic finely chopped, or crushed
- 1/2 tsp Chili Powder
- 1 tbsp Thyme
- 1/2 cup Flour
- Salt & Pepper
- 3/4 cup Parmesan Grated
Bacony Caramelized Onion
- Heat a heavy pan over medium low heat. Add the bacon, and cook for about 4 minutes.
- Add the sliced onion, and stir. Now let them continue to cook down for about 15-25 minutes, stirring periodically. After about 10 minutes, add the maple syrup, garlic, and chili powder. And cook until deep golden brown, sticky and caramelized. It will be jammy in texture and smell amazing. Set aside until ready to start layering.
- Very carefully, using a mandolin, slice the potatoes. they should be about 2mm thick.
- Heat the oven to 375F. Grease a 9×13 baking dish.
- Now begin your layers. Lay potato slices on the bottom of the dish in rows, overlapping the pieces slightly. "Sprinkle" (kind of spread and place) about 2Tbsps of the onion mix over the potatoes. Season the layer with salt and pepper, as well as a bit of thyme. Sprinkle over about 1Tbsp of flour, and 1/4 of the Cheese. Then repeat with more potatoes, onions, spices, flour and cheese for each layer until you are left with a top layer of potatoes.
- Carefully pour the buttermilk over the whole thing. The buttermilk will combine with the flour and the starch from the potatoes to create a thick sauciness.
- Cover with tin foil, and bake for 1 hour. After 1 hour, remove tin foil and test doneness. The potatoes should be nice and soft, and it should all be bubbling. Sprinkle the whole top with the Parmesan and put back in the oven for ~20 minutes.
- Once its golden brown, and bubbling happily it's done. Allow to cool slightly before serving. Enjoy as a main, or alongside salad or protein or both.