Homemade Au Gratin Potatoes Layered with Cheesy, Creamy, Smoky Goodness!
My brother & I always knew it was going to be a special meal when Mom added her homemade au gratin potatoes to the menu. Whatever the occasion, her creamy, cheesy au gratin potatoes are always a highlight at my house. They are the absolute best!
Mom recently felt inspired to take our tried & true family recipe to the next level with loaded potato-style toppings. I was a little skeptical at first (why change a good thing?!), but I’m so glad she did. These loaded au gratin potatoes are eat-straight-out-of-the-pan good!
Here’s the deal – traditional au gratin potatoes already have a lot going for them. But this recipe makes them even more delicious by infusing seriously creamy, cheesy, smoky flavors into every single layer of the dish.
The secret is a beautiful smoky cheese sauce made with rendered bacon fat & smoked gouda that covers the potatoes as they slowly bake in the oven. A top layer of sour cream, bacon, chives, & more grated cheese is a next-level touch that’s a little more loaded baked potato than potatoes au gratin. Truly the best of all things potato!
Every bite of these homemade au gratin potatoes is comfort food perfection. While they’re the perfect pairing for traditional Christmas & Easter dinners, they’re also easy enough to whip up whenever you’re craving something super cozy. I’ll happily eat Mom’s loaded au gratin potatoes all year round – they’re that good. (I’m pretty confident you’ll agree!)
Loaded Au Gratin Potatoes Recipe Highlights
You’ll be obsessed with these loaded au gratin potatoes because they are….
- SERIOUSLY CREAMY & CHEESY. Calling for 2 different types of cheese (smoked gouda & gruyère), it’s the ultimate creamy & cheesy side dish.
- MADE FROM SCRATCH. You need 8 simple ingredients to make easy homemade au gratin potatoes with tons of flavor.
- THE ABSOLUTE BEST. This recipe takes the best of traditional au gratin potatoes + loaded baked potatoes for next-level deliciousness. The perfect dish for all potato fans!
These are the absolute best au gratin potatoes – hands down! ♡ Read on to learn more about how to make Mom’s Loaded Au Gratin Potatoes, or jump straight to the recipe & get cooking!
First Thing’s First – Scalloped Potatoes vs Au Gratin?
Scalloped potatoes & au gratin potatoes probably create very similar images in your head. They’re both thinly sliced baked potato dishes with rich & creamy flavors served around the holidays…but what’s the difference between scalloped potatoes & au gratin potatoes?
The big difference is cheese! Traditional scalloped potatoes are baked with heavy cream or milk-based sauces, but au gratin potatoes use a cheese-based sauce & sprinkles of shredded cheese to make the dish a bit more decadent.
The word “gratin” is a French culinary term for creating a crispy topping under the broiler. Traditional scalloped potatoes simply bake in the oven. Meanwhile, the bake then broil method for these potatoes au gratin is key to creating a golden brown cheesy top. That’s what makes it a gratin!
It’s handy to know the difference between scalloped potatoes & potatoes au gratin, but it’s also pretty common to see the names used interchangeably. No big deal! Both scalloped potatoes & au gratin potatoes are seriously comforting dishes & I’ll take a serving of either any day.
Key Ingredients for the BEST Au Gratin Potatoes
Note: Full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.
You need just a handful of dreamy ingredients to make au gratin potatoes from scratch:
- Potatoes – I love Yukon Gold potatoes for their naturally tender texture & buttery flavor. Wash & peel the potatoes, then cut them into thin round slices. If you have a mandoline slicer, this is a great time to put it to use! Consistent slices help ensure the homemade au gratin potatoes bake evenly.
- Bacon – This ingredient does double-duty here. First, we cook the bacon & use the rendered bacon fat as the base for the cheese sauce. Then, cooked bacon crumbles top the baked gratin for the best smoky, savory bite.
- Cheese – These loaded au gratin potatoes use both smoked gouda & gruyère for the best cheesiness! Feel free to use any other cheeses you love. For best results, shredding each cheese yourself.
- Half & Half – When combined with the cheese, half & half creates a creamy, super decadent smoked gouda sauce.
- Flour – Flour helps thicken the smoked gouda sauce so it covers every nook & cranny of the potatoes as they bake. You can easily sub gluten-free flour for all-purpose flour to make these loaded au gratin potatoes gluten-free!
- Sour Cream – Sour cream creates a creamy top layer, bringing everything together for the absolute best au gratin potatoes.
- Chives or Green Onions – Both options work well to add some freshness & a beautiful pop of color to this rich & cheesy dish. Pick your favorite or use whatever you already have on hand!
Best Cheese for Au Gratin Potatoes
Cheese is key for the best au gratin potatoes – so don’t skimp here! I think the best cheese for au gratin potatoes is a combination of super flavorful cheeses that melt well, like smoked gouda & gruyère. In this loaded au gratin potatoes recipe, smoked gouda draws out the smokiness of the bacon while gruyère’s nutty flavor helps cut through the richness of the dish. They both also melt really well, which is an important consideration for au gratin potatoes. Whatever cheese you use, you’ll want it to transform into gooey, creamy goodness as it bakes in the oven.
Other great cheeses for making au gratin potatoes from scratch? ⇢ Try sharp cheddar, fontina, havarti, or sprinkle in a little grated parmesan, asiago, or pecorino romano for extra flavor!
For a dish like potatoes au gratin, you always want to be sure to buy whole blocks of cheese & grate it fresh. Store-bought shredded cheese is definitely convenient, but it’s almost always coated with an anti-caking agent to prevent it from clumping. While it does its job well, it also prevents the cheese from melting into a beautiful, creamy cheese sauce, which is the ultimate goal of homemade au gratin potatoes!
How to Make Homemade Au Gratin Potatoes, Loaded-Style
While it takes a little bit of time to bake to tender & creamy perfection, this is a super easy au gratin potatoes recipe! Once you learn how to make au gratin potatoes, I’m pretty sure you’ll look for any excuse for serving this cozy side dish!
Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.
Smoky Gouda Sauce. This super smoky gouda sauce is the foundation of flavor for loaded au gratin potatoes! Start by cooking bacon in a large skillet. The bacon itself is used for the topping, but the smoky bacon drippings are the base of the smoked gouda sauce. Create a roux by adding in a little flour, then whisk in the half & half & grated smoked gouda, stirring constantly until the cheese melts.
Assemble the Homemade Au Gratin Potatoes. Add half of the sliced potatoes to a baking dish, creating a single layer. Spoon half of the smoked gouda sauce over the potatoes. Repeat to create a second layer of potatoes, then top with the rest of the smoked gouda sauce. Tip! ⇢ A deep baking dish ensures you have plenty of room for these layers. I love this deep baking dish!
Bake. Cover the au gratin potatoes with aluminum foil – it helps everything get melty & tender! – then transfer to the oven. The loaded au gratin potatoes should bake for 50 minutes covered, then uncovered for another 20 minutes until the potatoes are fork-tender. Tip! ⇢ Place the baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet to capture any melted cheese as it bubbles out from under the foil.
Broil. This is the step that makes a gratin a gratin! Once the loaded au gratin potatoes are baked & tender, finish them off under the broiler to create a beautifully crispy golden top. Before broiling, spread a layer of sour cream over of the potatoes, then finish with a sprinkling of shredded gruyère. With the broiler on high, it should only take about 5 minutes to get the gruyère melted & golden brown. Keep your eye on the loaded au gratin potatoes here to make sure they don’t get too brown – the broiler works quickly!
Finish with Loaded Toppings! When the homemade au gratin potatoes come out of the oven, sprinkle the reserved sliced bacon on top immediately to warm the bacon through. Then the loaded au gratin potatoes need time to rest. This helps everything in the dish set so you don’t try to serve a completely gooey mess! After 5 minutes or so, sprinkle chives or green onions over top. The loaded au gratin potatoes are ready to serve!
Loaded Au Gratin Potatoes FAQs:
Making homemade au gratin potatoes from scratch is something my family has plenty of experience with. Here are a few tips we’ve learned over years!
What are the best potatoes for au gratin?
We like to use Yukon Gold potatoes in this loaded au gratin potatoes recipe. They have the most wonderful tender & buttery texture. Good ol’ Russet potatoes are also great for au gratin potatoes, thanks to their starchiness. Starchy potatoes are great because they absorb the flavor of the cheese sauce, taking in all the richness as they bake!
Do you have to peel potatoes for potatoes au gratin?
Whether or not you peel your potatoes is more of a personal preference. We take a no-fuss approach in the kitchen & skip peeling when we make loaded au gratin potatoes. This is another benefit of using Yukon Gold potatoes – their skins are very tender. If you use a more thick-skinned potatoes, definitely consider peeling them to ensure your au gratin potatoes are smooth & creamy.
Are potatoes au gratin gluten-free?
Though this recipe is not naturally gluten-free, it’s super easy to make gluten-free! Make this recipe & sub the same amount of gluten-free flour in place of all-purpose flour for equally creamy & delicious gluten-free au gratin potatoes.
Can you make au gratin potatoes ahead of time?
Definitely, though you need to par-bake the au gratin potatoes for best results. I love having easy au gratin potatoes prepped on busy meal days like Christmas dinner! Here’s what you’ll do:
- Make the smoked gouda sauce, assemble the loaded au gratin potatoes, & bake everything for the first 50 minutes.
- Keep the casserole in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve.
- To finish off the dish, let it come to room temperature then bake uncovered for 20 minutes & get that top nice & golden-brown under the broiler.
Refer to the Recipe Notes, below, for more guidance.
What to serve with au gratin potatoes?
Ham is a the most classic pairing for potatoes au gratin. My family’s Citrus & Maple Glazed Ham recipe is my go-to!
Of course, there are lots of other delicious mains you can serve with au gratin potatoes! Any hearty meal that can stand up to the rich & decadent flavors of au gratin potatoes will work well. Try my…
I can’t wait for you to try Mom’s Loaded Au Gratin Potatoes! If you do give them a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations!
Looking for more over-the-top side dishes? Serve these Roasted Garlic Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes, all-time favorite Maple Mustard Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta, or best-ever Porcini Mushroom Risotto at your next dinner party!Print
Loaded Potatoes Au Gratin with Smoked Gouda & Bacon
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- Total Time: 2 hours (mostly inactive)
- Yield: serves 8–10 1x
- Category: Side Dish Recipes
- Method: Stovetop, Baked
- Cuisine: American, French-Inspired
- Diet: Gluten Free
These Loaded Au Gratin Potatoes are an epic marriage of creamy, cheesy au gratin potatoes & loaded baked potatoes with all the fixings: buttery Yukon Gold potatoes slowly bake in a creamy smoked gouda sauce before they’re piled with the absolute best toppings – thick-cut bacon, melty grated cheese, sour cream, & fresh chives.
Decadent, rich, & seriously cheesy, this made-from-scratch family favorite is the absolute best side for Christmas, Easter, or any comfort food dinner! Make-ahead friendly & easily gluten-free!
- nonstick cooking spray
- 3 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, washed, peeled as desired, & cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 6 slices thick-cut bacon
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 cups half & half
- 6 ounces smoked gouda, shredded
- 4 ounces gruyère, shredded
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced chives or 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
- kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
- Prep: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, ensuring one oven rack is in the center position & a second oven rack is in the top position under the broiler. Lightly spray a 9×13 deep baking dish with cooking spray (see Recipe Notes) & set aside. Gather & prep all ingredients according to Ingredients List, above.
- Cook the bacon: Place the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook until rendered & crisp, 4-5 minutes per side. Transfer cooked bacon to paper towel-lined plate & set aside. Carefully transfer 3 tablespoons of the bacon drippings from the skillet to a small bowl. Drain & discard any remaining bacon drippings.
- Prepare the smoked gouda sauce: Add the flour to the small bowl with the reserved bacon drippings. Whisk to combine well, eliminating any lumps & bumps. Transfer the flour mixture to the same skillet used to fry the bacon in Step 2 & place over medium heat. While whisking constantly, gradually pour the half & half into the skillet. Add the smoked gouda to the skillet, whisking until the cheese melts. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. The sauce may be a little lumpy – this is fine, it will smooth out as the au gratin bakes. Do not allow the sauce to come to a boil. Once melted, remove from the heat & set aside.
- Assemble the potatoes au gratin: Transfer half of the sliced potatoes to the prepared baking dish, arranging them in a uniform layer. Spoon half of the prepared smoked gouda sauce over the potatoes. Repeat, creating a second layer of potatoes & finishing with the remaining smoked gouda sauce. Lightly spray one side of a piece of foil with nonstick cooking spray. Place the foil over the baking dish, oiled side down, wrapping the edges around the baking dish to seal.
- Bake the potatoes au gratin: Set the baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet & transfer to the oven. Bake 50 minutes, then carefully remove the foil & bake for 20 minutes longer, or until the potatoes are fork-tender.
- Add loaded potato toppings & broil: Remove the baked potatoes au gratin from the oven. Place the sour cream over top, using a spatula to spread it into an even layer over the potatoes. Sprinkle the gruyère cheese over top. Preheat the broiler to its highest setting. Carefully transfer the loaded potatoes au gratin back into the oven, on the top rack under the broiler. Broil about 5 minutes, or until the gruyere is melted & golden brown. Remove from the oven.
- Finish loaded potatoes au gratin & rest: Meanwhile, as the potatoes au gratin broils, finely chop the cooked bacon from Step 2. Once the potatoes are removed from the oven, sprinkle the sliced bacon over top. Set aside to rest for 5 minutes – this helps the loaded potatoes au gratin set up & also warms the bacon through.
- Serve: Immediately before serving, sprinkle finely sliced chives over the potatoes au gratin. Serve & enjoy!
- Baking dish: This recipe was tested & developed using this deep 9×13 baking dish, roughly 3 inches in depth. If your baking dish is a little shallower, you can use less potatoes, just enough to fill your baking dish about 3/4 full.
- Storage & Reheating: Leftover loaded potatoes au gratin will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 3-4 days. Reheat in the microwave until warmed through.
- Simple Recipe Adjustments:
- Portions: As written, this loaded potatoes au gratin recipe yields a generous batch, easily serving 8-10 as a side dish. You can easily halve the recipe to serve 4-6. Prepare the recipe as directed, assembling in a deep 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish like this one.
- Make-Ahead Loaded Potatoes Au Gratin: These loaded potatoes au gratin are make-ahead friendly. To make ahead of time, prep according to Steps 1-5 of Recipe Directions, above, only baking for the first 50 minutes directed. Let the potatoes cool completely & store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To finish them off, let the loaded potatoes au gratin come to room temperature for about 1 hour, then complete the recipe according to the remainder of Step 5, 6-8, above.
Keywords: au gratin potatoes, au gratin recipe, holiday side dishes
Recipe & Food Styling by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Rachel Cook, Half Acre House.
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Delicious recipe! Made this for a Christmas party and it was a hit. My boyfriend and I were fighting over who got to eat the leftovers- these loaded au gratin potatoes reheat really well!