The Secret To Making The Best Scalloped Potatoes

Choose the right potato, and you’ll master this classic comforting dish.

Sunday dinners, holiday meals, family gatherings—when there's a special get-together, you can bet this dish will be there. Whether ham or lamb (or something else entirely) is on the table, there's usually a baking dish of scalloped potatoes sitting beside it. This rich and cheesy side dish is an Eastertime favorite, but it makes several appearances throughout the year and will pair wonderfully with just about any main dish on the menu. Here's our advice for making sure your next pan of scalloped potatoes is the best.

Classic Parmesan Scalloped Potatoes
Beth Dreiling Hontzas

What Are Scalloped Potatoes?

Scalloped potatoes are similar to a potato gratin—they contain layers of thinly sliced potatoes baked in a creamy sauce until golden and bubbly—but there's one difference: cheese. Scalloped potatoes are extra indulgent because of the addition of cheese (often Parmesan, but sometimes Cheddar, goat cheese, or other types of cheese) to the sauce. Even fancied-up scalloped potato recipes are pretty straightforward, but one thing is key to mastering this recipe: you must choose the right potato.

What Kind of Potatoes Are Best?

A starchy potato such as a Yukon Gold or a Russet is best for scalloped potatoes because it will help thicken the sauce and bake up nice and tender. Waxy red-skinned potatoes are less starchy and likely too firm even after baking. They are better for boiling, roasting, or frying.

While the potatoes help thicken the sauce, it's important to note that the consistency isn't as thick as a regular white sauce or cheese sauce. It's a bit thinner, so when you serve the cooked scalloped potatoes, you'll have to spoon the sauce and pour it over each portion.

Why Aren't the Potatoes Done?

Once you've chosen the right potatoes, grab a sharp chef's knife (or a mandoline, if you have one) and carefully slice them as thinly and evenly as possible—ideally one-fourth to one-eighth-inch thick. Potatoes that are too thick or thin will bake up unevenly, and you want the layers to cook up tender. Cook the dish as directed until the potatoes are fork-tender. They should be done, but not so soft that they turn to mush.

Why Did the Milk Curdle?

Besides undercooked potatoes, it's a huge disappointment to open the oven to find the creamy sauce has curdled. To start, the scalloped potatoes need time to bake. Make sure to cook the dish at a low temperature. High heat will cause the milk to curdle. Use milk or cream with higher fat content. Whole milk, half-and-half, or cream and full-fat cheeses are necessary. Skim milk and reduced-fat products will not be your friend in this dish.

Best Scalloped Potato Recipes

Here are our favorite scalloped potato recipes for your next gathering.

01 of 05

Scalloped Potatoes With Ham

Scalloped Potatoes with Ham
Photography: Caitlin Bensel, Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Recipe: Scalloped Potatoes With Ham

This casserole has it all. It's your cheesy scalloped potatoes and ham all wrapped into one. Make this for the main event or save it for a post-main event leftover casserole. Add a salad to make it a meal, or serve it with eggs for an indulgent brunch.

02 of 05

Gruyère Scalloped Potatoes

gruyere scalloped potatoes
Photographer: Isaac Nunn, Prop Stylist: Julia Bayless, Food Stylist: Ruth Blackburn

Recipe: Gruyère Scalloped Potatoes

Baking these scalloped potatoes in a cast-iron skillet gives this recipe an extra crispy texture, unlike traditional potatoes. Plus, Gruyère cheese blends seamlessly into this dish, becoming your new favorite. Top with ham for the ultimate crowd-pleaser.

03 of 05

Chipotle Scalloped Potatoes

Chipotle Scalloped Potatoes
Photo: Hector Sanchez

Recipe: Chipotle Scalloped Potatoes

Infuse all your favorite flavors into one dish. Adding chiles gives the rich cheesy sauce an extra kick not traditionally found in scalloped potatoes. Plus, crumbled bacon adds a crunchy and savory texture that your guests will love.

04 of 05

Shepherd's Pie With Scalloped Potatoes and Pesto

Shepherd’s Pie with Scalloped Potatoes and Pesto
Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

Recipe: Shepherd's Pie With Scalloped Potatoes and Pesto

This recipe combines creamy scalloped potatoes with classic comfort food like shepherd's pie. In under 45 minutes, you can have a hearty dinner ready to serve a crowd. Loaded with ground lamb and plenty of vegetables, this filling dish can also be frozen for later use.

05 of 05

Classic Parmesan Scalloped Potatoes

Classic Parmesan Scalloped Potatoes
Beth Dreiling Hontzas

Recipe: Classic Parmesan Scalloped Potatoes

You know you have a winning holiday side dish when it only requires seven ingredients and 20 minutes of hands-on time. This classic scalloped potato dish is a creamy crowd-pleaser. Try substituting Gruyère for Parmesan if you prefer.

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