To some, a gratin is a gratin is a gratin. We beg to differ. There’s quite the indulgent art to slicing the potatoes just the right thickness so as to become perfectly tender, to finding the perfect proportion of heavy cream to cheese, and to ensuring the time in the oven is just right so the surface of the gratin turns just the perfect shade of irresistible golden brown. In our opinion, this indulgent version not only defines but embodies the term “old-fashioned potato gratin.” Taste and experience it for yourself.–Renee Schettler Rossi

What’s the difference between scalloped potatoes and potato gratin?

Both scalloped potatoes and potato gratin are made with obscene amounts of dairy goodness. Scalloped potatoes are typically made with cream and not a lot else. Potato grain is made with a cheese sauce…and then there’s more cheese usually blanketed atop. We love both.

An oval dish of old-fashioned potato gratin, with a bottle and decanter of wine behind it.

Old-Fashioned Potato Gratin

5 / 8 votes
Old-fashioned potato gratin, or potatoes au gratin if you want to be technical about things, is a traditional, indulgent, frugal manner of keeping yourself warm come cold weather. We’ve never been so grateful for winter.
David Leite
Servings6 servings
Calories376 kcal
Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 20 minutes
Total Time1 hour 45 minutes


  • 4 russet potatoes
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed and peeled
  • 1 tablespoon (1/2 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Comté cheese, (or substitute Gruyère or Asiago)
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream


  • Adjust the oven rack to the top third position and preheat the oven to 350° F (176° C).
  • Peel the potatoes and slice them crosswise about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Place the potato slices in a bowl of cold water so they don’t discolor.
  • Meanwhile, firmly rub the garlic clove all over the bottom and sides of a 10-inch gratin dish to coat it with the garlic juices. Allow to dry for a few minutes, then rub the bottom and sides of the dish with the butter.
  • Drain the potatoes and pat them dry. Arrange a layer of potatoes in a slightly overlapping fashion, like a splayed deck of cards, in the bottom of the gratin dish. Season with a good dash of salt and pepper and a little of each of the two cheeses. Continue layering the potatoes and cheese in this fashion, seasoning each layer and finishing with the cheese (you should have at least 3 layers). Drizzle the cream along the sides of the dish, so as not to displace the cheese.
  • Place the potato gratin, uncovered, in the oven and bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until the cream has been absorbed and the top is crisp and golden.
  • Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.


In Advance Advice

The peeled potatoes can sit, submerged in cold water, on the counter for a few hours. You can also assemble the gratin, cover it, and refrigerate it for anywhere from a few hours to overnight before baking.
Frank Stitt's Southern Table Cookbook

Adapted From

Frank Stitt’s Southern Table

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 376 kcalCarbohydrates: 28 gProtein: 7 gFat: 27 gSaturated Fat: 17 gMonounsaturated Fat: 8 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 97 mgSodium: 95 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 1 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2004 Frank Stitt. Photo © 2004 Christopher Hirsheimer. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This old-fashioned potato gratin is about as basic as it gets. It also looks as good as it tastes. It’s easy to prepare, sets up perfectly, and has just the right amount of cheesy goodness. It’s difficult to resist tasting before it leaves the kitchen, but your presentation of this attractive dish will suffer for it if you do.

If you want to avoid the possibility of spillage, you can add the cream just before adding the salt, pepper, and cheese to the top of your final layer. The four russets I used weighed about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds total. Using them, this recipe fit my 10-inch gratin dish perfectly.

What’s not to love about this old-fashioned potato gratin recipe? It’s easy, delicious, and just plain good-looking! There’s nothing complicated about this, which makes it perfect for a dinner party or holiday table.

Into the oven and, an hour or so later, out comes perfection—a crisp, delectable cheese topping over creamy potato slices. What I really love about this is the potato slices don’t turn into mushy potatoes, but rather hold their shape and delicate taste.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    If you want to guarantee repeat invitations to a certain event or home, bring this. I was asked to bring a potato dish to Easter yesterday, and I whipped these up. I’ve not only been invited back for every holiday this year, my friend’s mother requested I become her personal chef. I mean, it’s one heck of a recipe.

    1. Wow, Kristen, high praise indeed! Although, if you brought that to my house, I’d probably make you be my personal chef, too.

  2. 5 stars
    I come back every year at holiday time to print out this recipe (you’d think I’d just keep a copy, but no). It never disappoints by being the most luscious, self-indulgent part of my holiday meal. The absolutely perfect partner to my yearly prime rib roast.

    1. We’re so happy to hear this, Lana! Thank you for taking the time to let us know and we hope you have another fabulous holiday meal.