Mom's Scalloped Potato Gratin


These scalloped potatoes were one of my favorite foods growing up, but then I went to culinary school and learned, according to classical methods, how it was "supposed" to be made--and that's how I've been making it ever since. But recently, for whatever reason, I went back and tried to recreate my mother's version and was reminded of why I loved hers in the first place.

Prep Time:
15 mins
Cook Time:
1 hr 15 mins
Additional Time:
10 mins
Total Time:
1 hr 40 mins
8 servings

This simple, comforting potato casserole was one of my favorite foods growing up. It would have been a favorite of mine as an adult, too, if I hadn't gone to culinary school. That's where I learned how to make a "real" potato gratin, and all of a sudden that basic milk-based, lightly cheesed version just didn't seem as special. I'd taken a bite from the forbidden tuber (with no girlfriend at the time to blame), and was promptly escorted out of potato paradise.

At the time, I was fine with that. Who needs ignorant bliss when you have double cream and Gruyere cheese? So, from then on, that's how I made potato gratin. To make things even worse, I think I corrupted my mother with all these new and improved methods and ingredients, so her recipe evolved as well. All those celebrity chefs on television didn't help either. Everyone was now able to see "the best" way to make things, and many home-cooked classics went the way of the dinosaur.

Happily, for whatever reason (maybe I was out of cream?), I made the significantly less rich milk-based version, and realized I'd made my mother Pauline's scalloped potatoes. That's when I knew what I'd been missing. By the way, I'm not saying these are better or worse than the classic French method, just that they're different and wonderful, and I want to have both in my life. Enjoy!

Mom's Scalloped Potato Gratin
Mom's Scalloped Potato Gratin . Chef John

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  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 3 large russet potatoes, or more to taste

  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste

  • ¾ cup grated sharp white Cheddar cheese

  • 3 ½ cups whole milk


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease a 2-quart casserole dish with 2 tablespoons butter and set aside.

  2. Peel potatoes and cut at a 45-degree angle into 1/4-inch thick round slices.

  3. Arrange 1/3 of the potato slices in an even layer in the bottom of the prepared dish. Season the layer very generously with salt, and sparingly with the freshly ground black pepper, and cayenne, if using. Top evenly with 1/3 of the Cheddar cheese. Repeat this process two more times for a total of three layers of potatoes, except for the last third of the cheese. Slowly and carefully pour in the milk, without upsetting the layers. The milk should almost, but not quite, cover the potatoes.

  4. Top with remaining Cheddar cheese and place the casserole dish on a sheet pan to catch any drips.

  5. Bake in the center of the preheated oven until potatoes are tender and the top is well browned and bubbling, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

    close up view of Scalloped Potato Gratin in a baking dish, on a kitchen towel next to a serving spoon
    Chef John

Chef's Notes:

For a richer gratin, the top can be dotted with butter, and/or cream can be used instead of milk. More cheese can also be used if desired.

If all you have is 2% milk, you can always dot some butter in between the layers to make up for it.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

248 Calories
11g Fat
29g Carbs
10g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 8
Calories 248
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 11g 14%
Saturated Fat 7g 33%
Cholesterol 32mg 11%
Sodium 132mg 6%
Total Carbohydrate 29g 11%
Dietary Fiber 3g 11%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 10g
Vitamin C 27mg 137%
Calcium 231mg 18%
Iron 1mg 7%
Potassium 749mg 16%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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