What’s the Difference Between Scalloped and Au Gratin Potatoes?

(Image credit: The Kitchn)

When fall rolls around and we start thinking about side dishes, the conversation turns from zucchini to potatoes. And while there are seemingly countless ways to prepare potatoes, two of the best seem awfully similar. In fact, they’re often considered one and the same. I’m talking about scalloped potatoes and potatoes au gratin.

They’re both super creamy and rich, consisting of rounds of sliced potatoes baked in a casserole dish. But as it turns out, there are a few distinguishing factors that set them apart.

The Difference Between Scalloped and Au Gratin Potatoes

The one key ingredient that distinguishes these two potato casseroles? Cheese! Scalloped potatoes consist of thinly sliced potatoes layered in a casserole dish and baked with heavy cream or milk (or a combination of the two). The cream is often infused with an aromatic, such as garlic or fresh herbs.

Potatoes au gratin, on the other hand, has grated cheese sprinkled between the layers, resulting in a cheesy, more decadent dish. Breadcrumbs are also often sprinkled on top of the dish before it goes into the oven. Another minor difference is the way the potatoes are sliced. Although in both casseroles the potatoes are cut into rounds, the potatoes used in scalloped potatoes are often cut a bit thicker than those in au gratin potatoes.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

The confusion lies in the fact that the classic definitions are often ignored. There are countless recipes for scalloped potatoes (some even on our site!) that call for cheese, breadcrumbs, or both, which, according to my classification above, would technically make them potatoes au gratin. Regardless of what they’re called, we do know one thing: They are seriously comforting and we’ll take a serving of either.

5 Recipes for Scalloped and Au Gratin Potatoes