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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn
Recipe Review

We Tested 4 Famous Scalloped Potato Recipes and Found a Clear Winner

updated Sep 13, 2022
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One of the most comforting ways to spruce up spuds is with a rich, creamy dish of scalloped potatoes. But a quick Google search reveals there’s little consensus on what we mean when we say “scalloped” potatoes. One person’s scallop is another’s gratin is another’s casserole.

Most recipes agree the potatoes should be sliced into thin, uniform slices and baked in at least one form of liquid dairy goodness, such as cream or milk. The inclusion of cheese is definitely up for debate, although many of the most popular recipes do call for it.

I won’t weigh in on the cheese debate, but to my mind, well-made scalloped potatoes bring dinner-party elegance to the table, but still carry a relaxed, homey disposition. A good recipe results in well-seasoned and tender (but not mushy) potatoes floating in a rich and creamy sauce. And most importantly, they shouldn’t be very difficult to make.

To determine the absolute best scalloped potato recipe, I battled off recipes from some of the internet’s most popular celebrity cooks. Other than potatoes and time in an oven, there was little similarity among their approaches or outcomes.

I learned something useful from all four recipes (although sometimes the lesson was what not to inflict on innocent potatoes). You’ll find the four recipes below, ranked from my least to most favorite.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

But First, the 5 Biggest Takeaways from My Scalloped Potato Cook-Off

1. Use starchy potatoes. Starchy potatoes, such as Russets or Yukon Golds, are key to thick, velvety sauce and the layered, stacked-slice structure that’s the signature look of scalloped potatoes. Russet potatoes make the creamiest sauce. Yukon Golds hold their shape a little better. You won’t go wrong with either choice.

2. Slice the potatoes thinly and evenly. The potato slices must be very thin, between 1/8- and 1/4-inch thick, and of uniform thickness. A great mandoline slicer or simple vegetable slicer makes quick, precise work of this task, although it’s doable with a sharp chef’s knife and keen eye. 

3. Don’t rinse the sliced potatoes before adding them to the dish. When you rinse potatoes, you rinse away their starch — and trust me, you want that! A potato’s natural starch is its thickening power. When the potatoes are warmed in the recipe’s liquid (usually milk or heavy cream), it extracts this starch, which eliminates the need to add flour to the sauce. It also encourages the potatoes to cook evenly.

4. Bake in a shallow baking dish. Shallow baking dishes are the best choice for scalloped potatoes. A trusty glass or ceramic casserole baking dish works well if you don’t have an actual gratin dish. 

5. Let the scalloped potatoes rest. Let scalloped potatoes cool and rest for at least 20 minutes, preferably 30, before serving. Not only are scalloped potatoes too hot to eat when they first emerge from the oven, but their texture and flavor also improve as they cool.

After a nice rest, scalloped potatoes firm up enough to be served neatly, avoiding a runny potato avalanche on the plate. Perfect scalloped potatoes are creamy, not juicy. Serving them warm rather than piping hot also makes it easier to perceive and appreciate their subtle flavors and silky texture.

Meet Our 4 Scalloped Potato Contenders

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

1. The Ham and Potato Casserole Masquerading as Scalloped Potatoes: The Pioneer Woman’s Scalloped Potatoes and Ham

This recipe turned out to be a ham and potato casserole in disguise. And unfortunately, the results were lackluster. The directions were vague and the cooking times were not accurate. In the end, the outcome was neither tasty nor appealing. 

Overall Rating: 3/10

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

2. The Family Recipe That Let Us Down: Pepper’s Scalloped Potatoes from Chrissy Teigen

I so wanted to love these potatoes. The recipe contains a five-pound sack of potatoes, two kinds of pork, and more than a quart of whole milk, plus it bakes in a huge, homey Dutch oven. Alas, things just didn’t pan out. 

The sauce didn’t come together, and the consistency was similar to a lumpy stew. To be fair, the dish is tasty: I might tuck into it when I need a big pot of warm carbs to take the edge off a hard day, but I’ll turn elsewhere when I’m craving scalloped potatoes.

Overall Rating: 6/10

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

3. The Extremely Delicious Yet Hard-to-Follow Recipe: Tyler Florence’s Scalloped Potato Gratin

I struggled with rating this one. The recipe was hard to follow and I couldn’t have created a successful dish if I didn’t already known how to make scalloped potatoes. After making some educated guesses and adjusting the cook times, the end result was delicious, but there are better recipes for scalloped potatoes.

Overall Rating: 7/10

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

4. The Absolute Best Scalloped Potato Recipe: Martha Stewart’s Creamy Scalloped Potatoes

This recipe won my heart. It was easy to follow and trust-worthy. It yielded a picture-perfect dish of delicious, flavorful, melt-in-your-mouth scalloped potatoes. This is a recipe I would serve with pride on any table for any occasion.

If you’ve never made scalloped potatoes, here is your go-to recipe. If you’ve made many batches of scalloped potatoes from other recipes, make this one to ensure there are no pointers to pick up. Scalloped potato purists might argue that that this is a gratin because it includes cheese. But I predict they’ll stop talking when their mouths are full of this fantastic dish. 

Overall Rating: 9.5/10

Your turn! What’s your go-to scalloped potato recipe? Let us know in the comments!