Difference Between Au Gratin and Scalloped Potatoes
By Claire Miles - March 12, 2022

Unless you are a chef, au gratin and scalloped potatoes are the same thing to you. Is this the case? Are scalloped potatoes and au gratin potatoes actually just two names for the same dish? Well, not exactly. There is a major difference between these two dishes and you’re about to find out what it is.

Table Summary

Au GratinScalloped Potatoes
Usually cooked in a cream sauceAlways cooked in a cream sauce
Always contains cheeseSometimes contains cheese
Often contains a breadcrumb toppingAlmost always contains a breadcrumb topping
Scalloped potatoes in white casserole dish with serving spoon on dark background where three onions are visible in earthenware dish with dark wooden pepper grinder

Getty Images / Moment Open / Sharon Scheurich – Canarybird, Tenerife Journal


Although au gratin is French for “scrapings”, the term gratin can also refer to a crispy top usually achieved by adding grated cheese or breadcrumbs. This dish is made of thinly sliced potatoes cooked in a casserole dish, usually with cream sauce, and always with cheese. Sometimes, au gratin potatoes will also have a breadcrumb topping for extra crispiness.

Scalloped potatoes, on the other hand, are also thinly sliced potatoes cooked in a casserole dish – but they don’t always contain cheese. This dish is always cooked in a cream sauce and almost always contains a breadcrumb topping for added crispiness. In the United States, however, scalloped potatoes have essentially become synonyms with au gratin potatoes, since they almost always contain cheese.

Au Gratin VS Scalloped Potatoes

Initially, scalloped potatoes were simply potatoes cooked in cream while au gratin potatoes were covered in cheese. However, over the years, people have mistakenly called a recipe by the other’s name so many times they are now basically synonyms. While au gratin potatoes are always cooked with cheese, scalloped potatoes are almost always also cooked with cheese, and while scalloped potatoes are always cooked in a cream sauce, au gratin potatoes are often (but not always) cooked in a cream sauce.