This creamy, cheesy au gratin potatoes with diced ham recipe (potatoes gratin, or pommes de terres gratin) makes the best au gratin potatoes that we have ever enjoyed!
My husband has not ever been a fan of au gratin or scalloped potatoes, but these are the exception. I think he tends to forget that my creamy au gratin potatoes are raved about when I make them. He acts surprised at how good they are each and every time!!
The diced ham is optional, if you’re simply looking for the best au gratin potatoes ever, but adding ham or bacon in any potato dish just works. Pan searing the diced ham is also optional, but it really adds a layer of texture to this super creamy potato dish.
Looking for more great potato side dishes?
What Are Au Gratin Potatoes?
Au gratin potatoes are based on the French dish gratin Dauphinois, that originated in the historic Dauphine region of southeastern France near the pre-Alpine mountain ranges and the Dauphine Alps (near the Italian border).
In the U.S., gratin recipes have been found in cookbooks dating back to (at least) 1894, and are commonly referred to as scalloped potatoes. ~ Personally, I call cheese-less potatoes scalloped and any recipe that includes cheese, au gratin. 😉
And, technically, au gratin potatoes (the difference between au gratin or scalloped potatoes vs gratin dauphinoise) is that the layered sliced potatoes are pre-cooked, usually boiled.
However, I have yet to know anyone here in the states that boils their potatoes for au gratin potatoes…so really our au gratin potatoes should be known as their uncooked cousin, gratin dauphiniose (which doesn’t traditionally contain cheese). Oh my gosh, well isn’t that quite confusing!
So what it really boils down to is that for a dish to be called ‘au gratin’ it should have a cheesy, crusty topping (breadcrumbs can also be added). The cream can be made and poured over the sliced potatoes and then topped with cheese to form a bubbly crust that needs to be scraped from the baking dish (gratin from the French word gratter, or ‘to scrape’ and the au is a preposition in the masculine form, à + le = au meaning ‘to the/at the’).
We have modified our au gratin potatoes with diced ham recipe to use a cheesy cream sauce that is made to be poured over the potatoes rather than the original version like my grandmothers made with the layering of potatoes, cream, and ham topped with cheese.
Au Gratin Potatoes with Diced Ham Ingredients
- Butter – salted or unsalted butter will both work equally well.
- Onion – my family prefers yellow (sweet) onions, but white onion is primarily used for au gratin potatoes.
- Seasoning (turmeric, garlic powder, salt & pepper) – add more of my favorite spices for potatoes as needed, to taste.
- Heavy Cream – I love using heavy cream for cheese sauces, but the standard milk and flour combination is noted below.
- Cheddar Cheese – a combination of cheeses will also work, and Gruyere swiss cheese is one of my all-time favorites for au gratin potatoes.
- Cooked Diced Ham – another fabulous way to use up any leftover ham you may have on hand, sear the diced ham to brown the sides for a better appearance, texture, and flavor.
- Russet Potatoes – my favorite potato for making au gratin or scalloped potatoes are russet potatoes (skin on or peeled). The higher starch content in russet potatoes makes your cheese sauce even creamier!
To Make Your Au Gratin Potatoes with Diced Ham
To start these super creamy, delicious au gratin potatoes, preheat your oven to 400 ºF (205 ºC) and butter a 1-1.5 quart casserole dish.
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
Add the minced onion and cook until translucent and soft, about three minutes.
Add seasoning (salt, pepper, turmeric, and garlic powder), then add heavy cream (or use the same quantity (2 cups) of milk with 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour whisked in to the milk while it is still cold).
Whisk frequently until the heavy cream is heated through, usually about 3-4 minutes.
Then add shredded cheese and stir until melted. Once the cheese is melted, remove your saucepan from the heat and set aside.
In a small frying pan or skillet, sear the diced ham until browning on the sides.
Remove from heat and set aside for assembling your au gratin potatoes.
Layer your washed and sliced russet potatoes in even layers covering the bottom of the casserole dish.
Top with the seared diced ham, then pour your cheddar cheese sauce over the layered potatoes and diced ham.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 400 ºF (205 ºC) for 1 1/2 hours or until the potatoes are tender when forked. (If you use a different size baking dish and the potatoes are stacked thicker or thinner than they would be in the suggested size dish, they will have a different cooking time).
Allow the potatoes to cool for about 15 minutes before serving.
What Are The Best Potatoes For Au Gratin Potatoes or Scalloped Potatoes?
Russet potatoes are the best potato for making both of these sauced potato dishes. The russet potatoes have a higher starch content that will combine with the sauce to make it even creamier.
My next choice would be to use Yukon Gold potatoes, especially when combined with Gruyere Swiss cheese. Red potatoes would be my third choice, and I like these paired with a cream cheese based sauce and fresh chives (yummy!!).
The russet potatoes (best) and Yukon gold potatoes (better) will have more starch that combines with the cream sauce to yield your expected au gratin potato consistency. Red skin potatoes, due to their lower starch content can result in a milky cream that is undesirable. Using the saucepan method to make your cheesy cream sauce as directed here can work around that.
Do I Need To Peel Potatoes For Au Gratin Potatoes?
This question comes down to personal preference. No, you do not need to peel your potatoes (any variety – russet, Yukon gold, or red skin potatoes) before making au gratin, scalloped, or dauphinoise potatoes. I like to leave the peel on, plus it makes this a really easy no-fuss side dish!
Why Are My Au Gratin Potatoes Curdled?
Cooking your au gratin potatoes at high heat causes curdling of the cream sauce. Using the saucepan method for making the cheesy cream sauce works beautifully for fixing that as the sauce does not curdle when it is cooked together.
If you don’t have heavy cream or half & half on hand, and are using milk and flour to start your cheese sauce, reduce your oven temperature (around 350 ºF) and allow the potatoes to cook longer.
Also, russet potatoes will lend the most starch to yielding the best creamy au gratin potatoes and preventing possible issues with curdling of the sauce.
Au Gratin Potatoes with Diced Ham Recipe
- 3 Tbsp butter
- 1/2 c onion approx 1/2 small onion (minced)
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- salt & pepper (to taste)
- 2 c heavy cream
- 1 1/2 c cheddar cheese (shredded)
- 4 russet potatoes (washed and sliced thin, 1/8 inch thickness at most for best results)
- 1/2 lb cooked ham (diced)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Butter a 1 to 1 1/2 quart casserole dish.
- Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat, add minced onion and cook until translucent and soft. Add seasoning: (turmeric, garlic powder, salt & pepper).
- Add heavy cream (or use the same quantity (2 cups) of milk with 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour whisked in to the milk while it is still cold).
- Whisk frequently until the heavy cream is heated through, usually about 3-4 minutes. Then add shredded cheese and stir until melted. Once the cheese is melted, remove your saucepan from the heat and set aside.
- In a small frying pan or skillet, sear the diced ham until browning on the sides. Remove from heat and set aside for assembling your au gratin potatoes.
- Layer your sliced russet potatoes in even layers covering the bottom of the casserole dish. Top with the seared diced ham, then pour your cheddar cheese sauce over the layered potatoes and diced ham.
- Cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) for 1 1/2 hours. Your au gratin potatoes are done once they are tender when forked. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before serving.
Angela is an at home chef that developed a passion for all things cooking and baking at a young age in her Grandma’s kitchen. After many years in the food service industry, she now enjoys sharing all of her family favorite recipes and creating tasty dinner and amazing dessert recipes here at Bake It With Love!