potato and leek gratin Recipes

potato and leek gratin

Because I do not often crave potatoes slow-baked in a cream bath with a burnish of cheese and fine crunch top, when I do, I know exactly how I want it to taste and how much work I’m willing to do to make it happen. Since it’s been eleven years (!) since I last shared a potato gratin here, I think it’s worth revisiting as we head into gratin season, which is not a thing, I absolutely just made that up, but really should be for colder weather and shorter days.

what you'll needthinly slicedalternate direction of stacked handfulsnudge in leeks

I prefer my potatoes unpeeled; I like the definition on the edges as they bake up. I prefer stacks of potatoes leaning this way and that versus the traditional flat layers, because it creates more texture and a looser density. I love big chunks of leeks in a potato gratin, not sautéed and hidden, but wedged in all over, sharing the spotlight. I prefer cheese only on top and while I like crumbs, too, they have to be tossed in butter first so they remind me of buttered toast and not, say, sawdust. And while I in the past have made gratins with milk and/or half-and-half, I feel especially at this moment in time that if we’re going to do anything, we might as well do it spectacularly, and that will require heavy cream. Not so much that the potatoes are drowning, but enough that they bake up to the luxurious texture that makes a gratin worth daydreaming about.

heat cream mixture until simmeringpour cream over everythingadd cheese and buttered crumbs, bake some morepotato and leek gratin

This is a low-fuss, almost rustic gratin save one tiny extra step: if you can bear adding three minutes, I like to heat the cream with the garlic, salt, pepper, and thyme until simmering for a total infusion. It leads to a more evenly seasoned gratin. Should you need to halve this, you could do so in an 8- to 9-inch cake pan or equivalent oven-safe pan. But even if you, like most of us, are looking out over highly modified and much smaller holidays this year, I have a hunch that it’s been too long since you had potatoes this good. You know what to do next.

potato leek gratin

Events: I’ve added two virtual events this month that should be really fun. And more to come!

Elsewhere: I was on Splendid Table last week, chatting with Francis Lam about ways we can modify our holidays this year while still having great food celebrations. You can listen here.


6 months ago: Any-Kind-Of-Fruit Galette
1 year ago: Perfect Apple Tarte Tatin
2 year ago: Roberta’s Roasted Garlic Caesar Salad
3 years ago: Endive Salad with Toasted Breadcrumbs
4 years ago: Roasted Cauliflower with Pumpkin Seeds and Brown Butter and Apple Strudel
5 years ago: Oven Fries and Chocolate Peanut and Pretzel Brittle
6 years ago: Squash Toasts with Ricotta and Cider Vinegar
7 years ago: Spinach and Egg Pizzettes
8 years ago: Apple Cider Caramels
9 years ago: Homesick Texan Carnitas
10 years ago: Spicy Squash Salad with Lentils and Goat Cheese and Buckeyes
11 years ago: Baked Chicken Meatballs and Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats
12 years ago: Cabbage and Mushroom Galette and Peanut Butter Crispy Bars
13 years ago: Cranberry Caramel and Almond Tart and Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic
14 years ago: Not Your Mama’s Coleslaw

Potato and Leek Gratin

  • Servings: 8
  • Source: Smitten Kitchen
  • Print

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan
  • 2 1/2 pounds yukon gold potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed, thinly sliced
  • 1 thick or 2 slimmer leeks, halved, washed, cut into 1-inch segments
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Leaves from 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs (panko or homemade are great here)
  • 3/4 cup coarsely grated gruyère, comte, or baby swiss cheese

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter an 8×12-inch or 3-quart baking dish.

Arrange small stacks of sliced potatoes on an angle, slightly fanned, in different directions filling the pan loosely. Tuck leeks, halved side up, between potatoes around the pan. In a medium saucepan, bring cream, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, many grinds of black pepper, garlic, and thyme to a simmer, stirring to ensure the salt dissolves. Pour hot cream mixture evenly over the pan, trying to get every potato and leek coated. Cover pan tightly with foil, place on a baking sheet to catch any drips, and bake for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt 2 remaining tablespoons butter. Add breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper to taste and mix to evenly coat.

At 30 minutes, briefly remove pan from oven and remove foil. Sprinkle top evenly with cheese, then scatter with buttered breadcrumbs. Return to the oven without foil for 45 minutes, until potatoes are totally tender, the top is browned, and the edges are bubbly. [Insert a knife or skewer into potatoes to feel for crunch or resistance. Return to the oven if needed.]

Let cool for 10 minutes before serving hot.

Do ahead: Gratin can be assembled the day before and baked before a big meal. It can also be baked for 30 minutes (the foil-on portion) and cooled, finishing the baking time the next day. Gratin reheats well in a 350-degree oven. Leftovers keep in the fridge for 4 to 5 days.

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87 comments on potato and leek gratin

      1. Krista

        Made this last night and we couldn’t stop eating it! Next time I might add an extra leek since that was my favorite part. It was also very simple to make, which was perfect for headachey me who couldn’t focus too well.

      2. Terri

        I decided to make this last minute and discovered I didn’t have enough potatoes so I subbed some sweet potatoes and a small touch of blue cheese. It was wonderful!

  1. Kelly A Haag

    Deb, I know we’re both probably happily married, but this is the first time I’ve ever wanted to propose to someone based on their description of potato gratin. I feel so *seen*–you’ve described just what I love and hate about potatoes and it is glorious. I’m practically swooning.

  2. Laura

    Deb – It’s not easy these days to keep doing what we do and being who we are. I’d like to acknowlege the gift that you’re giving so many beacuse you continue to do and be. Thank you for that gift and the work it takes to give.

  3. Kel

    This looks divine except for one tiny detail – I cannot, under any circumstances, abide thyme. I don’t even have it in the house because I find it so vile. (Long story as to why.)

    Would rosemary work as an infuser here?

    1. Terri

      Def use the rosemary, it’s wonderful. Totally ok to drop the thyme. May I humbly suggest that also adding the tiniest dash of nutmeg or sage, and even a smidge of lemon zest rounds this out beautifully.
      Thanks Deb, beautiful recipe to add to the list!

    2. Lynne Janbergs

      Since you’ve mentioned that you use Diamond Crystal kosher salt, which has different sized crystals than other brands, could you include the weight of kosher salt used in your recipes? Sometimes you do mention the amount for other brands, but not in this recipe. For that matter, could you include weight measurements for all ingredients?

      1. Cathy

        How about “season to taste”, use a favorite herb to taste, double the leaks and halve the potatoes because it’s what you happen to have on hand.
        It’s only cooking bunch of vegetables together in tasty fatty sauce seasoned to you liking.

    3. J.

      I think rosemary would be wonderful here! In my own recipe for gratin potatoes, I use leeks also, and I shred in some carrot for color, and I also use a tablespoon full of dijon mustard. I think you can do just about anything with a potato gratin, as long as you lead with one flavor profile. Rosemary and potatoes together are spectacular!

  4. Liz

    Long-time reader, first-time poster, but I couldn’t resist snagging the first review! I just happened to have a day off and potatoes that needed using up, and this turned out spectacularly well. I love the crunchy breadcrumbs and the flavor in the cream sauce — I think you could use any herb here and I will definitely be making it again with other variations. (I did have to cook it uncovered about an hour for the potatoes to really tenderize, though.)

  5. PDXish

    So this makes me think of Laurie Colwin, and god how I loved her, but god how her recipes sometimes have not flown for me. Recall her scalloped potatoes? She had you cook the potatoes in milk in a sacuepan, and then dump it in a casserole and it was supposed to bake into creamy potatoey goodness. Mine… did not. A couple of times. And I loved Laurie no less, but I did wonder.

    1. Alene

      I’ve made that several times! I loved her recipes! And it did work for me. And we justified making it because milk is less calories than whole cream.

  6. Marcia

    I have been buying potatoes in 20 pound bags , and there is never a celebration
    Without a gratin. Sometimes in these lockdown days, a gratin is dinner with a big
    Salad, because really , what else do you need.

    1. Meredith

      And along with the above question, what mandolin would you recommend, Deb? Or do you have a smitten kitchen recommendations list on Amazon?

    2. Helen

      so mandolins slice so thin you may not be able to do it uniformly with a knife? I would suggest uniformity would be the most important here so cut as thin as you can with uniformity. In australia we make this all the time and dont use a mandolin. I would say, the thicker the cut of potatoes the longer it will take to cook.

      1. Walter

        I mentioned a mandoline as a rationale for asking about the desired thickness. Of course, one can cut close to uniform potato slices with a knife (and patience).

  7. Paula smith

    I love this! Years ago , I think in Bon Apatite magazine there was a similar recipe using sweet potato, leeks and apple.. was that your recipe too?

  8. ILA

    Save the Planet!. Instead of sending aluminum foil to landfill, use a lasagna pan with lid or similar!
    After having gratin’d my potato and leek FLAT for 50 years I thank you for the small culinary revolution of tossing potatoes and leek in wild stacks. Makes so much more sense – as does that garlicky heavy cream!

  9. Jessica

    Could this recipe be halved? Since we are limiting contact in these uncertain times, we are cooking smaller quantities. As much as I’d love to eat an entire casserole solo… it’s not the healthiest decision :)

  10. Monika Burke

    I’ve been making a version of this same-ingredient casserole for a decade on holidays, with thanks to Williams-Sonoma, who published a tempting recipe for this in their catalog, when they actually published recipes and didn’t shuffle readers off to their website – I tore it out and have used it for Thanksgiving and Christmas for about a decade.

    Yours is a deconstructed version. In W-S the leeks are sauteed in butter with thyme first (the perfect rich, earthy herb), and the sliced russet potatoes, leek mixture and shredded gruyere are alternately layered with heavy cream poured over all before baking. It is a lot of work, though. I have some doubts about softening the leek without sauteing, and melding the flavors, but I will try this. The W-S version really is a lot of work. If a simpler approach will yield similar results, it would be a real time-saver.

  11. Jill

    Hi Deb, o my goodness this will be amazing!
    One question……would you consider this really wet and creamy or dry and creamy? Dies that make sense? I need wet, so if there’s a shortage of ‘gravy’ I’ll want to use more cream. What is your opinion of this recipe? Wetter or drier?

  12. Barbara

    Simply a delicious comfort food! Thank goodness for the mandoline to thinly slice the potatoes. My husband is not a creamy person fan so I used 1 3/4 cup heavy cream and 1/4 cup water. Still yummy to the tummy.

  13. Jill

    After adding breadcrumbs and cheese, does it bake for *another* 45 minutes, or is it 45 minutes total bake time? I’ve never done a gratin, so I don’t have a reference. Thanks!

  14. Alexandra

    I’m wondering what a dairy free version of this recipe might look like? Would coconut milk/cream work as a substitute for the heavy cream? Or would that just get too coconut-y? Maybe cashew cheese and/or nutritional yeast instead of cheese?

    1. Astrid

      I would use oat cream (coconut can be more dominant in a dish than oat) and maybe a bit less cream because of the thickness of the heavy cream? And a non-dairy cheese on top.

    2. deb

      I haven’t tested it with non-dairy milks so I cannot say which will work best here. I, personally, find coconut milk and cream to be coconutty, but that’s not always a bad thing.

    3. Emma

      I was wondering the same thing so I halved the recipe and tried with coconut milk! It’s in the oven right now! I can tell right off the bat just from looking at it, I should’ve used less because coconut milk is thinner than heavy cream. Maybe a combination of coconut milk and coconut cream next time? Or, as suggested by another comment, something oat based.

      1. deb

        Did it all work out? I find that when this cooks, it looks like a lot of liquid but when it all settles down, it’s just a moderately (not excessively) creamy/wet gratin.

  15. I’m always looking for great potato recipes, especially for dinner parties, and this one fits the bill perfectly. Thanks for sharing a lovely dish that can be prepared the day before, as I’m always in a bit of a stress in the hours leading up to entertaining, but also I can see this would be a lovely family dish too. Perfect with a roast instead of roast potatoes maybe?

  16. Neja

    Made this two days ago for our Saint Martin’s celebration and it was delicious!
    Maybe we were just extra gluttonous, but there was only about one portion left even though we were four and I made a whole batch.

  17. Bev

    Very yummy! I had only 8oz of heavy cream, so used another 8oz of half and half.

    NOTE: one disappointment was that I covered the pan tightly with foil and baked for 30 minutes, planning to finish off the next day. Unfortunately some of the top layer of potatoes turned an ugly grayish colour during the fridge time. I assume this was a reaction with the foil? Not sure, and it was just for my daughter and me, so I didn’t worry about it, but those sections are really quite ugly. We ate some of the ugly parts, too, so I hope those were ok! We both loved the flavour.

    Another time I might let the dish cool uncovered, then add a layer of parchment under the foil while storing it in the fridge.

  18. Helen

    Deb. I love gratin and this is how I often make gratin. Can I, however, offer another way to make it that is a little lighter – replace the cream with the following

    saute a couple of diced up cloves of garlic and a few tablespoons butter, when aromatic, squeeze in a lemon (the garlic turns green) then add a couple cups of chicken stock.

  19. JMS

    Could this be made with thinner leek slices though? I don’t see how I’d be able to wash the larger chunks without them falling apart. Also, would a white cheddar work here?

    1. deb

      You want to wash the leeks before you cut them into segments. Halve the long way. Plunge in cold water, fanning out the layers. Grit falls to bottom of bowl, so make sure not to sweep it back up as you remove them. Once you remove them from the water, you can cut them into segments.

  20. Aimee Bower

    This was delicious! So simple but so decadent. I made a half portion and it worked great – I forgot to butter the pan but it didn’t matter – I think the cream helped keep it from sticking? Anyway, we absolutely devoured it!

  21. Deirdre

    Enjoyed this dish tonight in memory of Edward Espe Brown’s amazing scalloped potatos we used to make. My tips: Leeks are great – I will slice them thinner next time. I will increase cheese to 1 cup and trade out comte for a mix of gruyere and smoked cheese (a la E. E. Brown). I had no panko at home so used a mix of sourdough bread crumbs and potato chips. (An old-school Irish meal always features two kinds of potatos.) Thanks Deb!

  22. Charlotte

    Hi Deb,

    This looks delicious! I see there was already a question about cleaning the leeks, but I’m concerned that I won’t be able to get all the grit out of the leeks unless I fully separate the layers. How were you able to clean the leeks thoroughly without cutting/separating the layers?


    1. Dina Bishara

      If I’ve had very gritty/sandy leeks, I will submerge the halved leeks in a bowl of water and sort of use my thumb to fan the layers. But usually holding the halved layers under running water is sufficient.

    2. deb

      These were delightfully grit-free (I checked!) but in most cases, here is my process: Halve the long way. Plunge in cold water, fanning out the layers. Grit falls to bottom of bowl, so make sure not to sweep it back up as you remove them. Pat dry, then slice into your desired thickness.

  23. Nancy+in+CA

    Oh, I might just have to try throwing some chunks of ham in here and calling it dinner. I will totally have to halve it, or my potato-loving Huz will polish off half of eight servings in one go.

  24. Jessica

    Whoa, this was just incredible. I made the recipe almost exactly to the letter, only substituting the thyme sprigs with a little ground thyme and adding a bay leaf to simmer with the cream. The cooking times were perfect for me. The potatoes were tender and coated with just the right amount of the cream mixture. And it did reheat wonderfully the next day. So pleased with this and will definitely repeat.

  25. Sujatha

    This was delicious! I did tweak it a little. I made roughly 75% of the recipe for 4 of us, which was a perfect amount as a main dish. I used about 2/3 milk and 1/3 cream, and it was great. I think I could get away with all milk, which would enable us to eat this more often (tho I’m sure all cream is amazing). I had lacinato kale to use up so I chopped & added it after the covered portion of the baking time. I stirred the kale in (which sadly disrupted the pretty stacks of potatoes), then I stirred in the cheese to distribute it through instead of just on top — used up bits of leftover cheese in my fridge (combo of gruyere, smoked Gouda & cheddar). Topped it with chopped cooked bacon, then the bread crumbs on top (which I mixed with Parmesan cheese). Baked uncovered for an hour as others suggested. So so good I licked my plate.

  26. This is fabulous! It delivers on every bite – just as Deb promised. Creamy, with a slight hint of garlic and cooking the leeks this way means they don’t disappear into your potato dish. We loved it, and as a bonus – it was super easy to make. Pop it into the oven and enjoy the way your house smells.

  27. Mike

    Great recipe! Used homegrown potatoes and leeks, and added 2 other available garden veggies: beets and carrots. The pigment from the beets wicked up into the vertical yellow potato slices in a gradient that looked like a sunset…serendipitous and gorgeous! The browned tips of the leeks and potatoes added to a nice presentation.

  28. Kristin

    This was a hit! I made it just as written, though I used sharp cheddar because that’s what I had. I cooked it for an extra 15 minutes and it was perfect.

  29. rose

    FYI, for a dairy-free version sub blended silken tofu in place of the cream. Potatoes are one of the few places where subbing coconut cream, which I would do otherwise, just doesn’t taste right, imo. Cannot wait to make this, thanks!

  30. Anne

    Anybody have thoughts or experience on whether this could be frozen at some stage? I’m inclined to make the full recipe split into two pans if the second one could be saved.

    1. deb

      I actually froze one of mine when it had about 5 to 10 minutes of baking time left (i.e. it could handle getting a tiny bit darker). I haven’t defrosted it yet (that’s for Thursday) but I generally find that gratins are not perfect when rewarmed but still delicious.

  31. This looks absolutely delicious. I’m going to roast up a Gammon joint next Sunday when I have guests over and will make this as a side. I think it’ll perfect as I just love creamy and cheesy together with the ham. Could you recommend a good glaze for the gammon by any chance?

  32. Ginger

    I live in NW Michigan. Gratin season exists. It is now and then extends maybe until May. My question in a normal year is how many gratins are reasonable for thanksgiving day? Answer: all the gratins!
    This recipe looks fantastic and I will be trying it soon. Thanks!

  33. Rachel

    Has anyone had any luck prepping this the night before and baking the next day? Any tips or tricks? Do the potatoes turn brown? Hoping to prep the night before thanksgiving and cook the day of. Thanks!

      1. Bev

        You can do what Deb suggests, and bake it partway, then finish the next day. But refer to my earlier comment (a week or more ago) re potatoes discolouring, the reason for which I’m not sure about. Since Deb said it would be ok to bake covered with foil and then save to finish later, I assumed that in itself would not cause the discolouration, so that is what I did. But the potatoes did turn an ugly grey/brown in spots, which I assumed was due to them touching the foil. My solution next time would be to add a layer of parchment between the potatoes and the foil in order to store them overnight—but I have not tried it so cannot confirm this would work.

  34. Sophia

    Deb, thank you so much for making this recipe possible, my husband and I drooled over the photos and immediately added this to our Thanksgiving menu. The day can’t come soon enough!

  35. Michelle Faranda

    I made the gratin for my birthday dinner (yes I made my own celebration meal) and it was amazing! My hubby has never liked anything creamy or cheesy (scalloped potatoes, Mac and cheese, etc) but he loved it. I lined the edges of the pan with the leeks so the son who eats low carb could avoid the potatoes and the son who avoids all onion-like foods could avoid the leeks. Everyone loved this. Really delicious!