The Best Variety Of Spud For Tender Scalloped Potatoes

Whether it's a holiday meal or a family gathering, scalloped potatoes feel both comforting and a little bit special. Rich, tender, and delightfully creamy, the bubbling casserole is a great accompaniment for all sorts of main meals from roast beef and baked ham to pork chops, or a juicy steak. But the key to getting the best results for this deceptively simple dish lies in choosing the right ingredients, and that's especially true when it comes to the star of the show: the potatoes themselves.

There are not many components to scalloped potatoes; they're essentially sliced potatoes cooked with milk or cream, butter, seasoning, and sometimes cheese (although this is more commonly associated with the similar dish, potatoes au gratin). The potatoes need to hold their shape when thinly sliced, layered, and cooked, but still become tender — while the sauce needs to be thick and velvety. And starchy potatoes, rather than waxy, work best for this.

While different types of potatoes belong in different dishes, Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes are both varieties that work perfectly for scalloped potatoes. And they both bring a slightly different quality to the finished dish, in terms of texture, appearance, and consistency.

Starchy potatoes give a thicker sauce and better texture

Russets are a classic choice for dishes such as scalloped potatoes, as they are a naturally starchy variety that fluff up well when cooked. Also known as Idaho potatoes, their starchiness means they're brilliant at soaking up flavors, such as the garlic and rich heavy cream. And in a dish like scalloped potatoes, au gratin potatoes, or dauphinoise potatoes, that level of starch also makes for a thicker, creamier sauce, meaning you don't necessarily need to use flour to thicken it.

Yukon Golds are another popular choice for scalloped potatoes because they hold their shape well when cooked. With their medium starch content and creamy, buttery flavor, they're a good all-purpose choice that works well in baked dishes such as scalloped potatoes both in terms of texture and taste. They might not thicken the sauce quite so much, but this can be fixed with a little extra flour.

While Russets do not hold their shape quite as well as Yukon Golds, this doesn't matter quite so much since the slices used for scalloped potatoes tend to be slightly thicker than those in au gratin. But whichever variety you use, just be sure not to rinse them before cooking, as that washes away the starch, which adds so much to the dish.

Experiment with ingredients to elevate scalloped potatoes

Creamy and comforting, tender scalloped potatoes are pretty much perfect as they are. But if you want to elevate them further, you could try incorporating different ingredients to boost the flavor and texture of the dish. There are several ways to upgrade potato dishes with a can of soup, and scalloped potatoes are no exception. Try using cream of mushroom or celery soup with a little milk to add a rich, complex flavor and gloriously thick consistency to the sauce as the layered potatoes bake in the oven.

Make traditional scalloped potatoes even heartier by layering chunks of leftover ham and Parmesan cheese with the sliced potatoes, garlic, and cream for a salty, umami-rich mouthful. Alternatively, try making it lighter by switching the heavy cream for tangy Greek yogurt and a little shredded sharp cheddar. To really play with the flavors, you could add some canned green chilis to bring the heat or go for jalapenos, spicy cheese, and cilantro for more of a Tex-Mex feel. 

Try adding extra vegetables such as shredded cabbage or grated carrots for extra texture and color. Try making spinach-artichoke scalloped potatoes to fuse the potatoes with the flavors of the classic dip. Or use equal amounts of Yukon Golds and sweet potatoes alongside fresh herbs and nutty gruyere cheese to make a next-level side.