Healthier Potatoes Au Gratin

Three Things.

First thing: potatoes au gratin, as with nearly all things smothered in butter and cheese, is pretty much pure pleasure wrapped up into a casserole dish.

Second thing: France, originator of potatoes au gratin, is also pure pleasure wrapped up into…

…breathtaking countryside gardens…

…picturesque medieval towns that are a fairytale backdrop sprung to life…

…and Paris.  Somehow even more romantic under thunderous skies.

When I was in Paris a couple of years ago, I could duck out of the rain and into any café or patisserie – anywhere – and know that something warm, flaky, buttery, and unbelievably heavenly was waiting.

Third thing: I want to live in France.

But since that’s not happening any time soon, I can travel back there by recreating French-style dishes at home.

This is my Scrumptious Pumpkin (read: lighter) version of Potatoes Au Gratin. A new take on the classic dish, healthy enough to serve to your family any day of the week.

Care to escape with me?

Here are all the ingredients you’ll need.

You’ll also need a bit of milk, but I seem to have left it out of the photo.  Where was my head?  I have no idea.  Off in a French café, no doubt.

Preheat the oven to 485 degrees F.

Then begin by preparing the leek – just one is needed in this recipe.

Cut off the roots and the green leaves.

Thinly slice the white/pale green stalk.

Separate the layers and swirl in a large bowl of water.  Set them aside for a few minutes to allow any dirt to rinse away.

If you haven’t tried cooking with leeks yet, here’s why you should:

They taste wonderful.  They have a very light, delicate onion-y taste that compliments savory foods (like potatoes) perfectly.

And they’re very good for you.  Leeks have a lot of vitamin C (a strong antioxidant), calcium (to keep your bones and teeth healthy), and fiber (to help prevent cancer and heart disease).

Next, grab some potatoes and slice a notch from the bottom of your first potato.

Now you have a flat surface to set on your cutting board for stability.

Cut thin slices, aiming to keep the slices as evenly sized as possible.

Next, heat up some frozen cauliflower in a sauce pan over medium heat.

If you’re an organized person, I guess you’d like to thaw the cauliflower first.

I’m just guessing since that’s not really how I run my kitchen. Someday, I’ll post some photos of the disaster zone that is my kitchen at the end of a testing-a-new-recipe evening.

Add two whole cloves of garlic.

You’ll purée the whole mixture later, so no need to waste time chopping!

Season well with salt and pepper.

Cook until the cauliflower softens.

While that’s cooking, grate some sharp cheddar cheese.

I did leave the butter out of this recipe, but Au Gratin Potatoes are nothing without the cheese!

Turn off the heat and use a hand blender to purée the cauliflower and garlic (you could also transfer to a food processor to purée if you don’t have an immersion blender).

And you’ve just created a really thick sauce base that’s also really healthy!

A traditional sauce thickener, like melted butter and flour, has tons of calories and saturated fat.

This cauliflower version: no fat and very low calories.

Plus, you’re getting tons of nutrients.  Cauliflower is a superfood full of powerful antioxidants shown to protect against cancer.

Add some low-fat milk and a pinch of nutmeg.

And stir everything together.

Set aside about 1/2 cup of the grated cheddar, and add the rest to the pan.

Stir again – it’s extremely thick! (It will melt down later in the oven.)

Grab a casserole dish and place a third of the potatoes along the bottom.

Top with a third of the leeks.

Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange heaping spoonfuls of the sauce (about a third of it) over the potatoes and leeks.

Repeat this process twice.

Sprinkle a bit of cheddar all over the top.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake.

In the meantime, chop up the chives with some kitchen shears.  Or a knife would work if you don’t have kitchen shears.

After about 35-37 minutes, remove the foil and pierce the potatoes in the center with a fork.

If they’re tender and easily pierced, you’re ready to sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of cheddar over the top.  Then put the potatoes under the broiler (uncovered this time).

If not, cover them again with the foil and pop back in the oven for several more minutes.

About 3 minutes after you place the dish under the broiler, your Potatoes Au Gratin will have a bubbling, golden crust!

Sprinkle the chives all over the top and serve.

This dish is very filling and tasty.

Each bite has just a hint of cauliflower flavor, a perfect complement to the savory potatoes and leeks.

And there’s a lot of satisfying cheesy goodness in every bite too.

Try this, and in no time you’ll be digging into a warm plate of Potatoes Au Gratin – guilt-free!

Here is the complete printable recipe:

Healthier Potatoes Au Gratin
Recipe type: Healthy Side Dish
Total Time: Β 1 hour
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
  • 3 medium russet potatoes
  • 1 large leek, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 10-ounce bag frozen cauliflower
  • ¼ cup 1 percent milk
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1¼ cup freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chives, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 485 degrees F.
  2. Swirl the sliced leeks in a large bowl of water and set aside.
  3. Cut the potatoes into ⅛-inch-thick rounds.
  4. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the frozen cauliflower and the garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until cauliflower softens, about 5-7 minutes.
  5. Turn off the heat. Puree the cauliflower and garlic with an immersion hand blender (or a food processor).
  6. Add the milk and nutmeg and stir to combine. Β Add ¾ cup of the grated cheddar.
  7. Arrange one-third of the sliced potatoes along the bottom of a casserole dish. Add one-third of the leeks. Season with salt and pepper. Using heaping spoonfuls, arrange one-third of the cauliflower-cheddar mixture over the potatoes and leeks.
  8. Repeat this process twice.
  9. Sprinkle ¼ cup of grated cheddar over the top.
  10. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place in the oven. Cook for about 35 minutes.
  11. Test the potatoes in the center of the dish to see if all are fully cooked and easily pierced with a fork. If not: continue baking for another several minutes.
  12. When they are fork tender: remove the foil, sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup of cheddar over the top, and place under the broiler.
  13. Remove from the oven when the top is bubbling and golden, after about 3 minutes. Β Top with fresh chopped chives, and serve.

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  1. March 23, 2012 / 1:10 am

    Sounds positively yummy! Using cauliflower as a thickener… what a smart idea!

  2. March 23, 2012 / 1:11 am

    YUUUUUUUUUUM I was already hungry, now I won’t be able to sleep because I’ll be dreaming about your wonderful AuGratin! I was in Paris several years ago and loved every minute of it! I would love to go back some day!

  3. March 23, 2012 / 4:48 am

    Love your photos of Paris! I’m not typically a potato person, but I like the way you incorporated cauliflower in the gratin – I’ll have to give this a try.

  4. March 23, 2012 / 4:53 am

    This recipe looks great. I will have to try this version!

  5. March 23, 2012 / 7:43 am

    Looks so delicious! I definitely need to try this! And I agree…I LOVE Paris! So many great treats to be had there!

    • March 23, 2012 / 5:53 pm

      So many treats – including chocolate croissants for breakfast (one of my favorites when I was there) πŸ™‚

      • March 25, 2012 / 3:42 pm

        The chocolate croissants……I think I had one for breakfast every single day I was in France. The one’s here don’t even compare!!!!

      • March 27, 2012 / 2:31 pm

        That’s too funny. I had one for breakfast every day that I was in Paris as well! Don’t know when I’ll ever get back there, so I had to enjoy while it lasted!

  6. March 23, 2012 / 1:11 pm

    Can eat suds everyday … great gratin – love your photo of THE TOWER – brilliant!

  7. March 23, 2012 / 3:34 pm

    What a great idea! My kids would never even know there’s cauliflower hidden in there!

  8. March 24, 2012 / 2:09 pm

    I made this yesterday. Was really delicious. The cauliflower puree was really a new experience for me. Thanks.

  9. Jen C
    March 25, 2012 / 6:21 pm

    Looking forward to trying this. Great idea to use the cauliflower. I love cauliflower mashed potato, so I know the flavor will be fantastic.

    • March 27, 2012 / 2:29 pm

      Yes, I love cauliflower mashed potato too so I think you’ll be happy with this recipe. If you decide to try it, let me know how it turns out for you πŸ™‚

  10. September 29, 2012 / 5:50 am

    Yummy! You have wonderful blog. the pictures are so amazing. Would love come againg. thanks for sharing!

  11. July 8, 2013 / 8:12 pm

    This dish rocked our world tonight. My 3 year old son, who doesn’t like potatoes (crazy, I know!) scarfed it while telling me he really like it. My husband, who doesn’t like cauliflower, said this was the best cauliflower he’s ever had. Score! Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Jen Elizabeth's Journals
      July 9, 2013 / 10:42 am

      It makes my day to hear comments like this one πŸ™‚ Thanks so much for letting me know how the dish turned out for you – I’m so glad your family enjoyed it!

  12. Caitlin B
    May 26, 2015 / 10:56 am

    We didn’t love this. I think this is partially because the cauliflower didn’t cream up like I hoped. My immersion blender broke I had to use a processor. But I felt it also lacked flavor. We added extra cheese even. I made it with a flank steak with chimichurri and the chimichurri added to these potatoes was amazing though.

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