Imagine biting into tender slices of perfectly cooked potatoes, layered with a velvety and creamy plant-based sauce, topped with ooey-gooey vegan cheese, and baked to perfection. This vegan au gratin potatoes recipe is ultra creamy minus the heavy cream and super cheesy without actual cheese, yet promises to leave you satisfied and comforted. You won't believe that this vegan potato gratin is dairy-free, as it is just as rich and indulgent as the classic version. These vegan au gratin potatoes are comfort food at its finest and a must-have on your next Thanksgiving dinner menu.
What are au gratin potatoes?
The term "au gratin" refers to a culinary technique where a dish is topped with cheese or breadcrumbs and then browned in the oven or under a broiler. The magic happens during cooking when the topping becomes golden and crispy while the layers below remain tender and melt-in-your-mouth.
In the case of Au Gratin Potatoes, this technique involves layering the potato slices in a rich and creamy sauce, often made with milk, cream, or cheese. In today's vegan potatoes au gratin recipe, I am excited to share a dairy-free alternative without sacrificing flavor.
Sometimes, people use breadcrumbs as well to achieve that desired crispy topping with an added crunch. I skipped the breadcrumbs in this Vegan Au Gratin and chose more cheese.
What's the difference between Au Gratin and Scalloped potatoes?
Many people are confused about scalloped potatoes and potatoes au gratin being the same thing. There is, however, a slight difference between these two.
Scalloped potatoes are baked with onions and creamy sauce. It is quite like potatoes au gratin, but it omits cheese. So, in essence, we make scalloped potatoes but add cheese to transform them into au gratin potatoes.
Au Gratin potatoes often have a browned, crispy crust on top, thanks to cheese. This crust is a hallmark of the dish. Scalloped potatoes, on the other hand, are prized for their creamy texture and usually lack this crispy layer.
Ingredients for Vegan Au Gratin Potatoes
Let's break down each ingredient required to make these dairy-free au gratin potatoes:
Yukon Gold and Red Potatoes – Yukon Gold potatoes are the best potatoes to make this vegan potato casserole because of their buttery flavor and firm, waxy texture. Moreover, this variety holds up well when baked, and thanks to their thin skin, there's no need to peel them.
Onion and Garlic – Sautéed onions and garlic serve as a base for the recipe. Onion imparts a sweet and aromatic flavor to the dish, while garlic lends a savory and aromatic note, enhancing its overall flavor.
Vegan Butter – Vegan butter is the secret behind the mouthwatering flavor and buttery texture of the creamy sauce. It helps create the roux, which thickens the sauce and provides a delightful buttery taste.
Flour – Flour is crucial to creating the roux. It thickens the sauce, giving it a creamy consistency and preventing it from being too runny.
Olive Oil – Olive oil is used to sauté garlic and onions. It adds a hint of fruitiness and depth to the dish's flavor.
Salt – Salt is a key seasoning that enhances the overall taste of the dish.
Unsweetened Coconut Milk – This dairy-free alternative to traditional cream or milk creates a creamy sauce. Please use unsweetened canned coconut milk. Otherwise, it will taste coconutty, but I promise it will not if you use the correct milk. You may use unsweetened "light" coconut milk if you want to cut down on the fat.
Vegan Smoked Gouda Wheels Cheese – The vegan Smoked Gouda cheese contributes a smoky and cheesy flavor to these potatoes "au gratin." I always use GOODPLANetFoods whenever I need vegan cheese for my recipes. You may choose another brand if you prefer to substitute the same amount in the recipe. I suggest you choose a smoked product because it gives the dish a fantastic flavor.
Nutritional Yeast – Nutritional yeast adds a hint of umami, a cheesy flavor, and a nutritional boost to the dish. It's a common ingredient in vegan cooking.
How to Make Vegan Au Gratin Potatoes
This dish takes a little more effort than many of my recipes. Slicing the potatoes into uniform shapes may be the most difficult part for you. However, with a mandolin, it is easy peasy. I will link my mini garlic mandolin that I love using for everything, below. This one is so easy to use and doesn't feel dangerous like a large mandolin. You will need to use care, but it comes with a guard and is much harder to cut your self than a classic. mandolin. This is an affiliate link, I will make commission from your purchase, thanks for supporting my work.
This dairy-free potato au gratin recipe takes a little more effort than many of my vegan recipes. Slicing the potatoes into uniform shapes may be the most difficult part for you. However, with a mandolin, it is easy peasy.
Here's a step-by-step guide to making this potato gratin:
Saute Garlic and Onions
Add the olive oil to a medium skillet over medium heat. Sauté the thinly sliced garlic and onions for about 5 minutes, stirring often until the onions become translucent and gain some color.
Add the vegan butter to the skillet and let it melt. After that, add the flour and combine it with the buttery onions and garlic. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent flour burning.
Prepare Creamy Sauce
Next, pour unsweetened coconut milk into the skillet. Stir or whisk thoroughly to avoid lumps in the sauce. Add water, salt, nutritional yeast, and pepper. Continue cooking, stirring often, until the mixture thickens and becomes creamy, which should take approximately 2-3 minutes. Once it reaches the desired consistency, turn off the heat.
Grate Vegan Smoked Gouda Cheese
Using a box grater, grate the vegan Smoked Gouda Wheels Cheese. This smoky vegan cheese adds delicious, savory depth to the dish.
Layer the Casserole
In a large oven-safe pan, layer the creamy sauce, smoked Gouda cheese, and thinly sliced potatoes, just like you assemble a lasagna. Make sure to save most of the sauce for the top layer. Sprinkle extra nutritional yeast and black pepper for added flavor. Once layered, cover the pan with tin foil.
Bake the covered casserole in the oven for 45 minutes. The covered bake allows the potatoes to cook and soften.
After 45 minutes, remove the tin foil to expose the top layer. Continue baking for 15 minutes. This extra baking time will create a beautiful golden-brown crust around the edges of this vegan potatoes au gratin.
Recipe Tips and Notes
Uniform Slices: When slicing potatoes, aim for thin, uniform slices. This ensures even cooking and a pleasing texture in the finished dish.
Prep Ahead: To save time, slice potatoes and onions in advance. Keep them in cold water to prevent discoloration.
Use a Mandoline: If you have a mandoline slicer, it can be a time-saving tool for achieving consistent potato slices. Here is a link to my mini garlic mandolin that I absolutely adore using for every dish. It is easy to operate and doesn't feel risky like larger mandolins. Although you should handle it with care, it comes with a guard and is much less likely to cause any cuts than traditional mandolins.
Make it Gluten-Free: If you need a gluten-free version, substitute regular flour with a gluten-free flour blend. This allows those with dietary restrictions to enjoy the dish.
Grease the Baking Dish: By applying this technique, you will create a non-stick surface on the bottom layer, which will make it much easier to serve the dish.
Other delicious vegan comfort food recipes
Vegan Au Gratin Potatoes
- 3 pounds Yukon gold and red potatoes cut thin
- 1 large onion sliced thin
- 3 cloves garlic sliced thin
- 4 tbsp vegan butter
- ¼ cup flour
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 ½ cups unsweetened coconut milk
- 7 oz vegan Smoked Gouda Wheels Cheese grated
- ½ cup water
- 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
- In a medium skillet over medium heat add the olive oil and fry the garlic and onions and cook for 5 minutes stirring often until onions are translucent and starting to get some color
- Add vegan butter and cook for 2-3 minutes then add the flour and combine with the buttery onions and garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes stirring constantly so that the flour doesn’t burn
- Add coconut milk, stir or whisk to avoid any lumps, add water, salt, nutritional yeast and pepper. Then cook stirring often until thick and creamy 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat.
- Grate @goodplanetfoods Smoked Gouda Wheel on a box grater.
- In a large oven safe pan layer the creamy sauce, smoked gouda and potatoes in 3 layers like a lasagna. Save the majority of the sauce for the top layer. Sprinkle with a little more nutritional yeast and black pepper. Then cover with tin foil and bake for 45 minutes
- Take foil off and bake an additional 15 minutes for some browning at the edges.