A gratin is traditionally a dish full of sliced or chopped vegetables topped with cheese and/or breadcrumbs and baked until tender and browned.
Gratins are where potatoes au gratin gets their name—so yes, plenty of cream and cheese are sometimes added to the mix. But as creamy and cheesy as gratins can be, they can also be layers of veggies flavored with herbs and topped with breadcrumbs. Gratins: they are legion.
They are a great tool for seasonal eating. Whatever vegetables you have on hand can be used in endless combinations and toppings to get plenty of seasonal produce on the table.
There are a bunch of recipes below, but you may not need one. Preheat an oven to 375°F (although gratins aren’t fussy—any hot oven will work if you’re cooking something else that needs a precise temperature). Liberally butter or oil a baking or casserole dish and set it aside. Thinly slice (or chop) your vegetable of choice. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and other root vegetables are all great options, as are various winter squash. Belgian endive is tasty and just needs to be cut in half lengthwise. (Come spring, asparagus can be layered in as-is, and once summer rolls around tomatoes and thickly sliced or just cut in half, as can zucchini.)
Layer in the vegetables, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, and then cover everything with grated cheese—gruyère, Swiss, parmesan, cheddar, gouda… really anything that melts—andor breadcrumbs. You can pour some cream or stock in with the vegetables before you add the topping if you like. You can also dot the top with bits of butter or a drizzle of olive oil. Then bake until the vegetables are tender and the topping is browned.
Vegetable gratins are endlessly flexible and customizable. Add spices or herbs. Use nuts instead of breadcrumbs. Combine different vegetables. Try some of our favorite gratin recipes from Edibles around the U.S. and Canada to get started.
This winter vegetable gratin from Edible Louisville takes the combination route for a beautiful effect (those beets! so pretty!).
While “gratin” makes many people automatically think of potatoes, sweet potatoes add color and sweetness to gratins, like this simple version. This sweet potato and leek gratin is rich with half-and-half. Or go even richer with cream in this recipe for sweet potato turnip gratin. Cayenne, smoked mozzarella, and caramelized onions add tons of flavor to this gingered sweet potato gratin. Or spice things up with a gratin of squash and chipotles.
Add color in a different way with a butternut squash gratin like this one featuring mashed squash, a bit of cream, and cheddar cheese—it stretches the definition of gratin for many people, but why quibble with something so orange and pretty and filling? Or try this gratin that combines squash with potatoes and apples for a mix of textures and natural sweetness.
A bechamel sauce enrobes everything in this gratin that features Swiss chard along with prosciutto and mozzarella. Or keep things simple with carrots and leeks cut into thin lengths that make a lovely tangled mess in a creamy sauce.
Kick things up a notch with a gratin of Belgian endives that are wrapped in ham, doused in cream sauce, and topped with cheese. A bit of pepper and nutmeg makes this a Belgian classic.
Go for something more modern like this fennel gratin, which includes a dash of surprising cinnamon that tastes divine with the light anise flavor of fennel.