Scalloped Potatoes au Gratin gets a healthy make-over with parsnips, leeks and lightened-up cheddar cheese sauce.

light parsnip-potato-leek-gratin recipe | Healthy Seasonal RecipesMy experience with potato gratin (or scalloped potatoes) is limited. I don’t think I have made them since culinary school. I know my mom has made them on occasion for holiday meals, and I may have helped out. I don’t know the specifics really. I know there was probably a lot of cream involved, and several blocks of cheese layered in. Something along these lines.  I vaguely remember that they take a whole lot longer to bake than anyone ever thinks.

Being the health conscious girl that I am, my memories of them are not entirely pleasant either. I am always opting for a lower-calorie, lighter and healthier option, and potatoes gratin is as calorie dense as it gets.  Add to that, I have GERD, and fatty stuff like potatoes au gratin with heavy cream and tons of cheese is like eating a pile of tacks for me. I decided to change that with this recipe.

Potatoes au Gratin gets a make-over with leeks, parsnips and lightened up cheddar cheese sauce | Healthy Seasonal Recipes @healthyseasonalInspiration came in the CSA share (read about what a CSA is here) when we got a pile of mixed variety thin-skinned potatoes, parsnips and leeks. I decided to cut the ratio of potatoes in my gratin down and layer in the other vegetables for a twist on the classic. I figured the flavor of the parsnips and leeks would be really nice with ham, lamb or roast beef that you’d typically have at holiday meals.

Then instead of just layering in shredded cheese and cream I made a cheese sauce with low-fat milk and extra-sharp Vermont cheddar cheese. When you sub in low fat milk for cream, you can’t just pour it in and hope for the best because you run the risk of the milk and cheese “breaking” or curdling when it bakes. So it’s important to take the extra step to make a cheese sauce, thickened with flour. The starches in the flour will stabilize the milk and cheese so it won’t break at high temps. It works perfectly and will save you gobs of calories.

Light Potatoes au gratin with leeks and parsnips via Healthy Seasonal Recipes

Using a really sharp cheese means you don’t have to use as much to get all the cheesy flavor. I also boosted the flavor of the sauce with garlic, Dijon, nutmeg and 2 ounces of Parmesan for even more flavor. The gratin does take a long time to bake. So it helps to start it off covered, so the vegetables cook through. Once the cover came off, I topped it off with fresh breadcrumbs, seasoned with paprika for color and a little garlic powder. Finally a potato gratin recipe that I can love!

Do you ever make scalloped potatoes? What are your memories of them?

What do you like to serve with roasted meat?

What have you been getting in your CSA share lately?

Don’t miss this Ultimate Guide to Parsnips!

light parsnip-potato-leek-gratin recipe from Healthy Seasonal Recipes via @healthyseasonal

parsnip, potato and leek gratin

  • Author: Katie Webster
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 hours
  • Total Time: 2 hours
  • Yield: 12 1x
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American


Light scalloped potato or potato gratin recipe with parsnips, leeks and extra sharp cheddar. The serving size here is really generous, so if you’re serving several side dishes, this will serve more like 15 or 16 people!



  • 2 ¼ cup low-fat milk, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper, preferably white
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 6 ounces shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese, divided (1 ½ cups)
  • 2 ounces shredded Parmesan cheese (1/2 cup)
  • 3 pounds thin-skinned potatoes
  • 1 pound parsnips, peeled (about 2 medium)
  • 2 medium leeks, thinly sliced and washed
  • 2 slices bread, preferably sour-dough or mild whole wheat, crusts removed if desired
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9 by 13 baking dish (or similar size) with cooking spray.
  2. Heat 1 ½ cup milk and garlic in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until steaming.  Whisk the remaining ¾ cup milk, flour, mustard, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a medium bowl until smooth.  Whisk the flour mixture into the hot milk and continue cooking, stirring often until mixture bubbles and thickens, about 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and remove garlic cloves with a slotted spoon. Stir in 4 ounces (1 cup) cheddar and Parmesan. Whisk until smooth.
  3. Slice potatoes and parsnips into 1/8-inch slices using a mandolin or sharp knife.
  4. Spread 3 tablespoons of the cheese sauce into the bottom of the prepared dish. Layer in one third of potatoes, parsnips and leeks. Pour about one third of cheese sauce over the vegetables. Repeat with a two more layers of vegetables and cheese sauce. Cover with a layer of parchment and then foil, and bake until the vegetables are tender, 1 hour 40 minutes.
  5. Tear bread into pieces and process in a food processor until it becomes fine crumbs. Add oil, paprika and garlic powder and process until evenly moist and orange.
  6. Remove foil from the gratin. Sprinkle the remaining 2 ounces (1/2 cup) cheddar over the top. Spread the bread crumb mixture over the top. Return to the oven and continue baking until golden brown, about 20 minutes longer. Let cool fifteen minutes before serving topped with parsley.


Sat Fat: 4 grams. Protein: 11 grams. Sodium: 414. Fiber: 3 grams.


  • Serving Size: 1/12th casserole
  • Calories: 224
  • Fat: 6 grams