13 Ingredient Additions For Delicious Loaded Scalloped Potatoes

Scalloped potatoes — they're comforting, they're creamy, they're cheesy, and — if we're being real — they're a labor of love to make. Even with a mandoline slicer, it takes time to cut the potatoes into perfect little rounds and then layer these rounds into a casserole-like dish ... yet we do it time and time again for one crucial reason: Scalloped potatoes are absolutely delicious.

Regardless of the labor involved, scalloped potatoes don't often require extraordinary ingredients or too much creativity, but we're looking to switch that up. There's nothing wrong with sticking to a tried-and-true recipe and repeating it for holidays, dinner parties, or potlucks to come, but wouldn't it be nice to upgrade the ultimate scalloped potatoes into something even more magnificent? 

The traditional dish already has plenty of savory, creamy, and cheesy flavors packed in, but with a few clever ingredient additions, there are numerous ways to add more flavor to scalloped potatoes, and with virtually no extra effort. Whether you're looking to layer new goodies in with the potatoes themselves, or you want to top off your serving of scalloped goodness with something exciting, these ingredient additions — ranging from herbs to caramelized onions to kimchi — will help transform your spuds into a dish that is totally loaded, or at the very least enhanced. 

Switch up your choice of cheese

Old-fashioned scalloped potatoes include some sort of cheese, with the usual suspects like cheddar and Parmesan topping the whole dish. There's certainly nothing wrong with these cheeses — in fact, we'd go as far as to say that it'd be criminal not to include Parmesan cheese in your scalloped potatoes. That said, there is certainly room for experimentation when it comes to the cheese you choose for your next casserole; even if you just venture from mild cheddar to sharp, you're already taking the first step in getting more creative with a classic dish.

With so many types of cheese out there, it can be hard to pinpoint which ones would work best in scalloped potatoes. If you're looking for something to sprinkle between layers of potatoes and creamy sauce, then you'll want sometime that shreds easily and melts well — Gruyère, Monterey Jack, or pepper Jack are all good options in this scenario. You could even go with a blend of cheeses like Swiss with Gruyère, or mix up mild, sharp, and extra-sharp cheddars to create an ultra-cheesy potato dish.

As for the choice of cheese to sprinkle on top, you really can't go wrong with Parmesan, though you could omit it and use extra cheddar instead. Another good garnishing cheese would be Pecorino Romano, which would add a tangy element to your finished dish. 

Bacon gives scalloped potatoes salty goodness

When you think of a loaded potato, there's a good chance that bacon is involved in some capacity. So, if you're looking to make loaded scalloped potatoes, it only makes sense that you'd add bacon to the mix. Keep in mind that you'll want to fully cook and crumble the bacon before layering it into your potatoes, so there is a little bit of advance planning (and a little bit of extra cooking) involved with this one. That first bite of bacon-loaded scalloped potatoes will prove why the extra effort was worth it, of course. 

If classic American bacon isn't your salty meat of choice, then we've got good news — just about any of the many types of bacon would work in scalloped potatoes. Looking to add a more sophisticated edge to your side dish? Then go with something like guanciale or pancetta, which will add a nice salty flair and meaty bite. You could also opt for bacon's close cousin, ham, in case you want to add a meaty element but don't want something too salty. You could even use vegan bacon if you wish to keep your scalloped potatoes vegetarian — just try to get the strips as crispy as possible before chopping them up and sprinkling them into the mix.

Incorporate herbs for fresh flair

When considering the prospect of making loaded scalloped potatoes, it's easy to envision piling on even more rich, creamy, salty ingredients — and, to be fair, these types of ingredients do make for awfully tasty potatoes. If you're more after something to cut through all of that creamy goodness, then herbs are the perfect solution. Not only will herbs provide an air of freshness for your dish, but they'll also add a vibrant pop of color to help cut through all of the shades of beige ... and while that's maybe not the most important thing, with a dish as refined as scalloped potatoes, appearances do matter.

Of course, the biggest influence that herbs will have on your potatoes is in the flavor department. To stay on the loaded potato theme, something like chives would be the ideal herb option to either sprinkle into the layers or use as a final garnish. If you don't have chives on hand, then green onions or scallions would work in a similar fashion, and taste very similar as well.

Other herb options include thyme, rosemary, oregano, or parsley, and which ones you use ultimately comes down to personal preference. While some especially flavorful herbs like cilantro or basil may be tempting to include, it's best to stay away from those with this dish, as their strong tastes might clash a little too much with the savory, cheesy flavor of the potatoes themselves. 

Add diced jalapeños for a kick of heat

Scalloped potatoes are beloved for many reasons, but being spicy isn't typically one of them. But hey, just because the classic dish doesn't call for heat doesn't mean that spice fans out there can't incorporate some into the mix. Now, there are a few ways to make a dish spicy, but for something like scalloped potatoes (which will spend a decent amount of time baking in the oven), hot peppers are definitely on the table. 

Perhaps the most versatile hot pepper out there is the jalapeño, which certainly packs a spicy kick without being so hot that you can't take another bite. Jalapeños are the perfect inclusion for scalloped potatoes because they add just the right amount of heat without taking away from the savory flavor profile of the dish. Simply dice the jalapeños up finely and sprinkle them across the potatoes as you layer the casserole. You could even mix the diced peppers right into your cream sauce to save a little bit of time.

No fresh peppers on hand? No worries — you can still add heat to scalloped potatoes with canned green chiles. That's right, those little cans that you might reserve for taco night or enchiladas might just hold the secret spicy kick that your scalloped potatoes have been missing all along. 

Sprinkle seasonings into scalloped potatoes

Seasoning your food may seem like a no-brainer, but in a dish like scalloped potatoes, it can actually be quite easy to overlook the flavor potential that spices and seasonings have to offer. Instead of simply sprinkling your potatoes with salt and pepper and relying on the cheese to do the rest, you can build some real flavor complexity with just a few shakes of garlic powder, cayenne pepper, or oregano.

Some less obvious seasoning inclusions include both smoked paprika and nutmeg. The former will add a subtle smokiness, whereas the latter will add a slightly sweet and nutty undertone that will really upgrade the potatoes with very little effort. Another seasoning option is nutritional yeast, which will not only make your potatoes a tiny bit more nutrient-dense, but it'll also add extra cheesy goodness to an already cheese-forward dish. You can sprinkle on the nutritional yeast between layers of potatoes and sauce, or you can mix some directly into the sauce. 

Make scalloped potatoes extra creamy with dairy delights

Scalloped potatoes are inherently creamy. The classic recipe features a thick, milk-based sauce that is layered throughout the sliced spuds. That said, no one's ever complained about scalloped potatoes being too creamy, so there's plenty of room to up the creamy factor beyond the classic onion-infused sauce.

An easy way to increase the creaminess of your casserole while adding a little extra complexity is to incorporate ingredients like sour cream or crème fraîche into the mix. Not only are these both ultra-creamy foods in their own right, but they each bring a certain level of tanginess to the table, something that traditional cream sauces typically don't have. You can simply dollop spoonfuls of sour cream or crème fraîche right onto a layer of potatoes, perhaps spreading it out a bit to ensure even distribution.

If you don't want to add tanginess to the dish but do want extra creaminess, then perhaps cream cheese will be your solution. Though cream cheese is ever-so-slightly tangy, it's mostly mild and creamy, making it a great contender for scalloped potatoes. Your best bet with cream cheese is stirring some right into the cream sauce, so that it has a chance to melt, or waiting until a block reaches room temperature so that it's spreadable. 

Punch up the acidity with kimchi

Kimchi, a popular Korean food that pairs well with all sorts of savory dishes, may not be the first thing you think to add to scalloped potatoes. In fact, it may not cross your mind at all, simply because kimchi has a flavor profile that is drastically different from creamy, cheesy potatoes — but that's exactly why it pairs so well. 

On its own, kimchi is a very punchy ingredient, bringing a pop of acidity, sourness, freshness, and crunch to foods that are perhaps lacking in such flavor departments. Kimchi also tends to have a spicy kick to it, which is another flavor that scalloped potatoes can't claim. Essentially, you can really up the flavor complexity of your scalloped potatoes with a single ingredient, and after several bites of ultra-rich, soft potatoes, the sour crunch of kimchi will be a welcome complement.

If you're a big fan of kimchi, you could go all in and layer the fermented cabbage throughout the entire casserole. Other options include using kimchi as a final garnish to retain its cool crunchiness, or simply serving a small bowl of it on the side so that you can get that perfectly balanced potato-kimchi bite. 

Make scalloped potatoes meaty with beef or pulled pork

We've already covered ways you can incorporate something like bacon or pancetta into scalloped potatoes, but what if you want to make it even meatier? Well, fortunately, there's really no stopping the amount of meat you can pack into this dish, so cooking up something like ground beef and layering it into the casserole is a viable option. Not only will this bulk up your scalloped potatoes, but it will also help transform what is typically a side dish into something that more resembles a main course (though you certainly can still serve it as a hearty side dish). If you go the ground beef route, be sure to cook the meat fully before you load it into your scalloped potatoes.

Making your scalloped potatoes meaty also opens the door for using leftovers in a clever way. Have some extra pulled pork from the sandwiches you made the night before? Load those leftovers into your casserole! Couldn't figure out how to put the rest of that rotisserie chicken meat to good use? Chicken and cheesy potatoes are a match made in heaven, so instead of serving them separately, just go ahead and pile that leftover chicken right into your baking dish. 

Mix Dijon mustard into the cream sauce

Before you close this tab in absolute disgust over the thought of adding mustard to scalloped potatoes, just hear us out for a minute. We're not suggesting that you slather your portion of potatoes with a huge squirt of yellow mustard; instead, we're suggesting that you mix a little bit of Dijon mustard into your cream sauce. And by a little bit, we're talking just 1-2 tablespoons, depending on the amount of sauce and potatoes that you're working with.

So, why would you add Dijon to your cream sauce? Well, we've already established that scalloped potatoes are a super-creamy dish, and there really aren't any acidic ingredients cutting through that richness, which is exactly where Dijon comes into play. Perfectly vinegary without being overbearing, Dijon mustard offers just the right pop of acid to help cut through the cream sauce without diminishing its decadence. Even if you're a skeptic, just try adding a tiny dollop of Dijon the next time you make scalloped potatoes for a more refined result. 

Load up scalloped potatoes with vegetables

Without a doubt, scalloped potatoes are a decadent dish — but that doesn't mean that you can't load up on vegetables while enjoying a forkful of creamy goodness. Instead of pairing your scalloped potatoes with a side dish of roasted vegetables or a leafy green salad, why not combine the two into one cohesive dish?

We're not suggesting that you toss just any veggie into your casserole dish and call it a day, but when you think about it, there are plenty of ways to stealthily incorporate vegetables into scalloped potatoes without anyone necessarily noticing. For the most nondescript means of getting veggies in, greens are your best bet — think spinach or kale layered between the potatoes. The best way to incorporate these greens would be to mix them into your onion sauce while preparing it, but only just after you turn off the heat; this way, the greens have a chance to wilt, but won't become so cooked through that they turn to mush. When layered strategically, every bite of potatoes will have a little nibble of spinach or kale in the mix, but the taste won't really be affected.

If you don't mind a little more flavor from the veggies, then plenty of opportunities await beyond wilted greens. Corn, bell pepper, zucchini, broccoli, and cauliflower are all ingredients that could enhance your batch of scalloped potatoes. Essentially, any vegetable that you think would pair well with creamy potatoes is fair game here. 

Add a crunchy element with a breadcrumb topping

While the texture of scalloped potatoes is far from boring, it's not the most diverse texture out there — after all, it's pretty much just soft. A good way to make your potato dish a little more interesting is by adding another textural element, and you are guaranteed to add just the right amount of crunch with a breadcrumb topping. Perhaps most similarly found atop baked mac and cheese casserole, breadcrumbs might be just what your scalloped potatoes are missing, providing crispy-crunchy goodness that ultimately doesn't compromise the soft, chewy integrity of what lies beneath.

Even if breadcrumbs aren't your thing (or you are trying to keep the dish gluten-free), the potential for a crispy crust on your scalloped potatoes is still a reality. Potato chips are a viable option; you just need to crush them up and sprinkle them on top of your casserole when it's mostly done baking. Corn flakes could also work, but again, crush them up and perhaps mix them with a little bit of butter, Parmesan, and seasoning before sprinkling them atop your nearly finished scalloped potatoes. 

Cut through the creaminess with salsa

If you've ever enjoyed a serving of scalloped potatoes and wished there was something bright, juicy, and perhaps a little bit spicy to cut through that richness, then add salsa to scalloped potatoes for a fresh burst of flavor. Yes, salsa — as in the kind you dip your tortilla chips into — is a viable complement for scalloped potatoes. Not only does it provide a vibrant, colorful garnish for your dish, but it also adds just the right pop of acidity.

Depending on your preference, there are quite a few types of salsa that you can consider dolloping onto your scalloped potatoes. A homemade pico de gallo would add optimal freshness; larger chunks of tomatoes would add a certain juiciness that will pop alongside the savory potatoes. A less-chunky salsa roja would work well, also providing just the right kick of spice to amp up the dish without turning it into something too heat-forward. You can experiment and choose your favorite salsas as you please — since you'll be adding this as a garnish, simply follow your taste buds to find the perfect match.

Incorporate caramelized onions into scalloped potatoes

If you've made scalloped potatoes before, then there's a good chance that onions were already part of the mix — likely sautéed in a pan before you build the cream sauce. For those who can't get enough onions, or anyone who wants to make scalloped potatoes even more decadent, then caramelized onions are the secret weapon to taking your casserole up a notch or two. Yes, this ingredient inclusion will take some extra time and planning — the top tip you need for caramelized onions is to avoid rushing them — but there's simply no denying that the results will be well worth it.

Buttery, rich, and a little bit sweet, caramelized onions pair perfectly with cheesy potatoes, so it only makes sense to layer them into scalloped potatoes. You could also opt to make them a final garnish, so that the integrity of the classic dish remains intact, while a little twist comes into play upon serving. French onion scalloped potatoes? We truly can't think of anything more delicious.