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Sweet Potato Gratin with Caramelized Onions

Scott Phillips

Servings: twelve.



  • 2 oz. (4 Tbs.) unsalted butter; more for the baking dish
  • 2 lb. yellow onions, thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt; more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, more to taste
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/2 Tbs. freshly grated orange zest (from 1 orange)
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne
  • 4 lb. sweet potatoes (about 5 medium)
  • 1 cup (4 oz.) pecan halves, toasted
  • 2 Tbs. fresh breadcrumbs
  • 2 Tbs. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Nutritional Information

  • Calories (kcal) : 360
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 230
  • Fat (g): 25
  • Saturated Fat (g): 12
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2.5
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 9
  • Cholesterol (mg): 65
  • Sodium (mg): 150
  • Carbohydrates (g): 31
  • Fiber (g): 5
  • Protein (g): 4


Cook the onions:

  • Heat the butter in a heavy-based 12-inch skillet over medium heat until it begins to foam. Add the onions, reduce the heat to medium low, and cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and nicely browned, 30 to 40 minutes. Season with the 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.

Assemble the gratin:

  • Meanwhile, put the heavy cream, thyme, orange zest, and cayenne in a 2- to 3-qt. saucepan. Bring to a boil, remove from the heat, and steep for 15 minutes. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs.
  • While the cream is steeping, peel and cut the sweet potatoes crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices (use a mandoline if you have one).
  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and another rack directly below. Heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 9×13-inch baking dish. Arrange about one-third of the sliced sweet potatoes in a double layer on the bottom of the dish, slightly overlapping the slices in each layer. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Spread half of the onions over the potatoes and drizzle about one third of the cream (2/3 cup) over the onions. Arrange another third of the potatoes in two more overlapping layers and season lightly with more salt and pepper. Spread the remaining onions over the potatoes and drizzle another third of the cream over the onions. Use the remaining sweet potato slices to make two final layers. Press down on the layers with your hands to compact and flatten them. Season lightly with salt and pepper, and drizzle the remaining cream over the potatoes, trying to cover them as much as possible.
  • Put a foil-lined baking sheet on the lower rack to catch any drips. Cover the gratin tightly with foil and bake on the center rack until the potatoes are almost tender but still offer a little resistance when pierced with a fork or skewer, about 1 hour. Remove the foil and bake until the sweet potatoes are completely tender and the top is lightly browned and bubbly, 30 to 40 minutes.
  • While the gratin is baking, put the pecans, breadcrumbs, and Parmigiano in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Raise the oven temperature to 375°F. Cover the top of the gratin with the pecan mixture and return the baking dish to the oven. Bake until the top is lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Make Ahead Tips

The onions can be made up to 3 days in advance. Transfer them to a bowl, cover with plastic, and refrigerate. The gratin can be baked up to 1 day ahead to the point of adding the breadcrumb topping. Reheat at 375°F until bubbling and hot throughout, about 20 minutes, and then add the topping and bake 10 minutes more.


 Not sure how to use a mandoline? Check out our instructional video.


Rate or Review

Reviews (15 reviews)

  • ljskitchen | 12/31/2017

    Used a mandolin which made this so much easier to prep and make ahead. Delicious flavors! Take your time with the onions. Also, I used the “white” sweet potatoes, not orange yams. Would be good either way. I used more parmigiano than called for and I bought it from our local cheese shop, so it was very fresh. I served this alongside beef tenderloin, but wouldn’t hesitate making this for Thanksgiving.

  • CassieS | 11/15/2009

    This has become a mainstay at my Thanksgiving dinners. I particularly like the "make ahead" aspect of the dish, I make this the day before and it keeps well. Give it a go, the recipe works well!

  • carolyn807 | 12/22/2008

    I liked this recipie and the overall taste - my only complaint is that my carmelized onions clumped together after cooking and it was very difficult to sprinkle them evently in the layers as directed. Some bites had no onion despite my best effors while other had too much.

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