Some recipes have to be made in order to be believed. Lay’s 3-ingredient potato chips au gratin was one of those recipes.
It sounded too good to be true. And too outrageous to be good. What did swapping out slices of fresh potato for Lay’s potato chips change about a gratin? The recipe was a dare. Would making it be a waste of time? I decided to find out.
Lay's recently issued a voluntary recall of select Lay's potato chips for undeclared milk. See if your bag of Lay's is part of the recall by reading the FDA announcement here.
Who Came Up With the Lay’s Potato Chip Gratin Recipe?
While reading a business article about PepsiCo’s new food development strategy in my weekend Wall Street Journal, I was surprised to find it came with a recipe. PepsiCo owns Frito-Lay, and Maria Soler, wife of PepsiCo’s CEO, developed some out-of-the-box recipes for Lay’s potato chips—including the potato chip gratin. It’s three cups of heavy cream, two bags of Classic Lay’s chips, and a hearty dose of Gruyère.
“Like a Weird Bowl of Potato Chip Cereal”
It's a crazy simple recipe, but I'm a busy lady. So I recruited my daughter to make the potato chip gratin after school one day. It seemed a good fit for her, a young person who enjoys snack foods and has limited patience for following recipes with more than three ingredients.
The recipe is a lot like traditional potatoes au gratin. The biggest difference is you skip the step of simmering raw potato slices in cream. Oh, and potato chips are fried. Huge difference there.
There were some speed bumps when we made it. After warming the cream, we dumped it over the potato chips in a bowl as instructed. To fit two bags of potato chips, had to use our biggest mixing bowl, a bloated size about the diameter of a monster truck tire. “It’s like a weird bowl of potato chip cereal,” my daughter said as she mixed the chips with the steaming cream with a giant wooden spoon. The chips quickly softened and lost enough volume to fit in a baking dish. She plopped cheese on top and shoved it in the oven.
Fifteen minutes later, the kitchen smelled amazing—of toasty potatoes and melty cheese. We let the gratin sit a few minutes before helping ourselves to samples. The first bite tasted of hot cheese; the second, of soggy stale potatoes. “The cheese is good,” my daughter said. But when we got to the potato layer, we set down our forks, completely uncompelled to eat more. “I felt very unhealthy after just one bite of this,” she reflected.
We gamely went back ten minutes later for another go. By then a pool of clear grease had formed in the bottom of the dish, the weeping tears of once-appealing potato chips robbed of their true potential. Our tentative forkfuls confirmed it. I tossed the remainder of the gratin in the compost and fondly recalled the boxed scalloped potatoes I grew up eating in the 1980s.
A box of Betty Crocker scalloped potatoes cost $1.99 at my local grocery store, the same store where I spent $25.16 on ingredients for the potato chip gratin. For her creativity, I tip my hat to Maria Soler. Clever at face value, this particular example of her work starring Lay’s is not destined to join the canon of classic potato chip recipes. To be fair, it’s probably inoffensive when served in small portions with a meal. But if I’m putting 541 calories in my body with one small serving, I want that food to totally blow my mind.
While this experiment soured my outlook on gimmicky potato chip concoctions, it didn’t tarnish my affection for potato chips on top of dishes. To me, tuna noodle casserole just isn’t complete without a generous topping of potato chips, preferably Ruffles.
I recommend that you enjoy potato chips in all of the ways that accentuate their best characteristics. Slip them into bologna sandwiches, dip them in French onion dip, or just snack and repeat straight from the bag. Just don’t blow 25 bucks on this gratin.
Lay’s Potatoes Au Gratin Recipe
Adapted from a recipe by Maria Soler in the Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2023.
- 2 (8-ounce) bags Lay’s Classic Potato Chips
- 3 cups heavy cream
- Garlic, black pepper, or nutmeg to taste
- 1 1/2 cups Gruyère grated cheese, divided
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Empty the potato chips into a large bowl. Seriously, the bowl needs to be REALLY big.
Put the cream in a medium saucepan. Add a little garlic, black pepper, or nutmeg. How much? I dunno, just wing it. Probably you’re just as well off not adding that stuff.
Over medium heat, warm the cream until it’s just under a boil.
Pour the warm cream over the chips. Gently stir with a large spoon until the chips are evenly coated. In just a few minutes they will soften and collapse like confused cereal.
Turn half of the wet chips into an ungreased 2 1/2-quart or 9x9-inch baking dish (there’s no point in arranging them nicely, so don’t bother). Sprinkle on half of the cheese. Top with the remaining chips, and then the remaining cheese.
Bake for 12 to 18 minutes, until the cheese is golden brown and bubbling. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving. Store leftovers in the compost and go buy a fresh bag of chips to snack on.