Sunday, December 8, 2013

Vegetarian Gravy:

Don't Worry, Carnivores...We Got This

Gravy. I absolutely love it. But it's not something I eat on a regular basis. For me, it's maybe two or three times a year. And most of that is consumed during the winter holiday season. That being said, when I do eat it, I do it with reckless abandon. Caloric value is of no concern to me when it comes to this stuff. I guess you could say I was livin' life in fat lane. Oops, typo there, I meant "fast" lane. 

Because gravy usually goes with some sort of meat based dish, it's rare to find one that is vegetable based. As such, it would appear that if we vegetarians want gravy, we have to look out for one another in this matter and create our own so we too can participate in all the holiday eatin'. My wife and I are, for the most part, the only vegetarians that we know. Fortunately, our friends and family are usually pretty accommodating when it comes to inviting us for dinner and we really do appreciate them for that. But we also don't feel it's right to expect them to do what they do. That being said, we're always prepared and happy to come armed with our own grub. So if mashed potatoes are on the menu, I don't mind whipping up my own gravy and bringing it along. Sounds weird, I know, but you gotta do what ya gotta do.     

Recently, we had the pleasure of getting together with my family to visit with some out-of-town relatives that we don't get to see too often. Lasagna was on the menu. My aunt actually made a separate lasagna dish with no meat just for my wife and I. She totally didn't have to do that but she did. My family are such thoughtful and wonderful people. 

Vegetarian gravy, conceptually, is really no different than meat gravy. Gravy, in and of itself, is basically a flavorful broth that's tightened up with a roux in order to give it that thickened consistency. The
obvious intention, in both meat based and vegetable based gravies, is to make the broth taste good. For me, the best way to do that in a vegetarian version is to incorporate that "umami" essence within your broth. That's what is going to give it that hearty, almost meaty, feel to it. Our umami in this recipe comes from two sources: soy sauce and mushrooms. And that's enough for me. In my humble opinion, I don't think you need the Marmites and the nutritional yeasts to get it right. I prefer to keep it somewhat simple. 

Note: The three fresh herbs in this recipe can often be found together in one package labeled "poultry mix". 

Note: People differ in how thick or thin they like their gravy. If the roux doesn't thicken the gravy to your satisfaction, mix a tablespoon or two in an equal amount of cool water, enough to make a slurry (one part to one part). Whisk the slurry, little by little, into your hot simmering gravy until the desired thickness is achieved. You may not need to add all of it so add it slowly until it's just right. 

Vegetarian Gravy


  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 10 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced 
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 4 cups of vegetable stock
  • 1 vegetable bouillon cube
  • 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 10 fresh sage leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
  • 1/3 cup flour


    1. In a dutch oven or heavy pot, heat the oil over a medium-high heat. Once oil is hot, add the mushrooms, onion, shallot, and garlic. Saute for 10-15 minutes until the vegetables are browned. 

    2. Once the vegetables have browned, add in the vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Now add the bouillon cube, poultry seasoning, white pepper, and soy sauce. Simmer on low for about 10 minutes.  

    3. Now add the water, thyme, rosemary, sage. Season with salt and pepper to your taste and simmer on low for an additional 10 minutes. 

    4. Remove the broth from the heat and strain through a sieve to remove all the solids. With the back of a wooden spoon, press the solids in the sieve to extract as much of the liquid that you can. Set the broth aside and discard the solids. 

    5. To make the roux, put your dutch oven back on the burner over a medium heat. Add the butter and melt. Once melted, add the flour and stir constantly for about 1-2 minutes, being careful not let the roux burn.  

    6. Now add you broth back into the dutch oven with the roux and whisk until fully incorporated. Bring the gravy back to a simmer. Let simmer for a few minutes to allow the gravy to fully thicken. 

    Makes: 12 servings

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