This vegan gravy has a meaty flavor from browned onions and an authentic gravy color achieved without adding any weird ingredients. This post is sponsored by Pompeian.
This vegan gravy is amazing. I swear, you would never know it didn’t originate from meat if nobody told you. That’s probably because my original inspiration for this gravy wasn’t from trying to make a vegan thing. It originated with my recipe for how to make gravy without drippings (which is great as a make-ahead gravy or if you’re deep frying a turkey and won’t have drippings). However, that recipe called for butter. One day I didn’t have butter and used a delicious olive oil instead. Vegan gravy was born!
Why Make Vegan Gravy?
Even if you’re not vegan there are good reasons that you might want to make vegan gravy for a dinner. It’s a quick and easy sauce to have on potatoes or just about any part of your dinner, and you can flavor it in many ways. But also, if you’re hosting a dinner and there are any vegetarians or vegans who will be attending, this gravy can be eaten by everyone. For instance, when I do Thanksgiving dinner, I cook a turkey and then have a whole bunch of sides that don’t contain meat. I know that my vegetarian guests can eat the sides and that my vegan guests can eat many of the sides. If I make a vegan gravy, then I also know that everyone at the event can pour the hot, delicious gravy over the food on their plates.
This gravy is made from olive oil in which you brown onions. All-purpose flour is then added to make a roux. You’ll be browning that really well to get nice color to your gravy. For some extra umami, you can add nutritional yeast to that. Or, a touch of soy sauce or vegan Worcestershire sauce can be added to the liquid later for some of that flavor. There’s also vegetable stock for the main liquid. You can use store-bought stock or broth, or homemade. Or see below for my amazing potato water trick.
There’s also some salt and seasonings in the mix. I really love poultry seasoning in gravy. Note that poultry seasoning is completely vegan and does not contain any chicken or other poultry ingredients. The word poultry here is referring to the herbs that traditionally go with poultry, not to the inclusion of poultry in the mixture. I would still check the label though just to be safe.
Gluten-Free Vegan Gravy
If you have people who are also gluten-free on your guest list, you can make a gluten-free gravy instead. You’ll follow the instructions below for sauteeing the onions. But then, you’ll switch to this gluten-free recipe that uses cornstarch to make a slurry out of cornstarch and water, which you’ll use with vegetable broth to finish off the sauce.
Using Potato Water For Broth
If I’m making mashed potatoes to have with the gravy, I make sure to use the water that the potatoes cooked in as the broth for my gravy. That’s because potato water has a lot of salt, but also really good starchy body from the potatoes cooking in it. Simply drain your potatoes over a large bowl instead of over the sink to catch that water. Then use the liquid in your gravy.
To make the potato water even more flavorful, I add carrots, celery, onion, and garlic to the potatoes before cooking them. Then I boil them as normal. When they’re done, I strain the liquid into that bowl. For the mashed potatoes, just pull out the carrots, celery, and any onion you can find (it’s totally fine if you don’t get it all) and then mash as normal. You get really flavorful garlic mashed potatoes AND you get vegetable stock for your gravy all in one! How great is that?
How To Make Vegan Gravy
(Printable instructions below.)
Cut 4-6 medium potatoes into quarters. (If you’re using store-bought or previously homemade vegetable stock, ignore all steps having to do with potatoes).
Put the potatoes into a medium saucepan along with two halved carrots, 1 halved rib of celery, 1/2 of a medium onion, 4 cloves of peeled garlic, and 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of salt.
Put enough cold water into the saucepan just to cover everything and heat over high until it reaches a boil. Then simmer until the potatoes are soft when pierced with a fork, about 8-12 minutes.
Meanwhile, chop the other half of the onion.
Pour 2 tablespoons of a flavorful olive oil into a medium skillet. It’s key to use an olive oil with flavor here because we don’t have the easy-to-obtain flavor of animal fat here.
Warm the olive oil over medium heat.
Add the chopped onions. Cook and stir occasionally until they’re softened and nicely browned, but not burnt, 5-7 minutes.
Remove from heat and add 3 tablespoons of flour.
Stir well. It will be like a paste with onions in it. Turn heat to low and cook stirring occasionally until it’s nice and brown.
When the potatoes are soft, set a strainer over a bowl and strain the potatoes so that the bowl catches the liquid.
There’s your potato-veggie stock! Taste it and make sure it isn’t too salty. You can always add salt but it’s hard to take it away. If it’s too salty, dilute with water, white wine, or store-bought unsalted vegetable stock.
Put the potatoes back into their pot and then use tongs to remove the carrots and celery from the potatoes. You can remove any bits of onion that you can see too but don’t worry if that gets left behind. And do leave the garlic cloves behind! They’re so good mashed into there!
Now let’s get back to our gravy base. Those onions, olive oil, and flour should be nice and brown now, the color of peanut butter nearly. Remove from the heat.
Measure the potato liquid into a two cup measuring cup. Pour a little bit, like 1/4 of a cup, into the onion mixture.
Add another 1/4 cup of liquid.
Slowly drizzle in all the liquid, stirring continuously.
Put the skillet over medium heat and bring it to a simmer over medium heat.
Reduce heat. Taste the gravy. Add salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning if desired. If the flavor isn’t as meaty as you’d like, add some nutritional yeast. Stir it in and taste again.
Set a fine mesh sieve over a medium bowl. Pour the gravy through the sieve to catch all the onions and any lumps.
This vegan gravy has good depth of flavor and good browned color from brown cooking onions and flour to darken them and add flavor.
Listen to learn how to make this recipe, along with some great tips from Christine:
- 4–6 medium potatoes, quartered
- 2 carrots, halved
- 1 rib celery, halved
- 1 onion, divided
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 and 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 Tbsp. flavorful olive oil
- 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 1–2 tsp. nutritional yeast (optional)
- 1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning (optional)
- Make the vegetable stock (and mashed potatoes): In a medium saucepan put the potatoes, carrots, celery, 1/2 of the onion, garlic, and salt. Add cold water just to cover the ingredients. Heat over high until it reaches a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until potatoes are soft when pierced with a fork, 8-12 minutes. Set a strainer over a medium bowl and strain potatoes through it, catching all the liquid in the bowl, set aside. Return potatoes to pot. Remove carrots and celery and any onion you can see and discard or eat as is. Mash remaining potatoes (for vegan mashed potatoes use olive oil instead of butter).
- Meanwhile, warm the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Chop the remaining half an onion and add it to the olive oil. Cook, stirring often, until softened and lightly browned, 5-6 minutes.
- Remove onions from heat. Stir in the flour. Return it to low heat and cook, stirring often, until it’s the color of peanut butter, 10-12 minutes.
- Remove onions from heat. Pour 2 cups of the potato liquid into a measuring cup with a spout. Pour about 1/4 cup into the onion mixture. Stir. Add another 1/4 cup. Stir again. Continue stirring and adding a little bit at a time until all the liquid is added.
- Return onions to medium heat and cook, stirring, until it reaches a simmer. Simmer it for a minute then reduce heat to low. Taste. Add nutritional yeast for meatier flavor. Add poultry seasoning if desired. Add salt and pepper to taste if desired.
- Set a fine mesh sieve over a bowl. Strain the gravy through the sieve. Discard the onions. Serve gravy.
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This post originally appeared in November 2018 and was revised and republished in June 2020.