This holiday staple doesn’t need to be full of meat to be packed with flavor.
Everyone should be happy around the Thanksgiving table. That’s why we’ve come up with a deeply savory, super-satisfying vegetarian gravy that’s guaranteed to please everyone at your feast—no matter their dietary preferences. Get the recipe for The Best Vegetarian Gravy, and read about why it works below.
Our simple gravy recipe gets its complex, rich flavor from a combination of ingredients that are rich in umami, the “fifth taste” identified by the Japanese as the essence of deliciousness. The prime example of umami is cooked meat, which is why traditional gravy has so much flavor. But in our vegetarian version, the complexity of taste comes from mushrooms, red wine, caramelized onions, nutritional yeast, and soy sauce—all of which contain umami. If you want to enhance the flavor even further, try making a vegetarian stock with other umami-rich ingredients, such as kombu seaweed, tomatoes, or Parmesan cheese.
Get a Head Start
Gravy improves with time—and holds up well to freezing—so make it up to three days ahead to give the flavors time to develop. Before serving, reheat the gravy over a double boiler or in a microwave. Taste and season again with salt, if necessary.
Many conventional gravies use thickeners like flour or cornstarch, but ours is pure vegetables with no filler (and is naturally gluten free). Because it gets blended before serving, you don’t have to worry too much about cutting the vegetables to a uniform size. Just note: If you want your gravy very thick, start with only two cups of the stock, and gradually add more as needed after blending.
Achieve the Perfect Tan
Although it’s made of mushrooms and browned onions, the gravy can appear a bit grayish once it’s blended. In order to make it look as delicious as it tastes, it needs a warm brown color, which is where the soy sauce comes in. Soy and salt work together to bring different layers of flavor to the gravy—so, get the gravy to a good color using the soy sauce, and then taste and finish seasoning with salt. For the most impact, use the darkest soy you can find.
Nutritional yeast is a seasoning with a savory, cheesy taste that rounds out many vegetarian and vegan recipes. The yeast comes from the same family as edible mushrooms, which perhaps explains why it has such a full, earthy flavor. Here, nutritional yeast (which can be found at any natural foods store) makes a remarkable difference in rounding out the flavor of the gravy.
Stock is one of the most important ingredients in gravy, so if you can spare the time, it is worth the effort to make your own from scratch. Purchase extra onions, mushrooms, and garlic for the gravy, throw in a carrot and a celery stalk, and you’ve got material for a flavorful stock. Coarsely chop the vegetables and throw them into a quart or two of boiling water along with a small handful of whole peppercorns, a bay leaf, and a tablespoon of nutritional stock. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, then strain and salt to taste.