The Best Vegetarian Gravy

I am a gravy drinker. WOW, that feels good to get off my chest. On my hips, maybe — but off my chest. I should probably be a little bit sorry, but I’m not. Remember in elementary school, how some of the kids who went on to peak in high school used to say, “Your mama’s so fat she thinks gravy is a beverage?” Well, that offended me. Not because my mama was fat or because I was. We weren’t, thanks. Not even because it is an empirically offensive thing to say. But because gravy is a beverage, and anyone who didn’t realize that should really have shut their gravy hole and stopped wasting my time.

I wasn’t that popular in high school.

I’m not saying that I would suck down a big-gulp size cup of gravy (or anything, for that matter) with a straw. But gravy is special. I usually like it more than the thing it’s poured on top of. So sometimes, especially now that I have a kitchen with doors that close to the rest of the house, I might skip the thing it’s supposed to be poured on and just sort of elegantly tip the spout of a personal-size gravy pitcher into my mouth. I figure it’s society’s problem that this isn’t considered an acceptable practice. Someday we’ll have a Constitutional amendment, and then our social and moral obligations will finally be aligned.

As you can see, gravy is important to me. That’s why I think you should trust me when I say that this vegetarian gravy (which you can make vegan, if you like) meets and even exceeds the standard for excellent gravy, period. It uses three different vegetable-based umami powerhouses — shiitake mushrooms, soy sauce, and marmite (trust me on this last one, you won’t taste it at all) — to make it every bit as savory and deeply delicious as a meat-based gravy.

You might think that the day after Thanksgiving is a strange time to post a recipe for gravy. And maybe it is. But let’s say you pitched in at your aunt’s house or wherever and took home your share of turkey (or not), stuffing, and mashed potato leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner. Probably you didn’t take any gravy. Even I would have been too shy in that situation to ask for a glass of gravy to take home on the plane or the train or the car. Well, why not whip up a quick batch of this lovely beverage…I mean proper topping for use sparingly as a sauce and sauce only? You could do it for the taste, or — you know — to fulfill your future Constitutional obligation. Whatever floats your gravy boat.

  • henry Doll

    Who knew you held such a dark secret!

    You sure went through quite an exercise to justify your gravy consumption addiction. Vegetarian gravy sure sounds incongruent on face, but I think you can simply, and guiltlessly dive into your passion by simply ceasing to call it gravy, and simply refer to it as ‘soup’.

    Just think about it, you could even start a trend – souping your foods!

    OK, you’ve given me the strength to also come out;
    Hi, my name is Henry, and I’m a gravy-aoholic!

    I’ve always been the Saucier to my friends and family, and always seem to arrive at just that moment when they look at the roasting pan and say, “hey, you want to make the gravy?”ReplyCancel

  • Justine

    Want to make it even better?? Sautee shallots or a bit of onion & garlic in that butter and add nutritional yeast in with that flour. Many of my family members prefer mine to the traditional giblet gravy my dad makes. Even the meat eaters!ReplyCancel

    • Justine, I definitely thought about adding a bit of shallot or onion, but wanted to keep it on the smoother side for Thanksgiving. I’m sure that (and the nutritional yeast — good idea!) would make it even more savory.ReplyCancel

  • This sounds like a delicious gravy recipe to try out. Thanks for making it available.ReplyCancel

  • Oh yes, you made me want to drink this.
    I’m making a late Friendsgiving dinner for a bunch of Australians this week and we’ve got a couple of vegos, so this is perfect!
    Do you think Vegemite might work in place of the Marmite or is that aggressive?ReplyCancel

    • Hi Leah, sorry to take so long to reply to your question. To be honest, I’ve never actually tried Vegemite. I’ve heard it has a stronger flavor, so I’m not sure, but I bet it would be okay. If you make it, would you mind reporting back? enjoy your Friendsgiving!ReplyCancel

      • I definitely think Vegemite is a little stronger and slightly funkier. I’m making it as I type and just added a tiny bit of Vegemite, maybe a 1/4 or a 1/3 of a teaspoon and it tastes pretty good! Still reducing, but we’ll see how it goes over later. Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • will have to try this great recipe!ReplyCancel

  • looks delicious and yummy! thanks for the great recipe! need to try this!ReplyCancel

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  • Mary

    Isn’t Marmite basically just MSG?ReplyCancel

  • Morgan

    Thanks so much for the wonderful recipe- I can’t wait to try it. Is this something you can make ahead of time??ReplyCancel

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  • Vanessa

    Is it possible to use fresh mushrooms instead of dried ones?ReplyCancel

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  • Marian Wagner

    Can I make this 2 days ahead of time?ReplyCancel

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  • cath

    Sounds and looks scrumptious! I have 2 vegan nieces coming to Christmas dinner, so I’m definitely going to try this out.
    What do you think of blending in the mushrooms instead of taking them out after soaking them? Can I make it in advance and freeze?

    One more…any suggestions for a delicious vegan main course?

    Warm Regards,


  • Hi Cath, I’m sorry, I just saw this now! I don’t think I’d blend in the mushrooms because they don’t get particularly soft even after all that soaking and simmering. Freezing should work out great, or just keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days and reheat gently.

    For a vegan main, how about something like Gena Hemshaw’s Vegan Lentil Shepherds Pie ( or Umami Girl’s Farro with Shiitakes and Broccoli (just omit the parmesan cheese) ( or Winter Squash with Quinoa and Spinach ( Good luck!ReplyCancel

  • And to all who have asked, YES, you can absolutely make this in advance. Will keep in the fridge for about 5 days or in the freezer for several months. Just reheat gently. I’ll add this information to the recipe notes.ReplyCancel

    • Palak

      I love this recipe and am going to try it for Friendsgiving that I’m hosting this weekend. I wanted to ask about making it in advance and keeping it in the fridge. You mention to reheat gently, what does that mean? Also, have you done it? Does the flavor change?ReplyCancel

  • Pam

    Found this today and made a half recipe. It is a terrific gravy, can’t wait to serve it tomorrow. I’ll be making the turkey, and traditional gravy, but we have a few vegetarians in the party, and I’m staying away from gluten. I used rice flour, and it worked fine. Thanks for a recipe I will use for years to come!ReplyCancel

  • Christina

    I just want to say that I made a variation of this for Thanksgiving dinner tonight and it’s the only gravy I’ve enjoyed since I gave up meat 5 years ago.

    I had to make a couple changes due to missing some ingredients (I omitted the mushrooms and yeast. Sauted some garlic and added a swanson flavor boost) but if I hadn’t found this recipe I would have been completely without gravy again this year.

    Of course, I have to say I won’t be saving it strictly for Thanksgiving! It’s SOOOOOOOOOOO good!

    I will definitely be acquiring the correct ingredients and trying it that way as well.

    Thank you so much!ReplyCancel

  • Allison

    I’m obsessed with this gravy.ReplyCancel

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  • Lauren

    Holy crap was this gravy good! I subbed nutritional yeast for the marmite based on some other recipes I’d seen – everyone (all meat eaters, myself included) loved it. I will 100% make again!ReplyCancel

  • […] perusing many recipes, I settled on Umami Girl’s ‘best vegetarian gravy.’ It called for Marmite, which they didn’t have at my local shop, so I substituted a […]ReplyCancel

  • Joan

    Carolyn, I can’t tell you how much this recipe has helped me! It is SOOOOOO delicious. I had just eliminated meat and dairy from my diet right before Thanksgiving. Being able to still have gravy that tastes THIS GOOD w/o meat is going to be a big factor in helping me stay on this path.

    Thanks so much!ReplyCancel

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  • I love this recipe, it’s worked out beautifully for me. I’ve played with it a bit, substituting ground porcini mushrooms for the shiitake, and it still tasted delicious.ReplyCancel

  • HO. LY. CRAP.

    This was amazing! I used it to make vegetarian Poutine and DEAR LORD. I used vegemite instead of marmite, though, and also chucked in a little bit of nutritional yeast flakes. I left the mushrooms in, as I could only find sliced shiitake, but they were delicious and didn’t detract from the recipe.

    Thank you so much!ReplyCancel

  • Stephanie

    Had to omit the mushrooms and yeast because my boyfriend refuses to go near fungi, and I didn’t have the marmite on hand. I really want to try it with those ingredients because it was so delicious without them! I baked pastry buns filled with mashed potatoes and veggie ground beef substitute and the gravy made the perfect dipping sauce. I wanted to drink it. @-@ Thank you for the recipe!ReplyCancel

    • Rob

      Can you please give me the recipe for the mashed potato stuffed pastry buns with veggie ground beef? It sounds delicious!ReplyCancel

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  • DangerCat

    Why does every vegan gravy recipe include soy sauce?ReplyCancel

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  • […] potatoes and wish that I had. This year is going to be different. In fact, I already made this vegetarian gravy from Umami Girl last night. And oh my goodness, I”m on this gravy train for life. While I […]ReplyCancel

  • Genesis

    Happy Thanksgiving!!

    Making this right now, but the vegan version!! So excited!!

    Will let you know how it turns out!

    Some tweaks: fresh shiitake and no marmiteReplyCancel

  • Erin

    Made this for our Friendsgiving for my veggie friends. Halved the recipe, though I still used the full amount of dried mushrooms for extra oomph. Sauted the shallots until slightly caramelized and don’t have marmite, so used white miso. Turned out great!ReplyCancel

  • Doreen Bracken

    My daughter and her partner are vegetarian and coming for Christmas dinner. Never made veg gravy before , so here goes! Hope its as nice as you say! Thanks. DoreenReplyCancel

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