This wonderfully savory vegetarian gravy (with easy vegan option) has been one of our most popular recipes for years. These days, we choose it over meat-based gravies all the time because it tastes even better and can be made in advance.
Why we love this recipe
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.
What is vegetarian gravy made of?
Here's a glance at the ingredients you'll need to make our vegetarian gravy recipe. (And also a glance at the weird faces I make on video, a free bonus with your free purchase of this recipe.) With just a few ingredients, opt for good quality ones wherever possible.
- Dried shiitake mushrooms are an umami powerhouse that infuse this gravy with depth of savory flavor. I don't think of this recipe as "mushroom gravy" per se, since it's widely applicable. But technically it is! Dried shiitakes are pretty widely available at your local Asian grocer, Whole Foods, and even World Market. Or grab them online here.
- My favorite vegetable broth is Imagine brand "No Chicken" broth (especially the lower-sodium version). This broth has a great flavor profile and a bit of heft, and it's as flexible to use in recipes as a really good chicken broth.
- A touch of the English condiment Marmite adds terrific savoriness to this gravy. You won't taste it, but it makes all the difference. You can use the same amount of the Australian Vegemite instead if you have that on hand. The two are different, but they serve a similar purpose in this recipe.
- A good-quality lower-sodium soy sauce adds another layer of savoriness.
- A minced shallot and dry white wine are optional.
How to make it
Here's what you'll do to make this recipe. You can see all the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post. And find all the details in the recipe card below.
- The first step is to let the shiitakes infuse their flavor into the vegetable broth. Bring it to a boil and then let is sit for at least 30 minutes. You can do this step well in advance if you like. It only gets better over time. Reserve the broth and use the same pot for the next steps to minimize cleanup.
- Then you'll melt the butter and simmer the minced shallot for a minute if you're using it.
- Make the roux by adding the flour and cooking for a minute or two until it's thick and foamy.
- Add the broth, shiitakes, and flavorings and simmer until it's nice and thick. The whole thing can be made up to a couple of days in advance if you like and reheated before serving. This can be a big help on busy holidays.
Expert tips and FAQs
We like to make our vegetarian gravy with butter, but it also tastes great when made vegan with a good olive oil or vegan butter. That's the only change you'll need to make to this recipe! Both Marmite and Vegemite are vegan.
Sure can! Since it keeps well and isn’t dependent on meat drippings, this is a great part of the holiday meal to make ahead. It keeps well in the fridge for several days.
Vegetarian gravy can be a bit of a confusing concept since most traditional gravy recipes are made from the pan drippings when you cook meat. But there's no reason that vegetarians can't eat gravy when it's made instead with flavorful vegetarian ingredients like the ones in this recipe.
It's a funny thing to say, but over the years I've gotten so many messages from readers saying that this vegetarian gravy recipe has changed their lives. That, in turn, brings me great joy. It's not a cure for cancer, but it's not nothin.
- 8 cups (1893 ml) good vegetable stock (or 7 cups stock and 1 cup good, dry white wine)
- 8 dried shiitake mushrooms
- ½ cup (112 grams) butter (to make it vegan, substitute a good olive oil or Earth Balance)
- 1 minced shallot, optional
- ½ cup PLUS 3 tablespoons (83 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ tablespoons (22 ml) soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon Marmite
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Pour the vegetable stock into a medium pot and drop in the shiitakes. Bring stock to a boil over high heat, then remove from heat and let mushrooms steep for 30 minutes. Pour stock and mushrooms into large spouted measuring cup or bowl, and wipe out the pot with a paper towel.
- Add the butter to the empty pot and melt over medium-high heat. If using the shallot, add and cook for a minute or so, whisking once or twice. Add the flour and cook, whisking, until it turns very lightly golden, about two minutes.
- Pour in the stock with the mushrooms in a stream, whisking the whole time. Add soy sauce, marmite, and a few grinds of pepper.
- Bring stock back to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until gravy is reduced by almost half, about 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt and additional pepper if desired. Remove mushrooms before serving.
- Since it keeps well and isn’t dependent on meat drippings, this is a great part of the holiday meal to make ahead. You can make the whole recipe up to a few days in advance if you like and reheat before serving. Or you can do step one in advance and make the rest of the gravy closer to serving time.
- I prefer the flavor when a bit of butter shines through from the roux, but it also tastes great when made vegan with a good olive oil.
- The Australian condiment Vegemite is also fine to use instead of Marmite if that's what you've got. The two are different, but they both do a good job in this recipe.
- This recipe is great for meat-eaters' Thanksgiving leftovers, too, if you've run out of turkey gravy.
- Adapted from a simple turkey gravy developed by Serious Eats editor J. Kenji López-Alt.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 105Total Fat: 7.8gCarbohydrates: 8.3gFiber: 0.5gProtein: 1g