Every Thanksgiving, I make vegetarian gravy. And every Thanksgiving, I BLOW PEOPLES’ MINDS at the thought, because I guess a lot of people don’t realize that vegetarian gravy is even possible. Of course it is possible! And there are as many variations of it as they are variations of meat-based gravy!
I guess you’ve gathered from this that I don’t eat meat. Correct! I don’t. I haven’t had Thanksgiving turkey since 1995, AND YET I STILL LIVE AND THRIVE! In fact, really, turkey isn’t even that interesting. There’s LOADS to eat on Thanksgiving. My plate is as heaped as anyone else’s, and it is covered in VEGGIE GRAVY.
You can find lots of recipes, but I’ve had a lot of people ask me to post mine. AND SO, THIS YEAR, I have. I even photographed the process so you could SEE.
Basically, gravy is just SOME LIQUID cooked down and thickened up with a roux. So if you want turkey gravy, you take the pan the turkey’s been in, you get all the juices and bits, you maybe mix in wine or what have you. You reduce, you had flour mixture. Etc. Vegetarian gravy is the same basic idea—you make a strongly flavored vegetable base and add a roux. THIS ONE has a MAGIC ingredient that SOUNDS terrible but is actually VERY GOOD. It’s called nutritional yeast, and it needs a better name immediately. Ask a vegan and he or she will nod knowingly. They all know the power of the N.Y.
This is adapted (barely) from The Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon, a book I HUGELY recommend. I started making this gravy loosely from her book, but I switched things around based on what I had in my house. So every year I end up doing it different. YOU SHOULD DO THE SAME.
6 cups of vegetable broth
about one head’s worth of unpeeled garlic gloves (I only had five cloves, so that’s what I used)
onion (I used two fat shallots. I like shallots better.)
a bay leaf
about one teaspoon of whole black peppercorns
1/4-1/2 cup of nutritional yeast* (see explanation below)
3/4 teaspoon paprika
3 tablespoons butter/olive oil/vegan butter substitute
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
AND BECAUSE I HAD THEM, BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO THIS:
a few sage leaves (maybe 4)
a few rosemary needles (maybe 4 or 5)
Here is a photo of all my ingredients ready to go. YOU DON’T NEED ALL OF THEM, as I said. I just wanted to take a group photo.
First, you’re going to make the BASE LIQUID. To do this, you take your vegetable stock and you put it in a BIG POT. (I was going to make homemade stock, but my freezer went out during the hurricane and I lost all the veggie scraps I store in there for this very purpose. So I used a vegetarian base from the store. Anything like this will do, any veggie broth. Just make sure it is STRONG in flavor.) Turn the heat on medium. Put the garlic cloves in unpeeled. Just drop them in the pot. Peel the carrot and just cut it in a few BIG pieces. Put those in the pot. Peel and chop your onion or shallots into big pieces. Into the pot. Stick the bay leaf in there. Take about a teaspoon of whole peppercorns and just crush them a little with the flat of a knife. Into the pot. Boom. This part is done. Takes about five minutes. Let that cook on a low to medium heat for 45 minutes or so, partially covered. (And feel free to mess around with this is you have other veggies around. For example, you have a little celery? Chuck a piece in there. One year I had a random turnip. It went into the pot.Got a spring of thyme? Into the pot.)
Basically, you are just making SOME BROTH.
Just PUT IT IN THE POT. Just CHUCK IT IN THERE.
IF YOU WANT MUSHROOMS…
I had some mushrooms. So I sliced them and put them in a pan with a bit of olive oil. I finely chopped the sage and rosemary leaves I happened to have and threw them in the pan. You could cook the mushrooms down in a tiny splash of wine. You could do the mushrooms totally plain as well.
Also, any mushrooms will do. I had creminis. Button mushrooms are fine (they release a lot of water while cooking, so just cook that out.) Shitakes are good. Oyster mushrooms are FANCY. I used about ten decently-sized mushrooms.
Mushrooms don’t take long to cook. Just move them around every few minutes, and they should cook down nicely in 10-15 minutes total. Take them off the heat and set them aside to add to the gravy when done. I put my empty pan back on the stove to use later in the process.
Or leave them out! This is YOUR GRAVY!
Got my mushrooms going, and my POT of STUFF cooking in the back.
It’s about 45 minutes later. Turn the heat off on your broth. Pluck the garlic cloves out and set them aside. You’ll need those. Strain the broth. All the veggies and stuff, they’re done. You don’t need them anymore. Take those garlic cloves and SQUEEZE out the goodness inside. Now you have DELICIOUS, SOFT garlic paste.
The garlic will have given up the fight and now look like this.
At this point, I use a blender, but you don’t have to. I’ll give two sets of instructions.
- BLENDER VERSION. Wait until the broth cools a little bit and put a cup or two of it in the blender. Put in the garlic cloves, the paprika, and the NUTRITIONAL YEAST. (Trust me, IT MAKES IT GOOOOOD.) Blend a few seconds until smooth. BACK INTO THE POT.
- NO BLENDER VERSION. Just mash/crash/trash the cooked garlic until it is really a PASTE and add it to the pot with the paprika and nutritional yeast. WHISK until smooth.
Now you are doing the CLASSIC GRAVY MOVE—you are making a ROUX. Put the flour and the butter (or oil, or butter substitute) into the pan, cook over medium heat and stir and keep it moving pretty constantly. In 2-4 minutes, the mixture will turn a toasty brown. This is your roux.
Add a cup or so of the broth into the pan and mix all together until SMOOTHY-SMOOTH.
Add the whole thing back into the pot and mix until SMOOTHY-SMOOTH. You want no lumps. YOUR GRAVY IS BASICALLY DONE.
Now you taste to see how it is. It will likely need some salt and pepper. Other things you can add:
- Not thick enough? Make some more roux the same way and add it in.
- Too thick? Add a little bit more broth.
- MORE FLAVORS YOU CAN ADD. Try SMALL amounts of soy sauce, vegetarian Worchester sauce, a spoonful of miso, a spoonfull of Marmite. Start with small amounts and keep checking the taste until YOU LIKE IT.
Throw in the mushrooms, if you used them.
BOOM. Done. Homemade gravy. And you can do this IN ADVANCE, unlike turkey gravy, SO BONUS!
(I didn’t take a fancy final photo. This is how you can tell I am not a PRO at this.)
* A WORD ABOUT NUTRITIONAL YEAST
Okay. So. I KNOW. Worst name ever. It sounds SUPER GROSS. But nutritional yeast is actually this really good thing that just needs a better name. I mean, we don’t call beer “Yeast Drink” and we don’t call bread “Yeast Loaf.” Nutritional Yeast should be called Gold Dust or Happy Flakes or something, but it is generally produced by hippies who like to keep it real, or by suppliers of things that don’t have time to make up fancy names for things. But trust me—NOT GROSS. A delicious addition. And it’s good for you, full of delicious B-12.
But if you can’t get it, don’t even worry about it. You can leave it out. But if you can, give it a try. You can get it at any health food store/Whole Foods kind of place, and I’ll bet big grocery stores have it now as well.