Simple to make and packed with mushroom umami, this vegan gravy is the perfect go-to gravy recipe no matter how you eat.
What Is Vegan Gravy Made Of?
Gravy comes from the French word "gravé" and it's traditional technique of using a roux (fat and flour thickening method) definitely stems from French cooking. A traditional gravy will use the pan drippings and stock made from what the main meal (typically meat) was made from. So how do we make a meatless gravy that packs as much flavor and leaves us craving more? The secret is Umami.
What Is Umami?
In Japanese, the word "umami" is translated into "essence of deliciousness". I think that says it all! Umami is that mysterious je-ne-sais-pas of flavor that hits you over the head. It is considered the 5th palate sense along with salty, sweet, bitter, and sour. Umami is often described as a "meaty richness", and so- you guessed it- is the way we can make a vegan gravy taste as delicious and craveable as a meat one.
The Ingredients That Add Umami
Here's a list of my must-have pantry ingredients that bring the flavor of umami into many dishes. I don't use them all in the gravy, but these great flavor adds can sit in your pantry or refrigerator for months at a time and will become automatic flavor boosters in your recipes.
- Dried Shiitake Mushroom Powder: All mushrooms add umami. The more varied your fresh mushrooms, the more range of flavor you will have in your recipes. However, dried shiitake mushrooms have a deep, meaty texture and flavor that fresh mushrooms do not have. They are also much cheaper than the gourmet varieties like porcini. I use this in my gravy to add intense richness.
- Smoked Salt: Because vegetables don't contain the fat content of meat, the chemical process of charring and caramelizing proteins doesn't exist often with plant based foods. I love to add a touch of smoked sea salt (and I'm very particular about the brand Maldon). Smoked salt gives a hint of hardwood and char that mimics those flavors we associate with warmth and open fire cooking.
- Miso: Fermented foods always carry a bit of, what I call, flavor-funk. They take on the essence of their environment and so always give a localized flavor specific to their location. Miso is a fermented soybean paste and enhances the other flavors in a dish, much like a turbo-boost.
- Soy Sauce, Shoyu, and Tamari: You may wonder what the difference is between these staple Asian ingredients. Soy Sauce and Shoyu are essentially the same thing. Shoyu is the Japanese equivalent of Soy Sauce and both are fermented soybean products combined with wheat. Tamari is a by-product of the miso making process and so is most often gluten free. All of these products add a saltiness and complexity from the fermentation process that gives umami, without necessarily tasting Asian.
- No-Chicken Base: Is it cheating? Yes. Does it matter? No. I absolutely LOVE this product. It is all natural and quality ingredients made into a stock base that gives the salty and rich umami flavor for soups. I often use this in combination with miso when I'm looking for a richer flavor soup or broth. Remember, not all brands are the same. I am recommending this brand only.
- Fresh Herbs: Fresh herbs enhance any dish. The flavors of thyme and sage always invoke the cozy flavors of comfort and our palates will send pleasure vibes with just one bite.
How To Make Vegan Gravy
You'll find the recipe below, but here's a few stand out points and tips for getting the best results possible:
- Make sure you have any specialty ingredients on hand before starting. You don't want to be ready to make and realize that you don't have a key ingredient.
- Use a variety of mushrooms if possible. Simple cremini (brown button) mushrooms work just fine, but the more variety you have, the more interesting your gravy. If you have access to a farmer's market or local wild mushrooms (from a trusted source) then try adding pops of chanterelles, black trumpets, or hen-of-the-wood.
- Don't skip the umami! All these little additions may seem unnecessary, especially if you don't have them at the ready. But it is the umami ingredients that make this gravy incredible. You will find yourself using them more and more as you get comfortable with their flavors.
Out of this World Vegan Gravy
- 1 Gravy Boat optional
- 1 tablespoon No-Chicken Broth
- 2 teaspoon Miso optional
- 4 cups Hot Water
- 2 teaspoon Tamari
- 3 tablespoon Earth Balance or other vegan butter
- 1 cup Diced Onion any color
- 1 tablespoon Chopped Celery Leaves
- 2 cloves Garlic minced
- 1 cup Chopped Cremini Mushrooms
- 1 cup Sliced Mushrooms your choice
- ½ teaspoon Maldon Smoked Salt
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 5 stems of Fresh Thyme
- 1 teaspoon Chopped Sage
- 2 teaspoon Dried Shiitake Powder
- 5 tablespoon Cornstarch
- ½ cup Unsweetened Oat Milk
- In a small pot or heatproof bowl, combine the no-chicken broth, miso, hot water, and tamari. Whisk to combine and dissolve. Set aside.
- In a thick bottomed pot or skillet, turn the heat on medium-high.
- Add the butter and the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for approximately 3 minutes, or until the onions start to brown around the edges.
- Add the celery, garlic, all of the mushrooms, the bay leaf, thyme, sage, and smoked salt. Stir and let cook, stirring occasionally, for an additional 3-4 minutes until the onions and the mushrooms are browned.
- Reduce heat to medium and stir in the mushroom powder and then the cornstarch. The mixture will become somewhat paste-like.
- Slowly pour in the broth mixture a little at a time, stirring constantly so that the gravy stays smooth. If you add the liquid too quickly in the beginning, the cornstarch could clump up.
- Add the oat milk and bring the gravy back to a boil. This activates the cornstarch. Then, reduce the heat back to medium-low.
- Let the gravy simmer for approximately 10 minutes so that the flavors come together and thicken. Remove from heat and let sit until ready to serve. Serve in a gravy boat for easy pouring.