I love potatoes! And I love gravy because it helps me eat potatoes! Being able to make a fantastic, rich, hearty, vegan, oil-free gravy was initially a worry for me. I thought it would be difficult to get something that wasn’t a bit insipid without using some sort of fat. Turns out, it’s fabulously easy to make a lovely, satisfying gravy. I tried out a number of different recipes, and here is my absolute favorite…
I adapted this recipe from one I found in the NYTimes Cooking section. The original recipe, though, starts out with 1/2 c extra virgin olive oil. Wow – that’s a lot of oil, and it’s completely unnecessary because, as I’ve discovered, the oil is NOT the flavor foundation. It’s caramelization! For those of you who don’t know what that means, it’s when you cook something until the sugars come out and convert into a sweet brown sauce, like syrup. Many cooks will add a sugar source, like honey, to onions when caramelizing them but that only adds extra sweetness – there’s enough natural sugar in the onions (and pretty much any other vegetable) for them to caramelize without the help of external sugar sources. So, that’s what we’re going to do with our gravy, and then we’re going to balance it with soy sauce, and it’s going to be amazing. Try it out!
One more note before we begin: bouillon! Having an excellent bouillon is going to really make your gravy stand out. I make my own in large batches and freeze it. It’s salt-free, but loaded with herbs & spices, and I use the scraps from all the vegetables I cook. I just throw them in a bag in the freezer to keep until I’m ready to make my next batch. Because this recipe uses soy sauce, you should try to find a salt-free vegetable bouillon if you don’t make your own.
- 1 medium onion (about 110 g), very finely diced
- 4 oz (120 g), or 1 c very finely diced mushrooms
- 3 T arrowroot starch or 1/2 c (65 g) flour
- 4 – 5 c bouillon (depending on how thick you want it)
- 1 T soy sauce or tamari
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- Sauté the onions & mushrooms in a large pan until nicely caramelized.
- Mix in thickening agent and cook for a further 3 – 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Slowly whisk in bouillon until the gravy is smooth and starting to thicken.
- Stir in soy sauce/tamari & pepper, and simmer until the gravy has reached the desired thickness.
The beauty of this recipe is that it’s so malleable. You can use whatever kind of mushrooms you want, to get exactly the flavor that you’ll enjoy the most – if you love cèpes, use them; if you love porcini, use them. Hell, if you can afford Périgord black truffles, and this is how you want to use them, go for it. But plain white mushrooms give it a great flavor, and they’re inexpensive.
You can also use whatever thickening agent works best for you, and play around with the amounts a little bit. If it gets too thick, just add a little more bouillon – easy enough.
Finally, if you like chunky gravy, like I do, serve it as-is. If not, just pass the mixture through a sieve before serving.
First – ignore the sodium content if you’re using a homemade salt-free bouillon. I generated the nutrition info using cronometer. They don’t have homemade salt-free bouillon in their food list, for rather obvious reasons. I selected low-sodium vegetable bouillon. (And, frankly, I’m left wondering what they think “low” means.)
As this is just a gravy, we’re not going to be getting a whole lot of our checklist items taken care of, but that’s not the point here. In order to get all those lovely veggies and grains, we need some good sauces to help them go down!