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tomato gravy on biscuits

Ramona King

Creamy tomato gravy on buttermilk biscuits


11 creamy, tangy, savory and sweet classic Southern gravy recipes

Boasting numerous methods, preparations, and flavor combinations, gravy could practically be a religion in the South. In this recipe roundup, we highlight 11 classic Southern gravy recipes you can try at home tonight.

A little background first: typically, gravy starts with some combination of fat and flour cooked together as a roux, with added flavorings or aromatics, and cooking liquid such as chicken stock or milk. Gravy can be enjoyed with breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even dessert: yes, chocolate gravy is a real thing. However you serve it, gravy is truly the ultimate comfort food.

Creamy Tomato Gravy
Rooted in Appalachia, tomato gravy could soon be the next breakout star in Southern cuisine. Using bacon fat or fried chicken drippings gives the acidic gravy just enough richness and umami flavor, making it perfect for serving atop fried chicken, fish or hot biscuits. For a true Appalachian interpretation, substitute yellow cornmeal for the flour. In a happy coincidence you then create a gravy that's also gluten-free.
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Sausage Sawmill Gravy
Comedian Jim Gaffigan once quipped, “The reason people move slower in the South is because they’re all full of biscuits and gravy.” While that statement may or may not be true, I have not been deterred from enjoying a delicious plate of biscuits and gravy at home. You can use a store-bought breakfast sausage if you prefer; however, making your own is incredibly easy. After making this recipe many times, I’ve experienced more success by removing the sausage from the pan after browning, then building the gravy rather than adding the flour with the sausage still in the pan. Aside from the depth of flavor from the sausage, black pepper should be the gravy's most noticeable flavor note.
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Or try a similar recipe from Atlanta restaurant Atkins Park

Onion Gravy
This rich beef stock-based gravy is basically an excuse to serve a fat pile of onions on top of your next pot roast. Melt a mess of sliced onions in butter until they're ultra-tender, then stir in some garlic and thyme for aromatic goodness. The requisite flour, for thickening, and beef stock, for viscosity, make for a silky smooth end result that we like to serve on top of braised beef tongue (but you can also just scoop this atop any pot roast you choose).
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Or try Anne Byrn's version of this classic sauce

Simple Milk Gravy
Using only a few pantry ingredients, this simple milk gravy from contributor Anne Byrn goes perfect atop chicken-fried steak. Simply build the gravy in some of the leftover frying oil, adding flour (also leftover, from dredging the steak) and milk to form a thickened sauce. Season with salt and lots (lots!) of pepper, and that's it!
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Or try Chef Jeffrey Gardner's method — they're both easy and delicious

Red-Eye Gravy
Known for its sharp notes of black coffee, red eye gravy is traditionally served alongside country ham. Our recipe captures the flavors of red eye gravy, but also combines both fresh and cured pork. Instead of serving the gravy atop the country ham, the ham is becomes part of the gravy, which we serve on top of a pork chop. The whole dish is best served with a side of grits or biscuits — or both.
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Sage Gravy
While this gravy has flavors that are most commonly associated with Thanksgiving, you could serve this with poultry throughout the fall and winter. Starting with hot chicken or turkey stock will help prevent the gravy from becoming too lumpy. Store-bought chicken broth is fine to use, but homemade chicken stock — or even turkey stock — is always preferred. The cider vinegar plays an important part in the gravy, as adding a tiny amount of acid once the sauce has finished cooking will brighten and enhance the flavors in the gravy.
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Or try this tangy poultry gravy from Virginia Willis

Chocolate Gravy
More like a rich ganache than an actual gravy, this chocolatey sauce is delicious when spooned over biscuits, cookies or pound cake. Once the chocolate gravy has thickened, you can always tweak the chocolate level to your liking by adding additional dark or milk chocolate.
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Photos (sawmill gravy, onion gravy, chocolate gravy): Ramona King
Photo (simple milk gravy): Danielle Atkins
Photo (red-eye gravy): Ideabar Austin
Photo (sage gravy): Maura Friedman

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Kate Williams is the former editor-in-chief of Southern Kitchen. She was also the on-air personality on our podcast, Sunday Supper. She's worked in food since 2009, including a two-year stint at America’s Test Kitchen. Kate has been a personal chef, recipe developer, the food editor at a hyperlocal news site in Berkeley and a freelance writer for publications such as Serious Eats, Anova Culinary, The Cook’s Cook and Berkeleyside. Kate is also an avid rock climber and occasionally dabbles in long-distance running. She makes a mean peach pie and likes her bourbon neat.

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Chef Jeffrey Gardner is a native of Natchez, Miss., and a graduate of Millsaps College and Johnson & Wales University. He lives in Atlanta and has served as sous chef for popular restaurants South City Kitchen Midtown and Alma Cocina. In 2013 he became executive chef for East Cobb restaurant Common Quarter and was named one of ten “Next Generation of Chefs to Watch” by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. He has appeared on TV shows including Food Network’s Chopped and Cooking Channel’s How to Live to 100, and also filmed a series of healthy cooking videos with retired pro wrestler and fitness guru Diamond Dallas Page. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling the world with his wife Wendy, watching game shows and “spending all his money on Bruce Springsteen concerts.”