6 Types Of Gravy You'll Only Find In The South

From an old-fashioned caffeinated gravy to a little-known sweet gravy, do you recognize them all?

Tomato Gravy
Photo: Greg Dupree; Food Styling: Anna Hampton; Prop Styling: Ginny Branch

In the South, biscuits and gravy go together like Dolly and her teased wig. Each can coexist separately, but have much more fun when lumped together. Figuratively, of course, since gravy when done correctly should be the opposite of lumpy. Though it seems simple and straightforward enough to do so, gravy can sense fear from across the kitchen. Pay attention to that roux, no matter what type of gravy you're making.

Speaking of which, the varieties of gravy are greater than many people realize, primarily because there are certain Southern gravies that have slowly faded away from menus and recipe boxes. There's more out there than just your classic white breakfast gravy, and different Southern gravies complement certain classic settings like biscuits, chicken-fried steak, or grits.

From an old-fashioned caffeinated gravy to a little-known sweet gravy, discover all the delicious types of gravy that Southerners put on the table.

Sawmill Gravy

A creamy skillet gravy made with drippings, this staple—known by many now as just "sausage gravy" or "country gravy"—can be said to bolster up the entire Southern breakfast menu, and nobody makes it better than the old-fashioned, country-style breakfast joint in your hometown or your own grandma. While the original recipes often called for cornmeal (more on that later), it's typically now made with flour. It's relatively simple to make, and you're practically obligated to serve it layered thickly over a split biscuit.

Recipe: Sausage Gravy and Biscuits

Sausage Gravy and Biscuits
Southern Living

Red-Eye Gravy

We don't know who first made this gravy, but it was likely a resourceful cook who fried up some country ham and decided to deglaze the skillet using the nearest thing: the coffee pot. Nearly all written and handed-down recipes for red-eye gravy call for only two ingredients, which are the deliciously greasy drippings of cooked ham and a little leftover coffee. Together, they make the perfect accompaniment to pork chops or a bowl of grits.

Recipe: Red-Eye Gravy

Chocolate Gravy

This lesser-known recipe is a real treat. Hailing from Southern Appalachia, it was once a popular special-occasion gravy for birthdays or weekends, and it works just as easy on fresh biscuits at breakfast as it does on leftover biscuits for dessert. Recipes typically call for just flour, sugar, cocoa powder, milk, and salt—ingredients you likely already have in the cupboard.

Recipe: Chocolate Gravy

Chocolate Gravy
Lexington Herald-Leader/Getty Images

Tomato Gravy

Southerners do love a tomato dish, which likely led to the making of this unusual gravy. Tomatoes are stewed down with butter, onion, flour, and herbs to create the perfect consistency and flavor. Tomato gravy is vibrant, slightly sweet, and versatile to include on many dishes, though many just enjoy it on biscuits. Another popular way to use it includes over a bowl of grits (add shrimp to create a quick version of shrimp and grits).

Recipe: Tomato Gravy

Cornmeal Gravy

Remember sawmill gravy? Consider cornmeal gravy the original version of it. While this ultra-Southern recipe is hardly seen anymore, it'll forever be a Southern classic. It often calls for a combination of bacon or ham drippings, cornmeal, and milk. Old-schoolers prefer buttermilk. It pairs well over main dishes such as chicken-fried steak and fried pork chops.

Shrimp Gravy

Only the real coastal Southerners know this as something different than shrimp and grits. Though similar in ingredients and process, shrimp gravy appears darker in color (from browning the roux more intently) and thicker, creating a smothered dish that goes well over either grits or rice. Aromatics such as bell peppers, onions, and herbs are added to the roux before later incorporating shrimp.

No dish will ever go dry as long as you know these Southern gravies.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles