What We’re Cooking This Week: Vegan Gravy

The key comes from a few umami boosters.

Vegan gravy, photo courtesy of Jim Dixon.

Jim Dixon wrote about food for WW for more than 20 years, but these days most of his time is spent at his olive oil-focused specialty food business Wellspent Market. Jim’s always loved to eat, and he encourages his customers to cook by sending them recipes every week through his newsletter. We’re happy to have him back creating some special dishes just for WW readers.

While the first recorded mention of gravy comes from a collection of 14th century recipes, savvy cooks have probably used leftover fatty meat-cooking juice to make a tasty sauce for much longer. They weren’t about to waste anything edible and quickly realized that the stuff was delicious. Wily kitchen innovators developed thickeners from ground nuts to old bread, and though the French usually get credit for coming up with roux, it’s likely the wheat-eating cultures in the eastern Mediterranean first discovered the magic of mixing flour into hot fat to make a silky sauce.

Strictly speaking, gravy requires meat. But you can make a savory brown gravy, loaded with meatlike umami, without animal products or one of those packets of questionable industrial foodlike powder called instant gravy. It’s technically a velouté, literally “velvety,” and one of Escoffier’s so-called mother sauces, made with roux and stock, but punched up with a few umami boosters that provide an ersatz meatiness.

It won’t fool anyone, but this gravy has its own appeal whether or not you eat meat. Ladle it over mashed potatoes, rice, polenta, this dressinglike savory bread pudding, or anything else that likes a savory sauce.


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon msg

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 cup water or vegetable broth

¼ cup dark miso

Stir the flour and oil together in a small saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Let the mix cook for a couple of minutes after it starts to bubble, then add the nutritional yeast, salt, and msg. Add the water and soy sauce and let come to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes to thicken.

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