6 Delicious Ways to Make Gravy Without Milk


As a child, rice and gravy was a staple at my house. There was fried chicken with rice and gravy, steak with rice and gravy, meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy, rice and “Hoover” gravy with no meat, tomato gravy and biscuits, and pork chops with grits and red-eye gravy.

All these gravy dishes included gravy made with a roux except for the red-eye gravy. But you may be pleasantly surprised to learn that what we didn’t have in the good old days is gravy made with milk.

The best types of gravy that can be made without milk include:

  1. Gravy from a roux using flour.
  2. Gravy from a roux using flour substitutes.
  3. Gravy made from a slurry using alternative thickeners.
  4. Red-eye gravy.
  5. Au jus.
  6. Milk gravy using milk substitutes.

Since many people do make gravy with milk and are moving away from drinking dairy, I decided to share these old-fashioned methods to help you make the best gravy you’ve ever had. While #1 to #5 requires no milk, #6 provides you a list of milk substitutes for good measure.

1. Gravy From a Roux Using Flour

Brown Gravy with a Wooden Spoon

Typically, gravy that is made from a roux begins with frying some sort of meat such as chicken or steak, reserving part of the oil used for frying along with its pan drippings, adding flour for the roux, browning, adding water or broth to make the gravy, and seasoning to taste.

A roux is very versatile and can be browned to varying degrees and used not only in making gravies, but also in making sauces and dishes like gumbo.


Recipe for gravy made from a roux using flour:

Ingredients:

  • 3 T Oil of any kind or Butter
  • 3 T Flour
  • 1 cup Broth (chicken, beef, or vegetable)
  • ½ tsp Black Pepper
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Fry meat (chicken, ground beef, steak) reserving oil and pan drippings.
  2. Leave 3 tablespoons of reserved oil and drippings in the skillet or saucepan. If there are not 3 tablespoons of reserved oil, supplement with any oil or butter.
  3. Add flour and stir well to make a paste or roux. Add extra oil if the paste is too dry.
  4. Cook over a low heat until the flour mixture browns.
  5. Add hot broth slowly to the roux, stirring or whisking constantly.
  6. Bring to a boil and let cook over low heat until it begins to thicken.
  7. Add black pepper and salt to taste.

Then, allow the mixture to simmer over low heat until it “ripens” into gravy.

Pro Tip: If your gravy becomes too thick, add more broth a small amount at a time until the gravy is the right texture. It should not be too thin nor too thick.

What does it mean by “ripen” gravy?

When you first combine the water or broth with the roux, it will just be those ingredients mixed together and will not taste like gravy. After it cooks and “ripens” for approximately 10-15 minutes, it will take on a slightly different texture and color and will taste like gravy and not just the combined ingredients.


Recipe for “Hoover” Gravy:

Back in the day, toward the end of the week when there was no meat left in the house to cook, my parents would make a gravy using the following recipe. Because it was not made with meat, we called it Hoover Gravy. It would be served over rice with hot homemade biscuits and would make a fine meal.

Ingredients:

  • Small onion, diced
  • 3 T Oil of any kind or Butter
  • 3 T Flour
  • 1 cup Broth (chicken, beef, or vegetable) or Water
  • Salt and Black Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Pour oil into a skillet or saucepan and heat.
  2. Add onion and saute until clear.
  3. Add flour and stir well to make a paste or roux. Add extra oil if the paste is too dry.
  4. Cook over a low heat until the flour mixture browns.
  5. Add hot broth or water slowly to the roux, stirring or whisking constantly.
  6. Bring to a boil and let cook over low heat until it begins to thicken.
  7. Add black pepper and salt to taste.

Allow mixture to continue to simmer over a low heat until it “ripens” into gravy.

Interesting Fact: Hoover Gravy, which is gravy without meat, is named for President Herbert Hoover who was president during the Great Depression. He was a very unpopular president who did not respond positively to the needs of the many Americans who became homeless and destitute during this era and as a result of the social and economic hardships during the Depression. Also, encampments for the homeless that sprang up during those times were called “Hoovervilles.”


Recipe for Tomato Gravy:

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb Sausage or any breakfast meat
  • ¼ cup Oil
  • ¼ cup Flour
  • 2 cups Chicken Broth
  • 1 can Diced Tomatoes, undrained
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Hot Sauce (Optional)

Directions:

  1. Fry sausage in a skillet reserving drippings.
  2. Add oil to skillet over medium heat.
  3. Stir in flour, stirring or whisking well to avoid lumps, and scraping up sausage residue.
  4. Cook to a light brown.
  5. Add 1 cup chicken broth, stirring in gradually.
  6. Add ½ cup chicken broth, continuing to stir or whisk well.
  7. Add the other ½ cup chicken broth or water as needed.
  8. Pour in tomatoes.
  9. Add salt, pepper, and hot sauce to taste.

Continue simmering gravy over a low heat until it “ripens.

2. Gravy From a Roux Using Flour Substitutes

Gravy can also be made as described above but modified to fit into diets with certain restrictions. For example, I have a relative who has celiac disease and cannot eat anything made from wheat flour. So, when cooking a meal for her, instead of changing the menu, I can modify the gravy or sauce dishes by using white or brown rice flour which I always keep on hand as a thickener.

Here are a few flour substitutes for gravy:

  • White Rice Flour
  • Brown Rice Flour
  • Cornmeal
  • Oat Flour
  • Rye Flour

For the alternatives to flour, just substitute them at a 1:1 ratio for the flour in the recipes listed above.

3. Gravy Made From a Slurry Using Alternative Thickeners

Gravy doesn’t have to be made from a roux. An alternative to the traditional flour gravy is to reserve the pan drippings from where meat of some sort, chicken, roast, or steak has been fried, add broth, and thicken it with an alternative thickener such as cornstarch.

To make gravy using this method, a slurry is made from adding cornstarch to water and adding that mixture to the pan drippings and/or broth to make a gravy. This recipe demonstrates the slurry method of making gravy. Here are three recipes for gravy made with alternative thickeners:

Surry Gravy With Cornstarch

Ingredients:

  • 2 T Cornstarch
  • 2 T Cool or Tap Water
  • 4 Cups Pan Drippings and Broth
  • ½ tsp Black Pepper
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Pour the mixture of pan drippings and broth into a skillet or saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat..
  2. In a cup or small bowl combine cornstarch and water to make a paste. Stir to avoid lumps.
  3. Pour cornstarch paste into broth stirring or whisking constantly until completely combined.
  4. Allow to come back to a boil.
  5. Season to taste.
  6. Reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring often.

Serve immediately.


Slurry Gravy With Gelatin (Keto friendly)

Ingredients:

  • 4 T Cold Water
  • 6 teaspoons Gelatin Powder
  • 2 Cups Broth
  • 1/4 tsp Black Pepper
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Pour the mixture of pan drippings and broth into a skillet or saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  2. Pour water into a cup or small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the water. Stir or whisk to combine and allow to sit for 10-15 minutes to rehydrate the gelatin.
  3. Pour gelatin mixture into the broth stirring or whisking constantly until completely combined.
  4. Season to taste.
  5. Remove from heat; gelatin will thicken as it cools.

Serve immediately.


Slurry Gravy With Tapioca (Paleo & Whole30 friendly)

Ingredients:

  • 2 T Cornstarch
  • 2 T Cool or Tap Water
  • 4 Cups Pan Drippings and Broth
  • ½ tsp Black Pepper
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Pour the mixture of pan drippings and broth into a skillet or saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  2. In a cup or small bowl combine cornstarch and water to make a paste. Stir so that there are no lumps.
  3. Pour cornstarch paste into broth stirring or whisking constantly until completely combined.
  4. Allow to come back to a boil.
  5. Season to taste.
  6. Reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring often.

Serve immediately.

4. Red-eye Gravy

Pork-Chops-Cooking-in-a-Skillet

Making red-eye gravy is one of the easiest methods for making gravy, although certain conditions must exist. I have seen many recipes for red-eye gravy that do not in any way resemble the type my mother made.

To make my mother’s version, you must have bone-in, center-cut pork chops that have not been trimmed of fat.

  • She would fry them in one of her iron skillets and the pork chops would produce quite a bit of pan drippings.
  • When the pork chops were nicely browned and fully cooked, she would take them up on a serving platter but leave the fire or burner on under the pan to keep the drippings hot.
  • She would then add between ½ to 1 cup of water to the hot skillet, depending on the amount of pan drippings you have.
  • Then, pick up the skillet and swirl the contents of the skillet and immediately pour it into a serving bowl.

The resulting “red-eye” gravy would separate quickly and would have to be stirred again immediately before serving.

She would then serve the pork chops with grits, hot biscuits, and fried eggs over which she would pour the red-eye gravy.

YUM!!! Now that was good food!

5. “Au Jus” Gravy

Au-Jus-Gravy
Photo courtesy of alanagkelly

Au Jus is another method of making gravy that is very simple. All that is required is taking the pan drippings and broth and cooking them until they are reduced by about 50% and have begun to thicken.

Here is a recipe for Au Jus-style gravy:

  1. Pour all the pan drippings into a saucepan.
  2. Add broth, canned or homemade, to make 2 cups of liquid.
  3. Bring pan drippings and broth to a simmer over a low to medium heat.
  4. Allow liquid to simmer for 20-30 minutes until it has reduced to approximately 1 to 1&¼ cup.

6. Milk Gravy Using Milk Substitutes

Milk Carton with Missing on the Label

I don’t make a lot of milk gravies, but for those who are on dairy-restricted diets or if you are simply out of regular milk, here are some milk substitutes that can be used to make gravy.

Milk substitutes for gravy:

  1. Almond Milk

Almond Milk can be used the same way as cow’s milk and can be substituted for cow’s milk in a 1:1 ratio. The only difference is a slightly nutty taste that is noticeable to some, but is not a strong taste.

Gravy made with almond milk would be perfect for those on a Vegan or Paleo diet. Be aware, however, that almond milk is a nut-based product and could cause a reaction in persons with nut allergies.

  1. Cream

Making gravy with cream, whether it is light cream, half & half, or heavy cream is very similar to making gravy with milk. The only difference is that the gravy could be thicker and may need to be thinned with either water and/or broth.

  1. Dry or Powdered Milk

Using reconstituted dry or powdered milk to make gravy would be the same as using milk except that the gravy would be a reduced-fat version that would support a diet geared toward weight loss.

  1. Evaporated Milk

Using evaporated milk for making gravy would result in a thicker gravy that might need thinning with water and/or broth, but would result in gravy that would have the same taste and texture as regular milk. Because it is very easy to store, most cooks keep evaporated milk on hand as a good substitute for fresh milk.

  1. Lactaid

Gravy made from lactaid would be the same as gravy made from regular milk because lactaid is a product of cow’s milk and would be the perfect option for persons who are lactose intolerant.

  1. Plain or Greek Yogurt

Using plain or Greek yogurt to make gravy would be a good option to substitute for milk in making gravy, although the resulting gravy might be thick enough to need thinning with either water, broth, or a combination of the two. Also, using yogurt of any kind would add a tangy flavor to the gravy.

Making gravy with yogurt would be a healthy option by adding the health benefits of yogurt while making a gravy with fewer calories.

  1. Sour Cream

Making gravy with sour cream as a milk substitute would add a tangy taste to the gravy and would probably need to be thinned with either water or broth. Also, gravy made with sour cream would create a dish more like stroganoff than gravy.

  1. Soy Milk

Milk gravy made with soy milk would be an excellent addition to certain diets, particularly for those persons following a Vegan or Paleo diet. And because soy milk has a rather bland taste, making the roux with butter instead of oil will give the gravy a richer flavor.

  1. Goat Milk

Goat’s milk is an excellent substitute for cow’s milk for making gravy and will result in a gravy that is very similar in taste and texture, and it is an excellent choice for people with digestive issues like lactose intolerance.

  1. Oat Milk

Oat Milk is another excellent substitute for cow’s milk for making gravy that is very similar in texture with a slight change in taste for people on a Vegan diet or with digestive issues like lactose intolerance and for those with allergy issues.

  1. Rice Milk

Gravy made with Rice Milk rather than cow’s milk will be a little thinner and will be an excellent choice for Vegans, those with lactose intolerance, and anyone with allergy issues.

  1. Hemp Seed Milk

Hemp Seed Milk is another alternative to cow’s milk that will produce a gravy with the same fat content and texture as gravy made with cow’s milk. But, Hemp Seed Milk has a nutty taste that is unpleasant to many people.

Final Thoughts

Gravies and dishes made with a roux add so much flavor and variety to so many dishes and meals that it would be a shame not to try them. No matter what kind of diet you are on, there is sure to be an option or options for you from the information presented above. Enjoy!

Thanks for stoppin’ by.

For more, check out 8 Ways to Thicken Gravy Like A Pro.

Jim James

Hey, I'm Jim and the author of this website. I have always been interested in survival, fishing, camping, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!

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