How to Make Vegetarian Gravy
Whether you're preparing a Thanksgiving feast or an everyday comfort-food dinner, serving a good gravy can be a key to success. For vegetarians, there are delicious ways to create gravy while using plant-based ingredients.
When making vegetarian gravy, there are three primary ingredients: Vegetables, Roux, and Stock.
The flavor you're looking to imitate is umami, the mouthwatering taste linked with savory ingredients, often meat. But umami also exists outside of the animal kingdom. Caramelizing can bring out notes of umami, and almost any vegetable gravy recipe begins by sautéing garlic and onions (in butter if you're aiming to please a vegetarian crowd; in olive oil for your vegan pals), then adding in sliced mushrooms to also up the umami quotient. Any other fresh ingredients you'd like to also sauté, such as celery or woody herbs like thyme and rosemary, should be added along with the mushrooms.
Once the first round of vegetables has cooked down, it's time to make a roux. This is the step which determines if the gravy will turn out thick and smooth or thin and lumpy. Most people prefer the former, so make sure to keep whisking as you add a few spoonfuls of flour or a cornstarch slurry (1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water) to the pan, this will help you avoid clumps. Once your roux has reached a light golden brown color, it's time to add in the broth and other ingredients.
You'll want to slowly whisk liquids into your roux, otherwise it will break and separate. If you have homemade vegetable stock, that's the quickest route to richness, but store-bought will work too. Add just enough to get it smooth, then stir in any additional flavorings you'd like to create your dream gravy. A splash of red wine is useful here, helping darken the gravy and add a depth of flavor. But the best trick for browning vegetarian gravy is soy sauce. For ultimate seasoning control, consider using a low-sodium soy sauce so you can adjust the salt to your liking. At this point whisk in any dried herbs and spices, such as sage and black pepper, that you desire. Pour it into a gravy boat, and you're ready to enjoy your vegetarian gravy!