This classic sauce is made by combining two unusual ingredients.

A beloved Southern favorite, red eye gravy is made with the duo of ham drippings and black coffee. The dish gets its unique name from how the round circles of ham fat look like red eyes when floating on top of the coffee. It's also known throughout the South by other names like poor man's gravy, bottom sop, and red ham gravy.

Traditionally, red eye gravy is made by frying up a thick slice of country ham, then mixing the ham drippings with strongly brewed black coffee to deglaze the pan. The mixture is then simmered for several minutes, reducing down to a dark brown gravy. Some cooks whisk in a little flour before the coffee, creating a roux for a thicker gravy, but this isn't commonplace.

slices on country ham with red eye gravy on a white plate
Credit: NRedmond / Getty Images

Red eye gravy can be served at any time of the day, but it is always served with country ham. For breakfast, it often accompanies country ham biscuits, as either a bowl on the side for dipping or with each side of the biscuit being briefly dipped into the red eye gravy before sandwiching together a piece of ham. For dinner, red eye gravy can be ladled over a hearty slice of country ham, served up with veggie sides and either a biscuit or piece of cornbread for sopping up the extra gravy.

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