The heart and soul of any brown gravy is its deep, savory flavor — rich with umami and velvety texture. Traditionally, most brown gravies rely on the drippings from roasting meat to obtain these flavors, but not here. This vegan version gets the same delicious result, including a savory richness, from caramelized onions and earthy mushrooms.
Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms Add Rich Flavor
Of course gravy should be velvety, thick, and packed with savory flavor — but the hallmark of a really good gravy is one that you not only want to spoon over all the food on your plate, but one that you also want to eat straight from the pan. No mashed potatoes or sides necessary — just you, a spoon, and the pan of gravy. This is that kind of gravy.
The base of this brown gravy starts with caramelized onions, and builds with a combination of sliced cremini mushrooms, dried porcini mushrooms, and mushroom stock—all of these ingredients are umami-rich and add savory depth to the recipe. The end result is a vegan brown gravy that rivals its meat-filled counterpart.
Make It a Two-Day Affair
While this gravy isn't difficult to make, it does take some time. Consider splitting the process over two days. The first step is to caramelize the onions. It takes the most time, but it's crucial for developing the depth of flavor. Whatever you do, don't rush it. The caramelized onions are a key part of what brings the flavor of this vegan version up to the same level of any meat-based gravy.
You can caramelize the onions on the stovetop, which is the process I use and explain below. The slow-cooker option provides a more hands-off route.
Two Ways to Caramelized Onions
If you do make the caramelized onions ahead, store them in a covered container in the refrigerator. Then, jump back in and finish making the gravy following the steps for day two.
You can also make the gravy up to a few days ahead and store in the refrigerator until you're ready for it, or you can store it in the freezer for up to a few months.
Puréeing the Gravy
The trick to making this brown gravy super thick, rich, and velvety is puréeing it once it's finished cooking. Transfer the gravy to a large bowl (to control the splatter), grab your immersion blender, and start whirling. Alternatively, give the gravy a few minutes to cool, then pour it into a blender and purée until smooth.
If you find the finished gravy to be a little too thick for your taste, go ahead and whisk in an additional 1/2 cup to 1 cup of stock, until you reach a consistency you prefer.
How To Make Vegan Brown Gravy
What You Need
4 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil, divided
2 large onions, sliced thin
1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms
4 ounces cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 to 3 cups mushroom broth
Freshly ground black pepper
Large sauté pan
Immersion blender or regular blender
- Caramelize the onions: Heat 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions to the pan and stir to coat with the oil. Cook the onions, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes to scrape up any fond that forms on the bottom of the skillet, for 40 to 50 minutes until they reach your preferred level of caramelization. Add 1/4 cup water to deglaze the bottom of the pan, scrape up any fond, and stir it into the onions. Season onions to taste with salt and pepper. Then transfer to a separate bowl and set aside.
- Soak the dried porcini mushrooms: While the onions are cooking, add the dried porcini mushrooms to a medium bowl and cover with 1 1/2 cups boiling water. Soak for 10 to 15 minutes, until softened.
- Chop the porcini mushrooms & strain the liquid: Remove the porcini mushrooms from the soaking liquid, transfer to a cutting board, and roughly chop the mushrooms. Strain the liquid to remove any sediment. Reserve the liquid for later.
- Cook the mushrooms: Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the same pan you used for the onions. When hot, add the cremini mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Cook until the mushrooms have released their liquid and have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the porcini mushrooms to the pan and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.
- Deglaze the pan: Add the caramelized onions back to the pan and stir to combine with the mushrooms. Pour in the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to release any brown bits that have formed. Cook until the wine is nearly evaporated, about 1 minute.
- Add the flour: Add the flour and stir to coat the mushrooms and onions. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes, to cook the flour.
- Add the broth: Whisk in the broth and reserved porcini liquid, and add the bay leaves. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid thickens, about 5 minutes.
- Purée the gravy: Transfer the gravy to a large bowl and use an immersion blender to purée until smooth. Alternatively, transfer the gravy to a blender and purée until smooth. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary. If you find the finished gravy to be a little too thick for your taste, go ahead and whisk in an additional 1/2 cup to 1 cup of stock, until you reach a consistency you prefer.