Gravy – Vegetarian and Gluten-Free

November 23, 2010

One of the very first blogs I read, way back when, was Shauna’s Gluten-Free Girl.  I linked to her through a story on the Seattle Times web site.  It was truly before I knew what a blog was but I, like so many people around the world, was immediately captivated by her writing and her story.  She is one of the superstars who inspired me to start my own blog.

Over the past couple of years, I have been lucky enough to get to know Shauna and to visit her, Danny, and adorable Lu on their magical island.  She is as kind and generous-hearted as she comes across in her posts.  She also gives the best hugs I have ever received (if you have gotten one, you will no doubt agree with me).  Shauna has the most positive attitude toward the foods she can eat, not lamenting those she can’t.  This attitude mirrors the approach I take to my vegetarian diet, although I am well aware that mine is a choice and hers is not.  Still, I think we both feel that eating is celebrating what you can eat not bemoaning what you can’t.

Shauna, in her wonderful community-oriented way, put a call out to bloggers everywhere.  She reminded us, in her gentle way, that Thanksgiving can be a rough holiday for those who can’t eat gluten.  She challenged us to make something gluten-free and share with our readers and hers.  This cause is near and dear to my heart because, of course, Thanksgiving is not the best holiday for vegetarians either.  If you come to my house, you will find a lot of side dishes so that there is plenty for me, my mom, my sister-in-law, and my brother’s girlfriend to eat.  (Yes, all the women in the family are veg.)  I love that Shauna asked for help in getting the word out and I wanted to do my part.

What I really wanted to share, the thing I discussed with her last time I saw her, is my vegetarian gravy.  Even in my early years, when I still ate meat, I could not bring myself to eat more than a couple bites of turkey.  And I would choke those few bites down dry because I could not bear gravy.  Once I announced my vegetarianism, I still steered clear of the gravy and that did my best to swallow dry mashed potatoes and stuffing.  Then one day, in my 20’s, I realized that I could make vegetarian gravy, and Thanksgiving changed forever for me.  It took a few years to find the right one, but now I smother my mashed potatoes and just about everything else on my plate with it.  In fact, I need to start using this savory stuff at times other than turkey day.  Maybe a giant grilled portabello mushroom bathing in gravy with a poached egg on top.  This recipe makes plenty of gravy and we are housebound with the wonderful weather so those mushrooms might be on my table tonight.  Mmmmm.

Anyway, I remember reading on Shauna’s site that you can easily make gravy gluten free by swapping out regular flour for rice flour.  Vegetarian gravy can be made ahead of time because there are no turkey drippings involved – another thing to recommend it.  So here we are, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and I have my delicious, vegetarian, gluten-free gravy already done.  The rice flour, which I already had on hand from making those sage tempura, worked beautifully.  It tastes just the same as I remember.  Which is to say, delicious.

You may have heard, but it’s getting close to holiday season around here and that means you might have a few gifts to purchase.  If you have someone on your list who loves to read cookbooks cover to cover, and also happens to like cooking good food, I can highly recommend Shauna and Danny’s love story/cookbook Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef. Their love and enthusiasm is contagious and the cookbook is written with lots of suggestions of how to add your own flair – something I always appreciate.

If you have some gluten-free guests coming to your dinner, be sure to check out Shauna’s Thanksgiving post.  There are a million and one great ideas there.

One Year Ago: Peanut Curry with Sweet Potato and Collard Greens, Yogurt Flatbread, Cider-Caramelized Apple Pound Cake
Two Years Ago: Giant Chocolate Toffee Cookies, Brussels Sprout Hash with Caramelized Shallots, Parmesan and Thyme Crackers

Vegetarian Gluten-Free Gravy

Adapted from Gourmet
Makes enough to serve 6-8 people

A few notes.  You will want to use a wide mouth pot for this one.  A 4 quart will work, a 6 quart would be better.  I found it took the rice flour longer than all-purpose to thicken this gravy but it definitely did the job.  Just keep a low heat under it and keep whisking.  I always think vegetable broths are very ho hum but I have finally realized this is the broth of my dreams.  It could hold its own in a French onion soup.  I think I know what just went on the menu for next week.  Note to self.

This is a salty gravy, which I like, but if you are wanting it to be less so, I would use less soy sauce, ¼ of a cup would be good.  Finally, regular soy sauce is not gluten-free so if you are making it that way, be sure to use tamari.  I always do anyway because I think it tastes better.

1 large head garlic
2 tbsp. olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
1 leek, quartered and washed
1 onion, left unpeeled, quartered
2 carrots, quartered
1 parsnip, quartered
2 celery ribs, quartered
1 bay leaf
½ tsp. whole peppercorns
1½ cups dry white wine
1/3 cup tamari
6 cups cold water
5 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/3 cup rice flour

Preheat oven to 400ºF.  Separate 6 cloves from garlic (do not peel), drizzle with a little olive oil and double-wrap tightly in foil.  Roast until garlic is very soft, about 45 minutes.  (I always roast my garlic in the toaster oven.)

While garlic roasts, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a wide mouth pot (4-6 quarts) over medium heat until it shimmers, then cook vegetables, remaining garlic cloves (separated but not peeled), bay leaf, and peppercorns, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 10 minutes.  Sir in wine and boil until most of it has evaporated.  Add tamari and water and simmer, uncovered, 30 minutes.

Strain stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large measuring cup.  If you have more than 4 cups, boil to reduce; if less, add water.

Mash roasted garlic to a purée.  Melt butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat.  Stir in rice flour and garlic purée, then slowly pour in the stock, whisking all the while.  Cook, stirring, 5 minutes until thickened.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  (Can be made up to 3 days ahead.)


  1. I’m so thrilled you shared this recipe, I’m not a vegetarian myself but I do like to have recipes like this up my sleeve for friends who are vegetarians and come for dinner! However, this looks so good and way healthier I think I’ll make it with Sunday dinner!

    Comment by Eva — November 23, 2010 @ 6:24 pm

  2. Gluten free girl is one of my faves as well! She’s so inspiring and so upbeat. I love it.

    I’ll be honest with you, I actually hate all of the meat and gravy at Thanksgiving. Maybe my parents have never done turkey well…or maybe i’m just deep down meant to be a vegetarian but I just can’t get into it. This vegetarian gravy is something I could feel so good about though!

    Comment by Joanne — November 24, 2010 @ 12:59 am

  3. What a fabulous recipe – thanks so much for sharing. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

    Comment by Charlotte — November 24, 2010 @ 3:30 am

  4. Help! I have a delicious stock (you are right, it rivals a French onion soup – although I prefer it a little less salty so went with around 1/8 cup of tamari) in large measuring cup. And I have butter, garlic puree and rice flour in a pan. How do you recommend putting the stock and thickener together? Also, the rice flour mix is a little grainy – does that sound right? I am bringing the vegetarian gluten free gravy to Thanksgiving tomorrow, so I want to make sure I get it right! Thanks!

    Comment by Hilary — November 25, 2010 @ 2:59 am

  5. I am not a vegetarian, but I really do appreciate dishes that are gluten free. It just makes the meal more accessible to people who have different eating requirements. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by blackbookkitchendiaries — November 25, 2010 @ 3:10 pm

  6. I’ve yet to make anything with a gluten-free flour and I’m glad that rice flour is easy to work with. Your gravy is fantastic and I often make a veg or vegan version with miso or stock and I’ve never missed the meat.

    Comment by kickpleat — November 26, 2010 @ 5:39 pm

  7. This gravy sounds amazing!

    Comment by Ashley — February 1, 2011 @ 3:27 pm

  8. Made this – was very good but a little salty with the 1/3 cup tamari (I used Bragg’s instead) as Dana explained. I used it on /millet/ vegetable croquettes and enjoyed it. Even my meat-eating husband and son liked it on their beef.

    I think I will use the leftover gravy as the basis for a vegetable pot pie.

    Thanks, Dana. Do you have a suggestion for what I could replace the butter to make it vegan?

    Comment by Lonnie — April 20, 2013 @ 11:54 pm

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