Tomato Gravy

In and around New Orleans, you’re going to find what is called red gravy, which is a usually spicy Italian-style tomato sauce. But in most of the rural inland South, tomato gravy, like sausage gravy, is a variation on what we’ve all come to know as sawmill gravy. When possible, of course you’re going to use fresh, ripe home-grown tomatoes. Second-best are home-canned tomatoes, but you’ll find people using store-bought canned tomatoes, whole, diced, pureed or sauced. Bacon drippings are the traditional fat, and the liquid, in addition to the tomato juice, can be water, stock or milk, or combinations thereof. For instance, Bill Neale’s recipe calls for chicken stock or water, while Robert St. John’s recipe calls for both chicken broth and milk. In both recipes, fresh tomatoes are peeled, seeded and chopped or diced. Traditionally served over buttermilk biscuits, rice or grits, Neale among others also recommends it for fried chicken, and tomato gravy is wonderful for smothered chicken or chops, too.

2 cups fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped (can also use a 14.5 ounce can of tomatoes or an 8 oz. can of tomato sauce/tomato puree)
2 tablespoons bacon drippings
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Cut up tomatoes in bowl, add the salt, pepper, sugar and garlic powder and mix well. Heat bacon drippings in a skillet, add flour and make a roux, pour in tomatoes and water or milk and cook until thickened.

6 Replies to “Tomato Gravy”

  1. James Young commented on Tomato Gravy: A Southern Staple
    I wonder if Barbara or your grandmother Yancy ever made tomato gravy? Neither Mother nor my grandmother Morgan ever did as far as I can remember. In fact, I’ve never tasted it and wouldn’t think that it would taste very good on a good southern biscuit. It sounds like it would be good as a meat sauce, though.

    1. It may not sound good but it is delicious. If Mama was in a terrible hurry, we would have ketchup gravy. It was good, too!

  2. Jim,
    Barbara did not, which I find surprising, and I don’t remember Ethel Yancy cooking it, either, but she never really cooked anything after Jess Sr. died when I was a small boy.

  3. I have made a version of this recipe from June Carter Cash’s cook book, Mother Maybelle’s Cookbook. Her recipe is called, Mater Gravy. It is so delicious. The recipe you have posted is different from hers and I look forward to trying yours.

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