Though the term can refer to a wide variety of sauces, gravy usually refers to any sauce made from the drippings of meat that results from the cooking process. It’s often thickened with wheat or corn flours for added texture. Additional ingredients can be added for color, preservation, and to impart that savory umami flavor.
Is it vegetarian or vegan? Gravy made from meat juice—i.e. the variety most synonymous with the term gravy—is never vegetarian or vegan-friendly. However, there are certain types of plant-based gravies that are suitable for both vegetarians and vegans.
Is KFC gravy vegetarian or vegan? No, KFC gravy is both non-vegetarian and non-vegan. The presence of butter (cream) makes it non-vegan, and chickenfat rules it out as vegetarian.9 Also, the potatoes it’s serve with contain a number of problematic ingredients for vegans, including whey solids and milk.
The only vegetarians that can consume it are pollotarians, which is a pretty fringe group of plant-based eaters. But, the vast majority of all vegetarians omit chicken from the diet.
What we’ll do here is go over the various types of gravy and the specific vegetarian groups that can partake of each one.
Gravies Suitable for Vegetarians and Vegans
First, there is the entrée to consider. Gravy is largely thought to be a completely non-vegan and non-vegetarian food, partly because of the foods it tends to be served alongside of (I know a preposition at the end of a sentence is bad grammar, but I felt like it).
Gravy can be eaten alone but is often served with meat, poultry, soups, stews, and sauces. Rice and mashed potatoes are two plant-based side dishes that go nicely with gravy.
Then there’s the liquid medium used to make the gravy. While most gravies contain meat drippings, especially the drippings of red meat, gravies exist that are suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
These typically make heavy use of cultures (e.g. nutritional yeast) and other natural vegetarian-friendly flavorings. They also contain coloring agents like caramel color or cocoa powder if marketed as a dark gravy.
Don’t get me wrong, not all mushroom gravy is suitable for vegans or even vegetarians. A lot of it makes use of beef and chicken stock, and/or roux, which is a mixture of equal parts flour and butter.
But, when margarine is used in place of butter, and the animal broth is omitted, then it’s perfectly suitable for both vegetarians and vegans. If butter is used, then it’s only suitable for lacto-vegetarians.
Ingredients can vary, but mushroom gravy would contain a mushroom base, flour, and possibly margarine.
There are a few animal products common to mushroom gravy such as rendered beef fat.1 So, you’ll want to watch out for these. Again, milk products are fairly common, so you’ll want to keep a lookout for these if you’re vegan.
Campbell’s makes a good and widely available mushroom gravy that’s both vegetarian and vegan-friendly.
- Modified Food Starch and Wheat Flour
- Vegetable Oil (Corn, Canola, And/Or Soybean)
- Salt, Yeast Extract, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, and Hydrolyzed Wheat Gluten
- Caramel Color, Flavoring,
- Celery, Onion, and Garlic Extracts
Caramel color is not to be feared. Manufacturers caramelize simple sugars other than lactose to produce it—all simple sugars undergo the same browning reaction when exposed to heat.8
A vegetable broth mixed with flour or cornstarch and nutritional yeast makes a nice medium to dark gravy. Some recipes forego the vegetable broth.3
Vegetable gravy, often called vegetarian gravy (though it’s usually vegan-friendly as well), uses the juice from boiled or roasted vegetables rather than meat drippings.
This kind of gravy can be whipped up pretty quickly with a bit of vegetable broth or veggie stock, margarine or oil, and flour.
Butter can be used here, but would only be suitable for lacto-vegetarians.
The most basic recipe for vegetable gravy would contain vegetarian bouillon cubes/paste or a pre-maid veggie broth, cornstarch (corn flour) or white flour as a thickener, whisked into boiling water (or the pre-prepared broth).
More advanced recipes would call for a fat source such as oil (for extra creaminess) and a savory yeast extract like Vegemite or Marmite.
A commercial option for both vegetarians and vegans is Simply Organic Vegetarian Brown Gravy Seasoning Mix.
This one derives its dark color from cocoa powder.
- Organic Cornstarch and Maltodextrin
- Sea Salt and Organic Cane Sugar
- Organic Cocoa Powder (Processed with Alkali)
- Organic Tamari Powder (Organic Soybeans, Organic Maltodextrin, and Salt)
- Organic Rice Concentrate
- Natural Flavor (Yeast Extract, Salt, Natural Flavor, Canola Oil)
- Organic Onion, Garlic, Black Pepper, and Turmeric.
Lots of organic going on.
Another option is Bisto Vegetable Gravy Granules.
This one contains:6
- Potato Starch, Maltodextrin, and Wheat Flour (with Added Calcium, Iron, Niacin, Thiamin)
- Sugar and Salt
- Palm Oil
- Yeast Extract (Contains Barley)
- Dried Onion and Onion Powder
- Color and Flavor Enhancers
- Vegetable Extracts (Onion, Carrot, Celery, and Tomato)
- An Emulsifier
- Dried Parsley and Additional Flavorings
With either of the above two, you’ll need to mix in the gravy per the instructions.
Onion gravy can be made in several ways, some of which are vegetarian and vegan-friendly.
As you’d imagine, what all recipes have in common is the use of onion as a base—typically, chopped onion that’s been slowly sweated. Then, there are the mixes and granules which save a lot of preparation time.
Potentially problematic ingredients include eggs, chops, and other meat (typically grilled or fried).5 Egg is fine for ovo-vegetarians.
A commercial option that’s suitable for both vegans and vegetarians is Goldenfry Onion Gravy Granules.
This one contains:7
- Palm Oil
- Potato Starch
- Wheat Flour (Contains Calcium Carbonate, Iron, Niacin, and Thiamin)
- Color (Ammonia Caramel)
- Dried Onion (2.8%)
- Flavoring (Contains Soy)
- A Flavor Enhancer (Monosodium Glutamate)
- An Emulsifier (Soy Lecithin)
Gravies Off-Limits for Vegetarians and Vegans
I suppose flexitarians could consume these from time to time.
But, for the most part, these are off-limits. The exception might be pollotarians who can consume the poultry-based recipes. Pollotarians are a group of semi-vegetarians who consume chicken and other poultry as a sole source of meat protein.
But, the following gravies are off the menu for 99% of all vegetarians 100% of vegans:5
- Beef gravy. The variety that’s probably the most synonymous with the word gravy.
- Poultry gravy. Both chicken and turkey gravy are popular throughout the US, with turkey gravy being especially popular around Thanksgiving.
- Sawmill gravy. This kind is prepared with the drippings of sausage or beef. Flour is added as a thickener. It usually has sausage chunks thrown in and is commonly poured over breakfast biscuits. If you like this kind, I’m sure a quick internet search will render several vegetarian and vegan-friendly recipes that replace the meat drippings and chunks of sausage with plant-based alternatives.
- Egg gravy. You might think that this one would be okay for ovo-vegetarians, but it usually calls for bacon drippings along with flour to make a thick roux.
- Red-eye gravy. This one is made from deep-fried ham drippings that result from the cooking process (typically in a skillet or frying pan). It’s a Southern US staple and doesn’t use any thickening agent.
- Giblet gravy. Sounds disgusting, right? In this gravy, “giblets” of chicken or turkey are added depending on the poultry served. This kind often uses a stock made from the giblets.
That’s it for the vegetarian and vegan status of gravy. Thanks for reading.
You may also want to check out the following related articles:
- (2 Pack) Heinz Home-style Mushroom Gravy, 12 Oz Jar. Shuurbs- shaynas2- debbieh1- edarr1 – https://www.walmart.com/ip/2-Pack-Heinz-Home-style-Mushroom-Gravy-12-oz-Jar/47229162
- Campbell’s Gravy, Mushroom, 10.5 Oz. Can. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Campbell-39-s-Made-w-Fresh-Mushrooms-Mushroom-Gravy-10.5-Oz/14940719
- Vegetarian Gravy Recipe. Becky-Mary Domaz-Renee Marie- Nicole- Dora- Laurel – https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/13799/vegetarian-gravy/
- Simply Organic Vegetarian Brown Gravy Seasoning Mix 1.0 Oz. https://www.simplyorganic.com/simply-organic-vegetarian-brown-gravy-seasoning-mix-1-0-oz/
- Gravy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravy
- Bisto Vegetable Gravy Granules (170g). British Corner Shop – https://www.britishcornershop.co.uk/bisto-vegetable-gravy-granules
- Goldenfry Original Gravy Granules Onion 400g. http://www.goldenfry.co.uk/our-products/retail-products/goldenfry-original-gravy-granules-onion-400g/
- Caramel Color Production. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caramel_color#Production
- Food Allergies And Sensitivities. https://www.kfc.com/nutrition/food-allergies-and-sensitivities