Introduction: Vegetarian Mushroom Gravy

Picture of Vegetarian Mushroom Gravy

Even vegetarians love the mashed potatoes part of Thanksgiving, but what are mashed potatoes without gravy? Through trial and error I've learned to make excellent mushroom gravy for my sister the vegetarian. It's so good that I usually put turkey gravy on the turkey and save my mashed potatoes for the mushroom gravy.

Plus, I have finally learned the secret to avoiding lumpy gravy, and lumpy sauces in general. Fat first!

I first started making mushroom gravy with canida, but she's less vegetarian now, so she's only documented meaty gravy. I decided to fix the lack of vegetarian instructable when my sister called me for tips last weekend.

Step 1: Ingredients

Picture of Ingredients
You'll need a few ingredients:

Critical items:
  • onions (at least one)
  • mushrooms (portabella or baby bella are best)
  • about 4 Tbsp butter (olive oil would probably work, but I've never tried)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup sherry or marsala (other flavored liquids would work, but these have the best flavor here)
  • 2 - 4 cups liquid (ideally vegetable broth)

Extra bonus items:
  • garlic (as much as you like)
  • thyme, dried or fresh
  • paprika
  • fresh parsley

You'll need two pans. First you saute onions, garlic and mushrooms in one. Then make the roux in the second. Then add the first pan to the second pan.

Step 2: Chopping

Picture of Chopping

Since this is a gravy, I chop the ingredients finely. Minced onions, minced garlic, thinly sliced mushrooms. I almost never chop things finely, but it's worth it. The liquids cook out faster and the gravy is smoother.

Step 3: Sauteing

Picture of Sauteing

You can throw your ingredients in, fry 'em up without thinking and have something that works, or you can pay attention, and have something great.

1. Fry the onions in a little butter or olive oil on high to medium high heat. We want really nice brown bits to give the gravy that great roasted taste. Obviously avoid burning them. Onions have quite a bit of liquid inside them, so they can take a pretty high heat, but once they start turning brown, pay more attention and stir more often to minimize the chance of burning.
2. Add the garlic when the onions are close to done. Garlic burns easily on high heat, so this is when you want to turn down the heat to medium or medium low.
3. Add the mushrooms. They'll have a decent amount of liquid in them from the washing, so we want to cook them slowly to draw it out nicely for the sauce. This time I ended up adding one box of mushrooms first, then chopping and adding the second. This led to a nice gradation from totally cooked mushroom bits to fairly solid mushroom slices. If I weren't so lazy I might have cooked them longer, for a smoother gravy, but a few slices are nice too.
4. After the mushrooms have cooked down a little, add the thyme and paprika. I tend to sprinkle, mix, smell or taste, and repeat the process until I'm happy.

I'm horrible at estimating times for these steps, and it's more important to get it to the right doneness than check the time. But the onions might take 10 minutes, the garlic may take 1 minute, and the mushrooms another 10 minutes. But while the mushrooms are cooking, you can start the roux... (And if the mushrooms are done before the roux, you can take them off the heat until you're ready for them, or vice versa.)

Step 4: Roux -- the Basis of European Sauciness

Picture of Roux -- the Basis of European Sauciness

I don't know much about classic sauces, but I have learned the key to good gravy: mix the fat with the flour first. Then cook it. Then add the liquid.

So, equal parts fat and flour. For this recipe, about 4 tablespoons of butter and 1/4 cup flour. (Yes, those are equivalent amounts. Silly Imperial system.) Melt the butter in a new pan (everything will end up in this pan at the end, so it should be reasonably big) over medium heat. Mix in the flour. It'll bubble oddly. It looks and smells like Playdoh. Kind of gross, right?

Keep stirring. And stirring. And stirring. You don't want to burn it, but you do want to brown it. So medium heat is good. Lots of stirring. Thick bottomed pans are better here for an even heat.

I can usually tell that my roux is ready from the smell more than the color. It goes from smelling like Playdoh to smelling like baked pie crust. And basically, that's what it is, cooked butter and flour. It just happens to be liquid instead of solid.

Step 5: Deglazing the Mushrooms

Picture of Deglazing the Mushrooms

Once you've got the roux ready to go, you should deglaze the mushrooms. Deglazing is the point at which you use a liquid to melt those tasty brown bits (fond) off the sides of the pan.

I just sprinkle as much sherry as I need, which is probably between 1/2 and 1/4 of a cup. All of the alcohol cooks off, so we're just doing it for the rich flavors. If you don't have sherry on hand, you could use Marsala wine or vermouth, or red or white wine. I think at one point I used a mix of apple cider vinegar and water, but that was a long time ago.

Once the fond is mixed into the liquid, you're ready to add this to the roux.

Step 6: Mixing It All Together

Picture of Mixing It All Together

Pour the mushroom bits into the roux. Stir a lot. It'll foam up, but just keep stirring and pouring. The sauce should be thick and glossy. It'll probably be too thick. This is when you add vegetable broth or water to thin it out. If it's really thick, don't just add veggie broth -- it's too salty. Add water too. If you're frugal like my Depression-raised grandmother, you'll add the potato water from your mashed potatoes. Theoretically it has lots of vitamins, and it's already hot.

See how the sides of the pan are nicely coated with thick gravy? Yum.

This is where you could mix in some minced fresh parsley.


SteveW318 made it! (author)2017-11-20

One basic CRITICAL QUESTION: 1/4 lb. OR 25 lbs of mushrooms?

jforbess (author)SteveW3182017-11-20

I usually use 1 to 2 lbs of mushrooms. I don't think I say an amount anywhere in the recipe. Whoops!

SteveW318 (author)jforbess2017-11-21


Avalon99 (author)2015-10-10

It turned out wonderful mmmmm thank you so much!

Avalon99 (author)2015-10-10

I'm curious what other flavoured liquids could be used instead of Sherry or Marsala?

jforbess (author)Avalon992015-10-10

I would probably go with water, plus a bit of apple cider vinegar, or perhaps a nice red or white wine vinegar. Actually, recently I've seen a number of recipes calling for sherry vinegar, so maybe that would be a good substitute (diluted in water), if you are interested in a new ingredient, as opposed to figuring out what works with your current cupboard contents.

jforbess (author)jforbess2015-10-10

And using apple juice or some other slightly sweet juice plus a bit of vinegar would be a nice way to get a bit of the sweetness that the sherry or marsala would normally add. But even just water will still give you a great mushroom gravy.

Avalon99 (author)jforbess2015-10-10

Thanks! I hate to go and buy something I won't use again but this looks so delicious. Can't wait to taste it

kakoskoritsi (author)2015-04-07

I made this exactly as described and it was wonderful. It freezes and reheats terrifically too! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe.

TinaF2 (author)2014-12-09

I made this for Thanksgiving to go along with my Field Roast Cranberry Hazelnut Roast. I used Earth Balance instead of butter, so it was vegan. SO GOOD! Even the meat eaters were raving!

QzzQa (author)2014-11-27

thes is yemen hahahahah

soleahk (author)2014-11-25

I made this today. It was really good. Thanks :)!

courtney.lenart (author)2014-10-14

I didn't make it to the exact step by step recipe and it turned out great still. I will be making this again very soon. THANKS!!

krystyna.ross (author)2014-10-13

I am trying this for the vegetarians at Thanksgiving dinner.

For basic Veggie stock, just put an onion, a carrot, a couple of sticks of celery (preferably with leaves) in a pot of water. Add salt and a few peppercorns. I like to add a garlic clove. This is enough vegetables for about a quart and a half of stock. You can add any other veg you have that you want to use up: turnips, leeks, etc. If you want a really flavourful stock, soak some dried porcini mushroom in a bit of boiling water and add both the mushroom and soaking water to the stock. Best to put that through cheesecloth to take care of any grit.

ErinnM made it! (author)2014-09-15

I used hard apple cider with soy sauce instead of Sherry or Marsala. I also added a pinch of nutmeg. It was lovely and went well with my husband's stuffed pork chops and the garlic mashed baby reds I made. Delicious!

MissKittensworth (author)2012-12-29

fantastic recipe! I am making it right now.

SlothOnSpeed (author)2007-11-23

Lovely Instructable - I've always wanted to make vegetarian gravy. Any tips on making a decent vegetarian broth? In exchange, I'll give you two gravy-making tips of my own: - If you have a cold, and don't notice the aroma of your cooking roux, you can tell it is finished because the color is identical to that of peanut butter. I have always made gravy by sight, not smell, and the peanut butter color is most reliable. It works even if you use olive oil (which works very well and adds a nutty flavor of its own) Butter tastes better, but burns easily. A 50:50 mixture of butter to olive oil has the best characteristics of both. - I put the liquid into the hot roux gradually, beating the mixture until the roux has incorporated the liquid and become smooth and silky looking again. This prevents lumps and allows me to keep a tight control over the consistency of my gravy. It also prevents that scary mushroom cloud (no pun intended) of steam, which is dangerous as hell when you have a house full of holiday revelers milling about. If you can keep everyone out of the kitchen during that part of gravy making, perhaps you could write another Instructable. I know that I'd appreciate it! Once again, thank you for such a great instructable. I have made hundreds of gallons of gravy over the years, and I think that people who do this from scratch are disappearing. It's hard for me to understand why - gravy making only takes a few minutes more work, and the return is amazing.

jforbess (author)SlothOnSpeed2007-11-24

Wow. Thanks for the extra information. Gradually mixing in the liquid does sound smart. And I'm glad for external confirmation about the olive oil. I will have to try that next. Sadly, I haven't made my own vegetable broth. I'm a fan of Cook's Illustrated, though, so if I were going to start with a recipe, I'd start there. (I used Better than Bouillon No Chicken base, and it was fine, though still too salty.) I hope that I've made it sound easy. Six steps doesn't sound like the easiest thing in the world, but once you figure out the process it's really straightforward. But of course, a lot of cooking is easy once you've done it twice.

momonkey1997 (author)jforbess2012-06-27

Any gluten-free options for a roux? looks great!!!

jforbess (author)momonkey19972012-06-28

I'm not an expert on gluten free cooking, but couldn't you use rice flour or cornstarch? This is where I would look to a gluten free cookbook to suggest the standard substitution for flour in any roux.

Here's what one of my favorite food sites says about gluten free roux:

momonkey1997 (author)jforbess2012-07-01


Eacon (author)2012-02-02

If you do it with olive oil instead of butter (it totally works!) it's even vegan!
Plus, the smoky-bitter flavour works great with the earthy tones of the mushrooms. I also like to add some soy sauce instead of salt (finer flavour and adds colour, yay!)

triplecity (author)2011-12-17

Can you make the vegetarian gravy a day ahead?

Eacon (author)triplecity2012-02-02

I personally find it to be even better when heated up again (just like chili or rattatouille).

jforbess (author)triplecity2011-12-17


rrichardson7 (author)2011-11-27

Great gravy!!!! I used beer to deglaze though and added salt and plenty of fresh ground black pepper until it tasted just right though.

Thanks for giving me one more reason to go vegetarian :)

jforbess (author)rrichardson72011-11-29

Yes, salt and fresh ground pepper are critical, but I almost never think about them until the end.

And beer sounds like a great idea. Maybe a porter for extra smokiness.

sbronson (author)2011-11-29

I want to make this, but I'm confused about something. The ingredients list calls for 2-4 cups of liquid, ideally veggie broth. At what point do I add that, and to which pan? Thanks!

jforbess (author)sbronson2011-11-29

It's in the last step. First you add the mushrooms to the roux and stir, and then add the veggie broth to thin it down. It's best to add part of the broth, stir to see how thick it is, and then add more veggie broth (or water) if you want it thinner.

Covo (author)2011-11-23

I HAVE to comment on this recipe... If anyone is thinking about vegetarian gravy or even gravy lovers that are looking for another recipe, this is the BEST recipe there is. I have been making this for about 3 years now and I get complements from Veggies and Carnivores alike, to the point that they ask for it. Not to mention it is SOOOO well written. Good Job jforbess... You have become a tradition in my family!!!

jforbess (author)Covo2011-11-24

Thanks for the kind words. I am glad you have made it a tradition!

cgutierrez8 (author)2011-11-21

Can anyone tell me on average how many people 1 batch can serve?

jforbess (author)cgutierrez82011-11-21

If it is a bunch of vegetarians who might pour it all over their stuffing and mashed potatoes rather than just a smattering of flavor on their mashed potatoes, I wouldn't try to serve it to more than 6-8 people. But I really love it, so that's a pretty conservative estimate.

vcarr (author)2011-10-24

Wow! I am not a vegetarian but i do adore my vegetables, particularly mushrooms onions and garlic so this recipe is ideal for me. Absolutely delicious! Thank you very much :)

morganhillchris (author)2011-05-08

This is a brilliant recipe!
May I suggest a way to not only get all of the yummy mushroom & veggie bits from the sauté, but to also just use one fry pan for the sauté & making the roux:

* After the sauté, scoop the veggies & juices into your serving bowl.
* De-glaze the pan using about 1/2 cup of veggie broth, scraping up the tasty bits.
* In a small bowl, mix approximately 1/2 cup cold broth with the flour until fully mixed with no lumps.
* Stirring constantly, slowly pour the broth/flour mix into the boiling de-glazing stock in the pan & then slowly add the rest of the broth. In a minute or two, the flour will start to thicken the stock into gravy.
* Now add back the veggies & simmer for about two- three minutes,stirring frequently, to get the raw flavour out of the flour.

middlenamefrank (author)2011-03-08

Just a quick note on the highly technical side...butter is only about 80% fat, the rest is mostly water, which quickly boils out of a roux. So in reality, you're only putting a little over 3 tablespoons of actual fat into this recipe. Which is fine, but if you ever try this with oil (like if you want to make your gravy vegan), you'll want to reduce the amount of fat slightly or it will cook up differently than you're used to.

jforbess (author)middlenamefrank2011-03-08

Thanks for the tip. Good point.

kevmalone (author)2010-12-03

This is excellent. We just made this and it will be on our table at Christmas and New Year for our Vegetarian friends (and me). Thanks jforbess.
For those wanting quantity guides: for 8 oz mushrooms: 3Tbsp flour, 3 oil*, 2 cups veg broth.
*Canola oil instead of butter works great throughout - so this is fine for Vegans too.

veggielife4me (author)2010-10-20


CheapBeersucks (author)2010-01-05

I am far from being a vegetarian but found you via a regular google search.  I just made this recipe and it kicked a$$.. Loved it!  I told her, get me a note card!

Kyle_S (author)2009-11-25

Being a vegetarian, I've made something like this for years, usually by ear.  Trust me, it beats the canned-mushroom gravy by miles, so it's great to see this instructible.

An FYI to anyone vegetarians reading, make a reasonable sized batch, even if you're the only vegetarian at the meal.  I've had more than a few meat-eaters scarf this up before the turkey-gravy.  It's a nice compliment to the cooking, but it's kindof sad not to get seconds (or sometimes firsts).

If you want a very smooth texture, you can use a stick blender on it, right after the extra liquid has been incorporated.  You loose the nice chunks of mushroom, but it gives you consistent results.  I dont' have a stick blender, so I usually blend it if I make it ahead of time, or when it's leftover.  It helps get back that good gravy consistency.

jforbess (author)Kyle_S2009-11-25

Agreed on the meat-eaters loving this.

And a stick blender sounds like a great idea. Especially if you scoop out a small bowl of mushrooms to keep as chunky before you blend.

Covo (author)2009-11-25

 After searching the web meticulously for veggie gravy, I was pleased and surprised that the one that looks the best and has the best instructions are on my favorite site.  Can't wait to make it!!!

One question...

What are your thoughts about making it ahead of time (a day or so) and reheating when needed?

jforbess (author)Covo2009-11-25

Making it ahead is fine. You might end up needing to add more liquid if you want it more like gravy than chunky sauce when you reheat. This is what extra liquid from potatoes is good for, like everyone who survived the Depression will tell you.

jforbess (author)jforbess2009-11-25

Funny, I just re-read my last step, and apparently it's been beaten into me to use that darn potato water. Can't stop repeating it.

minerug (author)2009-09-22

This is excellent! I tried it over steaks and, even though I dont like mushrooms much, I could easily eat more than I did.

darus67 (author)2007-11-27

Just reading this and looking at the pictures has made me hungry. Too bad my wife hates mushrooms. :(

dblev (author)darus672009-03-15

My wife does not like mushrooms either....I could not wait to make it. It turned out great.

Ariisi (author)2009-03-08

I just made this and I have to say it is incredible! I used a lot of paprika and wound up adding more sherry near the end to up the flavor even more. Now I want to try this over egg noodles. Good instructable and good recipe.

ffry (author)2008-11-28

this was great! made if for thanksgiving --> lost my old recipe and am glad I did! It worked out perfectly. These directions are really well detailed - thanks!

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