Not-So-Southern Red Eye Gravy




Introduction: Not-So-Southern Red Eye Gravy

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Traditional Red Eye Gravy is a Southern specialty that blends ham drippings and coffee. It's tasty, but really more of a thin sauce rather than a hearty gravy.

I took a few (ahem;-) liberties by adding niblets of crispy-fried ham, carmelized onions and brown sugar to this savory roux-based rendition.

Smoked pork chops (as pictured) are also the perfect alternative to country ham.  They are fantastic hot off the grill and smothered this rich, meaty gravy.

From my kitchen to yours... let's get started!

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Step 1: Ingredients, Tools and Prep Work:


  • 1/2 cup grated Ham loaf or Spam (inexpensive! ;-)
  • 1/2 medium Yellow Onion- thinly sliced
  • 3 Tablespoons Butter- divided
  • 3 and 1/2 Tablespoons  All-purpose Flour (1 oz)
  • 1 cup (8 oz.) brewed Black Coffee*  
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 2 teaspoons Brown Sugar-packed
  • Medium Cast Iron Skillet- (or heavy-bottomed skillet)
  • Wooden spoon
  • Metal spatula
  • Grater
  • Paring knife
Prep work:

Put 1 Tablespoon butter in the skillet over medium heat. Add the grated ham and fry until golden brown and lightly crispy.  Using a fork or slotted spoon, remove the ham niblets to a bowl.

Slice the onion thinly and add to the skillet. Reduce heat to low.  Saute (and stir) the onions until they're soft and deeply carmelized.
Add to the cooked ham.  Add the brown sugar and salt. Toss ingredients together. Set bowl aside.

*About Coffee:  Instant coffee is just fine for this recipe.  If you're using Instant coffee, you can always intensify the flavor by adding more granules directly to the finished gravy and stir until dissolved. Just add very spariringly. 

Step 2: It's All About the ROUX! ;-)

A properly cooked roux is essential when creating any rich, hearty flour-based gravy. 

If you're willing to spend the 15 minutes this roux calls for,  your tastebuds will be deliciously rewarded. That said, I know you're going to do the right thing by following these directions exactly as written. ;-)

So... moving right along:

Scrape the skillet with a metal spatula to loosen any residual ham bits. Put the remaining 2 Tablespoons Butter into the skillet. Heat over medium heat (medium-low if your stovetop burners run hot) heat until melted.

Add the flour, one Tablespoon at a time, to the melted butter. Stir to blend after each addition. Stir continuously as the roux slowly simmers to a golden-brown color.

This will take about 15 minutes. If you rush the roux and try to cook it faster, you're just begging for raw, pasty, ugh gravy.  If you leave it unattended, the roux will scorch. A scorched roux is a ruined roux. ;-(

Now you're almost there!  Slowly add the coffee to the golden roux.  Stir continuously as the gravy (now it's really gravy. Yay! ;-) thickens and just barely begins to bubble again.  Stir in the ham niblets, onions, brown sugar and salt. 

Simmer gently and stir for a 3-5 minutes.

Remove the gravy from the heat, cover and let it sit for a few minutes. This will give the flavors a chance to meld together and cool to the point you can take a little taste without burning your tongue. 

Adjust with more salt, brown sugar or coffee as desired. If the gravy is too thick for your preference, a teaspoon or 2 of coffee is all you'll need to thin it out.


Your Not-So-Southern Red Eye Gravy is ready to smother ham, smoked chops, mashed potatoes, biscuits and anything else your gravy-loving heart desires... Enjoy!

Step 3: Final Notes:

This recipe yields approx. 1 cup of Red Eye Gravy as written. You can double or even triple it according to your needs, but the roux cooking time will be increased.

The gravy can be made in advance and keeps well in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. You'll just need to add a tiny bit of water when reheating.

Large quantities of roux can also be made well in advance and stored (refrigerated) indefinitely.  Rely on for an informative, illustrated guide to roux preparation. Click here to read it.

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