Photos by Rikki Snyder
I might be a vegetarian, but I refuse to miss out on gravy come Thanksgiving. Even if that means showing up at the door cradling my very own gravy boat full of Caramelized Onion Gravy.
The fact is, it’s easy to make a vegetarian gravy that everyone loves—and I do always make enough to share. In this version, caramelized onions lend more flavor than traditional drippings could dream to add. I truly believe it so.
I have a favorite, very simple onion gravy recipe that’s been my go-to for a while now. But this year, I decided it was time to up the ante. I wanted bigger, bolder flavor in a smooth, darker brown and traditional-looking gravy. So I tried something crazy. I sliced up a big yellow onion and cooked it on the stove top, low and slow, until rich, sweet and golden. And then I threw it in the blender with a little broth, and I pureed it until silky smooth.
When added back into a bubbling batch of veggie gravy, the pureed caramelized onions add body, color and flavor. Yep, it totally worked! So, so good. With fresh thyme, a bay leaf and a little Tamari for a bit of umami oomph, the flavor is slightly reminiscent of French onion soup—and it’s insanely good over mashed potatoes.
If you want to save time on Thanksgiving, you can caramelize and puree your onions a day or two in advance. Just store them in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to add them to your gravy. The rest of the gravy comes together in a snap. Or if you really want to do something crazy, you can freeze this gravy. Yep! Make it weeks ahead of time, even, then just thaw and warm it up in a saucepan on the big day.
Pureed caramelized onions are the key to this rich golden-brown gravy that everyone - meat-eaters and vegetarians alike - will be sure to gobble up.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced thin
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth*, divided
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus more to taste
- 1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon Tamari or soy sauce
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- Pour the olive oil into a large saucepan over medium-low heat. When hot, add the onion and sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are extremely soft, golden brown and caramelized, about 40 minutes. If the onions start to burn when cooking, lower the heat. Once cooked, stir in 2 cups of the vegetable broth, scraping up any flavorful bits that are stuck to the pan. Set the onion and broth mixture aside and allow to cool to room temperature. When cool, pour the onion mixture into the pitcher of a blender or a food processor fitted with the s-blade, or use an immersion blender. Puree until smooth. Set aside.
- Set the same saucepan back on the burner, this time over medium heat. Add the butter and heat until melted. Stir in the flour, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, for three minutes. Stir in the thyme. Slowly drizzle in the remaining 2 cups vegetable broth, stirring constantly with a whisk. Stir in the Tamari, bay leaf and the pureed onion mixture. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture comes to a boil. Let boil, stirring constantly, until it has thickened slightly, about 3-4 more minutes.
- Remove from heat and discard the bay leaf. Stir in the balsamic vinegar. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if desired before serving.
Most of the cooking time is the hands-off process of caramelizing the onions, which can also be done ahead of time.
*You can use regular (not low sodium) vegetable broth. If you do that, I recommend using only 1/4 teaspoon salt in Step 2 to start, then adding more at the end if desired