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Caramelized Onion Gravy

Caramelized Onion Gravy

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.

Caramelized Onion Gravy
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.

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Caramelized Onion Gravy

Caramelized Onion Gravy

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.

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Yield: About 4 cups

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Remove from heat and discard the bay leaf. Stir in the balsamic vinegar. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if desired before serving.

Notes

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

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20 Comments

  • Reply
    Ciara (My Fussy Eater)
    November 12, 2014 at 10:03 am

    This looks so delicious! Will definitely be trying this for Christmas!

  • Reply
    Jessica @ Jessica in the Kitchen
    November 12, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    SO in love with this idea for gravy! I’m putting caramelised onions in my mashed potatoes, but a double dosage is no complaint of mine!

    • Reply
      Kare Raye
      November 19, 2014 at 10:47 am

      Caramelized onions in mashed potatoes?! Brilliant! Can I come over for Thanksgiving? 🙂

  • Reply
    Abby @ The Frosted Vegan
    November 12, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    Oh my, this is brilliant!

    • Reply
      Kare Raye
      November 19, 2014 at 10:48 am

      Thank you, Abby!

  • Reply
    Taylor @ What Vegetarians Eat
    November 13, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    This is wonderful I’m going to be the only vegan at Thanksgiving this year and I’m making a bunch of vegan dishes. This will for sure be on the menu

    • Reply
      Kare Raye
      November 19, 2014 at 10:49 am

      I promise the meat-eaters won’t care! Though it does have butter – I just find I like the flavor better. You could try with olive oil, I think it will still be good.

  • Reply
    Gwen @SimplyHealthyFamily
    November 13, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    Oh how I adore caramelized onions!! This is a most perfect gravy….. for anything!

  • Reply
    Joanne
    November 15, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    I haven’t had gravy in YEARS. So excited about this!!

    • Reply
      Kare Raye
      November 19, 2014 at 10:49 am

      Veggie gravy is a total revelation! 🙂

  • Reply
    Ashley
    November 21, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    Kare I made this yesterday to freeze for thanksgiving – hands down my favorite gravy that I’ve tried. The caramelized onions in there just make it so so good! I’m kinda bummed I have to wait till next week to eat it! haha Even the husband agreed and he is most definitely not a vegetarian 🙂

  • Reply
    Laura
    November 24, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    I made this yesterday for Thanksgiving this week, and the spoonful I tasted was delicious! I did prefer it before adding the balsamic, though. The vinegar was a little strong, and I think I’ll leave it out next year–because this is definitely my go-to gravy recipe from now on!

  • Reply
    Sue
    January 1, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    I made this to go over vegan nut roast for Christmas Day and it was delicious, my husband loved it. We kept the leftover gravy in a Tupperware container in the fridge and had it over the leftover side veggies made into a flan with puff pastry on Boxing Day. I will probably make ahead and freeze next year though. Great recipe!

  • Reply
    Amber
    December 22, 2015 at 5:09 pm

    Holy crap this is amazing! I made it for Thanksgiving and I just made another batch for Christmas dinner prep. I keep going back to the cooling gravy to eat more of it. I could eat it as a soup!

    I followed your directions exactly and used veggie broth that I make from saving and freezing veggie scraps (so I had to add a lot more salt). Perfect! I’ll be making this every year. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Emily
    December 24, 2015 at 10:57 am

    I’ve made this gravy multiple times in the last year and don’t think I’ll ever use another recipe! Definitely recommend!

    A couple tips/notes:
    –I’m not vegetarian, so to give it a boost of meaty taste, I use beef broth instead of vegetarian.
    — One change of directions I’ve found useful is to first add the caramelized onions to the blender, and then pour in the broth, as it’s less messy/splashy and the butter will later scrap up any good stuck onion pieces.
    — I usually double this recipe and have no problem.
    –Also don’t skip on the balsamic vinegar – such a good finisher!

  • Reply
    Stacy
    November 17, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    I made this ahead today for Turkey Day and it is amazing! Great recipe 🙂

  • Reply
    Maura Glynn
    December 24, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    Oh. My. Goodness. I have made carmelized onion gravy before basically just off the cuff but this is by far the most delicious recipe I have ever made. It is seriously delicious.

  • Reply
    Theresa
    December 28, 2016 at 6:03 pm

    I’m just wondering about a gluten free option, just substituting the flour for an alternate type. I tried this for Christmas with arrowroot flour, and ended up having to sift out the lumps. But it was amazing, everyone loved it!

  • Reply
    Kris
    November 21, 2017 at 11:59 am

    Um … this recipe was linked in a “T-Day Make-Aheads” article for Gourmandize. I’d love to try it, but when I went to the “PRINT” function, all I get is a page with the recipe name on it.

    • Reply
      Katie Trant
      November 22, 2017 at 4:52 am

      Hey Kris, we’re in the process of updating our recipe cards, so there are a few technical glitches at the moment. We’re looking into it! In the meantime you could try copying and pasting the recipe into a word doc and printing that out.

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