Creamy Sausage Gravy, sometimes called sawmill gravy or white gravy, it is classic southern recipe. Freshly baked homemade buttermilk biscuits smothered in thick, decadent gravy dotted with large chunks of sausage.
Traditionally made for breakfast, it’s a family favorite any time of the day or for brinner (breakfast for dinner).
It is almost a rite of passage in the south. You attend cotillion, have a coming out party and then learn to prepare sausage gravy. Sausage Gravy is a cooking basic and the ultimate comfort food.
There are the 5 French mother sauces… and then sausage gravy. Entire restaurants are judged based on their gravy alone. I’m being serious here. Sausage gravy and biscuits, of course. It isn’t something you should eat every day, but it is worthy of a special occasion or holiday breakfast.
What is Sausage Gravy?
Sausage gravy is a popular American comfort food typically served over biscuits. It is a creamy and savory sauce made from pan-fried pork sausage, flour, milk, and seasonings.
If the recipe is so easy, what makes them all so different? Or sausage gravy so challenging to make?
There are a couple of answers and the most basic is the type and quality of sausage you use. This is pure preference. Sweet, spicy, smoky, whatever you please! The rendered fat from your sausage will serve as the base for a roux (and the flavor).
Roux for Gravy
Roux, traditionally made with butter, is nothing but a mix of flour and rendered fat. If you purchase pre-cooked sausage, you can use reserved bacon fat, but also butter.
The roux will deepen in flavor depending on how long you allow it to brown. A “white roux” is basically just mixed butter and flour. A “blonde roux” is cooked slightly longer resulting in a blonder hue.
And lastly, the mother of all roux with maximum amount of flavor is the brown roux, which smells nutty and is packed with flavor. This one is usually reserved for bold, heady dishes like gumbo.
The best sausage gravy recipe uses a white-blond roux.
What Do You Need to Make Sausage Gravy?
The list is short, which is why it is so important to select good-quality simple ingredients.
- Bulk sausage– This can be any type of ground pork or even raw sausage patties. If you can only find links, or you like the flavor of a particular link, simply cut up the casing and take the ground meat out. Even sweet Italian sausage or spicy Italian sausage can be used, as can ground turkey or turkey “sausage” links.
- Flour– All-purpose flour works best. Presumably, alternative flours can be used, but we have not tested them. Please come back and let us know if you’ve tried them.
- Whole Milk- This isn’t a dish that you want to make “light”, so go for the whole milk. You can use skim or reduced fat, but you’ll also lose a bit of flavor. If you are really craving a stick-to-your ribs dish, you can even use heavy cream or half and half.
- Seasoned salt and freshly ground pepper- Use a homemade seasoned salt or store-bought, but always freshly ground black pepper.
How to Make Sausage Gravy
Making gravy is pretty easy and can be done ahead of time.
- Cook Sausage. In a large frying pan or large skillet, cook the ground sausage over medium-high heat, breaking apart into crumbles as it cooks. Try to get a nice brown on the meat, this isn’t “burned”, it is flavor. True southerners will tell you a large cast iron pan is the only way to go!
- Remove Sausage. When the pork is cooked, remove the meat using a slotted spoon and leaving the grease in the pan, this is the base fat for the roux. Place the sausage on a paper towel lined plate.
- Make Roux. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the flour to make a paste. Continue to cook until it turns a light brown. If there isn’t much fat, add 1-2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
- Create Cream Sauce. Start by pouring in a small amount of milk, whisking or stirring well using the back of a spoon to break apart the flour clumps. Add the remaining milk in 3 stages, whisking after each to prevent lumps. Gravy will have some lumps from the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. That is fine- those are little flavor bombs.
- Add Cooked Sausage. Add the reserved sausage back to the pan, tossing to combine. Gravy should be thick and coat the back of a spoon.
- Season to Taste. Taste the gravy to determine how much seasoned salt is necessary and then add slowly, tasting along to way to determine the correct amount. Follow the same guidelines with the black pepper. Bulk sausage, especially seasoning, will have varying amounts of salt and some batches might not need any at all! You would also add additional herbs or spices at this point. The first time I made it, I made the mistake of seasoning before tasting. Learn from me!
- Serve. Spoon the creamy gravy over a dish of your choice. Or eat with a spoon. I won’t judge.
Customize your Gravy
Lastly, you can make some small changes to your basic sausage gravy. Here are a few popular variations: by adding fresh herbs or spices. Some of the more popular include rosemary, thyme, sage or smoked paprika.
- Add 1-2 teaspoon of fresh herbs like parsley, dill, rosemary, thyme or sage. Sage pairs very well with pork.
- Add 1/2 teaspoon of dried spices like smoked paprika, rubbed sage or Italian seasoning.
- Make it spicy with a few dabs of hot sauce, crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne powder.
- Make it zesty with a few dabs of yellow or Dijon mustard, even dry mustard.
Tips for Making Perfect Gravy
- Pick flavorful sausage.
- Don’t be afraid to make a dark blond roux, it adds flavor.
- Add a small amount of milk and whisk, whisk, whisk until there are no more lumps. Then add the remaining liquid.
- Customise your gravy with fresh herbs and spices.
What to Serve with Sausage Gravy
Sausage gravy is traditionally served as a delicious and hearty breakfast or brunch dish. The most classic and popular way to serve southern sausage gravy is over freshly baked biscuits, creating the famous Southern dish known as “biscuits and gravy.” Here’s how you can serve sausage gravy:
Biscuits and Gravy:
- Prepare homemade biscuits, store-bought biscuits or even drop biscuits or butter swim biscuits. Split the biscuits in half horizontally.
- Ladle the warm sausage gravy generously over the biscuits, allowing it to soak into the layers.
Other Serving Ideas:
Besides biscuits and gravy, there are various other ways to serve sausage gravy:
- Over Toast: Pour the warm sausage gravy over toasted bread slices or Texas toast or even as the sauce for creamed chipped beef for a simple and satisfying breakfast.
- With Eggs: Serve sausage gravy over a sunny-side-up or over-easy fried egg for a hearty breakfast.
- With Potatoes: Try serving the sausage gravy over roasted or mashed potatoes for a delicious twist, and of course crispy home fries or hash browns too. Or make smothered French fries or tater tots.
- In Casseroles: Incorporate the sausage gravy into breakfast casseroles or quiches for a savory addition.
- As a Dip: Serve sausage gravy as a dip for breakfast sausages or as a topping for breakfast sandwiches.
- As a Sauce: Not just for biscuits, ladle this over chicken fried bacon, fried chicken, chicken fried steak or even beef wellington.
Remember that sausage gravy is rich and filling, so you might want to pair it with lighter sides like fresh fruit or a side salad to balance the meal.
Make-Ahead, Storage & Freezing Instructions
Reheating, storing, and freezing sausage gravy requires proper handling to maintain its taste and safety. Here are some guidelines:
Can I make sausage gravy the night before?
You sure can! To reheat sausage gravy, you can use a stovetop or a microwave. Follow these steps:
- Stovetop: Place the refrigerated sausage gravy in a saucepan over low to medium heat. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching or sticking. Heat until the gravy is warmed through and reaches the desired temperature. It might require additional milk or needed to be reseasoned with additional salt.
- Microwave: Transfer the desired amount of refrigerated sausage gravy into a microwave-safe container. Heat on medium power in short intervals (1-2 minutes), stirring in between, until the gravy is thoroughly heated.
How to Store Sausage Gravy
Allow the leftover gravy to cool to room temperature before transferring it into an airtight container. Store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days. Reheat when ready to eat again.
Can I freeze Sausage Gravy?
If you want to store the flavorful country gravy for a longer period, you can freeze it. Allow the gravy to cool completely and transfer it into a freezer-safe container or heavy-duty freezer bags. Leave some headspace to allow for expansion during freezing. Label the container with the date. Frozen sausage gravy can last for about 2 to 3 months in the freezer.
- Thawing: Transfer the frozen gravy from the freezer to the refrigerator and allow it to thaw overnight. Thawing in the refrigerator helps maintain the gravy’s texture and taste.
- Reheating from Frozen: If you need to reheat the frozen gravy directly, you can do so on the stovetop over low heat or in the microwave using low power, stirring frequently to ensure even heating.
Commonly Asked Gravy Questions
While sausage gravy is commonly served for breakfast or brunch, it can be enjoyed at any mealtime as a comforting and flavorful dish.
Traditional sausage gravy contains flour as a thickening agent, making it not gluten-free. However, you can use gluten-free flour alternatives to make a gluten-free version.
Add a small amount of milk to hot gravy, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it reaches the desired consistency.
To thicken sausage gravy, you can mix a small amount of cornstarch or flour with cold water and stir it into the hot gravy. Simmer the gravy for a few minutes until it reaches the desired thickness.
Country gravy, sometimes called southern country gravy, is the same creamy gravy base but without sausage and thus, needs a different type of fast to make the roux so it uses butter.
The sauce will take on most of the flavor from the sausage and how well it was browned. To add more flavor to your gravy, seasoned with seasoned salt, smoked paprika and freshly ground black pepper.
Leftover gravy can also become muted when chilled or frozen and may require more seasoning to brighten back up.
More Breakfast Comfort Foods
Sausage Gravy Recipe
- In a large frying pan or skillet, cook the ground sausage over medium heat, breaking apart into crumbles as it cooks. Try to get a nice brown on the meat.
- When cooked, approximately 6-7 minutes, remove the meat using a slotted spoon and leaving the grease in the pan. Remove it to a paper towel lined plate.
- Reduce the heat to low and stir in the flour to make a paste. If there isn't much fat, add 1-2 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Continue to stir until it makes a paste and turns a light brown.
- Pour in 1/4 cup of the milk, whisking or stirring well using the back of a spoon to break apart the flour clumps. Add the remaining milk in 3 stages, whisking after each to prevent lumps.
- Add the reserved sausage back to the pan, tossing to combine. Taste the gravy to determine how much seasoned salt is necessary and then add slowly, tasting along to way to determine the correct amount. Follow the same guidelines with the black pepper.
- Spoon the sausage gravy over a dish of your choice.
- If you tried this recipe, swing back through and let us know how you liked it and if you made any variations!
This recipe originally appeared on Real Housemoms, where I am contributor.