This vegan caramelized onion gravy is going to be the best part of your holiday dinner! Made with lots of onions to build up flavor and thickened to a silky rich consistency, it is so easy-to-make from scratch, hearty, umami-packed and delish! Simply the BEST homemade vegan gravy!
Do you usually feel left alone at Thanksgiving or Christmas, in front of a huge feast, but sadly grazing over bread and a side salad.
Get ahead of your game this year: there are plenty of awesome vegan holiday food that even the meat eaters will adore. Generously pour this delicious onion gravy over mashed potatoes and vegan meatballs, plus use vegan dinner rolls to scoop all of the remaining bits of the flavorful brown sauce. Also pairs so well with a shepherd's pie or a lentil meat loaf.
I served it over this vegan roast from Melanie at a Virtual Vegan too and it was a feast! I'm telling you, you will want to pour it over everything!
It is so wonderfully rich and extra bold in flavor, thanks to the caramelized onions. Keep it chunky or blend for a smooth gravy, this umami-packed sauce is simply the BEST savory gravy out there.
But what's even more amazing is how easy it is to whip up a batch of this vegan caramelized onion gravy. Simply cook the onions slowly, then add spices, flour and veggie broth and keep simmering for a few minutes until thickened. You can even make it ahead of time to make your meal-prep easier on the big day!
Healthy vegetarian onion gravy made without drippings
I have vivid memories of my family making gravy out of the juice coming from the cooked meat (drippings). This makes the most flavorful sauce! But also, the most high-in-fat, unhealthy and obv, no-so-much-vegan.
But fear not! You can still make a gravy that's deep in flavor even without using meat drippings. To do so, you will have to first caramelize some onions for about 20 minutes until they get brown, soft and sweeter. This is going to be an amazing base that holds SO MUCH flavor. Then, once you add the flour, spices and veggie broth, all of the browned bits from the caramelized onion will flavor the gravy to give it a punch in flavor, yum!
Ingredients you'll need
- Onions (+ olive oil, optional)
- Vegetable broth
- Soy sauce
- Miso paste (or more soy sauce)
- Nutritional yeast
What kind of onions to use
I used yellow onions as I had a large bag to use up!
But, this gravy would be amazing if using Vidalia sweet onions. They are normally quite bigger than the yellow ones, so you might have enough of one large sweet onion instead of 2. This kind of onion caramelizes very well!
Also, red onions work great for gravies as well. They are milder, sweeter and also caramelize well. In this case too, if you have a large red onion, then only use one.
How to make it: Step-by-Step
Step 1- Prepare the onions
There are different options on how to prepare the onions:
You can finely dice them to get some texture, but without larger pieces. You could even shred them for a smoother consistency that still has some texture.
But what I like to do is to thinly slice the onions and then chop the slices a little shorter. This way I get some strings of onions within the sauce.
One more thing: after the gravy is completely done, you can also blend the sauce to remove any pieces of onion while keeping its flavor. Making a super smooth sauce can be ideal depending of what you are making, plus might be more interesting if you have little picky eaters.
Step 2- Caramelize the onions
If using oil, warm it up first on medium-high heat, then add the onions and cook for about 20 minutes (or longer!) while stirring often until caramelized to your taste. The onions will cook down a lot, you are looking for soft and browned onions.
Step 3- Make the roux
While the onions are cooking, combine the veggie broth with soy sauce, nutritional yeast and miso paste. I like to first dissolve the miso paste in 1-2 tablespoon of water so it combines better within the broth. Set the broth mixture aside.
Once the onions are all done, then add the garlic and stir while cooking for another minute.
Then, add the flour over the onion and stir well (it should form a thick paste). Keep cooking for about another minute.
Step 4- Simmer
Add the veggie broth mixture and stir well. Use a whisk to break up the clumps of flour. Keep on a low simmer and whisk often to prevent lumps to form and the gravy from sticking to the bottom. Keep simmering until it reaches desired consistency, keeping in mind that it will thicken more once taken off from the heat. I like to simmer mine for about 8-10 minutes or so.
Watch how to make it
How to make an oil-free onion gravy
I try to cook using a minimal amount of added oil, but when making this brown gravy or a vegan bechamel sauce, I find that the sauces thicken better with a little oil.
BUT, you can definitively make it oil-free! Simply cook down the onion using a small amount of water, 1-2 tablespoon at the time, and add some more if they dry out too much. If your gravy does not thicken enough without the oil, then you can blend it (or some of it) or add some cornstarch (see how to do this below).
How to make my gravy thicker?
You are more of a thick gravy kind of person? Then, here is what you can do:
- In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoon of cornstarch + 2 tablespoon of COLD water, stir well.
- Bring your not-thick-enough gravy to a gentle boil, and pour the cornstarch mixture (slurry) in a slow stream while whisking. Start with about half of the amount, cook for a minutes or two, then add more if needed. Remove from the heat as soon as you reach desired consistency.
- Choose a vegetable broth with great flavors!
- Whisk vigorously to avoid lumps while simmering, but if for some reason you ended up with some clumps, then you can blend the sauce to make it smoother.
- It does take some time to cook down the onions, but this is essential for flavor. Plan accordingly so you can let the onion cook for at least 20 minutes. Consider making the gravy ahead if necessary!
- I'm always so surprised how much the gravy thickens quickly after cooling down for a few minutes. So I suggest to remove the gravy from the heat for a few minutes until you are finishing up the rest of your dinner and reevaluate thickness just before serving.
There are different ways you can flavor your gravy:
- Add dried herbs, such as rosemary or thyme.
- Make a peppery gravy by adding lots of ground black pepper while cooking the onions.
- If you don't have any miso paste, then simply swap for more soy sauce.
- Feel free to swap about ¼-1/2 cup of the broth for red wine. The alcohol will disappear quickly and you will be left with deeper flavor. Choose a good quality red wine that you would want to drink!
- This is a great recipe to pair with mushrooms! When the onions are about half way cooked, then add about 1 cup of sliced mushrooms and keep going with the recipe.
Can I make it gluten-free?
Yes! I haven't tried it, but the 1:1 gluten-free flour from King Arthur usually works just the same.
You can also skip the flour all together and use the cornstarch slurry technique to thicken your gravy (see above).
Also, be sure to swap soy-sauce for a gluten-free tamari or skip and use salt.
Storage and freezing
Keep the sauce in an air-tight container for up to 4-5 days. The sauce will thicken significantly after cooling down, but will loosen up after reheating.
Can also be frozen for up to 3 months. To thaw, simply transfer the gravy to the fridge the day before you need it.
Transfer the gravy back to a pot and heat up on medium heat while whisking often. The gravy might need to be loosened up if it became too thick, so simply add a splash of broth or water and whisk. Repeat until you reach desired consistency.
You can also use the microwave, simply warm up 30 seconds at the time, stir, and heat up again until warm enough. Add some water if necessary.
Whole food plant based healthy gravy
This gravy recipe is already healthier than many by not using any butter. But, if you are following a strict whole food plant based diet, then there are a few simple things you can do to fit your diet:
- Make it completely oil-free (see above) by cooking the onion with a small amount of water and using cornstarch to thicken the sauce if needed.
- Keep the sodium low by using low-sodium soy sauce and skip on the miso paste. You can also not use any soy sauce at all and simply salt the gravy to desired taste.
This is definitively a MUST for the holiday, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas or New year. I love this gravy so much that I simply pour it over mashed potatoes and dinner is done, similar to a vegan stroganoff.
Also pair with American style biscuits, vegan sausages or roasted vegetables, especially cauliflower.
More creamy sauces you might like
- Smoky ketchup
- Vegan white queso
- Vegan bechamel sauce
- Cashew chipotle mayo
- Vegan white sauce
- Hemp buffalo sauce
- Creamy pesto sauce
- Vegan mayo
Loving gravy-like dishes? Try these next!
I hope you enjoy this vegan gravy as much as we do! If you try it, please leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let me know how it was. Your feedback is so helpful!
Easy Vegan Caramelized Onion Gravy
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp miso paste - dissolved in 1-2 tablespoons of water
- 2 tbsp olive oil - optional
- 2 yellow onions - thinly sliced, or 1 large sweet onion, or 1 large red onion
- 2 large cloves of garlic - crushed
- ¼ cup flour
- Whisk the miso paste with 1-2 tbsp of water to dissolve it. Then, in a medium bowl, combine the broth, nutritional yeast, soy sauce and miso mixture. Whisk well and set aside.
- In a medium pot, start by warming up the oil (if using), then add the onion and cook on low-medium heat. Stir often and let them cook until softened and caramelized, about 20 min (or more!).
- Then, add the crushed garlic and keep cooking while stirring for about 30-60 seconds.
- Add the flour, stir to incorporate within the onions and cook for about 1 minute. Then add the broth mixture and whisk until uniform. Turn up the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer while whisking often. Keep simmering until the sauce thickens, about 8 minutes, keeping in mind that it will keep thickening after done or cooling down.
- You can either serve the gravy as is or blend it to a smooth texture (or partially blended).
- Serve over mashed potatoes, vegan meatloaf, vegan meatballs, lentil shepherd's pie or with your favorite comfort food meal. Enjoy!
- Store in the fridge for up to 4-5 days. Can also be frozen for up to 3 months. Will thicken significantly while cooling down.
- To reheat: warm up on the stove or using the microwave and add a splash of broth/water to loosen up the gravy if too thick. Whisk well to break up the clumps.
- Can be made oil-free simply by cooking the onions using a small amount of water so they don't stick to the bottom.
- What to do if your gravy is not thick enough: in a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water and whisk well. Then, bring the gravy to a simmer and pour the cornstarch mixture in a stream (start with half of it) while vigorously whisking. Add more as needed, it should thicken super quickly. Remove from the heat once thick enough.
- To make it gluten-free: use a gluten-free 1:1 flour or skip the flour all together and simply thicken your gravy using a cornstarch slurry. Also be sure to use a gluten-free tamari sauce instead of regular soy sauce (or use salt).