In my opinion, the two "basic" gravies are White (or cream) Gravy and Brown Gravy, along with a billion other equally wonderful, slightly "less basic" gravies....
Learn to do these two first though, and do them well; Then you can change up the ingredients to make just about ANYTHING!!
It takes a little practice, paying attention to details and being sure you're using the best tasting ingredients for the recipe - but it's NOT DIFFICULT, I promise.
I am leaving a lot of that "taste" factor up to you, because you know what works for your kitchen, ingredients you have available, your taste preferences, your kids taste and texture preferences, and your life!!
So we've tackled the basic White Gravy.
Here's my take on Brown.
One of the secrets to good brown vegan gravy is finding a stock or bullion you really like. Check out your regular grocery store, health-food store, online, whatever is available to you; Read labels, buy stuff, try it, until you find the vegetable-based broth or bullion or stock base that gives the best flavor in your gravy. You may have to experiment a little at first, or actually combine several to get exactly what you're looking for - but that's OK, do what YOU like!
I don't like to suggest too many brand-names, because each person's tastes are different, but I know 4764784848 people are gonna ask anyway, and that's OK :), I'll mention some that I like, and are available around here, so they're what I use, if I don't make my own (more on that later): Bill's Best"Beaf", Better Than Bullion "No Beef" Base, and Imagine Foods "Beef-Style" Vegetarian Broth.
Brown gravy seems to be better interpreted in the vegan restaurants I've visited, though it still ends up a bit on the bland side at times; maybe most people like it that way, who knows. Don't be afraid to add herbs, seasonings, whatever YOU like!! (A tip: If you find something you like but still feel it isn't "rich" enough, try adding a little concentrated yeast extract like Marmite or Vegemite or soy sauce as a last resort.)
The following recipe is one I've posted before, but another one of those "basics" I use often - it's a little more involved, time-wise, than the White Gravy, but still simple, and the results are well worth it. This is a very flavorful "Brown Gravy", the comfort-food stuff my family likes best on mashed potatoes or with meatballs, a lentil loaf, nut burgers or seitan/gluten.
Rich, Brown, Non-Cow Gravy
- 28 oz. Vegetarian "beef" or vegetable broth (I usually use "Imagine Foods" in the aseptic box, but you can mix your own from bullion and water, or do whatever you want to get the flavor you want, just have 28 oz. of liquid to start out with.)
- 1 cup coarsely chopped onion
- 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped fresh mushrooms
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped celery
- 2 Tbs. red wine (the alcohol cooks off, or just use apple cider or more broth)
- 1/4 teaspoon thyme
- 1/2 tsp. sage (1 Tbsp. chopped fresh is awesome here if you have it)
- 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 Tbsp. Earth Balance or other margarine
- 2 T. all-purpose flour
*NOTE: For even richer flavor, brown the mushrooms and onions in a pan with a little oil first, THEN add to saucepan and continue. The browning step is not necessary but definitely amps up the flavor!!
Bring to a boil; cook at a low-to-medium boil for about 15 minutes or until liquid is reduced to about 2 cups (I just eyeball it, it needs to reduce somewhat, but isn't a huge deal if it's a little more or less)
STEP 2. Strain broth mixture through a sieve into a bowl; press vegetables to get all the juice out and then discard solids. (I know, I know!! This step sounds sounds wasteful, but it results in a nice silky-smooth gravy - if you want chunky vegetable gravy just skip the 'straining' step and chop the vegetables finer).
STEP 3. While broth cools a bit, melt margarine in large cast iron skillet; place over medium-high heat until hot. Add flour, and mix to make a paste
Cook 2 minutes or until a bit browned or tannish, stirring constantly (This is your thickener or "roux").
Take off heat and allow to cool a bit.
STEP 4. While off the heat, SLOWLY add 1/4 cup broth mixture to roux, little by little; stirring well with a whisk. Slowly add in remaining broth mixture, still stirring well with a whisk.
STEP 5. Turn heat back on to medium-high.
Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer (just barely bubbling) for 3 + minutes, or until thick, stirring (with a whisk) constantly. I can't emphasize the stirring part enough. Gravy takes attention, so don't try it the first few times when you have toddlers, kittens and gerbils running amuk in your kitchen. Not that I would know, just sayin'....
Adjust seasonings to taste (more salt or pepper maybe?).
Serve with potatoes, noodles, dumplings, meatballs, over toast, straight from the pot with a spoon, whatever... YUM.